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ICDL 2019


I was delighted to be invited to attend the ICDL (International Conference on Digital Landscape) 2019 conference in New Delhi in November and meet so many colleagues who are dedicated and committed to achieving the best outcomes for the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.


Lighting the lamp. Photo: Tavinder Kaur


There was a strong emphasis during the conference on the transformation to digital and the need to be agile in a rapidly changing environment. The urgency of working towards a sustainable world was highlighted by many speakers. Inequality is growing and 44% of the world is not connected to the internet.


Libraries have an important role to play in the achievement of the SDGs. In my keynote address I reminded the audience that information access for all is the most important topic for librarians and libraries. There is no development without access to information and there is no meaningful access to information without libraries. I discussed where libraries are now, where we want to be and what we can do to make that happen. To achieve the SDGs we need strong libraries, where people can go to get information, learn digital skills and improve their literacy. I talked about what we need to be thinking about in our own field and what is happening in the world around us, and where the opportunities and challenges for libraries lie.


IFLA continues to promote the role of libraries and the UN2030 agenda, and it is key initiative 1.1 in the new strategic plan – “Show the power of libraries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: As a basis for effective library advocacy we will produce high quality, high impact tools that demonstrate to external audiences the contribution of libraries to development in all of its dimensions.” IFLA has already been involved in this work through the International Advocacy Program and has run a number of workshops to promote the role of libraries.


Some of the highlights of the conference included:

  • The keynote address by Gangadeep Bhullar, who introduced two new concepts to me – data storytelling and choice architecture. She told us that we must have a mindset shift from fear to fun as we move into digital transformation.

  • The session on data protection and privacy which emphasised the need for free flow of information but also raised the importance of people’s rights to privacy and we had a practical example of how the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is being applied in a special library, at Tata Consultancy Information Research Services.

  • Participating in the IFLA / Indian Library Association meeting and meeting colleagues who have spent so many years dedicated to improving libraries and the professional development of librarians. I also attended an Special Libraries Association meeting with the President of the SLA, Hal Kirkwood, and members from the SLA – Asia chapter, a very active and dedicated group.

I was impressed with how advanced India is in online information management and the digital agenda – and the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative was mentioned a number of times.


India is an important library country with a long and rich tradition of librarianship and it was a great opportunity to meet old and new friends. I would like to give special thanks to the organisers, Dr P K Bhattacharya and Dr Shantanu Ganguly from TERI who did such a great job and welcomed me so warmly with generous hospitality.

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