Kiwis in Athens at WLIC19
My WLIC2019 Athens: Louise LaHatte Reports back
An IFLA congress can be overwhelming, but the New Zealand cohort are amazing at supporting each other over the seven days of the conference – it is long and huge with over 3600 delegates this year in Athens. The full programme is available in the very good event app (WLIC 2019) – worth downloading now if you want a taste of the breadth of topics, and some sessions listed also include conference papers.
There are always more sessions I want to attend than I can fit in, with interests this year including public libraries, library buildings, special collections, IFLA strategy, freedom of Information, measurement & evaluation, and also how to deliver a successful IFLA congress! Every interest you might have seems to be catered for at an IFLA congress.
A little sample of some sessions I attended:
· Role of public Libraries in disasters. Iran experienced massive flooding in 2019 and public libraries were both collation points for donations and “springs of kindness” for communities, with storytimes, movies and outreach giving children some lightness in a difficult time. Others talked about the role of libraries providing information before, during and after a crisis, and the need for libraries to be proactive not passive in a crisis.
· Library disasters – “Forward thinking to lessen effects of disasters”. Plan ahead! – but solutions vary depending on local environments. In Japan earthquakes are the highest risk so best practice is underground stacks which also support uniform temperature and humidity. In Paris floods are the risk so the National Library building with 7 levels below ground requires extensive and complex engineering solutions to keep water out. In other sites they have everything boxed to aid fast removal in a disaster. In the State Archives of Greece a lack of funding for repairs and maintenance resulted in leaking issues from rain and HVAC. With little money they focus on minimising risk by understanding the most vulnerable parts of the building and the most valuable collections and planning layouts accordingly. In Iraq, where war and deliberate destruction were the biggest risk – digitisation was the key strategy so that at least the content was protected, if not the artefacts.
· All IFLA congresses have satellite events before and after the main congress. I went to one in Rome (squeee!) on The evolving concept of “library” and its impact on design. This included presentations about amazing buildings like Oodi in Helsinki, Tūranga in Christchurch, Free Library of Philadelphia, Tampines Library in Singapore and Biblioteca Parque Villa-Lobos in Brasil. There was a workshop facilitated by Traci Lesneski @LesneskiTraci “Built for inclusion: library design that welcomes all.” We worked in groups with some example library plans, and using the lens of different personas with some aspect of accessibility issues, redesigned the library to better meet their needs.
· I was moved by the stories and bravery of the two Ainu women from Japan in the Indigenous matters session talking about cosmetic multiculturalism (Fashion, Festivals, Food) and the invisibility of Ainu in Japan because of government policies, what is taught in schools and how they are portrayed in museums.
· I was excited by the Library Building of the Year awards (Oodi won), and learned heaps from sessions on measurement and outcomes.
Apart from sessions there is immense value in meeting people, in sessions, in workshops, in breaks, at social events, poster sessions and visiting exhibitors. I have made friends, shared my stories, learned from others.
Would I encourage anyone to attend one? Hell yeah!
See you in Dublin in August 2020
(and Rotterdam 2021, and AUCKLAND in 2022!)
My WLIC 2019: Lis Marrow reports back
My IFLA experience began when back in September I decided I wanted to go to Athens and experience for myself the full international library conference feel. So (from the Flight Centre) I tweeted my boss and checked she would let me take 4 weeks off in eleven months time.
Teaming up with Sabine Weber-Beard as my travel buddy and roomie extraordinaire I arrived in Athens after an epic journey where at one point I was stranded in an airport departure lounge surrounded by Gucci, Prada and saffron - a truly bizarre but strangely entertaining experience.
(You can read Sabine's blog post here)
After a 17 hour flight from Akl to Dohar, the 16 hour stranding and then the relatively short 4 hour flight - I arrived in Athens - a city I have studied, and dreamt about.
The WLIC 2019 was held at the Megaron Convention Centre – a massive cultural centre reflecting the modern Athens while paying homage to the Ancient. It was here that 3,300+ individual librarians from across the globe (including around 18 from New Zealand) celebrated and discussed our libraries, our members, and our communities in the conference theme – ‘Libraries dialogue for change’.
The folks at LIANZA have asked me for my thoughts so please let me ramble as is my want… wow, what a time I had. The trek to the convention centre each day was half an hour around and over a hill which in Google Maps looks like a nice park. Also known as Lycettum Hill, it has a chapel on the top and is visible from all over Athens. I am so glad I got fit beforehand – Athens hills and the heat of summer (up to 40 degrees Celsius) meant a healthy stroll through the suburbs was a daily adventure – cats are everywhere, as those who follow me on Twitter (@LisMarrow) can attest. However, I digress.
What can I tell you about the conference?
Being so big on a New Zealand scale it is important to follow some threads and to not be intimidated. I was able to discover how Public Libraries in other countries are facing the digital divide, homeless members, illiteracy, isolated communities… I witnessed a sensitive Santa session from Australia; an app that helps members find books that are actually available in their library system in Finland; saw how Deaf and Blind patrons should be satisfactorily communicated with; as well as how the library in one of the largest refugee camps (over 80K inhabitants) manages with little funding. And that was just on the first day.
I attended a function held by OCLC at the Acropolis Museum – yes, it really was amazing. I was fortunate to be included on the list to attend a reception at the Australian Embassy which celebrated the incoming IFLA President Christine MacKenzie – only the second Australian to hold this position. IFLA transported all of us in buses to the Cultural Evening at the Stavros Cultural Centre where resides the National LIbrary of Greece. We were entertained with song and dance from across the Greek world and fed with local delicacies and alcohol.
But most of all it was the chance to meet other librarians, network and create new connections that was what I gained on the whole. I met my counterpart from Eltham, Australia. I met the delightful librarian from Athens College and a research Librarian from Montreal, who surprised me later by presenting a Poster that summed up my own thoughts regarding what is a library and what makes a librarian.
The next WLIC is to be held in Dublin, Ireland from August 15–21, 2020. I am already plotting my attendance. For Athens I took advantage of 500 days interest free and no-payment to get the flights, Booking.com has no payment before and free cancellation options. At €505.00 the registration for the conference itself is competitive and not outrageous compared to some closer to home.
Dublin is a little more expensive but I am looking at hostels and they are doable – in a city where Airbnb is not as inexpensive as Athens. So, get saving – as my friend Sabine told everyone in Athens – have one less coffee each day and put the money towards WLIC 2020.
And did I mention that you can apply for free registration if you are a first time attendee? I was fortunate to receive a refund on mine as a recipient of an International Librarians Network Grant.
There is also a chance to be accepted as a volunteer, which gets you free registration as well as an experience of working behind the scenes with a family of workers all helping to make the WLIC unique and memorable. Oh, and in 2022 it will be held in Auckland – with the knowledge gained from attending an earlier WLIC you will be able to help bring the same experience to visitors to New Zealand.
Efcharistó (thank you)
Efcharistó (thank you)
NZMS / RECOLLECT Report back
Andy Fenton and Gavin Mitchell exhibited the Recollect Community Engagement Platform at IFLA WLIC 2019 in Athens in August and share their experience with us.
Would you believe there were over 3,600 librarians from 142 countries in attendance (including more than 20 #KiwisInAthens some of whom you may have spotted on twitter) … we suspect we interacted with at least half of them.
This was the first time that the kiwi-designed and built Recollect has been exhibited outside of New Zealand and Australia and met with enormous interest in how special collections are being managed and displayed in our part of the world. The feedback was amazing and clearly demonstrated how far ahead the libraries of New Zealand and Australia are when it comes to online community engagement. We made many new friends and renewed old acquaintances in Athens and look forward to setting up new Recollect sites around the world in the near future.