GajReport Sept2010 by dfsiopmhy6


									Open access to knowledge – promoting sustainable progress,
the IFLA 76th General Conference and Assembly
Would I do it again? Definitely. Although this was my first IFLA I was extremely impressed by the
whole conference. Many thanks to the CILIP Committee for awarding me the first-timers grant to
attend; you have opened up a whole new world for me! I am Lesley Gaj, Deputy Director of the
Library at the new University of Kurdistan – Hewlêr, in Erbil the capital of the Federal Region of
Kurdistan in northern Iraq, and along with my fellow recipient of this year’s ‘first-timers’ award, was
introduced to the delights of IFLA over six days this August.

The opening session was great, a good warm up and introduction to the conference and its themes,
and it’s finale of the Abba tribute group had almost everyone up and dancing. The president’s lunch
was the first decent meal I had eaten in a while, finally fish, absolutely excellent and a wonderful
start to networking opportunities. So many new and fascinating people to converse with, discuss
ideas and practices with, and receive their feedback – this was to be the case throughout the

Gothenburg was a most impressive city, clean and tidy, green, and very law-abiding, with excellent
signage and good public transportation – I could compare it in some ways to an ideal library
situation! We were warmly welcomed by everyone, not just within the conference centre and
hotels but out in the street, on public transport, in the parks and gardens, the people are warm,
friendly, and hospitable.

An exciting range of visits were laid on for us. I was particularly interested in University libraries and
undertook the visit to the Chalmers Library, where we received informative presentations on the
library overall, how they managed their information literacy – a crucial and integral part of their
programmes run across three levels, and how they had managed their recent renovations, which
was most impressive to view the final product. The guides and speakers for the tours were
extremely knowledgeable and had excellent English skills, so much so, that I felt quite abashed at my
own lack of fluency in languages.

The newcomer’s session good and very worth attending but for me a little too late – as only then
was it clear that I could have actually been attending sessions the day before or at that time – i.e.
the Caucus and Standing Committees, which would have been so useful to me. I will remember this
as a point for future conference attendance though.

Should you have the opportunity to attend don’t miss the plenary sessions each day; they were
excellent openers to the daily topics. Jan Eliasson – the United Nations past president spoke fluently
about diversity and integration; Henning Mankell – the Swedish author who now lives and works
abroad was an excellent speaker whose key message was that cultural and economic development
go hand in hand, and libraries play a leading role in this; Hans Rosling – an economist reinforced this
message the next day with a very entertaining, clear, factual, and exceedingly graphic presentation;
as did Sture Allen from the Nobel Institute - all were excellent and thought provoking presenters,
each illustrating the conference message from different perspectives.
Poster sessions were informative, with lively presenters, and a variety of styles as well as the
coverage of topics and subjects all relevant and full of practical solutions. There were good exhibits
and knowledgeable exhibitors, with whom hopefully I will be able to follow-up to enable and assist
in my work here in Iraqi Kurdistan. The innovation of the ‘Swedish area’ with a version of ‘speaker’s
corner’ running there, a cafe come lounge area with a small shop, was an excellent meeting point
and social area, that was well used and greatly appreciated.

With over 3,500 delegates from 128 countries, and most presentations translated simultaneously
into seven languages it was often extremely difficult to know which of the over 150 sessions to
attend, the choices are so great and all so very enticing. Many of these sessions ran simultaneously
and had several speakers, whose presentations were as varied, informative, and interesting as the
subjects they were addressing. Thank goodness the papers were on the CD in the conference pack,
as there was so much to take in. I fully expect to spend a large proportion of my time in the coming
months digesting this information, liaising with new contacts, and pushing forward with ideas and
solutions for my developing library.

The areas that I focused on were information literacy, advocacy, staff development, building library
associations, new and green libraries, legal issues particularly in relation to copyright matters, and
finally technological developments. I was impressed by the Building Strong Libraries Associations
campaign for the capacity building of associations in developing countries and this is something I will
definitely be following up on. Also the information received on the ‘@your libraries’ campaign,
something else to follow up on, and use in our marketing.

Sessions in copyright and ethical matters provided a wealth of information, especially in an area
fraught with pitfalls. I particularly liked the reminder that with internet materials ‘free of cost’, does
not necessarily mean ‘free to use’ – a truism I shall be promoting vigorously to my students. Global
and distance learning programmes, their uses and impact, were also worthwhile sessions, as were
those I attended on a variety of aspects regarding staff development both new and on-going. New,
green, renovated - sustainable buildings from around the world came under discussion. Semantics
and data linkages, RDF, metadata, Library of Congress subject headings, e-storage, and deposits. I
could describe on the next five pages, or more, and still not be able to provide the fullest picture of
everything that occurred.

I can only re-iterate my heartfelt congratulations and thanks to the organisers, and everyone else
involved who managed to present us with a fantastically well-organised, clearly presented, and
extremely informative conference. Roll on my next IFLA Conference – so many people to liaise with,
ideas to exchange, and things to learn – hopefully that be next year in Puerto Rico.

Key words –

IFLA; Library conferences; Library development; Professional contacts

Author –

Lesley A T Gaj – Deputy Director of Library, University of Kurdistan – Hewlêr, Erbil, Iraq

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