Swedish libraries and librarians are wonderful! I have been fortunate to visit your beautiful country a number of times and to exchange many ideas and experiences with my good friend Inga Lundén, former City of Stockholm Library Director. I have always been impressed with the innovation and inclusiveness of Swedish libraries. In 2008 I led a tour of Australian librarians through Scandinavia and we spent a wonderful few days in Stockholm and more recently I was able to visit the Kista Library, which was awarded Public Library of the Year 2015. It was on this visit that I experienced the most fun museum I’ve been to – of course this is the Abba Museum – and another memorable Swedish experience was retracing the steps of Detective Kurt Wallandar in Ystad and surrounds.
So, let me introduce myself. After a long career in public libraries I retired as CEO of Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service, Melbourne, Australia in January 2016 after 12 years in that role in order to seek new challenges and opportunities. Previously I was Manager of Brisbane City Council Library Service in Queensland, the largest public library system in Australia, and Mornington Peninsula Library Service in Victoria.
One of the most rewarding things I have done in my professional life is to be involved with the INELI (International Network of Emerging Library Innovators) program. A colleague from New Zealand and I identified a need to provide mentoring and inspiration to young librarians in Oceania. We approached the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries to create the first regional program of INELI which was based on their international program. Over four years and two cohorts, INELI-Oceania engaged 34 emerging leaders from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. As a result of the program, the Pacific Libraries Network was formed in June 2018 to continue the important work of promoting and strengthening libraries in the region.
My IFLA involvement began as a member of the Steering Committee of the Metropolitan Libraries Section 2005-09 and Chair 2009-11. I was elected a Governing Board Member for the 2011-13 term, when I worked on the Trend Report and was a member of the Finance Committee. I was again elected to the Governing Board in 2015 and was Treasurer 2015 – 17. I am currently President – elect and will become President in this coming August. I am fortunate to have been involved in IFLA during these most interesting of times, when three significant things have had a huge impact on IFLA as an organisation.
Across regions, library types and length of engagement with libraries we share a deep commitment to the enduring value and role of libraries. Our opportunity is that we must connect global and local actions effectively
In 2015 the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted. In response, IFLA developed the International Advocacy Programme which was a capacity-building program designed to promote and support the role libraries can play in the planning and implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
In 2016 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Legacy Grant was announced. After 20 years and an investment of $US 1billion in public libraries, the Gates Foundation announced that they were closing the Global Libraries program. The Director of Global Libraries, Deborah Jacobs, was requested by Bill and Melinda Gates to develop and implement an exit strategy to leave the field strong. Three partners were chosen – IFLA, TASCHA (Technology & Social Change Group at the University of Washington Information School, Seattle) and the Public Libraries Association of the American Library Association. The Legacy Grant is an incredible gift to IFLA and allows us to dream big and be ambitious about how we can engage, enable, inspire and connect the global library field.
In 2017 IFLA’s Global Vision Project, initiated and led by Secretary General Gerald Leitner, was launched. The purpose was to better understand how we can address the challenges faced by libraries in an increasingly globalised world. We wanted to know what librarians thought was important, what values drive them, what challenges they see now and into the future. This was the beginning of a tremendous exercise in gathering input and responses from librarians around the world. And after a year of consultation and input the vision for IFLA and for libraries is:
A strong and united library field powering literate, informed and participative societies. The key finding was that we are united globally in our goals and values. Across regions, library types and length of engagement with libraries we share a deep commitment to the enduring value and role of libraries. Our opportunity is that we must connect global and local actions effectively. We do a lot locally, we do a lot internationally and what we need to do now is to make the connections to knit the two together.
These three events have defined and shaped the future direction of IFLA and have been the impetus to grow IFLA as a more inclusive and stronger organisation. My Presidential theme, Let’s work together, has come from the Global Vision Project. Before IFLA can really start to impact on the issues that are in its sphere – access to information and global literacy in particular – we need to be in a strong position ourselves. How much more powerful and prepared libraries are to join with industry, governments and other like-minded organisations now we have worked through this stage to form alliances to work towards the goals of IFLA.
I do hope that I will meet many of you at the World Library and Information Congress in Athens, Greece 24 -30 August. The theme is Libraries: dialogue for change and we are expecting to have a wonderful time. The annual Congress is an excellent opportunity to strengthen and widen professional and social networks and to learn about the latest trends in libraries.
IFLA welcomes associations, institutions and individuals to join. If you would like to establish international contacts to further your work, or broaden your horizons by contributing to library work in your specific area at an international level, a great way to get started is to become an IFLA member and get involved in IFLA in its many activities. All the details are available on the IFLA website at https://www.ifla.org/membership