At the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) President’s Meeting, held in Barcelona, Spain, on March 19, 2018, the organization unveiled the next phase of its Global Vision project. IFLA’s president, Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, and its secretary general, Gerald Leitner, stressed that the main finding of the ongoing project is unity: Librarians around the world share common values and are united in their goals.
The 4-page “Global Vision Report Summary” presents 10 highlights paired with 10 opportunities. The full report will be distributed at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August 2018, following more member input. Pérez-Salmerón said at the President’s Meeting, “The report is just the beginning.” In line with her presidential theme of Libraries: Motors for Change, she sees the Global Vision report as a driver of change.
The Global Vision project reflects input from more than 31,000 participants from 213 countries, including 190 United Nations member states from all seven continents. Participation came in the form of 9,291 people who attended 185 workshops and from 21,772 who voted online. Leitner noted that IFLA had members in 140 countries before voting began, and now there are 150 countries represented. No one anticipated that the project would double as a membership tool, but no one is complaining either.
The project began in April 2017 with a meeting in Athens, Greece. IFLA’s professional units were asked to discuss the core values of libraries, what they are exceptionally good at, what they should do more and less of, and the main challenges to institutions and the profession.
‘Global Vision Report Summary’ Highlights and Opportunities
The “Global Vision Report Summary” highlights are as follows:
- Dedication to equal and free access to information and knowledge
- Deep commitment to supporting literacy, learning, and reading
- Focus on serving communities, regardless of how those communities are defined
- Embrace of digital innovation
- Strong advocacy supported by leadership
- Challenge of funding
- Need to build collaboration and partnerships
- Desire to avoid bureaucracy, inflexibility, and resistance to change
- Define libraries as guardians of the memory of the world
- Young professionals are deeply committed and eager to lead
One quibble I heard from the meeting attendees was the use of the word “young” in the 10th highlight. Those new to the profession aren’t necessarily young. Thus, many would have preferred the terminology of “new professional” (which is also the name of the related IFLA Special Interest Group) rather than “young professional.”
The opportunities identified spring directly from the highlights. They constitute the beginning of an action plan for global libraries and librarians:
- Be champions of intellectual freedom
- Update our traditional roles in the digital age
- Understand community needs better and design services for impact
- Keep up with ongoing technological changes
- Need more and better advocates
- Ensure that stakeholders understand our value and impact
- Develop a spirit of collaboration
- Challenge current structures and behaviors
- Maximize access to the world’s documentary heritage
- Give young professionals effective opportunities to learn, develop, and lead
Workshops Around the World
Following the President’s Meeting were 2 days of workshop activities. The Barcelona Kick-Off Workshop participants comprised IFLA section officers and governing board members. They were divided into 10 groups, each of which was charged with creating an action plan for one of the opportunities from the “Global Vision Report Summary” assigned to it. At the end of the workshop, each group presented its best “bold ideas” for implementing the opportunity. Ideas included verbal translation apps, restructuring IFLA to create an IFLA Academy, and adding a staff member at IFLA headquarters who is devoted to innovation.
Leitner cautioned, “A vision without execution is a hallucination.” Thus, the next phase is to conduct six regional workshops in the April–July 2018 time frame—one on each continent except Antarctica. Results from the regional workshops and the Barcelona meeting will be synthesized into the document to be presented in August 2018 at WLIC. The IFLA Global Vision project then moves into the action phase. Between September 2018 and March 2019, there will be an analysis and design of Global Vision actions, with the launch of the new IFLA strategic plan to be revealed in August 2019 at the WLIC in Athens.
Photos courtesy of Marydee Ojala