World Library and Information Congress: 70th IFLA General Conference and Council in Buenos Aires
Solis, Jacqueline, Searcher
With nearly 4,000 participants from 121 countries, the World Library and formation Congress: 70th IFLA General Conference and Council took place from August 22-27, 2004, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was the first World Library Information Congress to take place in South America, and over 1,500 Spanish-speaking people registered. Employing the theme "Libraries: Tools for Education and Development," the Argentine organizers set the goal of promoting the use of libraries and librarians in South America. Moreover, they wished to acknowledge the need for libraries to support education in Latin America in order to promote economic and social development. The organizing committee worked for 6 years through Argentina's severe economic crisis to produce an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable conference.
This was my first IFLA conference, and I was warned in advance that there would be too many interesting sessions, too many interesting people, too many interesting exhibits, and too many interesting social activities to be able to attend all the events I would want to. A quick look at the conference program confirmed this, so I tried to sample a little bit of many different activities. Readers of this article should only expect an overview of my impressions from the conference and coverage for some of the important themes that appeared in various sessions and activities.
On my arrival at the conference, I was overwhelmed not only by the beauty of the city of Buenos Aires, but also by the Hilton Hotel lobby filled with hundreds of librarians from all over the world. It was truly an inspiring experience to be in the company of so many librarians who, although facing unique challenges in their own libraries, all share a belief that access to information and education can change lives and have a positive effect on their communities.
Opening Session at the Historic Teatro Colon
The opening session offered greetings and speeches from several important government officials, including the mayor of Buenos Aires, Anibal Ibarra; the Argentine minister of education, science, and technology, Daniel Filmus; and IFLA president, Kay Raseroka. The keynote speaker at the opening session was Tomas Eloy Martinez, an Argentine novelist and director of Latin American Studies at Rutgers University. His speech, "The Book in Times of Globalization," traced the importance of the book throughout history, as a repository for knowledge, a keeper of history, a way of glimpsing the future, and as a powerful force for unification and justice in the world. Martinez then expressed his concerns about the millions of people in the world who do not have safe drinking water, much less money to purchase books, and expressed hope that one day globalization will allow more and more people to access information. He concluded with the affirmation that the book represents not only a "celebration of knowledge, but also, and first of all, a celebration of life." He believes that celebrating life in the time of globalization, when financial concerns and the obligations of business and corporate interests often overshadow human needs, means "to celebrate the values that define the best of the human spirit: language, imagination, freedom, a keen desire for justice, the search for equality."
The themes of globalization and politics were central to the conference. At the first Plenary Session in a speech entitled "Between the Walls of Information and Freedom," Adolfo Perez Esquivel, winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke about the topics of world hunger, violence on television, the war in Iraq, and the dangers of corporate ownership of the media turning freedom of the press into freedom of the corporation. Perez Esquivel told the standing-room only audience that with so much disinformation and misinformation available and so much intolerance and injustice in the world, researchers and librarians have a responsibility to bring conscience and thought to a new generation. …