Building a stronger and more sustainable library field – IFLA workshop for Asia-Oceania libraries
23 November 2022
In recent years, IFLA has focused strongly on how to develop library fields – the people, institutions, infrastructures and services that make it possible for communities to benefit from all that libraries can provide.
A key element to this work has been the recognition that while the global field is brought together by a shared mission and values, delivering these depends on the strength and sustainability of library fields at the regional and national levels.
Realising this in turn requires actions that reflect and respond to specific characteristics and needs. Defining such action therefore needs to take place through planning and engagement at the regional and national levels.
Following on from the series of workshops held with Members and volunteers in the course of IFLA’s Global Vision process, and after a COVID-enforced break, we are thrilled to be able to start to work again with libraries to build the skills and define the actions needed to make for strong and sustainable fields. IFLA’s broader output, and in particular our Vision and Strategy, provides a great basis for this work.
Learning with Members in Asia-Oceania
Our Asia-Oceania workshop on stronger and more sustainable library fields took place on 14-16 November in Bangkok, Thailand, very kindly hosted by the National Library of Thailand.
Bringing together representatives of IFLA Members across the region, members of our Asia-Oceania Regional Division Committee and Preservation and Conservation Centres, the session aimed to support networking, stimulate reflection on what makes for a sustainable field, and share knowledge and tools for use at the national level.
Participants contributed their insights and energy in an intense programme that ranged from working to define sustainability in the region and the steps needed to realise it, practicing advocacy skills, building understanding of impact and how to measure it, and IFLA’s Library Map of the World.
For IFLA’s President, Regional Council Chair and Headquarters representatives, it was a great opportunity to learn about the great work already taking place in the region that could be scaled up, and priority areas for action into the future.
Building a Sustainable Future
IFLA’s President, Barbara Lison, and IFLA Regional Council Chair Nthabiseng Kotsokoane both participated, playing a key role in steering and supporting the discussion.
Barbara underlined the relevance of the workshop to her own presidential theme – Libraries: Building a Sustainable Future.
She made the connection between the sustainability of IFLA, the wider library field, and of the communities we serve. Engaging in our Federation – regionally and globally – should support the effectiveness of libraries nationally, and in turn our ability to deliver nationally.
Nthabiseng highlighted the role of IFLA’s new regional structures as a means for defining and delivering on actions that achieved this goal, and encouraged participants to engage with the Regional Division Committee members present.
Sustainability through partnerships
The meeting was not just an opportunity to facilitate networking within the Asia-Oceania region, but also to build relations with the United Nations and UNESCO. Meeting in Bangkok made it possible to hold a seminar at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UN ESCAP), thanks to the great support of the UN Library there.
You can read more about the event in our dedicated news story, but in short, it underlined the significant overlap that exists between the work of the UN and libraries across a range of policy priorities, and the strong potential to work together.
A key part of follow up from the seminar – and workshop as a whole – will be to explore possibilities for collaboration between libraries and UN entities at the national level.
In addition to our seminar at the UN, the presence of our participants also made it possible to have a first in-person meeting of our Asia-Oceania Regional Division Committee, as well as a focused session with participants from the Pacific, in order to look at how IFLA can support them in their work.
Given the emphasis on sustainability, it is the lasting impact of the time spent together in Bangkok that will determine whether the workshop was a success. Participants took home a range of tools and ideas that, we hope, will both support new ways of thinking and doing at the level of national library fields.
We look forward to working with our participants in order to follow up from the workshop, to share their successes, and to explore what further we can do to build a strong and sustainable regional library field in Asia and Oceania.