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IFLA WLIC 2016


By all measures, the IFLA Congress in Columbus Ohio was a great success. From the memorable opening ceremony, the acclaimed President's session, the keynote speakers and the many section meetings, there was a great buzz in the air. The Secretary General, Gerald Leitner, laid out a new vision and outlined an exciting future for IFLA as the inclusive global voice of libraries.

The Opening Ceremony celebrated Columbus, Ohio and the USA in a fun and quirky way. It referenced television, fashion, life savers (lollies, not the Bondi type) and entertainment. This is the second time I have encountered male gymnasts at an IFLA opening (also in Lyon) - amazing! It is obviously a thing.


The President's session was titled: Answering the call to action: How might we respond to the challenges presented in the IFLA Trend Report. The first speaker was Mark Surman (Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation, US, pictured) who talked about how android is becoming a monopoly, eg in Africa 91% of smartphones are android. This poses the real risk of monopolisation in messaging and the major app producers are shaping content. He told us that according to a survey in Indonesia, millions of Facebook users have no idea they are using the Internet and only know that 1 - 2 apps exist.

He talked about the need to guard the open nature of the Internet and in the US there is the net neutrality movement against prioritising some ISP traffic over others. In India this is happening through a movement to say no to free basics, as the very real danger is that access and knowledge will be severely limited to that which is provided free on mobile phones. Mark told us that we must be like the environmental activists who have made the health of the planet a mainstream issue; we need to make the health of the Internet a mainstream issue everywhere. There are 5 main issues : privacy and security; decentralisation; open innovation; digital inclusion; and web literacy.

The next speaker was Fred von Lohmann (Copyright Legal Director, Google) who believes that copyright laws are a very big obstacle to making the world's information accessible. Technology is no longer the chief obstacle in sharing information and it is now far easier and cheaper to make information universally accessible. He believes that copyright is no longer fit for purpose, it made sense when it was just a few industries but now every digital device makes and transmits copies. He calls for flexible limitations and exceptions which are not predefined but can change as technology changes. The two principles for a flexible system are different purpose (use for a very different purpose, eg a meme) and no harm (not a substitute for or undermining the market for a work.) He says that it is not about wanting something for free but making everyone richer.

Gerald Leitner spoke several times at the Congress on the new direction for IFLA and about his vision for IFLA - Global Vision: Local Impact. One of these occasions was at the President - Elect's session on Librarians, the gears of the motors of change. He told us that the Internet is disrupting the whole supply chain for libraries and that complaining about it is not a strategy. In a world where Amazon and Apple have 88% of the ebook market, no library and no library association can be an island. We need to have connected libraries working together and IFLA is the biggest brain trust for libraries in the world.

During the Congress the five initiatives that will be undertaken in the next two years

as part of Global Libraries' Legacy Grant were outlined. The five programs are:

  1. Developing a global vision for libraries

  2. Building a library map of the world

  3. Conducting a membership survey

  4. Creating a plan to support regional operations

  5. International Advocacy Program with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals

One of the programs I attended was the Statistics and Evaluation Section's Evaluating our worth: how can we quantify the value of libraries and information centres? I caught one of the presentations, by Jeremy Paley, who outlined the various impact and outcome measures being used by libraries. There are three in particular that are generating interest and usage : the Public Library Association's Outcomes measures; the Edge which was devised by ULC and CIMS, which was implemented by Global Libraries to assess the impact of their programs. He recommended a website: www.publiclibraryimpact.org

which provides training materials on how to measure impact and use the information for advocacy.


I presented the Treasurer's report at the General Assembly and was pleased to be able to report that for 2015 there was a surplus and that IFLA is in a good financial state. The main categories of income for IFLA are membership fees (32%); Grants by external organisations (38%); profit from the WLIC (in 2015 this was 13%); and management fees charged to manage programs (9%); and Other (8%.)

The main categories of expenditure are IFLA HQ staff (41%); other HQ, regional and centres related expenditure (15%); and almost one third to key initiative programs Building Strong Library Associations and the International Advocacy Program (32%); and Other (12%.)

The Cultural Night was a great time for relaxing, networking, eating and drinking. It was held at COSI, the Center for Science and Industry and featured music and cuisine from different parts of the US. Silent disco anyone??

The Closing Ceremony included thanking the hosts from Columbus, in particular Carol Diedrichs and Pat Losinski for such a wonderful Congress; and a welcome to Wroclaw next year by the Mayor. The Chair of the Malaysian National Committee was also very happy that the Congress will be in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. There was the conferral of an IFLA honorary fellowship on Jennefer Nicholson, who retired as Secretary General in May in recognition for her huge contribution to IFLA and its work. A full list of the honours and awards can be found here.

All in all a most successful Congress!

*photos by Kirsten Krumsee

#IFLAWLIC2016 #GeraldLeitner #DonnaScheeder #MarkSurman #Impactmeasures #FredvonLohmann

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