IFLA/UNESCO goal: simply replace world peace with peace of mind?

Tomorrow, January 20, there will be a «IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto Webinar». The Manifesto in question has been translated and circulated in many languages. It is a fundamental text on the desired role of public libraries in this world, and a tool for librarians everywhere to explain to governments and people why public libraries are needed and should be further developed.

>> It seems that the webinar will be mostly about Scandinavian librarians’ work with the IFLA/UNESCO Manifesto, and will proceed partly in Swedish and Norwegian.

We, the bloggers at BiblioteketTarSaka*, intend to participate in the webinar. To get straight to the point, we are concerned about how one wording in the manifesto has changed over the years. It is unclear if we will have the opportunity to explain our concern during the webinar. But in any case, we hope to include something like the following in the webinar chat.

In 1949, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), itself founded 1945, launched the first, original version of the Public Library Manifesto. It opens with a preamble that says:

«Unesco […] has been created by the will of 46 countries. Its aim is to promote peace and social and spiritual welfare by working through the minds of men. […] This manifesto, by describing the potentialities of the public library , proclaims Unesco’s belief in the public library as a living force for popular education and for the growth of international understanding, and thereby for the promotion of peace.»

Then, in 1994, UNESCO published an updated version, this time called the IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto. The new text had been been prepared through cooperation between UNESCO and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The new version of 1994 repeated the above quoted wording of the previous version of 1949, with an addition:

«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

Finally, the third and current version of the IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto was launched at IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress in Dublin last July (2022). Obviously, the aim for this third version of the manifesto is to reflect the role and activities of libraries in the light of overall societal and technological changes. However, we are worried by the new formulation of the above quoted passage from the preamble. The new formulation 2022 is as follows:

«This Manifesto proclaims UNESCO’s belief in the public library as a living force for education, culture, inclusion and information, as an essential agent for sustainable development, and for individual fulfilment of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of all individuals. «

In the post-war environment of the original 1949 version, the emphasis was, understandably, on peace. In 1994, when the cold war between the major powers seemed to have ended, the peace theme was, perhaps understandably, somewhat toned down. But in 2022, when tensions between the major powers have again risen to breaking point, peace, in the sense of world peace, is no longer even mentioned. Instead, the text prefers to speak about «the individual fulfilment of peace». Surely, «the individual fulfilment of peace» has been a goal of wisdom lovers and religious leaders since antiquity. Nothing wrong with that! However, to eliminate any desire for world peace in the situation in which the world currently finds itself seems to us extremely unwise!

Therefore, and in order to feel at all inspired to «work with the manifesto at the national and international level», we would like to submit the following proposal for a new wording from now on:

«This Manifesto proclaims UNESCO’s belief in the public library as a living force for education, culture, and information, as an essential agent for disarmament and sustainable development, world peace and spiritual welfare.»

  • The bloggers : Mikael Böök, Affiliate member of IFLA, Finland; Anders Ericson, BiblioteketTarSaka, Norway.
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