5 projects helping to develop global library leaders

IFLA Leaders at Lyon 2014

IFLA’s International Leaders Programme is designed to increase the cohort of leaders who can effectively represent the library and information sector in the international arena and to develop leaders within IFLA.

12 library and information professionals, already leaders in their home countries , were selected to take part. They came from countries as far afield as Australia, Uganda, France, Cameroon, Russia, Mexico and the Philippines.

The programme was launched at IFLA in Helsinki in 2012 and it was great to see the achievements of participants in the two year programme recognised and celebrated during the closing ceremony of this year’s IFLA Congress in Lyon.  

As part of the programme they helped contribute to five projects of direct relevance to IFLA’s agenda and its Strategic Plan and Key Initiatives

Project 1: Copyright Exceptions and Limitations at WIPO

IFLA is currently advocating for copyright reform at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and working with WIPO Member States to gain support for a binding international instrument on copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, so this is a particularly exciting, and challenging time to be working in this field. 

The copyright project participant, Kgomotso Radijeng, Resource Centre Coordinator at the Botswana National Productivity Centre and President of the Botswana Library Association, explained how she had worked with existing networks of copyright experts and established new networks to pursue IFLA’s copyright policy objectives, deepening her knowledge of this complex area along the way.  

Evidence from a survey she developed and administered has formed the basis of an IFLA report that is being used for advocacy at national and international levels, including at the 27th and 28th meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.

Kgomotso also had the opportunity to represent IFLA at WIPO, to advocate to government officials in The Hague, to organise events with national library association about copyright reform, to present at conferences and to facilitate workshops.    

Whilst admitting, unsurprisingly, that juggling all of this and her job in Botswana was challenging, the experience had been rewarding – and IFLA now benefits from being able to tap into her expertise to support its ongoing work in this important area

Project 2: Open Access

IFLA became a formal signatory to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access in 2010 and in the following year an official IFLA statement on open access was formally endorsed by IFLA’s Governing Board. 

This statement mandated the creation of an Open Access taskforce to advocate for the adoption and promotion of open access policies within the framework of the United Nations institutions, to promote open access with the support of divisions, groups and sections within IFLA, to develop case studies and best practice to support advocacy in this area and to connect with other organisations doing the same. 

Project participant Rosemary Shafack, University Librarian at the University of Buea in Cameroon, explained how she had worked towards these objectives through collaboration with open access experts who helped her and the other members of her group to develop an understanding of the current open access international landscape and to effectively advocate for open access policies.  

Evidence from a survey they conducted was used to create an Open Access Toolkit designed to support the implementation of the IFLA statement.  This useful toolkit, which was launced at IFLA 2014, has global relevance and includes case studies, FAQs and links to online resources. 

Project 3: Access to Digital Content

The digital shift has presented many opportunities and challenges for all types of libraries in all corners of the globe.  

Margaret Allen, CEO and State Librarian at the State Library of Western Australia, and immediate past-President of the Australian Library and Information Association, told us about a survey she had developed with fellow participant Sarah Kaddu with the aim of establishing the availability and usage of ebooks in African countries, with a focus on public libraries.  

One of the objectives was to propose strategies to IFLA for improving the provision of ebooks and elending across the continent. Margaret and Sarah’s report on the survey results makes very interesting reading. Although many of the issues uncovered are similar the world over, they are amplified in Africa, with ICT infrastructure being a major barrier to acquiring ebooks and making them available to patrons – one survey respondent commented that the term “ebook” is not developed in African Libraries because of the problem of access to the Internet.  Cost and a lack of books in languages other than English are also hurdles.  

Margaret was also involved in revising IFLA’s Elending Background Paper.  The Paper provides an overview of the global issues relating to ebooks in libraries, summarises the current positions of publishers in the scholarly and trade publishing sectors, summarises the differences in the way academic/research libraries and public libraries address the issue of digital collections and provides a detailed legal analysis of elending.

Project 4: Libraries as Agents for Development

Libraries make an important contribution to development and IFLA works at the international level to encourage policymakers to include libraries in their development programmes.  Since 2013, IFLA also works to promote the role of libraries and access to information in the post-2015 development agenda, so the development project was very timely.

Dina Youssef, Bibliotheca Alexandrina Director, explained how participants in this project had attended selected development-related meetings and events, presenting interventions in collaboration with mentors and working groups and preparing briefs. She concluded that, while library staff are already doing development related work, this work needs to be aligned with development frameworks. She called for the capture of impact data to help libraries tell their stories and for more libraries to present these stories at development events

Project 5: Regional Collaboration for Advocacy

IFLA has been engaged in a number of capacity building activities to strengthen the voice of the profession internationally, regionally and locally.  This project, involving seven participants, sought to develop research about strategies to sustain advocacy at a regional level and an important deliverable was a Library Advocacy Toolkit.  

Project participant Atarino Helieisar, Chief Law Librarian at the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia and President of the Pacific Islands Association of Libraries, Archives, and Museums explained how the Toolkit, developed by utilizing the expertise and networks of everyone in his group, is a one-stop advocacy shop that pulls together advocacy best practices and case studies and provides information resources on effective regional advocacy strategies. 

Atarino enjoyed his time on the Programme even though he, like several of his colleagues, struggled with poor internet connectivity and low bandwidth, and different time zones that hindered communication between participants.  

Many positive experiences outweighed these frustrations, however, with the end of the projects marking “just the starting point” for many of the participants, who were eager to continue working for IFLA on an international stage.  By its own admission, IFLA is in a unique position to offer this kind of programme because of its global role and extensive and diverse framework of activities and expertise. I hope funding is secured so another cohort can benefit from it

What should be the priorities for global library leaders?
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About the author

Yvonne Morris is Policy Officer at CILIP.


Image source: "IFLA Leaders at WLIC2014 in Lyon" by ifla, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / original cropped and resized


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