IFLA WLIC – Part 2

This is part 2 of my conference experience at IFLA WLIC last August. For Part 1 click here.* Again, it’s a long one but I blame that on their being too many fantastic sessions!

In addition to school library related sessions, the second thread I followed was the IFLA Trend Report. The Report was released at the 2013 WLIC and consists of five high-level, societal trends affecting the information environment. Information professionals devoted last year to discussion of the Report. This year’s Trend Report sessions were focussed on receiving feedback from the discussions across the world and thinking about how librarians and library associations will move forward into action and adapt to a changing information environment.


The Cultural Evening was great fun. It was held in a former sugar warehouse, very ‘industrial chic’. Highlights were trying oysters for the first time and attempting group dances that were directed by an animated Medieval chicken/creature/thing on the big screen!

IFLA by its nature brings together globally prominent, intelligent people and I felt quite privileged to hear their ideas, especially on the Trends. The President’s Session included a Trend Report component focusing on e-participation for strong information societies. Speakers addressed the Trends as a whole from the perspective of their sector, including digital and information literacy, publishing, parliaments, policy advocates, think tanks and the EU justice system. Interesting points raised included that libraries are well-positioned to build capacity in digital and information literacy (Trend 1), a hyper-connected society means more voices but also more ‘noise’ (Trend 4) and that there is a pressing need for data protection reforms to address the alarming possibilities of Big Data (Trend 3).

Another session I attended on the Trends was entitled ‘What’s next? Moving on from the IFLA Trend Report’ and was sponsored by the Management of Library Associations Section and FAIFE Committee. Each speaker addressed one Trend in order and I took eight pages of notes! David Souter (ICT Development Associates) highlighted the growing ‘dataification’ of government and business and asked, where does information power reside? Access to this data is an important issue as it depends on factors such as access to analytical resources, computer processing capabilities, etc. He saw the role of libraries in this area as institutions who can increase diversity in information and access. Pierre Dillenbourg (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) spoke about online education and quipped that it will ‘democratise, maybe; disrupt, yes’. He saw potential in using MOOCs for teacher training and for training purposes in businesses. He proposed several theories on what the future holds:  that small universities could disappear, universities will lose the monopoly on higher education, and the future for open access is not looking rosy. He saw the role of librarians as resource managers in online education. David Greene (Electronic Frontiers Foundation) asserted that data protection was a human rights issue and described the alarming realities of digital life such as direct surveillance and the mass collection of data. He proposed that librarians should be advocates for privacy and data protection and libraries themselves should provide secure internet connections and use user data responsibly. Anniette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications) gave a fascinating talk on hyper-connected societies. Individuals have a voice now, but is there more noise online and who gets heard? She saw librarians as the ‘worriers’ for the public interest, agents for inclusion, facilitators of access and as challengers of power structures. In short librarians she said, echoing Souter’s talk, are human rights advocates. Finally Loida Gracia-Febo (IFLA Governing Board) talked about librarians facilitating knowledge exchange through new technologies. She saw librarians adapting to this trend by becoming experts on new technologies, connecting people, helping creators and contributing to sustainable development.


Rose garden in the massive park next to the conference centre.

The final Trend Report session I attended was held by the IFLA President-Elect, Donna Scheeder. There were a series of lightening talks from speakers representing the regions of the world and then we had round-table discussions. It was interesting to hear varying responses and priorities from the different regions such as infrastructure and internet access being a big issue in Asia and Oceania, Dutch libraries exploring reconciling the physical and digital, the USA pushing for policy change and in Africa, prioritising inclusive digital literacy, access, and IP ownership and indigenous knowledge. For the round table, the discussion was all about action. We discussed the need for library design and infrastructure to cater to an increasingly tech-saturated culture, e.g. having lots of plug sockets, sufficient bandwidth and also considering the environment and sustainability in design. Accountability was another theme:  we need to show the ‘value add’ that libraries provide, and not just in terms of money; senior managers need to release talented staff to do great and creative work; we need a clear, simple message and/or metrics for effective advocacy. Change was a buzzword on the table. Librarians need to change their mind-set and we need more variety of qualifications within libraries to address the changing information environment. We also need to understand our users’ needs and everyone agreed this entails getting out from behind the desk and talking to people! New definitions of ‘library’ were batted around including intermediary to knowledge and information, facilitator of learning and helping people understand their ability to build capacity. We then talked about what problems and opportunities faced IFLA, our national association and our local region. My main personal takeaway from this was that I need to embed myself in my school by getting out of the library and talking to teachers about what they need and how the library can help meet that need, e.g. information and digital literacy skills.


Collége La Tourrette, Lyon – this was their quad area.

On my final day I visited two libraries and several museums. I went on a tour of a local secondary school library at Collége La Tourrette. The school opened a year ago after an extensive refurbishment of the historic building. The library was spread across four rooms, which prompted a lot of questions about security of stock and staffing. The rooms were a mix of classrooms, IT rooms and the main library proper. I was interested in their set of tablets since we were looking into e-readers at my school at the time. The system they use is students have an ID which corresponds to a barcode on each tablet, but they cannot be taken out of school. I also visited the Bibliothéque Part Dieu, the main public library in the city. It was a busy place on a Saturday morning and I enjoyed their exhibition of ‘Trésors!’, showcasing treasures of the Lyon Municipal Library. I also got to visit the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation.


French Harry Potter books at Collége La Tourrette library.


Tablet storage trolley at Collége La Tourrette library.

I found this conference experience incredibly rewarding and want to thank the John Campbell Trust again for supporting my attendance.

*An adapted (and shorter!) version of these two posts appeared in CILIP Update October 2014.

IFLA WLIC – Part 1

Last August I attended the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Lyon, France. My sincere thanks to the John Campbell Trust for awarding me their conference grant which enabled my attendance. It was by far the largest conference I’ve attended with some 4,000 delegates from all around the globe. Indeed the international perspective offered by IFLA was one of the most valuable benefits I gained. It was often difficult to choose from amongst a packed and very interesting programme, but the two main tracks I followed were sessions on school libraries (sector I was working in at the time) and the IFLA Trend Report. This post will cover the school library related sessions – apologies for the length!


Huge exhibition hall for poster sessions.

I attended the School Library Section standing committee meeting (chair, Barbara Schultz Jones, University of North Texas) which was a great opportunity to meet school librarians from around the world and hear about the activities of the Section. They are working on a set of international guidelines for school libraries with UNESCO (more on this later) and want to work on broadening access to their publication Global Perspectives on School Libraries (DeGruyter Saur, 2011) which is currently only available in print at steep academic prices. This sounds like an absolutely fascinating book but lack of digital access and the high price point is a barrier for many (including me!).

Another session I attended was entitled ‘Libraries creating content for/with children and young adults’ and was co-sponsored by the Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section and Literacy and Reading Section. The most fascinating paper was delivered by Michael Kevane (Santa Clara University) on creating picture books in Burkina Faso. Over the course of the presentation, my impressions went from negative to completely enthralled! He started by describing the lack of books, especially African books, in rural Burkina Faso and how his charity Friends of African Village Libraries wanted to provide books. I thought this was a narrow approach – why do libraries only have to be about books? The group began producing simple photo books using volunteers on the ground who took pictures and wrote about local people’s stories and issues in French, the language of education. These books quickly became the most popular items in the libraries. Kevane described how the books improved literacy by introducing specialised language (e.g. stories about trucks or gardening) and were actually incredibly practical and educational, for example one book was about a man building a latrine. They are now holding training sessions for local authors and illustrators and have established a multimedia centre. This brilliant project is supporting literacy and sustainable development and serves as a useful model for others.


Michael Kevane’s Burkina Faso picture book presentation

I also attended a School Libraries Section session reviewing their IFLA/UNESCO School Library Guidelines, which are currently being drafted. Each round table had a chapter to read and review. I was on the Evaluation and Advocacy chapter table. During the lively discussion, participants remarked that whilst we felt we were being highly critical of the existing draft, this was actually a very helpful process for the authors as it provided feedback and perspectives from an international audience and saved them a lot of work. This session demonstrated the unique value and impact of IFLA. I was asking another school librarian based in Dubai why we needed another set of guidelines as I knew several that already existed in the UK, clearly this was duplicating effort, right? He said, yes, but in developing areas they may not have a strong national association or any guidance at all, so the publication of the IFLA/UNESCO guidelines addressing school libraries internationally would be an invaluable resource for these places, and only IFLA with its international membership could produce such a document.

One final school library session to highlight was ‘School Libraries on the Agenda: Advocacy Initiatives from Around the World’. Three interesting points from this session:  first Mette Hendriksen Aas (Fagforbundet) who talked about how a trade union is advocating for school libraries in Norway because they help produce educated, literate citizens. Second, we heard of some victories in South Africa from Genevieve Hart (University of the Western Cape). Two organisations there, the National Council for Library and Information Services and an NGO, Equal Education, have successfully lobbied the government over the past few years to take action for school libraries on a platform of equal access to information. This has resulted in the Education Department publishing school library guidelines and a 10-year plan. Third, Ross Todd (Rutgers University) sounded a novel clarion call proposing that school libraries should base their advocacy on evidence and social justice.

The social justice note was a thread throughout the conference actually. For example the Burkina Faso picture book project mentioned above, and also in a project in Cambodia called Open Development Cambodia. There was a need for a central portal to access information, data and news in the public domain because development was being stymied by this information vacuum. ODC focuses on economics, environmental and social development and they employ a team of Cambodians to facilitate open access to information and transparency in the public and private sectors in the country. Clearly libraries across all sectors have a role to play in issues of social justice such as providing open access to information.

Next week I will look at the IFLA Trend Report sessions in part 2 of my conference round up.

Quick Update – Autumn 2014

A lot of change has been happening in my life this autumn and has resulted in a massive slow down of blog posts! You might have seen on Facebook or Twitter that I have changed jobs recently. I said goodbye to Bruntcliffe School on October 24th and am now in my second week as a library counter assistant at Leeds College of Music. A professional goal of mine is to work in a music library, so I was thrilled to get this role at the College and it’s great to be working with music again. My school library experience was brilliant and definitely prepared me for taking the next step in my career. I’ll be writing a blog post soon about what I learned.

I attended the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France in August. This was an amazing, mind-boggling experience and all you CILIP members can read a feature article I wrote for the October issue of Update (along with some other first timers’ perspectives). I’ll be adapting this for my blog at some point as well.

Along with a lot of early career library folks, I want to do my librarianship qualification. However it was put on the back burner because of my work commitments. However when I got my new job which is part time, I thought it was a good opportunity to study part time as well. So I am now a month in to the Information and Library Management MA/MSc (distance learning) at Northumbria University. I’m nearly caught up with the coursework and really enjoying it so far – lots of blog and Twitter fodder in there as well!

When not turning my life upside down, I try to keep up with email lists and wanted to share a few interesting articles I’ve read recently:

  • Daniel Russell, an employee of Google, on why your library card is a powerful research tool:  http://bit.ly/1xX5tqi
  • Christopher Hogwood, a pioneer of the historical performance movement in Britain, died recently. This post on the Cambridge Music Collections blog gave a brilliant picture of his life: http://bit.ly/1E0e6Tj
  • After attending the IFLA conference, I’m more interested in libraries advocating for the public interest. This short article about US librarians and anti-surveillance was interesting: http://bit.ly/1t82KGo

A few teaser pictures from #WLIC2014 Lyon:


Beautiful Lyonnais architecture.


Conference Centre

New Year, New Thoughts

I have had a very busy autumn and holiday season so I’m only just finding time to reflect and write a new blog post. Some of the things I’ve been up to in the past few months since my last post.

  • Wrapped up a project I did at school on motivational reading. Hopefully this will bear some fruit in the new year. Basically I did some research around the topic, evaluated our library/reading programme and proposed some strategies and ideas on how improve reading motivation in the Year 7-9 students who do the Accelerated Reader scheme.
  • Attended the Diamond Jubilee anniversary reception of IAML (UK & Irl) in October at the Foundling Museum in London. This was a great event. I actually sent out all the invitations and handled the responses, so I was surprised to turn up on the night and find that I knew a lot of people there, by name/institution at least – and they knew me! It was an evening to celebrate the work of a very active branch over the past 60 years, only the last two of which I have been involved in. We also heard a wonderful piece of music, commissioned by the branch for the Jubilee, entitled Orpheus with his Lute by Howard Skempton, performed by the choir Chantage.
  • Put together an application to the John Campbell Trust for a conference grant to attend IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France in August 2014. I was very pleased and surprised to win! I’ve been getting to know more about the work of IFLA over the past few months, and am really excited about the chance to attend the WLIC. I hope to meet some of the people who’ve been turning up in the various New Professionals Special Interest Group webinars I’ve participated in recently.
  • Doubled down on the administration and advertising work in my role as bursaries administrator with the Music Libraries Trust for the upcoming round of bursary applications for IAML’s Annual Study Weekend in April at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. This involved a fair amount of emailing, letter writing, tweeting, Facebooking and sending out of posters.
  • Spent two weeks in the USA for Thanksgiving. Not much more to say other than, what an amazing time of family, friends and yummy food!

Professionally I’ve spent some time reflecting on what goals I want to achieve this year. With four months under my belt at my new job, I feel like I know the ropes and now want to turn my focus to how I can improve, what I can contribute and what skills I can gain. More to come on this later…

Radical Library Camp

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I attended Radical Library Camp in Bradford last month. The organizers were a mix of radicals from different library backgrounds, and the same could be said for the attendees! While I wouldn’t have considered myself ‘radical’ before, after going on the camp I think I am! There was a lively Twitter feed (#radlibcamp) on the day and I believe someone is archiving the tweets; in addition there is the Wiki for more information.

In the tradition of other library camps and un-conferences, the day was very chilled out and no frills. Everyone brought food to share and about 10 or so people gave pitches on sessions they wanted to run. All the sessions I went to were very much discussions rather than formal presentations. Yes, there was a bit of ranting about this or that institution or professional body, but discussions did come back to how to make a practical difference and impact on issues we cared about.

Here are some thoughts about the sessions I attended (apologies for the length!):

  • Library Spaces/Design

This session started with everyone creating their ideal library space on paper, either with pictures or words. A big discussion ensued when we were going around sharing what we’d put down:  the pros and cons of desks. The point was raised that users being forced to communicate with librarians sat behind desks reinforced inequality and outdated power relationships. It was suggested that users are loath to ‘interrupt’ a librarian working at a desk, and that the desk is seen as a barrier. A new ‘desk-less’ model that’s been adopted at a university library is the idea of ‘roving’ librarians. The librarians walk around and are (and are seen to be) accessible to students. They also carry iPads for searching the catalogue, etc. However in my school library, sitting behind the desk means I can look at the Year 7s at eye level, whereas standing up I loom over them…Clearly the roving solution isn’t for everyone, but it is good food for thought.

Another thread was the importance of consulting users when building or renovating a library space. And also, how you consult is important, i.e. types of questions asked has a big impact on results.

A final issue raised was future-proofing your library when you have a transient population (such as students) and when technology is constantly changing. Two solutions were offered:  investing in the basics (like desks) and investing in power and data (e.g. the cloud) is always worthwhile.

  • Radical Management

I went to this session because I’ve noticed that managing and managerial experience has been a theme throughout the library job world. There were only a handful of people there who were actually in managerial posts, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless. Opening questions asked included: Can you become a manager without selling out? How do you make the leap to management?

Some of discussion points were:

You can effect change either from within an organisation or from the outside (and obviously managing allows you more opportunities to do that from inside).

One should have good management practice regardless of your politics.

Fairness is not about being liked.

Authentic leadership means staying true to your values, as much as you can whilst working within ‘the system’. Ideally you should work in an organisation whose mission and values match up with your own. However the point was raised that we need to eat, therefore might have to take a less than ideal job just to put food on the table…

The barrier between professional and non-professional staff and the idea of ‘selling out’ if you move up.

  • Copyright

The consensus beginning this session was that copyright law is broken, therefore the discussion began with asking what constuctive ways are open to us to challenge/protest copyright as librarians. The Creative Commons licensing scheme was mentioned and somehow the discussion became a bit of a rant against a certain professional body at which point, @Mariacotera kindly stood up and enlightened us as to the efforts that various organisations and government bodies are making to lobby for changes to copyright law.

The Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM) committee of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) is lobbying for the library community on this issue and working with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to get clarity on and change copyright law. They recently won a victory (and set legal precedent) with the Marrakesh Treaty, which addresses the rights of blind and print-disabled people.

The conclusion was that lobbying personally and supporting the lobbying efforts of bodies such as CLM and IFLA is an important way to effect change in copyright.

  • International Perspectives on Radical Librarianship

This session looked broadly at the organisation IFLA and a recent report they commissioned on trends in society. General awareness of IFLA and their work was slim at Radical Library Camp so this session was well worth it, though there was a small turn out (but all of us internationals at camp were there!). IFLA, in short, is the global voice for librarians. CILIP is an IFLA member, so if you’re a CILIP member then you also have member benefits with IFLA. The IFLA Trend Report  was commissioned in 2012 and the process culminated in the identification of five high level societal trends which impact the library and information world. This year is given over to discussion of the report amongst the library and information community and at the next IFLA conference policies will begin to be nailed down. The trends are:

  1. New technologies will both expand and limit who has access to information.
  2. Online education will democratise and disrupt global learning.
  3. The boundaries of privacy and data protection will be redefined.
  4. Hyper-connected societies will listen to and empower new voices and groups.
  5. The global information economy will be transformed by new technologies.

IFLA have published a short report called Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide? Insights from the IFLA Trend Report, which is the starter for digging deeper into the trends. I found the trends resonated with issues raised in the New Librarianship MOOC I completed recently, and also it is a great way of articulating the big information issues of today.

  • Wrap-up

A final plenary session wrapped up the day and revolved around how to take the Radical Library Camp idea further. The current social media platforms will be continued and there was definitely universal consensus for another camp. I found the day very useful, interesting and a launching pad for learning more about issues that interest me. It was great hearing non-mainstream opinions and views from library radicals, and seeing how others address problems and issues we’re all concerned about. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one!