Libraries guarantee access to information – a cross-cutting target that supports all Sustainable Development Goals (IFLA, 2015)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals are designed to address a wide range of global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The SDGs aim to create a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous world by 2030.

Libraries play a significant role in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, especially through the following ways:

GOAL 1: No Poverty

Developing proficient reading and writing abilities is crucial for individuals striving to escape the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. The Australian Early Development Census consistently reveals that approximately 1 in 7 children commence their schooling journey with developmental vulnerabilities, specifically in their language and cognitive skills.

In terms of providing support to children and families, Victorian Libraries are ideally positioned. Library programs include weekly story times and rhyme time sessions that are accessible to everyone. Libraries offer a diverse collection of children’s picture books that families can borrow.

For adults facing literacy challenges or individuals whose first language is not English, libraries deliver English conversation groups and collaborate with adult literacy service providers to facilitate programs in the library.

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

Libraries offer a range of programs and services that support people experiencing food insecurity

– Seed Libraries and Plant and Produce swaps
– Community gardens and community pantries and fridges
– Partnerships with food redistribution organisations, saving food from ending up in landfill.
– Community lunches
– Zero waste cooking clubs
– Partnerships with local community health providers to promote sustainable food choices

Many libraries are able to support communities with access to information about food relief in local areas.

Goal 3. Good Health and Well-Being

Victorian Libraries are essential providers of access to information that supports improved health and wellbeing. Our collection includes books and other resources to help people access health and wellness information.

Libraries provide safe spaces and encourage social connections through programs and events.

Libraries deliver regular and special events that promote physical health and wellbeing. Health and wellbeing programming is varied and has included tai chi, yoga storytimes, meditation and story walks, social connectedness conversation groups, bibliotherapy. Some library services have partnered with local leisure centres and made exercise equipment available in library spaces. 

Libraries promote wellbeing for all.

Goal 4 Quality Education

Victorian Libraries support literacy programmes and provide a safe space for learning for people of all ages. Libraries provide access to high quality collections of physical and digital educational resources. They promote inclusive and equitable lifelong learning opportunities within local areas.

Libraries provide facilitated and self-directed lifelong learning programs for people across the lifespan, from baby rhyme time through to digital literacy classes for older Australians classes.They provide an established, trusted network of local education institutions that effectively reach new and marginalised groups. Promoting universal literacy, including media and information literacy, and digital literacy skills are areas in which libraries contribute to improved educational outcomes.

Library collections may also include textbooks, novels and study guides used by school students.

Goal 5 Gender Equality

Victorian Libraries actively promote social inclusion and equal opportunities for all individuals. We strive to achieve gender equality by curating high-quality collections, developing inclusive programs, and delivering comprehensive services.

Our services commemorate important national weeks and months such as IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism, and Transphobia), Pride, Women’s Health Week, and Men’s Health Week. By acknowledging these events, libraries demonstrate their commitment to promoting gender equality and inclusivity.

Libraries contribute to gender equality by providing secure meeting spaces that foster a sense of safety and acceptance. Additionally, we offer targeted programs designed specifically for women and girls, focusing on their rights, health, and overall well-being. We also provide ICT, STEAM, Tech and literacy programs tailored to support women in developing their entrepreneurial skills, empowering them in their professional endeavors.

The programs delivered within libraries have proven instrumental in supporting women and girls, helping them build confidence, establish valuable peer networks, and develop essential workplace skills. Through these initiatives, Victorian Libraries actively contribute to the advancement of gender equality in our communities.

Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation

Victorian Libraries provide public access to information on water and sanitation. Many provide free and reliable access to drinking water. Programs in libraries may be delivered to strengthen water management and sanitation education especially in conjunction with natural disaster information such as flooding.

Goal 7. Affordable and Clean Energy

Affordable and clean energy is essential to reducing emissions. Victorian Libraries provide the library community with access to information so that they can make clean energy choices.

Many libraries now provide access to energy saver kits and thermal cameras to aid people who want to cut down on their energy bills, improve comfort in their home, and diagnose heat-leaking spots in their homes.

Goal 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

Victorian libraries promote continuous, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Public access to ICT and training at libraries enables people to develop job skills. Libraries provide information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, help people develop the capacity to effectively use information, and preserve information to ensure ongoing access for future generations. Library staff deliver programs and partner with organisations that can help people seeking employment with finding the right job and support with online job applications.

Goal 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Victorian libraries are committed to promoting inclusive and sustainable infrastructure by providing communities with access to vital resources. We prioritize equitable access to information and technology by offering free Wi-Fi and computer access, ensuring that individuals have the tools they need to connect with the digital world. Public libraries serve as creative and innovative spaces, fostering a spirit of exploration and discovery. In line with our commitment to innovation, Victorian libraries feature makerspaces that are flexible and forward thinking. These makerspaces are equipped with cutting-edge technology, including 3D printers, sewing machines, cricuts, robotics kits, and sound recording booths. By providing access to these resources, we empower individuals to unleash their creativity and pursue their passions. Libraries also support the Australian Government Smart Cities agenda by delivering regular digital literacy programming to support closing the digital divide.

Goal 10. Reduced Inequities

Victorian Libraries actively contribute to the reduction of inequalities by creating safe and inclusive civic spaces that are accessible to all individuals. We recognize the importance of providing resources in various formats and languages to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to access information and knowledge. Central to our mission is the promotion of equitable access to information, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, as well as safeguarding privacy, all of which are essential for fostering individual independence.

Our libraries are welcoming havens, offering a supportive environment where individuals can engage in learning and personal growth. We extend our reach beyond the library walls through outreach services, ensuring that learning opportunities are available to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. Our Home Library Service caters to community members who are unable to visit our physical branches, bringing the resources and joy of reading directly to their homes.

Recognizing the needs of individuals with print disabilities, we boast a vast collection of books specially designed to cater to their unique requirements. By providing this collection, we aim to ensure that everyone can enjoy the wonders of literature and have equal access to reading materials.

In response to the ever-evolving digital landscape, Victorian Libraries also prioritize digital literacy. We offer dedicated sessions and programs designed to equip individuals with the necessary skills to navigate and keep pace with new technologies. By addressing the digital divide, we empower individuals to participate fully in the digital age.

Ultimately, Victorian Libraries strive to create a more equitable society by championing accessibility, inclusivity, and educational opportunities for all, regardless of their circumstances or abilities.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Libraries play a vital role in the preservation and conservation of precious documentary heritage, regardless of its form, ensuring its availability for future generations. Culture serves as a cornerstone for empowering local communities and fostering inclusive and sustainable development within cities.

Recognizing the importance of preserving documentary heritage, libraries actively contribute to the sustainability of cities and communities. Through close collaborations with local historical societies and community groups, libraries form partnerships aimed at sharing, promoting, and safeguarding local history for the generations to come. Some libraries also hold local history collections that house a wealth of historical and cultural resources specific to their regions.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Libraries serve as sustainable institutions that actively engage in resource sharing both within local communities and on an international scale. They play a crucial role in providing communities with valuable information on sustainable practices that are relevant to their specific circumstances, promoting initiatives for responsible consumption and production.

Taking a leadership role, libraries initiate practical initiatives that cultivate skills for responsible consumption, such as encouraging the concepts of “make do and mend” and establishing repair cafes. By fostering these practices, libraries empower individuals to embrace responsible consumption, emphasizing the importance of repairing and reusing items rather than disposing of them.

In addition, libraries inspire communities through the establishment of seed libraries, motivating and supporting the cultivation of fresh produce and the return of harvested seeds. This promotes local food production, strengthens sustainability efforts, and encourages the collective involvement of community members.

Recognizing the significance of proper waste management, libraries also act as collection points for e-waste and stationery, facilitating their appropriate disposal and recycling. By providing dedicated drop-off locations, libraries actively contribute to minimizing environmental impact and promoting sustainable practices.

In summary, libraries actively promote responsible consumption and production by sharing resources, providing relevant information, and leading initiatives that foster practical skills. Through their efforts, libraries serve as catalysts for sustainability, empowering communities to embrace eco-friendly practices, cultivate fresh produce, and properly manage waste, thus contributing to a more sustainable future.

Goal 13: Climate Action

Libraries universally assume a crucial role in facilitating access to vital data, research, and knowledge that are instrumental in combating climate change and its far-reaching impacts. Many libraries host environmental programs, on topics such as waste reduction, sustainable gardening, and conservation. These programs promote awareness and provide practical guidance on reducing carbon footprints. Libraries can also provide resources and programming to support community resilience and disaster preparedness, which is increasingly relevant in the face of extreme weather events. By providing a platform for informed research and public access to comprehensive information about climate change, libraries actively contribute to the collective effort of taking urgent action to address this global challenge.

Goal 14: Life Below Water Promoting Ocean Conservation and Resource Preservation

Libraries serve as valuable gateways to access critical data, research, and knowledge, enabling informed research and facilitating community decision-making concerning crucial elements of life, including the sustainable management of fishing, biodiversity, and water conservation. By providing comprehensive information, libraries actively contribute to promoting the conservation and restoration of the ocean and its resources, fostering a greater understanding of the importance of preserving life below water.

Goal 15: Life on Land Preserving Terrestrial Ecosystems and Promoting Sustainable Practices

Libraries universally assume a pivotal role in facilitating access to crucial data, research, and knowledge, which are essential for informed research and decision-making regarding environmental aspects of life. This includes promoting the conservation of resources, responsible land use, and biodiversity preservation. By providing comprehensive information, libraries actively contribute to developing understanding and fostering appreciation for life on land, as well as supporting efforts to protect, restore, and sustainably manage terrestrial ecosystems, combat desertification, reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Ensuring public access to information and safeguarding fundamental freedoms are integral to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, establishing accessible justice systems, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. Achieving comprehensive access to information requires not only providing the means for access but also equipping individuals with the skills to utilize information effectively. Libraries, with their expertise and abundant resources, play a crucial role in assisting governments, institutions, and individuals in communicating, organizing, structuring, and harnessing information for development purposes. By empowering change makers and peacekeepers, libraries contribute to the realization of this goal. Within the scope of Goal 16, lies the specific target of public access to information, which libraries actively support through their print and electronic resources, public access terminals, and provision of free Wi-Fi. Libraries also prioritize cyber safe training and resources, ensuring that people can navigate the online world securely. Access to information serves as a driving force for libraries, reflected in their corporate or strategic plans. Additionally, skilled library staff facilitate patrons’ connections with others through web services, including email and social media, while also enhancing their understanding of the web and digital services as they pertain to online and printed information.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Libraries serve as a global network of community-based institutions that stand ready to support local and national development plans, while also providing valuable resources for informed decision-making. In Australia and beyond, libraries actively collaborate with their counterparts worldwide through organizations like the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By forging partnerships with governments, businesses, civil society, educators, charities, and not-for-profit organizations, libraries contribute to the collective effort in realizing a shared vision of a better future for all. Through these partnerships, libraries play a crucial role in revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development and promoting the interconnectedness necessary to achieve the SDGs.