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A Global Vision for Libraries
Posted On September 5, 2017
IFLA HashtagAt its annual World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), held in Wroclaw, Poland, in August 2017, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) began the voting period for individuals to contribute to the Global Vision discussion, which is an attempt “to explore how a connected library field can meet the challenges of the future.” The hashtag for the Global Vision discussion is #iflaGlobalVision. Voting will close on Sept. 30, 2017.

The Global Vision discussion grew out of the concern that in an increasingly globalized world, libraries risk being left behind if they don’t create a common goal around their values, perspectives, and future actions. As Gerald Leitner, IFLA’s secretary general, phrased it on the Global Vision About page, “The challenges facing the library field from ever-increasing globalisation can only be met and overcome by an inclusive, global response from a united library field.”

Given that we live in a world where global communication is commonplace and information arrives on a multitude of devices from many sources, libraries’ role in advocating for unfettered information access and promoting information literacy is unparalleled. However, challenges exist, including funding, competitors from the commercial sector, and outdated copyright laws. Thus, it’s important that libraries develop an international position, agreeing to improve access to information and articulating their value proposition.

To envision the future of libraries and the information community, IFLA has embarked on an ambitious program of face-to-face and virtual meetings, each of which results in a Global Vision report. Leitner announced at WLIC that more than 200 reports have already been received. These reports, along with the results of the voting process, will be analyzed and synthesized into a final report, which will be presented at a meeting in Barcelona, Spain, in spring 2018. Based on the report, IFLA will develop work plans to move the Global Vision from theory to practice.

A Call to Action

Donna Scheeder, in her incoming presidential address to WLIC in 2015, urged IFLA members to support her Call to Action. The Lyon Declaration of August 2014 presents “a powerful foundation of support for access to information,” she said then, “but it is only part of the global agenda.” Following on the heels of the Lyon Declaration came IFLA’s input into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2016. The goal most relevant to libraries (Goal 16) stresses the necessity of free access to information.

The Global Vision discussion is a natural progression from those two major initiatives. It strives to set a basis for creating the future. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it began with process design and kicked off in April 2017 with a meeting in Athens, Greece, attended by officers of various IFLA professional units. The discussion then moved to six regional workshops in Africa, Asia Oceania, Latin America, North America, the Middle East, and Europe—which were attended by representatives of 140 countries—along with self-organized workshops, such as the one held during SLA’s 2017 annual conference in Phoenix.

Unit Meetings to Consider Vision QuestionsIFLA Meeting

IFLA’s individual professional units were also expected to hold discussions and write reports on their views of the Global Vision. For example, the Reference and Information Services Section (RISS) Standing Committee, of which I’m a member, met via an online video conference in June, with attendees from Canada, the U.S., Botswana, Italy, and Qatar. We were asked to imagine the state of libraries in 2020 and to consider the following 10 structured questions:

  • What are the core values of libraries?
  • What are libraries exceptionally good at?
  • What should libraries do more of?
  • What should libraries do less of?
  • What are the main challenges to libraries?
  • What are your main professional challenges?
  • How should a united library field meet the challenges identified?
  • What would be the characteristics of a united library field?
  • What could be the focus of a united library field?

A report on the Library Theory and Research section’s Global Vision meeting, written by Anna Maria Tammaro and Theo Bothma, was published in that group’s July 2017 newsletter.

The Voting Process

For the Global Vision general voting, people are asked their opinions on six structured questions:

  • What are the core values of libraries?
  • What are libraries exceptionally good at?
  • What should libraries do more of?
  • What should libraries do less of?
  • What are the main challenges to libraries?
  • What would be the characteristics of a united library field?

All people with an interest in libraries, whether they belong to IFLA or not, can cast a vote. Simply wanting to explore and influence the future of libraries is all that’s required. IFLA encourages people to vote for their vision of the library future, identify common concerns, and help shape that future. The Global Vision discussion will articulate an inclusive worldwide response to library globalization challenges from a united library field.

As Scheeder said in her outgoing presidential address at WLIC 2017, “Create the change you want to see.” She urged us to be bold, move in new directions, end the isolation of library silos, and, most important, move IFLA’s change agenda forward.

IFLA Go Vote

Images courtesy of IFLA

Marydee Ojala is the editor-in-chief of Online Searcher magazine, chairs WebSearch University, and is Program Development Director for Enterprise Search & Discovery.

Email Marydee Ojala

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