IFLA: Working Together for a Better Future

The 86th World Library and Information Congress commences virtually

August 25, 2021

Christine Mackenzie, IFLA President 2019-2021, in the opening session
Christine Mackenzie, IFLA President 2019-2021, in the opening session

For the first time, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) was held online because of the continuing global pandemic.

Between August 17–19, the virtual conference drew thousands of attendees from around the world to more than 150 sessions with topics that ranged from digital controlled lending to new skill sets for school librarians to climate impact on libraries.

Drawing inspiration from 2019­–2021 IFLA President Christine Mackenzie’s theme “Let’s Work Together,” the 86th WLIC focused on five key areas: libraries enable, libraries include, libraries innovate, libraries inspire, and libraries sustain.

In the opening ceremony, Mackenzie reflected on this past year, recognizing the impact of the pandemic and climate change in our community and the global library field. “We have to create a new future, one that is kinder to Mother Earth,” she remarked.

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner presented the IFLA Strategy 2019–2024 and noted its significance in affirming the organization’s path for the future. He encouraged more collaboration and synergy within the virtual conference and greater support for the profession at large.

Books in the cradle by Isabella Fiorentini
Books in the cradle by Isabella Fiorentini

The IFLA Preservation and Conservation Section hosted “Special Collections: More Than Books in the Library,” a session with speakers from Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Russia, and the US that explored “creative, sustainable solutions to innovative packaging for physical and digital collections.” Packaging—as defined by Isabella Fiorentini, library officer at Biblioteca Trivulziana–Archivio Storico Civico in Milan, Italy—includes “any option available to protect books, documents, or other types of objects belonging to the library for long-term preservation, transport, or display.”

Fiorentini explained the value of packaging for physical materials such as ancient manuscripts and early printed books for exhibitions, research uses in the reading room, and for preservation and conservation. She emphasized, “We have a special responsibility to take whatever steps we can to promote greater awareness of preservation issues in our community and get more attention and support from our institution.”

Corrine Rogers, project coordinator for InterPARES Trust AI at University of British Columbia, presented on the concept of packaging for digital collections and described how digital preservation relies on secure storage. However, there is also a need to preserve the trustworthiness of the content, including its integrity, accuracy, and usability.

In the “Libraries Include” keynote session, Emilia Saiz, secretary general, and Jordi Pascual, coordinator of the culture committee, of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) were the invited speakers. Barbara Lison, IFLA president-elect, served as moderator. During her recorded presentation, Saiz noted, “The lack of equality in our cities, towns, and territories is undoubtedly a very strong component of the crisis that we are facing now, and we will be challenged in the future.”

Lison and Pascual discussed new development models and how libraries can participate in critical policymaking decisions and collaborate to promote their work and value in society. Lison asked about UCLG’s work localizing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how this work promotes inclusion. Pascual described the need to consider languages, heritages, landscapes, and traditions, emphasizing that cultural capabilities are key to achieving the SDGs. Without considering cultural capabilities, any development goals in national or local levels may not be achieved.

Lison concluded by thanking the speakers and saying she looked forward to further collaboration between IFLA and UCLG during her presidency.


Students compete in the Virtual Library InfoLit Race Challenge at Nazarbayev University Library in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

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