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June 18, 2019

How libraries create a better world

Libraries have always played a critical role in the lives of our students, researchers and communities. Across the globe, libraries of all sorts make people’s lives better. As a trusted source of information and refuge in the community, libraries can be part of the solution to global issues – big problems like poverty, sustainability and peace.

The UN’s 17 sustainable development goals have been promoted for several years as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Among them are good health and wellbeing, quality education and sustainable cities and communities.

This year, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) released a report outlining academic libraries’ contributions to these goals. Most notably, libraries facilitate access to information for those who may otherwise be disadvantaged, and support skills development across digital, information and media literacies. This strengthens our society’s overall ability to appraise information and reduces the risks associated with misinformation and disinformation – both critical outcomes in the era of ‘fake news’ and social media trolls.

Through their activities, libraries also help alleviate poverty by assisting with skills development and provision of education. Access to quality education is known to change lives, but not everyone has the same ability to attend educational institutions; even if they make it there, they might not have the materials they need.

That’s where libraries come in. We provide equitable access to resources and materials, for both formal education and lifelong learning. When students are unable to afford textbooks, libraries can mean the difference between being able to study – or not. This also ties into the goal of reducing inequality in our world. Where possible, libraries advocate for open access – meaning scholarly resources that are available to everyone for free.

In addition to our work in providing access to quality information and education resources, libraries also align with the goal of promoting gender equality. Library staff actively advocate for gender equality in the workplace, and there is a concerted effort in many libraries to train staff in preventing sexual harassment. Libraries are also known for providing safe places for people to work, study and be themselves without fear.

There are many other sustainability goals that libraries contribute to and help support. Industry, innovation and infrastructure all depend upon library services for access to research outputs, and in many cases, libraries also publish research to help others find it. This work is all critical for ensuring broad, equitable and easy access to important information.

Deakin Library is a proud member of CAUL and will continue to work with others towards supporting the UN’s sustainable development goals – and creating a better world.

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