Today was pretty amazing. We had our first “proper” working day at the IFLA Communications Office. Technology was still a bit fuzzy but on the whole, things went quite well. We got to go to both the Opening Session and the Newcomers’ Session and we finished all our work without having to stay late, so I am pretty pleased with the day.
The opening session was, in a good way, not like I expected it to be. I kind of expected lots of boring speeches full of the usual stock phrases. Instead, I got two extremely captivating speeches by the IFLA President Ellen Tise and by Agneta Olsson, the Chair of the Congress National Committee – and one from Jan Eliasson, former President of the UN. The Eliasson speech (which I heartily recommend you watch on Vimeo if you weren’t there in person) was probably my personal highlight today. Well, maybe apart from the ABBA cover band which had a room full of librarians rocking and dancing right afterwards. I mean, what’s not to love about his saying that speaking in front of us was the closest he’s come to speaking in front of the United Nations? He talked about how important literature and reading was, how much his parents, who only had 11 years of schooling between them, tried to get their children into education. I teared up when he quoted Dag Hammarskjöld:
“Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity — intellectual, emotional, and moral. Respect for the word — to employ it with scrupulous care and in incorruptible heartfelt love of truth — is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race. To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes Man to regress down the long path of his evolution.”
See, I knew I was doing the right thing when I took my commonplace book with me. Back to topic: at a time when my (and everyone else’s) home government is cutting library funding left, right and center, it’s good to know that at least some people in high places recognise the value of education and the important role of libraries and librarians.
I also attended the Newcomers’ session, at which we learned about some interesting initiatives for students and New Professionals, most of which I already talked about in my earlier post on the NPSIG meeting. We also got to meet Chiara Consonni, the winner of the LIS Student Paper Award! Jesús Lau gave us some pointers on how to get the most out of the IFLA conference: speak up when you feel the need to, talk to ten new people a day, mark up the sessions that interest you and take lots of business cards.
In the evening, after wrapping up with IFLA Communications at around 6 pm, I happened on the Göteborg culture festival that is taking place at the moment and so I got the chance to hear an amazing gospel choir out in the open, right in front of the library. I cut my attendance at the Night Spot short this time because I promised to be at the Communications Office early the next day (which would have worked if I hadn’t taken the wrong tram in the morning, but that is neither here nor there).
All in all, I can only repeat what I said yesterday: this continues to be a good experience, and I am looking forward to whatever library-related revelations lie ahead in the coming days.