Dear colleagues,

As 2022 came to an end and the New Year starts, I wanted to write to thank all of you involved in making IFLA what it is. As a Federation, it is in our name that we are a wide community. IFLA is about bringing people together, providing a common space and a platform for doing more together than we could ever do apart.

And we have indeed achieved a lot together last year. In September, we celebrated our 95th anniversary – a significant milestone and testament to how IFLA has successfully changed and developed, becoming the powerful voice, global meeting place, and source of ideas and inspiration it is today. 

At the heart of our achievements is all the work done by our Professional and Regional Units, and our Advisory Committees. You have not just delivered exciting webinars, high-quality reports, engaging blogs and excellent conference sessions, but in doing so, you have innovated. Our Section on Education and Training, the winner of our 2022 Dynamic Unit and Impact Award, exemplifies this, with a rich series of webinars, building on cooperation with other units, bringing together Library and Information Studies students from around the world. I cannot think of a better way of building a sustainable future for our field and our Federation.

After three years from the last in-person World Library and Information Congress in Athens, it was a great experience to be able to see many of you together once again at our Congress in Dublin. I want to give special thanks to our colleagues on the Irish National Committee, who showed such persistence and dedication in order to deliver a memorable event. Their work and the work of our Headquarters staff created the platform for our volunteer groups, in turn to deliver a dynamic programme which illustrated all that our field is and can be. I hope that, after all the work put into preparation, the outcomes of the Congress will continue to deliver long-term benefits for the Irish library field just as they have for IFLA. 

I am also very happy to have seen our regional structures develop and grow, demonstrating why it is so valuable to strengthen this part of IFLA’s work. We need to be better connected to our members, regionally and nationally, providing the support and opportunities that you need. I am grateful to the welcome that so many of you have offered me, as well as Governing Board and Headquarters colleagues, providing the opportunities to meet you in many countries.

Beyond these highlights, there is the day-to-day work that does not stop – our advocacy, in particular at the UN High-Level Political Forum in New York, the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, the UNESCO Mondiacult conference in Mexico City, the ever-richer Library Map of the World, our support to volunteers and membership, all of which helps turn the great potential of IFLA into reality. Meanwhile, our website and repository have grown, thanks to the substantial content prepared and uploaded by our volunteers and staff alike. Shortly before the end of 2022, IFLA held a workshop on the UN SDGs for the Asia-Oceania Region in Bangkok. For almost a week, representatives from many countries of that region worked intensively together on the topic of how libraries can be actively involved in achieving the SDGs and using them as a topic for successful advocacy. It is so pleasing to see the important work of IFLA flourishing.

Yes, it has also been a  year of change, which will be carried into the new year when a new Secretary General will come on board. I extend thanks to our Deputy Secretary General, Helen Mandl, for her willingness to step up to the important leadership role of Acting Secretary General until recruitment is finalised. Likewise, thank you to other IFLA staff who have taken on additional responsibilities.

When it comes to communication with you, our valued members, volunteers and stakeholders, we have also been working to improve updates on our activities and actions. We are providing regular, proactive updates to you on what we are doing to secure the future of our organisation. This comes on top of our newsletter and messages through the IFLA-L list.  I personally will continue to focus on the actions set out in our “Plan for securing the future of IFLA”, on which I know so many expectations rightly rest. Especially in this regard I want to draw on Mary Robinson’s words at the opening ceremony of our Dublin conference.  We all need to be ‘prisoners of hope’ and I want to add we also need to be beacons of hope – libraries for their communities, and IFLA for our field. And a beacon only works if it shines brightly.

So what lies ahead?

As I already mentioned, 2023 will be a year of change – in addition to a new Secretary General, we will also have our elections. There are hundreds of opportunities for talented, dedicated people across our field in a wide variety of volunteer roles, including of course the election of the members of the Governing Board, which will from August be led by Vicki McDonald as the new IFLA President.  

I want these elections to mark a new high point in terms of the diversity of our committees, reflecting better than ever before the strength and richness of our field. I believe that this is critical not just to the future sustainability of our Federation, but to our ability to provide value today. To deliver on this, we rely on great candidates to come forward, and on our Members not only to nominate, but also to vote for the people who will best ensure that we can realise our potential.

But before our new Governing Board takes up their mandate, there is plenty more coming up. Our volunteer units will, I know, continue delivering on their action plans, as will our great team at IFLA Headquarters. I am continuously impressed by how much is being achieved against our ambitions. I’m particularly looking forward to our Congress in Rotterdam in August, and am so grateful to the Dutch National Committee, not only for their generosity in terms of time and support, but also for their drive to make this a very inclusive and innovative Congress.

I am happy that we go into this new year with such a strong team – my colleagues on the Governing Board, our volunteers across our units and around the world, our membership, and our IFLA Headquarters staff. I am so grateful to them all for their commitment, passion and energy. Personally, I commit to work in the final months of my presidency to ensure that IFLA develops well and regains stability, and that members, volunteers and stakeholders have in IFLA a solid, reliable and active partner. 

To all of you, a very happy, successful, and inspiring 2023.

Barbara Lison

IFLA President 2021-23