12 November 2011

SIRLS at the 77th IFLA General Conference

The 77th IFLA General Conference and Assembly was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico in August 2011. I had the pleasure of not only attending this conference, but also presenting at it. According to their website, “the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It is the global voice of the library and information profession.” It was my first IFLA conference, and I must admit that I was a bit uneasy about what to expect, especially traveling so far and knowing that many of my usual friends that I see at conferences would not be there. However, it turned out to be a great experience, which I’m happy to share some of what I learned and experienced here.

I learned that IFLA has a somewhat similar structure to ALA (the American Library Association), at least on the surface. Like ALA, IFLA has a number of smaller, more focused groups that conduct business at IFLA (similar to the mid-winter ALA meetings) and put on presentations and programs (similar to the annual ALA conference). These smaller groups are called divisions, sections, and special interest groups. Some of the groups are focused on a geographic area, such as the Latin America and Caribbean section, other groups are focused on a topic, such as the Literacy and Reading section or the Education and Training section. Much of the work seems to be conducted virtually among each group. It is difficult to imagine how work was completed internationally before email! You can learn more about the activities and groups within IFLA by visiting their website (http://www.ifla.org/en/activities-and-groups).

The conference has plenty of opportunities for attendees to attend meetings, attend formal presentations, visit poster sessions, visit the exhibit hall, and attend sessions off-site, which gives you an opportunity to see another part of the city. There were also all-conference evening receptions, as well as receptions hosted by individuals and vendors.

My presentation was sponsored by the IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group (SIG). The New Professionals SIG is a forum for new professionals (and students) to network with other new LIS professionals from around the world. My co-presenter, Jessica Hernandez, also attended, and is a SIRLS and Knowledge River alumna. We gave a short presentation on the Knowledge River program and SIRLS, titled “The Diversity Imperative for Cultivating 21st Century Librarians: The Knowledge River Model”. You can see the entire lineup of programs from this session, including the full text of the papers on the SIG’s website: http://npsig.wordpress.com/beyond-new-professionals/.

Another session I attended was the Special Interest Group (SIG) on Indigenous Matters. This SIG, which was recently convened by Loriene Roy, former ALA president and a faculty member at the University of Texas School of Information, was created to address the interests of indigenous peoples in librarianship, indigenous knowledge, intellectual property, and issues of librarianship to people of indigenous backgrounds. The meeting provided updates on international indigenous librarianship, activities of the SIG, as well as seek feedback from attendees regarding suggested next steps for the SIG. I learned that there will be an International Indigenous Libraries meeting and the IFLA President’s Forum, to be held in April 2012 in Vancouver entitled “Indigenous Knowledges: Local Opportunities and Global Contexts”. I’m interested in learning more about this SIG’s involvement with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and treaties that many developed nations belong to and the impact and need to recognize indigenous intellectual property. This SIG also involved with incorporating indigenous ways into the IFLA Education and Training guidelines (for LIS education programs).

The SIG’s special guest was Anahera Morehu (Maori, Aotearoa/New Zealand), who gave updates from New Zealand. I had the pleasure of working with Anahera, John Berry, and Jolie Graybill (SIRLS alumna) on an outreach plan to involve more international indigenous librarians. You can find out more about the Indigenous Matters SIG at this webiste: http://www.ifla.org/en/indigenous-matters

If students are interested in the work of IFLA, I highly encourage them to sign up as student members, or new graduate members. There is also a program called Adopt a Student! which provides student membership benefits as well as a sponsor who is willing to help open the door to this organization. More information can be found here: http://www.ifla.org/en/set/adopt-a-student

This conference reminded me that although we may be separated by large distances, there are many librarians and LIS students around the world who are concerned about the same issues that we are here in the USA. I could not possibly share all of the wonderful experiences I had in this short article, but hopefully this gives the readers a taste of what to expect at an IFLA conference. I’m also happy that I was able to share some of these experiences with a SIRLS and Knowledge River student who also attended. Previously, I would not have considered IFLA as a high priority conference, but I’m now considering attending future IFLA conferences because of the networking opportunities and learning opportunities that you cannot get in here in the USA. The 2012 conference will be held in Helsinki, Finland, and the 2013 conference will be in Singapore. See you there?

Sandy Littletree is the Knowledge River Program Manager at SIRLS

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