Sunday, September 16, 2007

Off to IFLA Conference: 19-23 August 2007, Durban, South Africa (Part 11)

Some rambling thoughts to end this round of IFLA-related posts:

The South Africa national organising committee did a great job for this conference. Events were well organised.

Durban was beautiful. But a pity the threat of crime prevents greater appreciation of the country by foreigners. We were constantly advised by the conference and hotel staff not to walk alone in the streets. Even for a 10 minute walk, we had to take a taxi cab. We heard of a handful of delegates were mugged and assaulted.
durban suburbs

We heard about the insensibilities of the Apartheid regime (but seems to me Black South Africans have accepted it and moved on). Like the ban of the children's storybook "Black Beauty". Because the authorities felt that the words Black and Beauty did not belong side by side.

Our Section saw several new members to our Standing Committee. They replaced those who've competed their terms. Technically, one could serve up to eight years in the same committee of the Section (maximum of two Tour-of-duty, with each tour lasting a maximum of four years).

We elected a new Chair and Secretary as well. I've been re-appointed as the Information Coordinator.
SC meeting - Libraries for Children and Young Adults

I was pleased that the committee members were interested in my proposal for an International collaborative activity for youths (roughly modeled after something like this and maybe this). The committee would be considering it for the pre-conference next year.

Each year, I get a little less intimidated working with professionals from other countries.

And I seem to get better at the European-style air kissing! LOL. But only with one or two of my European colleagues in the Standing Committee. I guess they know me a bit better and treat me like their own.

As a person born and bred in Asia, the closest we get to body contact in a social setting is the handshake. Air kissing still feels strange and awkward to me. I still haven't quite got the knack of knowing when to initiate one. So far, I haven't had the need to. Handshakes are the norm at IFLA.

Speaking to librarians and information professionals around the world, it was yet another reminder to me that we have more in common than differences. The professional concerns and challenges faced by librarians are the same throughout the world.

Asia and Africa are not widely represented in IFLA. With the exception of China, who sends a huge number of delegates each year. But from what I see, IFLA still remains a predominantly Europe-centric gathering.

Language continues to be the unique distinguishing factor and challenge for IFLA conferences. Although a large number of IFLA delegates come from Europe, English isn't the primary language used.

It occurred to me that perhaps participants tend to think of our country first. Rather than the international library community. We hope to learn of what other libraries are doing, so that we can apply back home.

I wonder if we librarians will one day truly set aside national loyalties and think of ourselves as One World, One Profession.

Would that be possible? Am I being idealistic, unrealistic and naive?

I mean, most are sponsored to attend IFLA by our respective organisations, which ultimately belong or are funded by our respective countries. Why would each country want to help other countries for purely altruistic reasons?
IFLA opening ceremony

Well, I can think of a few reasons why countries should help other countries (to boot strap libraries and librarianship). This is happening already, or so it seems to me.

At this 2007 conference, we were told of an initiative by an Australian librarian who raised funds among her Australian colleagues (through lunches and gatherings). The fund-raising effort enabled 61 African librarians to attend the 2007 IFLA conference.

I'm sure there are other examples that are untold -- similar in intent, if not the outcomes.

[Reference: Part 10]

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