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Information should become 'central to global development'

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International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) deputy general secretary Stuart Hamilton will be speaking at this year's CILIP Conference. Here he talks about how information will shape global development goals and how information professionals the world over can shape their communities

Information should be at the heart of global development and IFLA has been working hard to make sure it is firmly on the UN’s agenda as it draws up its post- 2015 goals, says Stuart Hamilton.

The deputy general secretary of IFLA has been a key figure in that process as UN member states drew up its post-2015 development goals. The new framework replaces the millennium development goals – and this time around, the agenda is intended to be truly global, encompassing both developed and developing world countries.

A total of 17 goals have been agreed along with a number of accompanying targets to help achieve them. And while nothing is set in stone until the deal is signed by UN members (expected to happen in September), there are strong hopes that access to information will be a key pillar.

Target 16.10 relates directly to increasing public access to information, and Hamilton explains that there is scope for information to access to cut across other goals. He says: ‘The lucky thing with libraries is that we are not restricted to target 16.10 – we think access to information can play a role in all of the goals.’

It is no surprise that IFLA believes information can help achieve the development goals, says Hamilton; however, the major challenge is persuading others of its importance: ‘We want this new framework to recognise the value that access to information plays in supporting development. We want to do this so that we can carve out a space for libraries, librarians and information professionals to locate themselves in new national development plans.’

He adds: ‘It’s nice to be able to say that, at the moment, our issues are all on the table and we are able to work on the indicators to support our positions. The work we have done has contributed to where we are at the moment and it’s my hunch that the new framework will definitely offer policy space for [us] to work in.’

On a more local level Stuart will have a similar message for information professionals at CILIP Conference 2015, urging them to be part of the conversation in their communities. He says those working within the information sector must ensure their roles are understood, relevant and have an impact. He points to the fact that development goals will have to be introduced in the UK and other developed countries and says it is an opportunity for the information sector to shout about how they are helping.

‘What that sometimes means is a mindset change. For some it is very logical and easy to grasp, but sometimes we are not aware of some of the things we do. What all libraries do is support development in all sorts of ways and all sorts of levels – whether that is story time for kids and you are supporting educational development in the community, or elsewhere in the work we do,’ says Hamilton.

He will look at IFLA’s trend report and the opportunities and obstacles they could bring, and highlights issues such as ownership of digital information; cross border transfer of information; the use of encryption; surveillance and censorship in pursuit of security; 3D printing; and digital legacy.

Hamilton concludes: ‘I feel very strongly that it’s the responsibility of the information professional to be aware of the changes in the information world. Whether that ever comes into the four walls of their library is another thing. I think we have duty to understand what is going on out there.’

Stuart Hamilton is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s CILIP Conference (2 to 3 July, Liverpool – www.cilipconference2015.org.uk).

Interview by Rob Green