Iranians and IFLA at a Glance


Mohsen Haji Zeinolabedini | Iran’s interest in international cooperation in the field of librarianship and information services and science and cooperation with IFLA, as the leading international authority in this important field, dates back to late 1960s. Existing records, including the correspondence between Iranian and IFLA authorities, indicate that participation of Iranian representatives in an IFLA annual conference took place in 1969 in Copenhagen. Official accession, however, took place two years later upon payment of membership fees, as confirmed in a letter by the then President of IFLA and published in the Spring issue 1971 of the Bulletin of the Iranian Association for Librarians.
IFLA’s vast information resources and the ever-expanding body of principles and guidelines have greatly helped Iranians in improving the quality of librarianship and information services in relevant Iranian institutions. A second reason for the expanding engagement and cooperation relates to the interest to contribute to IFLA’s activities. Iran’s engagement with the Organization and its events and programs has grown over time; covering, among others, such a routine activity as participation in the annual congress, paper and poster presentations, as well as membership in scientific committees on cataloging, national library, parliamentary sessions, MARC, and public libraries. For example, Pouri Soltani and Manadana Sedigh Behzadi have served in the Cataloging and Classification Committee (two terms), Abbas Horri in Asia and Oceania Committee (two terms) and Fariborz Khosravi in both Asia and Oceania and National Library Committees (two terms).
A number of Iranians have also worked as volunteers in different executive departments of IFLA. Moreover, between 2005 and 2018, a number of Iranian representatives have won IFLA participation grants.
The activities of Iranian delegations and representatives attending IFLA congress or its other meetings upon return to the country also form an important part of IFLA-related activities. Sharing of experiences – and achievements – with the institutions and compatriots active in the field form the crux of these activities, which include presentation of oral and written reports both for managers and experts at relevant bodies and institutions, publications of articles and interviews, holding exhibitions on various aspects of participation in IFLA events and programs (display of photos, gifts, books, posters, etc.), and more recently, writing in weblogs, websites and social networks. In addition to sharing of experiences and outreach, these activities also serve the purpose of introducing the Organization; highlight the importance of its work and services for the international community, and for Iran.
Moreover, to help Iranians utilize IFLA papers, every year an excerpt of these articles are collected, translated and published mostly by NLAI.
Iran’s participation in IFLA events and programs has taken place at two levels; institutional and personal.
At the institutional (organizational) level, NLAI, Library of the National Consultative Assembly (Parliament), Iranian Research Institute for Information Science and Technology (IranDoc) and Agricultural Research,Education and Extension Organization (AREEO) have been the most important Iranian institutions sending delegations or representatives to IFLA official events. Other interested universities in the country have also been active in this regard, even if less regularly. At the personal level, individual librarians have endeavored to connect with IFLA-related activities, mostly through preparation and presentation of research articles on different subjects and themes falling under the purview of IFLA.
It is also of note that the venue of IFLA annual congress has also affected the level of participation of Iranians, which is directly related to the questions of distance and entry visa; higher level of participation in certain venues and lower levels for certain others. Participation in the events held in the Americas or Africa has been generally lower than that in other venues. For example, Iranians’ participation at IFLA 61th conference (1995), held in Istanbul, Turkey, a neighboring country with easy access and economical travel expenses (including personal transport), witnessed the highest ever level of participation of Iranians in an IFLA event. Politics has also come to bear in this regard. Iran and a number of Arab countries boycotted IFLA 66th conference, which was held in Israel in the year 2000. They instead organized a substitute conference in Cairo (12-17 August, 2000) in association with the Arabian Union of Librarianship and Information Science.
Expanding relations and cooperation between Iran and IFLA has also involved official visits to the country by IFLA representatives, including IFLA Presidents – Mr. Peter Lore (1969), Mr. Chandler (1970), and Ms. Pérez-Salmerón (February 2018).
Also, in March 2005, a group of IFLA representatives attended the opening ceremony of the new building of NLAI.
While the state of liaison and cooperation between Iran and IFLA could be considered generally satisfactory, a number of areas of challenge also need to be addressed and dealt with. Despite serious efforts in the past, including bilateral negotiations, Iranian institutions have not yet managed to host an IFLA event in Iran. Iranians have also been interested in adding the Persian language to IFLA official languages. In addition to difficulties related to distance and visa, a number of other factors, mainly of financial nature, have militated against easier participation of Iranians in IFLA events, especially for librarians and experts interested in participation in personal capacity. A closer, more institutionalized, exchange of views between the two sides on the wide range of challenging issues could help pave the way for an improved state of cooperation.


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