What is your level of media literacy?

If you are like me you probably spend a lot of your time consuming and creating digital content. Almost every hour (seven days a week!) I check Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what is relevant to my organisation—what it being posted, liked or retweeted. I am also constantly looking at newsfeeds from a range of other platforms to keep up with what is happening in the world. I guess as a librarian I am consuming digital content with some degree of literacy. Therefore, I am aware of the need to consider who has created the content, to look for differing views and to consider possible bias.

I was, therefore, very interested when I received an invitation to attend the Australian Media Literacy Symposium hosted by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Digital Media Research Centre in 2021. The symposium was delivered as a synchronous event with others in Sydney and Canberra and was scheduled to align with the launch of Adult media literacy in Australia: attitudes, experiences and needs. The report is based on research undertaken jointly by Western Sydney University, QUT and the University of Canberra. The researchers surveyed a sample of 3 510 adult Australians to understand the different types of media they use, the value they place on different media activities, their confidence in their own media abilities and their access to media literacy support. My interests certainly fitted in with that profile. The diagram below also demonstrates that my media consumption is consistent with that of many other Australian adults. How does yours compare?

Being the first comprehensive analysis of how Australian access and engage with media literacy, this is an important document for the library and information sector. Its key findings are:

  1. Most Australian have a low level of confidence in their own media abilities.
  2. Some Australians are at greater risk of having low media literacy.
  3. Most Australians have had access to very few sources of media literacy support in their lifetime.
  4. Australians believe media literacy is important.
  5. Adults want children to receive media literacy education at school.
  6. People who use multiple social media platforms are more likely to be critical and competent media users.
  7. Entertainment media offer more than escapism or passive consumption.
  8. Australians want media companies to take responsibility for addressing problems associated with media use.

I am particularly interested in the second finding—because those groups that have higher risk are also the groups that are regularly reported in the Australian Digital Inclusion Index as having the lowest digital inclusion. These groups are Australian adults living in regional areas, less educated, older, living with disabilities, Indigenous and with lower incomes. Australian libraries are already delivering a range of programs to address digital inclusion, e.g., Tech Savvy Seniors and Deadly Digital Communities but this new report highlights that libraries also need to consider programs to address media literacy. We need to be delivering programs that specifically target those groups that have lower levels of media literacy.

Within Australia, a number of peak groups are already working together as the Australian Media Literacy Alliance (AMLA), including the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and National and State Libraries Australia (NSLA), to advocate for media literacy. They have defined media literacy as “the ability to critically engage with media in all aspects of life. It is a form of lifelong literacy that is essential for full participation in society”. AMLA has also developed a media literacy framework that articulates the outcomes of a media literate citizen.

But, back to the symposium. The keynote speaker was Associate Professor Paul Mihailidis from Emerson College in Boston whose most recent publication is Civic media literacies. He explored the themes of values, spectacle and trust.

People care more about information that confirms their values rather than what is accurate.”—Paul Mihailidis

He proposed that the values of social platforms no longer align to the values of society, and that trust in institutions is declining. He also highlighted the decline of media diversity—many communities in the United States now have no or only one source of local news. This is like Australia, where many regional newspapers ceased being published in 2020. And, on a topical note, we were warned that we need to be wary of the social media discourse on the COVID-19 vaccine and how platforms prioritise our access to information. The topic of misinformation and COVID-19 was discussed by former CNN journalist Dr Anne Kruger when she outlined the work of First Draft and its Vaccine insights hub.

I encourage you to explore the Adult media literacy in Australia report and the AMLA media literacy framework. Although the research is based on Australian research the findings are relevant to other contexts. Personally, I am increasingly seeking out alternative media to ensure that I am modelling being a media-literate citizen. Libraries have a strong record of providing literacy programs, e.g., in digital literacy, health literacy and financial literacy.  We now need to actively promote media literacy so that we can enable active civic participation.


Next Library—a truly global innovation!

One of the terrific benefits of being part of the IFLA community has been the connections I have made. Several years ago I reached out to Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark about Next Library and indicated I was really keen for the State Library of Queensland to be involved. Next Library has an international reputation for innovation and simply being different! I was keen to be part of such a dynamic movement.

In 2019, I was thrilled when it was announced that State Library of Queensland would bring Next Library to Australia in 2020. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our plans to bring together forward-thinking library professionals, innovators and decision-makers from all over the world in October 2020 did not eventuate.

As part of our planning for Next Library Brisbane, I had the privilege to attend Next Library 2019 in Aarhus, Denmark. Our goal was to enjoy the Next Library experience, to learn and to make connections. Naturally, we also wanted to create some excitement and intrigue about visiting Australia. 

I would like to share with you some images from the State Library of Queensland booth at Aarhus in 2019. Australia is a unique continent—particularly in comparison to that of our European and Nordic colleagues, so our aim was for delegates to experience Queensland—through taste, smell and sound!

Despite COVID-19, it is fantastic that the Next Library spirit has been revived! As you would have seen on social media, the Voices of Next Library, delivered 12–16 April 2021, provided a new opportunity for global participation. The next global event will be Next Library Online on 3 June 2021, and Brisbane will be part of the excitement. Stay tuned and I will share with you our plans to participate in this global phenomenon.

Visit to National Library of the Republic of Indonesia

On 11 November 2022, I had the opportunity to visit the National Library of the Republic of Indonesia in Jakarta.  I was met by Mr Syarif Bando, Director of the National Library, and his senior management team. The visit included a tour of the building – including reading rooms, rare books room, and collections areas.  It was evident that the library is well used by students and researchers.

I also had the opportunity to hear about the important work that the National Library is supporting economic and social outcomes in the communities and villages. The National Library faces unique challenges in serving a country that comprises over 17,000 islands and population in excess of 274 million.

I have included some images of my visit

Opening of Injinoo Indigenous Knowledge Centre (IKC)

On Saturday 23 April 2022, I was privileged to attend the official reopening of the Injinoo Indigenous Knowledge Centre (IKC). Injinoo is the fifth IKC to be opened by the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC), demonstrating NPARC’s commitment to providing library services to one of Queensland’s most remote communities. Unfortunately, the first Injinoo IKC had to be closed in 2015 after being flooded. So, there was great excitement within the community about this important service once again being available to them.

Queensland now has 25 IKCs, operated by Indigenous Councils in partnership with the State Library of Queensland. These centres not only provide access to traditional library services, but they are also a vital hub for the communities they serve. IKCs facilitate lifelong learning, improve social wellbeing, and help people of all ages to develop work and life skills. Importantly, they also provide a place to capture and preserve local history, language and culture.

Whilst attending official opening of the Injinoo IKC, I was able to advise the community that the aspiration for a network of IKCs across Queensland was first proposed in 2001 in the State Library’s Future directions: smart libraries build smart communities policy document. Future directions made a commitment to improve library and information services to Indigenous people and communities in Queensland. Significantly, it also involved establishing libraries in all Indigenous communities and developing appropriate collections throughout the public library network.
Smart Libraries Build Smart Communities—Future Directions of the State Library of Queensland

Coincidentally, Saturday’s event was 20 years to the day since the first IKC opened at Lockhart River in 2002. Today’s strong network of IKCs stretch from the Torres Strait and Cape York regions in north Queensland to Cherbourg in the south. Each IKC seeks to present services and events that are deeply local.

Across the last decade, State Library has also made a strong commitment to language revitalisation—documenting, preserving, and making accessible the traditional languages of Queensland.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages—State Library of Queensland

Later this week, State Library officers will deliver language workshops to the Northern Peninsula Area communities. These workshops have several key objectives:
• to raise awareness of local/regional languages in each community
• to introduce community members to language resources and materials
• to provide community members with basic training and skills in researching and using languages
• to generate action plans for language revival in the region.

I very much valued seeing first-hand the excitement within the community about once again having their own Indigenous Knowledge Centre and also the opportunity to participate in local/regional language revitalisation programs.

Responding to your questions

Candidates for IFLA President-elect 2021-23 were invited to respond to questions from members. My responses appear below.

Question 1 – What is your motivation to stand for the role of IFLA President-elect?

I have been privileged to enjoy a lifelong career in a profession that is generous and collaborative.  But more importantly, it is our commitment to improving the lives of the communities we serve that unites us as a profession, like no other.

An active member of IFLA since 2004, I have been honoured to serve on the IFLA Governing Board since 2017I have also held numerous leadership roles, including President, of the Australian Library and Information Association.

The Global Vision has given us the agenda to achieve so much in the last four years.

But talking to colleagues around the world, I know there is so much more we can achieve together and for this, I would like to take on the important leadership role of President-elect.

Each IFLA President inherits the good work of their predecessors and I acknowledge the outstanding contribution of so many others. Not only our past Presidents, Governing Board members and the IFLA team in The Hague—but all the thousands of volunteers and active participants in IFLA committees and programs who have made IFLA’s achievements possible.

Working on Governing Board as Division Chair and Professional Committee Chair has enabled me to build a strong understanding of the critical issues facing IFLA. I am now asking you to vote for me as President-elect. I make a commitment to serve IFLA and my fellow members to the best of my ability and always with your needs at the heart of my efforts. 

I seek your endorsement so that I can give back to a profession that has given so much to me.

Question 2 – As President, how will you lead IFLA in addressing the question of financial sustainability?

Money is something that we all think about and it is important that we do.

Firstly, the good news is that IFLA is financially stable but we need to plan for the future.

In recent years the business models for all library associations—including IFLA—has been disrupted.  Conferences and membership are two key income streams for many associations and these streams have been impacted negatively—even before COVID-19. As Chair of both the Professional Committee and Congress Advisory Committee, I am excited about the changes currently underway in rethinking our conference business model.

But we will need to do more. I want to continue working to develop new business models for IFLA and this needs to be a priority. The Governing Board needs to work with IFLA’s Secretary-General and staff to look at the services delivered, our revenue streams, and to consider options and prioritise strategies. We need to develop a Risk Plan and identify mitigation strategies.

Financial sustainability is something we all face in our own organisations, particularly as we seek to introduce new services that will make a difference. If we can’t fund them ourselves, we turn to partners. And that is something we all do so well. We are successful and trusted collaborators.

Rather than leaning on our members through increased fees, I would encourage the board to look outside IFLA for new partners whose aims and values match our own. Let’s activate all that goodwill about libraries on every continent to generate more money, more people and a stronger voice in support of the things we believe are important.  

Question 3 – As President, how will you build on the inclusive and collaborative momentum that began with Global Vision and continue ensuring members have a voice in shaping IFLA’s future?

Over the last few years, through the Global Vision, IFLA has done an extraordinary amount of consultation. I was at the kickoff meeting in Athens as we embarked on the exciting journey to build a stronger IFLA. Since that time, I have participated in many meetings across the globe—both in person and online.

Most recently, as one of the leads of the Governance Review, I have seen first-hand that our members and volunteers are keen to participate in our work to strengthen the association. Your participation has been invaluable—and IFLA needs to continue to involve associations, institutions, members and volunteers.

In the past 12 months, our round tables delivered via Zoom have been an effective way to engage members in shaping IFLA’s future. These opportunities for engagement and discussion need to be scheduled on an ongoing basis. 

Like you, I am really looking forward to the launch of the new IFLA website—its new functionality and design will enable stronger communication and interaction.

Our new Regional Councils, which commence in August this year, will be an important mechanism for two-way communication between all our regions and the Governing Board. We need to work together to ensure that their potential is fully realised.

I also know that consultation isn’t an end in itself.

Members need to see action as a result of consultation. So, I favour a two-pronged approach—checking in regularly with members along the way, but also making sure we have an action plan that’s delivering the change we have promised.

Question 4 – What do you see as the next challenge IFLA must address to promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how will you lead IFLA in achieving it?

One of the pillars of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the pledge to leave no one behind.

As a profession it is a pledge that we can uses as the strategic focus of IFLA’s work to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion.

The UN High Commission for Refugees tells us that there are now 80 million displaced people around the world and over 26 million refugees—more than at any time in our history. There are children being born in refugee camps who are destined for a lives of poverty and violence.

Sadly, no matter which country you live in there will be social and economic issues that create barriers to equity and inclusion. 

We know from the UN’s SDGs that education and access to information are critical factors in breaking the cycle of disadvantage. IFLA can be a powerful voice, advocating for services which will help children learn to read, adults to learn and give everyone access to information—their basic human right. The pledge to leave no one behind needs to be at the centre of IFLA’s advocacy work, our strategic planning and our work collectively on a day-to-day basis.

The SDGs provide a powerful framework for libraries to demonstrate the work that we already do—and the work we can do. IFLA must continue to advocate at the international level, to work to identify partners, and to support your work by providing you with practical tools. We need a compelling narrative of the work that libraries do to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion.

There is so much work to be done to bridge the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in our communities. Libraries must continue to play a critical role here. With IFLA’s leadership and support we can work effectively within our own countries and communities to make a strong contribution to ensure that no one is left behind.

Question 5 – What excites, and worries, you most about the future of libraries in a post-COVID world?

After more than two years of living in a COVID-19 world, it can be challenging to imagine the future of libraries in a post-COVID-19 world. I know from my own experience that COVID-19 has changed the way that we deliver services, how we work and how we plan for the future.

COVID-19 has been more than a health crisis—it has also been a social and economic crisis. These three facets must be considered as we plan for the future. From an economic perspective, there will be more pressure to secure funding and many of us will be prioritising our services within stretched budgets. Each of us has personally experienced the social impact—on ourselves, families, friends, colleagues and on our communities. Although COVID-19’s impact has varied across the globe, it will be one of the great markers of the 21st century. Our libraries have responded with great skill, speed and creativity to ensure that services remain accessible—particularly to the most vulnerable. We have developed new services and accelerated our digital delivery.

So, I am far more excited than I am worried about libraries in a post-COVID-19 world.

I’m excited by the way people have taken to the media to say how much they missed libraries being open. I’m excited by how this gratitude has changed our relationship with governments as they have seen the incredible reach and value of our services.

It has been fantastic to see the record number of nominations in the current IFLA elections—the highest number ever. Nominations came from across the globe and from colleagues at all stages of their careers. This demonstrates your commitment and willingness to support and progress IFLA priorities. It also demonstrates your belief in the values and work of IFLA.

We can be very proud of our Professional Units—they have been more active in the last 12 months than ever before. There is no doubt that this commitment and enthusiasm will carry forward to the future.

It will make us an even stronger global voice for libraries. So, let’s work together to imagine and deliver the next phase of libraries supporting our global community.

Question 6 – How will you engage with next generation library professionals during your presidency?

The IFLA of the future will be in the hands of the next generation of library professionals. It is, therefore, our responsibility to give them opportunities to engage in the work of IFLA, to listen to their views and experiences, and to develop their skills and capabilities. In short, like those of all members and volunteers, their contributions and opinions must be respected and valued.

I am confident that our new professional units structure will provide new opportunities for next-generation professionals to engage in the work of the Professional Units. In addition to existing Standing Committees and Special Interest Groups, the new structure includes Working Groups and Networks. Standing Committees will also include new roles for mentors—up to three mentors for each Standing Committee—to provide support and encouragement to committee members.

Our Global Vision work has highlighted the importance of genuine, meaningful engagement. I would like to propose a leadership group that has a direct relationship with the Governing Board and helps us to keep ahead of social and professional issues. When the world is changing so rapidly, we can’t afford to set the agenda independent of younger voices.

Members of the Next Generation Leadership Group need to reflect the diversity of our membership—by region and library type. I would seek their advice on the most appropriate mode of engagement. I do know that we don’t need any more formal meetings. Instead, let’s explore creative means of engagement and take the opportunity to build a stronger IFLA for the future!

Question 7 – What experiences have prepared you for both the intensity and complexity of the job of IFLA President?

As President-elect, I bring significant experience as a senior leader in the library sector who has worked across public, academic and research libraries. 

As State Librarian and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the State Library of Queensland, I am responsible for an annual budget of ~AUD$80M and leading a workforce of 350 people. I am accountable for the organisation’s financial and risk management, as well as for securing philanthropic support and sponsorship for new programs. Over the last 12 months, despite the impact of COVID-19 we have delivered programs and services to more members of our community than ever before in our 120-year history.

I believe my experience as a CEO, together with my experience as a President of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) have equipped me well to contribute effectively to the work of IFLA.

As a member of the IFLA Governing Board since 2017, I have been actively involved in the implementation of the IFLA Global Vision. As the Professional Committee chair, I led the Review of the Professional Units, which I believe responds well to the feedback from Standing Committee members. Together with the President, President-elect, and Secretary-General, I was a member of the Steering Committee that oversaw the full Governance Review, including the review of Statutes and Rules of Procedure. During my terms on the Governing Board, I have been a member of the Finance Committee and Chair of the Congress Advisory Committee.

I am confident I have the background and experience to be the IFLA President.