The Academic and Research Libraries Section were awarded joint-winners of the 2017 IFLA Professional Unit Communication Award at the Closing Ceremony of the WLIC 2017.

In the past year, the Academic and Research Libraries Section has showed great improvement and growth in their communication activities, using different platforms: website, Facebook, blog, Twitter and mailing list. This Section has also focused on communication with industry partners and members from developing countries, particularly through a grant programme, doing an effective job in communication


The nomination demonstrated that the ARL Standing Committee is focused on effectively communicating with IFLA members about the work of the Committee and IFLA.

Through their communications strategy they have effectively used a range of communication channels to engage both within and beyond the IFLA community.

Through a number of activities they have collaborated with influential organizations to discuss and debate issues of relevance to their sector.

Working as a team

The Academic and Research Libraries (ARL) Standing Committee (SC) represents a large and diverse cohort of academic and research libraries across the world, and the committee membership reflects that diversity.

Strong communications within the committee are key to achieving their objectives, and those objectives also highlight the need for broader communication.

The committee’s two prime objectives for 2016-2017, as outlined in their Action Plan, were:

  1. Monitor current and emerging issues relevant to academic and research libraries, and disseminate information about those issues, including both results of relevant research and experiences of practitioners
  2. Facilitate the involvement of library professionals from developing countries in committee activities and programmes

They have been extremely successful in achieving both objectives, but their level of reach in communicating with their colleagues in ARL libraries is particularly noteworthy.

Central to their success is the fact that members of the standing committee very much work as a cohesive team.

  • Their Information Coordinator is responsible for keeping their presence on the IFLA website current and relevant.
  • They have three SC members who regularly and consistently monitor the Facebook/Twitter accounts
  • Other members have led their ARL activities enthusiastically and diligently.

By encouraging the majority of their SC members to be actively involved in their communications and organizing events, they have created a strong and collegial team.

In 2016/17 their aspiration has been to grow their community through social media engagement. They are confident that the momentum will continue when their new Standing Committee members come aboard in August 2017.

In 2016-2017, their achievements have included:

A strong focus on social media

  • They have grown membership on their Facebook page to over 1050 members.
  • They have also used their Facebook page to direct followers to the IFLA ARL Blog on the ARL website. This strategy reinforces that they represent a Section of IFLA, and also leads followers to the IFLA website.
  • Whilst they have found that Facebook is the preferred platform of many of their followers, they have continued to grow their Twitter account. Their focus on this channel has been profiling IFLA achievements and topical events.

Facebook has proven to be an effective way to share information about ARL activities and the work of academic and research libraries in general. The take-up of Facebook for promotion of countries’ activities has been significant over the last few months, and there is now representation from across the world. Of note is a large cohort from the African continent, which is pleasing to see. There are also posts in languages other than English indicating success in extending their reach.

Discussion topics

This initiative was led by Mr Leo Ma from China. Over the year he organized SC members to write about issues relating to their specific countries and/or about a specific aspect of their work. These blog submissions, from many countries including South Africa, Spain, Italy, Singapore and England included the following topics:

  • open access,
  • open libraries,
  • digital humanities,
  • avoiding using library jargon,
  • libraries supporting research by building new services,
  • collaborations between libraries,
  • library buildings and library spaces,
  • moving from subject librarian roles to functional librarianship.

These accounts were listed on the ARL Blog and then linked and promoted via Facebook and Twitter.

Focusing and promoting their ARL Attendance Grant

With generous support from Sage and Ex Libris, ARL offers Congress Attendance Grants which support attendance at the annual World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) targeting young professionals from developing countries. Each year this award provides financial support to three young professionals who would otherwise be unable to attend the Congress.

Recipients consistently state that the opportunity inspires them to grow in their profession, including striving to make IFLA a strong international body supporting the library and information profession well into the future.

This initiative is not only an effective way of engaging and communicating with their new professionals across the globe but it also illustrates how ARL has built meaningful long-term relationships with industry vendors.

Award winners write about their experience, and provide content for outreach.

Dinner with their industry vendor sponsors and partners have also proven to be an excellent opportunity for SC members to network and meet at a personal level with influential staff.

Biographies of Standing Committee members

In 2017, they invited all Staning Committee candidates to post a short biography and to talk about issues that are important to them

The candidates were very excited to have the opportunity and posted thoughtful and timely descriptions about themselves and what they were passionate about. Again these were posted on the ARL blog and promoted via ARL’s web pages and Facebook/Twitter.

Mailing list

The Section manages a listserv email account, UNIVERS, which provides a valuable communication channel on a range of topics.

They currently have 730 active members on the mailing list UNIVERS with new requests to join the list received weekly.

Satellite meeting “Digital Humanities – Opportunities and Risks. Connecting Libraries and Research

The Section Co-hosted a satellite meeting in Berlin in 2017.

To deliver this exciting programme, they have partnered with the:

  • European library association LIBER,
  • European research infrastructure DARIAH,
  • German Initiative of Network Information (DINI),
  • BBAW
  • Library of the Humboldt University.

This collaboration demonstrates their connections with the academic and research sector and also serves to profile IFLA to the sector.

The meeting will achieve its target of over 100 delegates.

Following the meeting all presentations will be available via the ARL pages on the IFLA website. They are also investigating publishing outputs in an open access monograph arranged by their South African colleagues.

WLIC programme

The Section worked with IFLA colleagues beyond their standing committee to ensure a vibrant programme during the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2017 in Wrocław.

In addition to the very successful annual Hot Topics session which explores what is “hot” in academic and research libraries, the Section has partnered with FAIFE and CLM to deliver a session in titled “Being open about open”.

The Section will also be represented in the Division I session on demonstrating value, through a Keynote Speaker and a Lightning Talk.

Participation in multiple sessions at a single WLIC requires extensive planning, collaboration, communication and leadership.

IFLA Global Vision discussion

This year their Chair sought feedback from all SC members on IFLA’s Global Vision Discussion and has received a substantial amount of useful and informative information that will contribute to IFLA’s future roadmap.