In a week of meetings between 11 and 17 September, IFLA’s Governing Board members met, discussed, and took decisions on the work of the Federation, including our Congress, governance, and finances. IFLA President Christine Mackenzie sets out the key points below..

Dear all,

First of all, I send my best wishes to you all. These are indeed difficult times as we continue to offer services in the face of uncertainty. The situation is tough for those obliged to keep their doors closed as well as for those now working to restart and intensify services. It is great to see users back in the library and I know how hard you must be working to make this possible. I wish you strength and courage and know that we will continue to see the same level of innovation and resilience that libraries have shown throughout the pandemic so far.

Last week IFLA’s Governing Board held a series of meetings in order to advance the work of our Federation. Everything was held virtually, meaning late nights for some and early mornings for others, and I want to thank my colleagues on the Board for their flexibility and commitment in participating. Our discussions covered the following key issues:

  • As we announced on Tuesday, the Governing Board agreed that our 2021 World Library and Information Congress will take place online as a truly global event, with the welcome support of the Dutch National Committee. This offers us an exciting opportunity to develop ways to engage with libraries globally, and learn lessons that we can then apply in putting together a hybrid in-person and online conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 2023. We continue to prepare for an in-person conference in Dublin, Ireland in 2022.
  • We held a further workshop on IFLA’s governance review, celebrating a successful series of virtual round tables in August. This followed a survey on draft proposals in June and July that saw a strong and rich response from IFLA’s Members and volunteers, including additional letters setting out ideas and concerns. These meetings have helped clarify the Governing Board’s thinking, as well as highlighting issues remaining to be addressed. The Governing Board agreed that the Steering Committee – made up of our President-elect, Chair of the Professional Committee and myself, supported by the Secretary General and IFLA Parliamentarian – should now work to draft amendments to the IFLA Statutes, in consultation with the rest of the Governing Board. Our goal: to agree proposed amendments to the Statutes in time to present these at our 5 November General Assembly.
  • Reflecting the strong desire expressed by our Members, the Governing Board agreed, as part of our work to boost diversity in our Federation, to include a formal statement on the subject in the Statutes. Clearly, our work here cannot be limited to such a statement, but it will provide a valuable starting point.
  • In addition, the Governing Board agreed to a new structure for IFLA’s governance documents, committing to develop and agree on a Handbook that will help IFLA’s Professional Units understand the Statutes and Rules of Procedure, and learn from good practices in their work.     
  • We discussed the effect of the pandemic on IFLA as an organisation, and on IFLA’s finances in particular. It is clear that there will be negative consequences, leading the Governing Board to restructure our 2020 budget in order to cut costs in line with decreased revenue. I want to offer special thanks to all who are continuing to support IFLA, especially our Members and donors.
  • We agreed a new IFLA Statement on Artificial Intelligence and Libraries, underlining both the possibilities and risks that use of AI, inside and outside of our institutions can bring, and making recommendations to governments, library associations and libraries alike. This will be published shortly.
  • The Governing Board agreed to an amendment to the Rules of Procedure in order to allow our nominations and elections process to begin in January. Assuming IFLA’s Members support the idea of allowing remote voting on changes to the Statutes at the General Assembly in November, this will then allow the time to carry out an electronic vote on the proposed new Governance structures. Candidates for elected positions in IFLA will then be able to present themselves based on the relevant rules.  
  • In other meetings taking place during the week, the Professional Committee held a successful meeting, including discussions around how best to include IFLA’s volunteers in the preparation of WLIC 2021, the Dynamic Unit and Impact Award for our Professional Units, and the improved ranking of the IFLA Journal among publications in the library and information science field.
  • The Governing Board voted to freeze membership fees this year, in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances Members are facing.

I hope that you have marked our General Assembly to be held on 5 November in your diaries, and for those unable to attend in person, you will make use of the possibility to vote by proxy set out in our Convening Notice. Further details on how to follow the meeting online will be shared soon.

Kind regards, 

Christine Mackenzie
IFLA President 2019-2021