Report from the World Library and Information Congress
71st IFLA General Conference and Council - Oslo, Norway August 13-19, 2005
By Linda J. Goff, Head of Instructional Services

My first inkling that I might be able to attend the International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) conference was in January of 2004 when the ALA Library Instruction Round Table was asked to nominate someone as a representative to the IFLA Information Literacy Standing Committee. It could have been in recognition of my long-term and active membership that LIRT Executive Committee nominated me, (or maybe it was my willingness to pay my own travel expenses), but in February, 2005, I received notice from the ALA Executive Board that my nomination had been accepted by IFLA and in March my official letter of appointment for a four year term arrived from IFLA headquarters in the Hague.

IFLA has 115 member countries and most of them were represented in the cacophony of voices I heard when checking in to the conference in Oslo, Norway. Luckily English is one of the official languages if IFLA. All programs offered simultaneous translations in five languages via headsets, so librarians and information professionals from all over the world had little trouble understanding each other. Attendance at IFLA would dispel the stereotype of librarians as quiet or reserved. When they weren’t intently listening to programs, the IFLA delegates were engaged in lively discussions of common interests.

The Information Literacy Standing Committee met twice, the day before and the day after the main conference, so I was invited to sit in on the discussion of the previous year’s activities before officially joining the ILSC. Jesús Lau from Universidad Veracruzana, México chairs the committee and reported on the publications and programs. Many similar reports are available at the committee’s web site: www.ifla.org/VII/s42/index.htm

The IFLA conference coincided with Norway’s Centennial celebration of independence from Sweden and also the opening of the newly remodeled National Library, so other activities abounded. The Opening Ceremony on Monday was attended by King Harald V of Norway, so delegates were asked to be in their seats early. The ceremony included music, drama and a speeches and was capped of with a parade of national flags carried in by over 100 volunteers. (see picture 1 below)

The structure of IFLA is not always clear, so I attended the US caucus meeting on Saturday and the orientation for newcomers. IFLA consists of 44 sections, and 8 divisions grouped by interest or geographic region. One representative from each division make up the Professional Committee and the Governing Board has 10 members elected by Council plus the Professional Committee members. IFLA membership is automatic if you are a member of a national association that belongs to IFLA. Council meetings are open to all members.

I was lucky to have a friend and colleague, Sharon Chadwick, from Humboldt State University as a traveling companion, so we divided up to attend more meetings. I attended sessions from the Knowledge Management, University Libraries, Information Technology sections as well as the Information Literacy program done jointly with the Management and Marketing Section.

Monday, August 15 was the official reopening of the National Library of Norway. IFLA delegates were invited to view the opening ceremony with the King on a mega screen monitor from the park across the street. Library visits are integrated into the IFLA program and I was lucky to visit the National Library the next day when it opened to the public. I also toured the Nobel Peace Prize Library and had the thrill of standing at the podium where the peace prize winners are announced! (see picture 2)

A Cultural Evening is traditional at IFLA and Tuesday we were bussed to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, an open air museum featuring 155 historic buildings from different regions of the country. We were each issued an IFLA backpack containing a boxed meal and a small pad on which to sit to eat our dinner as we wandered through the park. Entertainment abounded culminating with a troop of medieval acrobats, jugglers and fire eaters.

The Information Literacy program “Information Literacy: A Voyage of Discovery for Citizens” was held on Wednesday and was jointly sponsored by the Management and Marketing Section. It was divided into two parts. During the first, presentations were given by librarians from Singapore, India and Germany. It was followed by an interactive workshop focusing on learning more about our users and it allowed us to interact with others in the audience more freely. That was where I ran into Valerie Bannerman from Ghana who some of you may remember as a visiting scholar who worked at CSUS for six weeks back in 2000/2001. (see picture 3)

The closing session on Thursday featured Korean dancers and drummers inviting us to the conference in Seoul next year.

On Friday my standing committees met to work on our strategic plan, divide up the work assignments for the year and to set the program topic for the next conference. (see picture 4) One of the most ambitious projects we plan to being funded by UNESCO. The major undertaking will produce a snapshot survey of international activities relating to Information Literacy. Our committee divided up the world and I got Canada and the U.S. I also will be a co-convener with Barbara Ford and Jarma Saarti from Finland of a program on “Transitions to College” jointly sponsored with the University Libraries Section. I’ve always thought the best way to get started is to jump in with both feet. Wish me luck!


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