Saleh Zamani | Attended by more than 3000 librarians from around the world, the 85th edition of the IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) was held in Athens, Greece, on August 24-30. In this annual congress many sessions were held about the most important challenges and opportunities of libraries throughout the world in which librarians tried to exchange their experiences. Unveiling the IFLA’s five-year strategic plan (2019-2024) and introduction of the new elect-president of IFLA, Christine Mackenzie, for the next three years were among the most important programs of this congress. So, a great deal of working sessions and general dialogues were about this plan and also the motto of the new elect-president, Let’s Work Together. In this two-part note, I will try to initially explain about the relationship between IFLA and Iranian librarians through the first part and then to analyze their relation with the content of the unveiled plan in the second part.
It must be in our mind that Iranian librarians have kept alive their relationship with IFLA for a full half a century. Although the relationship have found a considerable growth and speed through the very past decade, for the first time in Iran’s history it was TEBROC, as the first Iranian organization, became member of IFLA before the Iran revolution(1979) and took advantage of adjoining IFLA and its benefits.
Despite numerous problems and challenges, it must be said that this constructive relationship with IFLA has been continued so far and Iranians try to transform it into a sustainable relationship. On the other hand, IFLA has always expected some measures from the world librarians generally and Iranian ones especially and has repeated them many times. So, it is necessary for Iranians to try to meet these expectations in order to keep alive their relationship with IFLA and make their country one of active members of IFLA in the field of librarians’ discussions.
IFLA asks everyone across the world to follow its plans through librarians. This expectation is the sole available ring to keep a mutual relationship and any passivity from each party of this chain will lead the atmosphere towards stagnation and depression. The most important plans of this category in the recent years are related to participation in the Global Vision project, providing feedbacks of measures of libraries on IFLA’s strategic documents, especially DA21, the world map of libraries and also synchronizing the librarian measures with the sustainable development ideals of the United Nations.
In fact, libraries are tasked with reflecting their measures related to these projects to IFLA, which it lets LFLA to design to the next plans more wisely and properly. Iranians need to know that today IFLA is their occupational compass and without considering it they cannot become capable librarians which are able to propose their up-to-date services. Therefore, it is necessary that Iranians follow the global thinking for offering better local services and take more effective strides towards the professional development.
In the second part we need to try to tie our librarian plans to the IFLA’s strategic document in the first place. We need to know that this document has four intertwined rings: Connect, Enable, Engage, and Inspire which support and protect its content. The content shows itself through four separated routes, which are as follows: strategic direction
- Strengthen the global voice of libraries strategic direction
- Inspire and enhance professional practice strategic direction
- Connect and empower the field strategic direction
- Optimise our organisation
To enumerate the most important elements of these four routes, we can point to the sustainable development and its ideals, joint ventures and contribution with councils, paying attention to the public sphere and accessing to information, mobilizing resources and the ways to reach financial sustainability and trying to empower librarians. This document has tried to reflect the common challenges and opportunities among librarians as best as possible and make them close to each other more than before.
So, what Iranians need to do to approach this document? It is a very serious question which must be considered before establishing a sustainable relationship with IFLA. The first joint measure and activity of Iranian librarians must be putting an optimistic eye glass for watching the global thinking. Without accepting this global plan positively and effectively, the second measure would not be realized. The second measure Iranians need to take is compiling local and regional strategic documents in which elements of IFLA’S documents are used. Actually, they need to match their local and aboriginal plan and measures with this document.
Unfortunately, many Iranian libraries including the National Library of Iran, public libraries and even Iranian Library and Information Science Association have not a strategic plan. We see seasonal achievements and failures in the country and unlike the advanced libraries of the world, we experience a short-term cultural life. We need a long-term life for developing and extending our libraries and it would not be possible except under lights of long-term plans of IFLA.
The third measure is preparing feedbacks for our compiled local plans and documents and let them be analyzed by IFLA and our other colleagues in the world. In the coming years, instead of internal evaluation, we need to outsource it.
And the least measure is that we need to take serious “advocacy” issue in the field of librarianship. We need advocator librarians. It is nothing but empowering librarians in favor of the society. Without advocacy librarians today cannot meet the needs of the Iranian society. A society which everyday experiences cultural, demographic and identical changes needs serious advocators to meet its daily needs. Accordingly, the only people who can manage Iranians’ cultural consumption and interest are advocator librarians whose number must be increased every day.
Finally, it is necessary to point to role of cultural organizations in Iran in order to be aware that how they can manage the space of libraries in favor of implementing the five-year plan of IFLA. It seems that the most important solution for organizing the cultural measures in the libraries is referring to the “civil society” and using popular forces. There is no doubt that Iranian Library and Information Science Association, as a free and independent organization, can be a proper representative for this. If the expectations of these two important current in Iran are not met, surely we cannot expect any reform across the public and national libraries of the country.
We need to keep in mind that the IFLA’s strategic document is a golden opportunity to test capabilities of Iranian librarians. Along with other librarians across the world, we can share our experiences and decrease challenges we may face in this face. In this route, we need to be able to recognize problems and don’t mix them with fantasies and imaginations. We need to move forward based on collective wisdom and attract more fellows to conduct our plans.