Scotland's steel-gray skies cleared in mid-August to allow the 68th IFLA
General Conference and Council to proceed in unaccustomed bright sun and
warmth. The auditorium of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre
on the banks of the River Clyde is known locally as "the Armadillo," but
in these perfect conditions it resembled a giant shining crustacean that
had drawn itself out of the water to bask in the sun's rays.
IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions)
celebrated its 75th anniversary at this year's conference with a return
to its country of origin. The federation draws its membership from more
than 40 nations, with a total representation of some half-million library
professionals. The annual event offers an opportunity for delegates from
around the world to debate library and information issues of the day and
to see an extensive display of products in the accompanying exhibit hall.
This year's theme was "Libraries for Life: Democracy, Diversity, Delivery"
with the sub-theme "Building on the Past—Investing in the Future." The
event was managed by CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information
Professionals), an organization formed this past April through the merger
of the U.K.'s Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists.
The sessions were designed to stress the importance of having highly
skilled people deliver effective and efficient services; supply citizens
with the tools required to navigate a rapidly growing and increasingly
complex information environment; and help organizations and decision makers
find, evaluate, and use information effectively. These issues were taken
up by Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, during his address to
the conference. He urged Scottish libraries and librarians to place themselves
at the heart of their local communities and work to empower people.
With over 3,500 delegates attending the conference, the opening session
was packed during Irish poet Seamus Heaney's keynote address. Heaney, who
was awarded1995's Nobel Prize in Literature "for works of lyrical beauty
and ethical depth that exalt everyday miracles and the living past," is
also acclaimed for his powerful translation of Beowulf. He underlined
the themes of the conference and included a call for the protection of
libraries in totalitarian states.
The event's themes were further illustrated in a welcoming poem by Edwin
Morgan, Glasgow's poet laureate. Following references to Elzevirs, Rabelais,
and Jorge Luis Borges, the poem concludes with a clarion call to:
IFLA presents an excellent opportunity for speakers to give the same amount
of attention to issues that affect remote or disadvantaged regions of the
world as they do to the latest developments in library technologies in
wealthier countries. Thus, the difficulties of online access to information
resources in Algeria and Zimbabwe and the potential for e-democracy and
e-government in Canada and Sweden can easily appear in the same program.
take heart and take stock
Of everything a library can do
To let the future shimmer
and show through.
Of particular interest locally was Resources for Learning in Scotland
(RLS), a project to digitize material that celebrates the country's social,
cultural, and industrial heritage. RLS is supported by a grant from the
U.K.'s National Lottery New Opportunities Fund and is managed by SCRAN
(Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network). The project will create a
Web-based searchable and downloadable collection of such diverse materials
as music, film clips, circus posters, and Fair Isle knitting. The public
may access these resources through licensed public libraries and schools,
or at home with a license. A limited no-fee service will also be available
for home access.
The sold-out exhibit hall had a floor space of 10,000 square meters
and featured booths from more than 120 exhibitors. With plenty of no-conflict
time and various receptions, the aisles were generally busy. Exhibitors
expressed satisfaction with attendee quality and quantity, as well as with
CILIP's organizational support. The event delivered a good balance of exhibitors
across product categories as library management and equipment suppliers
were equally matched by online information providers and traditional book
publishers. This show is not dominated by the huge corporate booths that
you would see at conferences such as ALA, SLA, or Online Information. Nonetheless
the likes of Elsevier, ISI, and OCLC were well-represented alongside national
libraries, nonprofits, and smaller or local-interest exhibitors.
A popular attraction in the exhibit hall was a model children's library.
Built by a partnership that comprises the British Council, CILIP's School
and Youth Libraries Group, and Demco Interiors, it featured the best of
U.K. library design and children's publishing. Outside the hall, the latest
in mobile library facilities was demonstrated in the parking lot.
Given the good attendance, the mood among most exhibitors was upbeat,
but there's still an air of caution abroad. Many have spending under tight
control and express worries that an economic upturn may not come for at
least another year.
In an industry update session, Elsevier Science CEO Derk Haank announced
his company's groundbreaking agreement withKoninklijke Bibliotheek (KB),
the National Library of the Netherlands, that names KB as the first official
digital archive for Elsevier journals. The library will receive digital
copies of all Elsevier journals that have been made available on the company's
ScienceDirect Web platform. This comprises approximately1,500 titles that
cover all areas of science, technology, and medicine. The archive will
ultimately exceed 7 terabytes of data. As new journals are added to the
Elsevier list, they will be included in the archive. In addition, Elsevier
is in the process of digitizing the older issues of these journals, going
back whenever possible to volume 1, number 1. All of these digitized backfiles
will also be deposited with KB. The agreement provides the assurance that
should Elsevier go out of business, access will still be supplied for all
digital material, including journals that are only available in electronic
KB will make the journals available on a current basis to all who visit
the library and are permitted access to the collections. In addition, should
there be a problem that renders ScienceDirect inoperable for a long period
of time, KB would be part of the interim service system. Finally, if Elsevier
or a successor ceases to make these journals available on a commercial
basis, KB would provide access to all on a remote basis.
IFLA conferences are truly international in their content, speakers,
exhibitors, and locations. Next year's event will be held in Berlin, followed
in 2004 by Buenos Aires,Argentina. With Oslo, Norway; Seoul,South Korea;
and Durban, South Africa booked for the following 3 years, cities have
until November 1, 2002, to file an "expression of interest" to host in
Jim Ashling runs Ashling Consulting, an independent consultancy for
the information industry. His e-mail address is email@example.com.