Those who wondered why the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions would meet in Italy in the heat of August got their answer last night, August 25, when the city of Milan opened its treasures to IFLA. At a time of year when half the city has left for vacation, it felt as if the entire Duomo, La Scala, and the city’s businesses and museums belonged to us librarians.
Among the delights was what was billed as a “social dinner,” and by its description many delegates wondered how the local organizers were going to pull off a dinner at “all the major restaurants of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and surroundings” when at last count IFLA conference registrants numbered at 3,000. But pull it off they did, with Italian style. Registrants received a voucher good for a complete meal at a restaurant of their choice in the Galleria shopping arcade, a splendid iron and glass construction that was one of the first of its kind in Italy when it opened in 1867.
Following the dinner—which in this case included wine, saffron risotto, veal scaloppine with roasted vegetables, lemon sorbet, and espresso—the Duomo, Milan’s massive cathedral, offered a free harp and violin (a Stradivarius, no less) concert. After the concert, IFLA-ites could stroll from the Duomo to Palazzo Marino, where two of the sketches of Leonardo da Vinci’s Atlantic Code were on display along with digital versions of the entire work. From there they could take in the Monet show at the Palazzo Reale and stroll till midnight back to the shopping arcade, at the center of which was a well-guarded display of De Divina Proportione, dating from 1497 and containing sketches by Leonardo.
All the while, a gigantic electronic billboard on the center square shone bright with “Welcome IFLA: World Library and Information Congress.”
The evening’s events capped off a day of activity at the convention center that included the ongoing presentation of selected papers on all aspects of library service, and the presentation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Access to Learning Award.