08.09.2016 REPORTS

Libraries promoting literacy

To sustain Education 2030 and to support countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, convoked an international workshop with the objective of facilitating the linking of literacy efforts in libraries with national literacy plans, policies and strategies.


The International Literacy Day is celebrated today for the 50th time.

Co-organizers UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and IREX/Beyond Access with the collaboration of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) as a partner organized an international workshop on ‘How Libraries Support National Literacy Efforts’. The event, that took place in Hamburg – Germany explored how countries can best use their library systems to improve literacy outcomes. Participants’ discussions lead to policy recommendations for governments.

Libraries support national efforts

The heterogeneity of twenty-eight participants included library representatives and literacy stakeholders from the government as well as from the civil society sector. They discussed ways in which countries can use the potential of library systems by linking their literacy work to national development plans. Besides, they exchanged good practice examples showing that library can provide a wide variety of literacy opportunities. As a consequence, participants improved their background knowledge and understanding of the integration between libraries and national literacy efforts.

In the workshop the participants collected information and developed policy recommendations for local, regional and national governments. The participants focused on different areas, such as: policy and financing; training; engaging families and communities; evaluation and measurement; and marginalized groups and multilingual issues. The planned policy brief will provide guidance to governments, libraries and literacy field actors on how to best integrate and make use of libraries to support literacy initiatives.

The recommendations will be incorporated into an upcoming UIL policy brief. The recommendations include:

  • Involve libraries in the policy dialogue surrounding literacy and ensure that libraries are an integral part of local and national literacy strategies and efforts.
  • Enable libraries to provide a literate environment for everyone to develop, enhance and sustain literacy skills within a lifelong learning perspective.
  • Ensure libraries are inclusive and have the knowledge and resources to provide relevant literacy materials in a welcoming space for marginalized, vulnerable and minority language groups.Institutionalize professionalization and invest in ongoing training for all library staff.
  • Collect and analyze the data provided by libraries for better informed policy-making and coordination of the various literacy efforts of different stakeholders.

A report document which contains the concept note, the agenda of the workshop, an overview, workshop proceedings, policy recommendations along with the list of participants is available to download.

Text source and photo: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning