IFLA #WLIC2017 The Wrap Up

It is time to say goodbye to Wroclaw, Poland as the IFLA World Library and Information Congress for 2017 draws to a close. After an invigorating, idea generating 4 days it is now time to let those ideas germinate and take root in our own library services wherever they may be. One Library staff member attending did not think they would be able to convince their manager to make all the changes that he was inspired by and I replied that just focus on one thing. If we all go back to our respective organisations and advocate for one major idea then change can happen.

I was very impressed to be addressed by a total authentic Viking from Norway. Aslak Myhre is the Director General of the National Library in Norway and his message that libraries are the social glue for communities resonated with the audience. Libraries are the community meeting place, the place where small democracy happens which allows people to connect and then engage in big democracy debates. He advocates for libraries where people can stay, talk, flirt, connect and get to know each other, breaking down divisions in the community. The National Library of Norway opens a bar next week to deliver on this aim and I will follow with interest how the flirting is getting on.

So for me the themes of the last days of the conference are around:

The Word — National Centre for the Written Word / FaulknerBrowns Architects
  1. Human Centered Libraries: participation as a leading principle in the planning and design of new libraries and allowing the community to discuss, design and decide on the outcomes. This is hard! Giving up power is always difficult and some very authentic discussions about this were held over a number of sessions. There were also a number of presentations on the development of library services through human centered design processes — put yourself in the mind of the user and design from that perspective. And of course the assessment of our services by our users. Mystery shoppers, surveys and focus groups all form part of the human centered focus for the way forward for libraries.
  2. Libraries need to be Smart: A lovely quote was shown at the Smart Libraries session. The ideal of a library is something like a lighthouse that keeps the flames of human intelligence burning: Cheol-Hee Han, Dolbegae. The exploration of smart library technology implemented to improve the experience of the user was also a feature of some powerful presentations for me. Taiwan’s smart children’s library was an amazing piece of technical wizardry that connected children to the library collection and services via a smart watch and had different levels suited to the different cognitive abilities of children’s ages. Utilising smart technology integrated with our library management systems, u der standing how to utilise metadata and using smart technology to build evidence to change were all part of the discussions.

3. Its about the data: The importance of demonstrating value to our funders was and always is a key topic for Libraries and it was again a core theme of this Congress. Data Management, Data Analysis and Data Scientist as a new skill for Librarians to deliver for their organisations was discussed with passion. Is it a Library role? The open data / open access issues were debated and the library as advocate for open access research is agreed upon. The library as educator and facilitator to make open access to research data and academic publications is still in its infancy in some countries but is a role libraries need to step up and take on.

4. Attention as the scarce resource: the last session on the last day was about public libraries and their response to challenges and it was the Scandanavians who impressed me again. Copenhagen presented this slide and emphasised that it is not an either or choice for libraries but that we are all on a continum from the classical Library to the Proactive library model. Finland Libraries presented on their participatory budgeting model whee citizens decide on where to spend the money – so hard to give up the power. Philadelphia Libraries presented on the importance of play as learning and the design of their children’s spaces centre ring on play based learning activities which included such things as climbing walls. My views on this are mixed as having fixed play furniture I rethink is short sighted. At the State Library of Queensland we build 3 different ‘sets’ each year based around books and learning themes suitable for under 8s. The children’s area is refreshed and we actually loan out the sets to public libraries around the State after their first use in The Children’s Corner.

It was a wonderful Congress and thank you to all the wonderful librarians and Library staff who shared with me their ideas, passion and friendship over the week. Hope to see you all in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia in 2018.

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