An alternative trend report for libraries

Cory Greenwood
3 min readFeb 7


At the IFLA World Library and Information Congress held in Dublin last year (2022), Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, called on librarians to be prisoners of hope and challenged the library field to step up its effort to face the injustices of the climate crisis and spark conversations on radical change.

The 2022 IFLA Trend Report calls for radical hope, which I thought was a nod to Mary’s stirring keynote address, but unfortunately, I don’t think it is. Sorry to say I found the report underwhelming.

It appears as a set of recommendations for libraries to follow, in lieu of actual, identified trends. There are some insightful comments made throughout the report; however, I just wish it had gone a little deeper and provided practical advice or even some case studies where libraries might already be responding to something. For example:

“Libraries have the potential to be a cornerstone of any effort to deliver the behaviour change necessary to respond to climate change effectively.”

This is a trend. IFLA published a standalone article called Coming Up in 2023: Libraries addressing the climate emergency, which is the kind of content I would have expected in the trend report. (More, please!).

An alternative trend report

Despite these grumbles, the report did motivate me to look closer at the Australian/Victorian public library landscape and to reflect on what we’re currently doing in response to global trends/issues. It’s heavily skewed towards my little neck of the woods, so I would love to hear from others around the globe about what they are doing to address emerging issues.

1. Libraries are getting better at advocating for themselves

State Library Victoria has delivered a range of professional development programs and grant funding for public libraries to develop advocacy material that highlights the health and wellbeing benefits of their services. (Here’s an article that highlights what Swan Hill Regional Library have done.) Merri-bek Libraries have also made a video highlighting their role in reducing social isolation for their community (via Facebook):

Membership of the Marketing, Advocacy & Engagement Special Interest Group has increased and is attracting professionals with non-traditional library backgrounds (specialists in community engagement, marketing and public relations).

2. Libraries are sparking conversations about the climate crisis, and are taking radical action to curb its effects on their communities

Yarra Libraries supported a series of climate conversation events in partnership with Climate for Change and the Australian Conservation Foundation; they also painted a mural in the Carlton Library courtyard outlining simple actions the community could take to reduce their carbon footprint.

the mural reads “move your money away from fossil fuels”, “join others and push for change”, “learn and share information”, “choose sustainable transport”, “support locally grown produce”, “look out for each other”, “eat plant-based foods” and “protect nature in urban environments”
Mural painted by John Lawry

3. Libraries are collaborating to adopt a broad definition of what they are/what they do

In the coming year, State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria will begin work on an identity project which aims to create a value proposition for the Victorian public library sector and bring clarity about what public libraries do. This work will unify us further; it will strengthen our advocacy efforts and encourage further opportunities to collaborate and support each other in the tough times ahead.

4. Libraries are ensuring their future by supporting and developing emerging leaders

State Library Victoria coordinates two leadership development programs that are highly regarded by the Victorian public library sector: Shared Leadership and Managing Self, Managing Others. These programs support emerging leaders to refine their soft skills, build networks and collaborate on projects that contribute to the advancement of our profession.

62% of Shared Leadership participants are now employed in more senior positions; about 30% of these participants received a promotion within six months of completing the program. 96% of participants say they feel more visible and connected to the sector as a leader.

5. Libraries share, share, share

I can’t open my inbox or scroll through Twitter without discovering another conference/webinar has been announced. I think we could be doing more to break out of our Twitter bubbles and would love to see librarians invited to speak at education/tech/cultural sector conferences/webinars. Let’s make that a trend for 2024.