IFLA 2007: Progress, Development, and Partnerships

Article excerpt

The World Library and Information Congress and the 73rd IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) General Conference and Council kicked off this year's event under the banner of Libraries for the Future: Progress, Development and Partnerships Aug. 19-23 in another exotic locale: Durban, South Africa.

Preconference: Library and Research Services for Parliaments

The first day's preconference meeting, with the theme of Innovation and Creativity in Parliamentary Libraries and Research Services--Development Through Learning, was held in the parliamentary building of South Africa, where parliamentary dignitaries, members of parliament, and library staff shared many insights with section members.

The second day focused on innovative services with esteemed IFLA members including Ian Watt, head of unit for library operations at the European Parliament; Moira Fraiser, New Zealand Parliamentary librarian; Alim Garga, head of the Parliamentary Research Centre in Cameroon; Dan Mulhollan, director of Congressional Research Services, and Donna Scheeder, director of Law Library Services at the Library of Congress; John Pullinger, from the library at the House of Commons in the U.K.; and others.

Opening Ceremonies

South African author and storyteller Gcina Mhlophe, also known as the "Mother of Books" or "Weaver of Dreams," moderated the opening ceremonies at the World Library and Information Congress. Children gathered around her as they turned the pages of a gigantic book on stage while each new speaker was introduced; the same information was also flashing on a huge screen in full view of the audience.

The youth of KwaZulu-Natal (the name of Durban's province) sang and danced, but the most moving appearance of the morning was Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court of South Africa who was severely injured in a bomb attack while he was in exile during apartheid. He dedicated his talk to the librarian who gave him books while he was imprisoned (he never actually met her). He said, "The librarian was just doing her job, but she was illuminating and providing access to a world that might not have existed ... magical." He also talked about the three types of libraries: those that "walk around on legs" (relying on oral tradition), those that are "havens" (places to dream in your own language), and those that "you can't see" (virtual libraries and the accessible world via the Internet).

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Sessions Get Under Way

On Tuesday morning, the National Libraries, along with the IFLA-CDNL (Conference of Directors of National Libraries) Alliance for Bibliographic Standards (ICABS) and Information Technology sections, focused on resource discovery. Caroline Brazier of The British Library (BL) talked about the differences between academic researchers (who want journal articles and monographs, seamless integration, and comprehensiveness as well as easier access to information content) and the Google generation (who take instant access for granted, use social networking and tagging, music, images and videos, and want to have fun).

She indicated that solutions need to serve both of these needs, and in that regard, BL has five strands as its main strategic drivers going forward:

* Baseline catalogs and data (finding tools)

* Web 2.0 functionality and services

* New technology service layers

* Digital discovery

* End-to-end discovery to delivery solutions, specifically with the U.K. higher education

Brazier asked the audience several questions that sparked discussion: "Is it better to spend money on retrospective conversion or digitizing some objects even if it is fewer?" and "How do we ensure that we are a trusted source with accurate and authoritative collections?"

Likewise, Pam Gatenby of the National Library Australia articulated her library's strategic directions:

* To simplify and integrate services that allow users to find and get material

* To provide rapid and easy access

* To remain relevant in a fast-changing digital world by providing what people want

She talked about initiatives created by the library and its partners: Libraries Australia (which has been free to search since January 2006 and has a Google-like box on its front page), Music Australia, Pictures Australia, Australia Dancing, and Pandora (Web archiving). …