Saturday, August 09, 2008

IFLA 2008 (part 3): Standing Committee meeting no. 1

[From Part 2]

Standing Committee meeting I, Section: CHILD-YA9 Aug, 2008. 11.30am:

Attended the first Standing Committee (SC) meeting this morning.

There was the usual greetings of colleagues, who only get to meet once a year. Some would give out tokens, collaterals of their library's reading initiatives, printed copies of their country reports.

Or a box of chocolates or sweets. Out of love :)

Very informal. But the agenda is serious stuff, at least this is what our SC is well-known for in IFLA circles.

My usual part was to provide updates as the Section's Information Officer (i.e. updates to the Section's website in the past work year, highlights of the newsletters, mailing list).

I managed to explain more about the proposal for a "Youth Expression" project.

The other proposal was from Viviana, for a "Sister Library" project (i.e. a scheme to pair up libraries, to facilitate professional knowledge exchange and mentorship).

The "Youth Expression" proposal
I've blogged about the proposal at this post.

It was first mooted last year at the Durban conference. After a year, we're one step closer towards implementing it (that's the pace of how things work, when most SC members get to meet once a year and all are doing this on top of our regular work).

I was given some air-time to elaborate what the project was about. I explained that it was essentially about three things:
  • A project where libraries, libraries and youth volunteers can play a central role
  • About Youth Expressions
  • Global Connectedness (i.e. library to library, youths to youths -- on an international scale)

After my explanation, Ingrid asked the billion-dollar question (with a smile): "So what's next?"

"Well, it's for us to discuss if we will do this, or maybe no."

We certainly had a solid discussion, in my opinion.

There were comments that the inclusion of ages 13 to 25 was too broad and had to be narrower. But others felt it was fine and that's how it would for their libraries. Final consensus: To provide two separate age groups.

One SC member questioned the philosophy of the proposal. The question was whether a professional body like our IFLA Section should play a role in proposing a "direct service project" Vs. guidelines and policies.

In response, a few other SC members felt that the proposal was a tangible showcase of the sort of work done by the Section. The role of the Section would be to convince other libraries to take up this initiative (if the proposal is approved).

[I know I'm biased in saying this -- but I totally agree! The Scope Statement in the Section's mission statement is to "promote international cooperation in the fields of library services to children and young adults". I see this proposal as a way to extend IFLA's mandate, where our Section would play a facilitator's role in creating an opportunity for libraries all over the world to take part].

Other comments were that the scope (of "Youth Expression") may need to be refined and made more specific. One SC member asked if there were any specific example of how this proposal could be implemented.

In response, there was consensus that the proposal was a framework. Once agreed, we would work on details. Perhaps a project to produce a "How To" manual or some practical guide. For instance, how much time for a library to carry this out, the equipment needed, the typical costs, how to deal with time zone differences, the issue of language translation of works contributed by youths whose first language might not be English.

Viviana Quinones (she's from Paris) proposed a "Sister-library" programme. Where libraries on a lower development scale would be matched with one that can provide expertise, mentorship, perhaps funding to the "sister-library". It was a model that has been successful between African and French libraries.

This proposal was also viewed favourably by the SC members.

I voiced that the Sister-Library proposal could answer the question of "WHO can I partner with", and the youth expression proposal would be "WHAT do I do with my sister-library".

We ran out of time and would be continuing the discussion at the second SC meeting this coming Friday.

Looking Ahead
I'm happy that both projects were viewed favourably.

I like the Sister-Library proposal. But I'm more keen to try out the Global Youth Expression idea. Not simply because it's a proposal from me.

On the contrary, I see that it's no longer my proposal, but the Section's.

I'm more keen because I feel the activities and practices for the Teens segment has been a relatively neglected area. My sense is that there are more papers and sharing of best practices on Children's Services, and much fewer on those for young adults. Partly because services to teens/ young adults are much more challenging compared to implementing those for Children.

It doesn't surprise me the Youth Expression proposal had a lot more questions and concerns (it seems to be true for the proposals I come up with even in NLB, heh). Maybe it's because it's never been done before, on that scale.

Let me tell you -- it's SCARY putting up a proposal to an international audience!

It's hard enough getting buy-in with my own colleagues in NLB. I had clueless how my international colleagues would react.

I was mentally prepared for the proposal to be thrown out. I wasn't surprised by the concerns raised. I was glad they were raised. If those concerns can be adequately addressed, the project would be stronger for those differing views.

Oh, now that I've experienced it, I can share that having your idea supported by another professional and practioner from another country -- it's just priceless.

But as I said, it's no longer my proposal, but the Section's.

The idea's been put on the table. Nothing's confirmed. We'll have to see how the committee feels should be the way to go.

[Aside: All the IFLA technical committees (e.g. sections and divisions) would have their business meetings one to two days before and after the actual conference.

Most meetings, other than the IFLA governing board, are open to observers. Observers are conference delegates who aren't necessarily part of the section or in any committee. Some observers end up joining the respective section, 'cos they like what's being discussed and feel they can contribute as well.

Typical meeting agenda: report of the Section's activities for the year, update on projects, review of conference activities, financial reports. The minutes of meeting are published on the respective section webpage, like
this one from my section.]

Next: Part 4


  1. We`ll show to the world how fun and interesting is working with young adults, don`t worry ;)

  2. Dear Verena, thanks!


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