Wednesday, August 26, 2009

IFLA reports: Libraries driving access to knowledge

Yesterday I attended the brainstorming session of the IFLA President-Elect, Ellen Tise (South Africa), on her presidential theme: Libraries driving Access to Knowledge (A2K). Each IFLA president introduces a theme, and in this case the development is supported by a working group, discussion sessions and other input from members. It is important since apart from the President taking action, normally the Presidential theme influences strategy and conference themes. And this in turn is important since IFLA is recognised as the international library body, so can have some impact on international organisations and policies, although it still has to lobby hard.
There was a presidential brainstorming session last year, and points Ellen drew from that were:
- “knowledge is foundational to all spheres of life;
- “knowledge is produced when information is absorbed, processed and internalised by individuals;
- “knowledge is critical for the growth of society.”
In terms of libraries, she identified a number of points, including that libraries are critical providers of information; have an important role to play in the creation of new knowledge and are a vital institution for creation, development and sustainability of knowledge societies
Four key enablers of Libraries driving access to knowledge had been identified. The first one is User-oriented A2K (Access to Knowledge) actions. I think this is the most important point, and not just because it mentions information literacy! The sub-points were:
• bringing libraries and resources to their users
• empowering users through information literacy, social networking etc
• enabling access to info
• facilitating the full participation of all citizens in societal activities
The 2nd enabler was taking a strong advocacy role; the 3rd was creating partnerships including other societal stakeholders and private/public institutions and the 4th was fostering library as place and space (including providing “wow” experiences, and providing a safe, trusted space.)
After this Pascal Sanz (France) introduced a mindmap which had been created by students of Ana Maria Tamaro (University of Parma, Italy). They are taking a digital libraries programme run between universities in three countries, which has 20 students from 17 countries. They used free concept mapping software, blog and email to communicate. Their IFLA Presidential theme 2009 blog is public and is here: You can see the mindmap and their discussion.
They decided that the main concepts were: information, knowledge, library, access and data; each term was assigned to a group, and then went through drafts to reach version presented here. LINK (I hope) I think that this was a nice example of collaborative ideas development, and formed an excellent starting point for considering the overall theme. In terms of information literacy,though, it seems a little out on a limb in this mindmap, and I would say IL is more than competencies.

Panellists talked about the presidential theme in relation to specific interests. Kai Ekholm talked about the work of FAIFE (Free Access to Information & Freedom of Expression); Winston Tabb related it to intellectual property matters, and the access problems caused by this. He pointed out that the constant extension of the copyright term means that fewer items are out of copyright, and copyright holders are ken to enforce further restrictions. He emphasised that IFLA is in favour of copyright, but feels that the balance has moved away from the rights of users. They have developed 12 principles that embody what libraries need to be able to do their job. Another issue that was raised in questions was that of patrimony (e.g. important works and documents) being bought/ taken out of the home country. Further, someone else talked about the problems when many different people are contributing material to a web resource; issues of who should own it and issues of open access.
Theresa Hackett talked about which works with developing and transition countries. There are financial barriers, and eIFL negotiates with publishers for access; it also helps with technical barriers: this often means making partnerships, and cooperation is important; there is communal development of library systems (including language interfaces); Theresa also mentioned copyright restrictions and actions to give access.
Mike Crandall introduced the ICT4D (ICT for development) movement, which has emerged from the IT sector, and hasn’t connected with libraries much yet. This seems rather a no-brainer in terms of potential for cooperation. Deborah Jacobs (Director of the global library program at the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation) advised spending more time advocating libraries to stakeholders. Christoph Bruch (Max Planck Institut) talked about Open Access, including plans to build up a digital environment to share and exchange research knowledge, in cooperation with numerous organisations.

After a coffee break there was a discussion in groups about each of the enablers. I joined with others who wanted to talk about Enabler 1, User-oriented A2K (Access to Knowledge). We were supposed to just identify activities or achievements related to this, but we first revisited what “user” meant and whether “user” was really the right word. In the end we opted for “people”, who have multiple roles and should be actively involved in identifying their wants and needs (so they are central).
One of our group came up with “The people are the library” and “The library are the people”, so our poster (that’s my writing, apologies if you cannot read it) has some of roles of people, and some aspects of the library, and the lines in the middle are activities undertaken both by librarians and other people.

There are some examples in circles on the map e.g. 8-10 year old children in Hoorn (Netherlands) being library workers (lending books, providing information), examples of youth libraries from Stockholm and Aarhus (with young people planning and determining the physical spaces and services), and the example from Vietnam, with still-important information literacy training for users.
The groups’ posters will be incorporated into the students’ mindmap and put up on their blog.

At the end Ellen Tise gave her personal priorities for her presidential year. I may need to amend this bit, as I left the paper I scribbled this on, back at the hotel. If I remember correctly, her priorities were enabling access to print to the visually impaired, and advocacy.
The photos are of Jesus Lau (Mexico), who chaired the whole session, wearing his “Access to Knowledge” hat and with a banner of the four enablers round his neck; and our poster.

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