This year, the international session of the 25th Stelline Conference is co-organised by EBLIDA and the City of Milan. Its topic: Sustainable Development in European libraries. It will be the first time that tools and services made available within the EBLIDA SDG European House will be presented to and tested by a wider audience.
Stefano Parise, EBLIDA Vice President, will introduce the 2019-2022 EBLIDA Strategic Plan, its lobbying effort with European institutions and its work on library legislation and policy-making in libraries. He will also highlight the EBLIDA projects linked with the socio-cultural and educational impact of libraries. In particular, the EBLIDA Matrix will be presented and its comprehensive package which describes EU programmes, goal after goal and programme after programme.
Marjolein Oomes, researcher at the Royal Library of the Netherlands, will point out that, although the role of libraries in realizing the global Sustainable Development Goals is widely emphasized in the library world, attempts to actually make the translation of library impact-indicators into these goals are scarce, so far. Christophe Evans, Head of the Research Department of the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information in Paris, will underline some of the factors that may undermine the usefulness of impact studies in the field of libraries. Individual perceptions, may alter data and undermine the scientific validity of the results of the impact studies. Moreover, data trends may infer judgements which are not supported by logical evidence.
Two SDG stories will be presented in Milan. The first was implemented in 2012 in Serbia in the Jagodina municipality, where half the population lives in villages and 70% of the economy is agricultural. The Agrolib project revitalised five rural libraries and endowed them with modern technologies and services aiming to link farmers with the State, farmers among themselves and farmers with potential sellers and buyers of agricultural products, machinery and services. The second SDG Story is a citizen science project focused on air quality in Brussels and aims to create awareness about air pollution in European cities. Transport & Development, the NGO campaigning for clean air, used the capillarity of the library network in Brussels to install sensors in libraries which regularly check air quality. Moreover, sensors are given to library users who install them at home.
The round table following the presentation of SDG stories will see the participation of both SDG story-tellers (Pierre Dornier and Vesna Crnkovic) and library evaluators (Christophe Evans, Marjolein Oomes and Ulla Wimmer). Library evaluators will evaluate SDG stories under an SDG perspective and will adopt / adapt SDG indicators to them. Evaluators will assess to what extent the SDG projects in libraries contribute to the attainment of SDGs.
The final session – SDGs in action - will be dedicated to free access to information – what can be considered a basic mission of libraries. In particular, SDG 16 Target 10: “Ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms” will be evaluated in libraries. Leonie Martin, President of the Young European Federalists, will expand upon the political meaning of fake news and its impact on the society. In this respect, libraries can play a big role in supporting the formation of a well-informed citizenry, encourage democratic participation and build up a transparent political decision-making process. Giampiero Gramigna, Senior Analyst at NewsGuard, will present NewsGuard’s fight against fake news, disinformation and misinformation. NewsGuard provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Label” reviews for the news and information websites that account for 90% of online engagement with news in each country in which it operates (France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S., with more coming soon). European libraries rattle off figures and quantitative statistics. These statistics do not shed enough light on the intrinsic value of the library to the user. In the case of fake news and how libraries manage them, other indicators may be needed, which take into account methodologies provided by library impact studies, SDG policies at European level and UN/Eurostat/NGO indicators where inclusive societies are evaluated for sustainable development (SDG 16.10).