Magazine article Information Today

IFLA: Open Access to Knowledge at World Library and Information Congress

Magazine article Information Today

IFLA: Open Access to Knowledge at World Library and Information Congress

Article excerpt

IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, reports that it is the "global voice of the library and information profession." This year, it raised its voice in support of Open Access to Knowledge--Promoting Sustainable Progress at its World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), Aug. 10-15 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The conference theme echoed Ellen Tise's presidential theme of Libraries Driving Access to Knowledge.

The conference, which attracted nearly 4,000 people from 128 countries, featured 350 papers, 80 exhibitors, and 200 posters. The Swedish National Committee, tapped on short notice to produce this conference, did an excellent job organizing the program, social events, cultural activities, library tours, and networking opportunities. New this year was the Swedish Library Avenue, where libraries of all types displayed posters and brochures about their facilities and services. Adjacent to the Avenue was the Swedish Library Arena (another new addition), a lounge area with a view of Liseberg, the amusement park across the street.

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Take a Chance on Sweden

WLIC's opening ceremony combined classical, intellectual, and pop--a potent combination that engaged and energized the delegates. Librarians filed into the conference hall to the soothing guitar melodies of Thomas Andersson. His final piece, which he played on classical guitar, sounded vaguely familiar, a song which conference chair Agneta Olsson confirmed in her welcoming remarks as ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me," a reflection of IFLA's confidence in Sweden's ability to host the 76th WLIC.

Jan Eliasson, a career diplomat with the Swedish government and former president of the 16th session of the U.N. General Assembly, gave the opening keynote titled The Power of the Word--Communication and Access to Information in a Globalized World. He acknowledged that he has a deep respect for words, noting that they are essential to diplomacy and negotiation. As such, changes in terminology can lead to policy changes. And although information and knowledge are key to the development of society, they are not evenly distributed; globalization of knowledge is needed. "There is no peace without development," he says. "There is no development without peace. Both require human dignity." He urged WLIC delegates to stand up for the "wonderful search for knowledge."

As Eliasson left the stage to thunderous applause, he was replaced by ABBA cover band Waterloo, who had the librarians on their feet and dancing to classic ABBA songs. (Mamma Mia, but there were a lot of dancing queens, even if few were still 17.)

Literacy and Dignity

The plenary speaker for Day 2 was novelist Henning Mankell, who echoed Eliasson's emphasis on the importance of dignity. He tackled the issue of illiteracy in a talk titled To Be Able to Read and Write--A Question of Dignity.

"Illiteracy is a type of plague," he says, adding that it's lethal not to be able to read and write. As a passionate advocate of public libraries, he is offended by threats to the Swedish public library system. "To fight for literacy is to fight for dignity," he says, adding that librarians work in "temples of literacy" and are the "guardians of dignity." In fact, Mankell, who lives half-time in Mozambique, donated his speaker's fee to fund the cost of attendance for a Mozambican librarian at WLIC.

Hans Rosling, professor of international health at Karolinska Institutet, took a somewhat different tack toward literacy in his plenary talk titled A Fact Based World View. He used statistics to debunk popular assumptions about the developing and the developed world. The dynamic graphs from Gapminder (www.gapminder .org) allow individuals to choose comparisons such as income and child mortality, fertility and life expectancy, and literacy to income over time. He equated environmental challenges with energy needs. …

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