Libraries in disasters: the role of IFLA

For this topic we’re hosting a guest post from long time ILN supporter Loida Garcia-Febo. Loida has an impressive resume: she is a Member of the IFLA Governing Board, Chair of the ALA International Relations Committee, and Member of the ALA Council. She truly is an international librarian, and is the President of Information New Wave, a non-profit organisation seeking to enhance education. She is also Principal of at LGF International Strategies.

Loida has written a piece for us below about the approach taken by libraries in natural and man-made disasters, and the role that IFLA can play.


Loida Garcia-Febo

Loida Garcia-Febo

Libraries are helping people in cities experiencing crisis around the globe by partnering with organizations to preserve cultural heritage, provide access to education, and health-related resources.  In times of natural and man-made disasters, libraries are playing a key role in the recovery process helping to keep families together and rebuild communities. As disaster response in countries such as Chile has proven, governments and private and public organizations must include libraries into emergency planning and response efforts. Libraries are saving lives and providing hope in uncertain times.

It is important for those in the middle of conflict to find services to survive and keep hope alive. We need to expand conversations about how to help others in the midst of conflict and how to take action if needed. At the same time we cannot forget to help libraries in cities currently in crisis. Libraries can really make a difference! Ferguson Municipal Library in Missouri, USA, welcomed elementary school students and teachers when they couldn’t access their school, and identified resources to help community members. Public libraries in Chile helped citizens affected by earthquakes to identify basic needs, and designed systems to preserve their cultural heritage including library collections. Libraries in the Ukraine are providing services for internally displaced people such as serving as a collecting point of products and clothes and toys. In some cases, they are collaborating with local hospitals providing space to provide health-related aid.​

IFLA provides resources for libraries and librarians in cities in turmoil. IFLA have started working on a risk register for documentary heritage and the association is always interested in information on where libraries or their collections are in danger. It is expected that through an established risk register, documentary heritage at risk will be better protected and in most cases prevention will enable this heritage to survive.

IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation Section is a great place to look for practical help, expertise and even training resources to ensure preservation of all recorded knowledge regardless of storage medium. Along with the Preservation and Conservation Strategic Programme (PAC), these two units of IFLA are international forums for librarians to exchange and disseminate useful information and experiences.

IFLA also works with the International Committee of the Blue Shield, UNESCO and it is a member of LAMMS. These are dedicated to the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage and post-conflict situations. For instance, IFLA has been working in projects to help Mali and Haiti. For more information on how to proceed, it is worthy to look at IFLA’s “Principles of Engagement in library-related activities in times of conflict, crisis or disaster.” The document guides the organization and its members about how to monitor areas at risk, advocate for and raise awareness about disaster prevention.



We are grateful to Loida for writing this piece for us, and sharing her knowledge of the work that IFLA does in this space. Loida recently moderated a session at the Library 2.014 online conference (as did we!) on this topic; the recording of her presentation can be found here.

Some questions you might like to discuss with your partner include:

  • Have you ever dealt with the International Committee of the Blue Shield? Can you see a way in which they would be relevant for your library/community?
  • What impact do you think disasters would have on the staff in libraries? What do you think would be the biggest challenge for individuals?

We hope you’ve learned something new from this discussion topic, and we encourage you to continue the discussion with our wider community on Twitter and Facebook, or through the comments below.


  1. Thank you soo much Loida for the overview and am learning a lot from this topic. IFLA is doing a great job. Thank you

  2. Ojeniyi Abimbola · · Reply

    Wow, this info is mind blowing, librarianship entails a lots of work, there are fallow ground to break in my country.

  3. […] For this topic we're hosting a guest post from long time ILN supporter Loida Garcia-Febo. Loida has an impressive resume: she is a Member of the IFLA Governing Board, Chair of the ALA International…  […]

  4. Thank you Loida for the great overview. As the coordinator of these activities at IFLA HQ, I welcome any questions or enquirers. You can reach me at

    1. Thanks for sharing your details Julia – we really would encourage any of our community that wants to find out more about IFLA’s role in this space to contact Julia. We’re lucky to have an organisation like IFLA doing this work on an international level!

  5. […] thought this might be of interest to many of you. The International Librarians Network (ILN)  has started a discussion forum about the role of libraries in disasters. I was happy to […]

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