Moments of Reflection: Essays by Poori Soltani on IFLA

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Parisa Pasyar | There is a book in the hall of the National Library of Iran entitles “Moments of Reflection” written by a prominent and influential Iranian librarian, Poori Soltani. It is a collection of essays about the IFLA congresses and sessions she had attended from Liverpool, 1971 to Istanbul, 1995 (Liverpool, England, 1971; Paris, France, 1972; Grenoble, France, 1973; Oslo, Norway, 1975; Seoul, Korea, 1976; Harnosand, Sweden, 1990; Moscow, Russia, 1991; New Delhi, India, 1992; Lisbon, Portugal, 1993; Havana, Cuba, 1994; Istanbul, Turkey, 1995). These reports were so effective and interesting that I was impressed from the first day when I discovered the book on the shelves. In reality, it made such an impact on me that I used the reports; especially, the one presented in Grenoble 1973 that describes the first presentation from Iran by Zahra Shadman was so impressive.
Poori Soltani was the most famous Iranian Librarian in the world. She Launched the Tehran Book Processing Center (TEBROC) and created a successful promoting teamwork in the individualistic culture. In fact, it was P. Soltani who developed modern cataloging, classification and information processing with her leadership and supervision. Her deep and new insight formed the integration of TEBROC and National Library of Iran in 1983 that resulted in strengthening of a national organization. She was as an active character in the Iranian Library Association and had close interaction with professional communities such as IFLA and Library of Congress.
The book begins with a suspicious of international conferences. She didn’t believe in sitting around and make big decisions that are never worked out. Truly speaking, if you have a look at the history and chronology of sessions, if you turn the pages and read the detailed reports of each year, you will find out how to participate in IFLA led to the inspirations and ideas that make change in library society and National Library of Iran. It’s so cool when you are looking at the landscape from the place that you are standing now. Many of the issues that once were fundamental concerns now obviously seem to be usual routine works. It is just by reading these reports that you can understand what kind of hardworking and patience needed for justifying the importance of Depository Law, ISBN and ISSN. It also seems that the idea of integrating the TEBRAC and National Library of Iran came from the report of aggregation of British National Bibliography (BNB) in British Library. Most reports refer to the new library buildings in different countries: new building of Alexandria Library near the Nile, renovation of Lenin Library building, establishing of National Library of Sarajevo in a new place after the war and new buildings of National Library of Cuba and National Library of Malaysia. Talking about each of them is a motivation for acceleration of founding and establishment of a new building for the National Library of Iran.
The interesting thing in this book is the fantasy of IFLA presidents before attending the congress who were described as “Big Bishops” by P. Soltani and revealed that “I had thought about IFLA president many times and whenever I closed my eyes imagined the creature with eyes as big as a huge cave in a mountain sunset… I drown into it and nothing else… I never reached his head and body. It was so great that my imagination could not have surrounded it”. There are some detailed descriptions about some of IFLA presidents during the reports: Herman Liebears, Preben Kierkegaard, Else Granheim and Hans-Peter Geh. In the choice of IFLA’s first woman president, librarian Soltani further wrote that Ms. Granhiem was the first lady who had presided over IFLA.
IFLA 1991 had a different atmosphere among all the essays; an unforgettable experience for the librarians who were in the heart of a historical event and returned to their countries with certain live memories about the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt, also known as the August Coup. P. Soltani, as an eyewitness, wrote a momentary report about the Tanks on Moscow’s Streets, the declarations on the walls and the resistance of the people against the conductors of the coup. She described congress during those days: “It was some strange crowd at the conference. Some didn’t know anything and they just became aware when they entered the building…Everybody was worried. The conference had just begun and nobody knew if it would be continued or cancelled. Later we heard that they decided in a meeting to continue the conference… Blockades had led the people to arrive late. The excitement was so high that we gathered together so that perhaps one would have new story. Everyone described their observations as they entered the conference. What they had seen along the way and what they had seen in Red Square the previous night and how the sculptures were screwed done”. The strangest event was the ceremony in Kremlin Palace in that situation: “We thought it would not be held until the last hours of the evening. The Palace was located in the Red Square and it was surrounded by soldiers”. She provided information on the crowds and the tanks and soldiers when they dropped the buses and the guard staying there in two sides leading them in to the palace. “The artists were trying to welcome us with warm smiles and local dances. All the time, I was thinking about the contrast between inside and outside of the palace”.
In this book there is an appealing report about centenary birthday of Ranganathan in IFLA 1992, New Delhi. P. Soltani never neglected to provide all the details of the ceremony and the speeches. As well, she wrote that Iranian Library Association Newsletter had a special issue in honor of him when he had passed away and she offered it to the congress after 20 years.
We’ve recently heard about the death of Dr. Marta Terry Gonzalez, former director of the National Library of Cuba. I accidently, as I was preparing this for iBulletin, recognized that P. Soltani- Legend of Iran, had a heart friendship with her. I would very much like to finish my note by her description about Dr. Marta- Legend of the Caribbean, in the event that they met each other in IFLA 1994, Cuba. May God bless both of these magnificent ladies!
“The director of the National Library of Cuba, I know this thin black skin woman from years ago. We often meet each other at conferences. She is mellifluous, happy and lively. She has a friendly and pleasant personality. As soon as we saw each other outside the conference room, she shook my hand happily and said: “I knew you would come, I’m happy you are here”. In her speech, she talked about how IFLA organized in Cuba and the first time she was attended IFLA in 1956 and all her activities during the next years”.

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