Magazine article Information Today

The 68th IFLA General Conference and Council

Magazine article Information Today

The 68th IFLA General Conference and Council

Article excerpt

Glasgow, Scotland's steel-gray skies cleared in mid-August to allow the 68th IFLA General Conference and Council to proceed in unaccustomed bright sun and warmth. The auditorium of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre on the banks of the River Clyde is known locally as "the Armadillo," but in these perfect conditions it resembled a giant shining crustacean that had drawn itself out of the water to bask in the sun's rays.

IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) celebrated its 75th anniversary at this year's conference with a return to its country of origin. The federation draws its membership from more than 40 nations, with a total representation of some half-million library professionals. The annual event offers an opportunity for delegates from around the world to debate library and information issues of the day and to see an extensive display of products in the accompanying exhibit hall.

This year's theme was "Libraries for Life: Democracy, Diversity, Delivery" with the sub-theme "Building on the Past-Investing in the Future." The event was managed by CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), an organization formed this past April through the merger of the UX's Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists.

The sessions were designed to stress the importance of having highly skilled people deliver effective and efficient services; supply citizens with the tools required to navigate a rapidly growing and increasingly complex information environment; and help organizations and decision makers find, evaluate, and use information effectively. These issues were taken up by Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, during his address to the conference. He urged Scottish libraries and librarians to place themselves at the heart of their local communities and work to empower people.

With over 3,500 delegates attending the conference, the opening session was packed during Irish poet Seamus Heaney's keynote address. Heaney, who was awarded 1995's Nobel Prize in Literature "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth that exalt everyday miracles and the living past," is also acclaimed for his powerful translation of Beowulf. He underlined the themes of the conference and included a call for the protection of libraries in totalitarian states.

IFLA presents an excellent opportunity for speakers to give the same amount of attention to issues that affect remote or disadvantaged regions of the world as they do to the latest developments in library technologies in wealthier countries. Thus, the difficulties of online access to information resources in Algeria and Zimbabwe and the potential for e-democracy and e-government in Canada and Sweden can easily appear in the same program.

Of particular interest locally was Resources for Learning in Scotland (RLS), a project to digitize material that celebrates the country's social, cultural, and industrial heritage. RLS is supported by a grant from the U.K.'s National Lottery New Opportunities Fund and is managed by SCRAN (Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network). The project will create a Web-based searchable and downloadable collection of such diverse materials as music, film clips, circus posters, and Fair Isle knitting. …

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