IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994
Freedom, prosperity and the development of society and of individuals are fundamental human values. They will only be attained through the ability of well-informed citizens to exercise their democratic rights and to play an active role in society. Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as on free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information.
The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision- making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.
This Manifesto proclaims UNESCO's belief in the public library as a living force for education, culture and information, and as an essential agent for the fostering of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women.
UNESCO therefore encourages national and local governments to support and actively engage in the development of public libraries.
The Public Library
The public library is the local centre of information, making all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its users.
The services of the public library are provided on the basis of equality of access for all, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, nationality, language or social status. Specific services and materials must be provided for those users who cannot, for whatever reason, use the regular services and materials, for example linguistic minorities, people with disabilities or people in hospital or prison.
All age groups must find material relevant to their needs. Collections and services have to include all types of appropriate media and modern technologies as well as traditional materials. High quality and relevance to local needs and conditions are fundamental. Material must reflect current trends and the evolution of society, as well as the memory of human endeavour and imagination.
Collections and services should not be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship, nor commercial pressures.
Missions of the Public Library
The following key missions which relate to information, literacy, education and culture should be at the core of public library services:
- creating and strengthening reading habits in children from an early age;
- supporting both individual and self conducted education as well as formal education at all levels;
- providing opportunities for personal creative development;
- stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people;
- promoting awareness of cultural heritage, appreciation of the arts, scientific achievements and innovations;
- providing access to cultural expressions of all performing arts;
- fostering inter-cultural dialogue and favouring cultural diversity;
- supporting the oral tradition;
- ensuring access for citizens to all sorts of community information;
- providing adequate information services to local enterprises, associations and interest groups;
- facilitating the development of information and computer literacy skills;
- supporting and participating in literacy activities and programmes for all age groups, and initiating such activities if necessary.
Funding, legislation and networks
The public library shall in principle be free of charge.
The public library shall in principle be free of charge. The public library is the responsibility of local and national authorities. It must be supported by specific legislation and financed by national and local governments. It has to be an essential component of any long-term strategy for culture, information provision, literacy and education.
To ensure nationwide library coordination and cooperation, legislation and strategic plans must also define and promote a national library network based on agreed standards of service.
The public library network must be designed in relation to national, regional, research and special libraries as well as libraries in schools, colleges and universities.
Operation and management
A clear policy must be formulated, defining objectives, priorities and services in relation to the local community needs. The public library has to be organized effectively and professional standards of operation must be maintained.
Cooperation with relevant partners - for example, user groups and other professionals at local, regional, national as well as international level- has to be ensured.
Services have to be physically accessible to all members of the community. This requires well situated library buildings, good reading and study facilities, as well as relevant technologies and sufficient opening hours convenient to the users. It equally implies outreach services for those unable to visit the library.
The library services must be adapted to the different needs of communities in rural and urban areas.
The librarian is an active intermediary between users and resources. Professional and continuing education of the librarian is indispensable to ensure adequate services.
Outreach and user education programmes have to be provided to help users benefit from all the resources.
Implementing the Manifesto
Decision makers at national and local levels and the library community at large, around the world, are hereby urged to implement the principles expressed in this Manifesto.
The Manifesto is prepared in cooperation with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).
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Last update: 19 January 2021