I recently attended the Pacific Libraries Summit in Fiji which was organised to bring together key regional stakeholders, library practitioners and INELI-Oceania innovators to advocate for the role of public libraries in the region. One of the key questions at the forum was How do libraries connect to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
INELI Oceania – a network of innovators across Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific
I had participated in INELI (International Network of Library Innovators) Oceania in Cohort 1 between 2014 to 2016. The Pacific Libraries Summit brought together members of Cohort 1 and Cohort 2, who were just completing their program. INELI Oceania is a leadership program which aimed at developing innovative emerging leaders in public libraries throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. INELI Oceania was based on the highly successful International Network of Library Innovators (INELI), a project of the Global Libraries initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Indigenous priorities with Libraries and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
I was most interested in questions of how the UN SDGs relate to Indigenous priorities with libraries both here in Australia and in the Pacific. Many questions were raised around key issues such as the preservation of Elders stories, and the preservation of Indigenous languages at the forum. The Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives (PARBICA) has provided much support in the area specifically for the management and preservation of Pacific archive collections.
It was humbling to visit the many school, university and local libraries around Suva whist at the Fiji summit. Many operate within constrained budgets and there is a lack of infrastructure to support a network of public libraries like those that we see in Australia and New Zealand.
There are many opportunities for us to connect with our Pacific colleagues, for example in sharing information on services, collection development, and projects. I experienced a clear need for more conversation to take place about Indigenous information needs, including the management of oral histories. Another area for collaboration is around collection development. Many of the publications that I observed on shelves were written by people about the Pacific, rather than by members of Pacific communities. There is a lot of work that can be shared in this regard from Australia, like for instance the development of appropriate collections within the ATSILIRN Protocols, or Collection Development Policies that focus on specific communities or needs.
I am looking forward to seeing how IFLA – the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions – pursues the SDGs as priority areas whilst at the same time acknowledging priority areas that need to be developed specifically for Indigenous peoples and libraries. One of the key factors here will be managing the nuances around libraries and Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing, which are often distinct from mainstream library practice.
Statement of Intent produced from Summit
The Summit produced a Statement of Intent which looks at strengthening the impact of Pacific libraries as well as supporting Pacific libraries through collaborative networking and advocacy.
Author: Kirsten Thorpe