IFLA President Donna Scheeder delivering opening remarks

More than 300 librarians from around the world gathered together and brought great energy to the marvelous space of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center Lighthouse building in Athens, Greece. The IFLA President’s Meeting 2017 (3 April) and IFLA's Global Vision Discussion kickoff with representatives from all IFLA Professional Units (4-5 April) ignited three days of reflection on changes and challenges that will be faced by the library field and enthusiastic discussions on the ways to jointly tackle them.

The IFLA Global Vision is an invitation for librarians from all over the world to explore how a united library field can meet the challenges of the future. Face-to-face and online, future-oriented conversations facilitated by IFLA will be taking place throughout the year. Also, an online voting system is planned to be launched on the Global Vision website that will allow active participation in identifying future challenges and prioritizing actions that the library environment could take.

Conclusions from regional and national discussions along with voting data will then be gathered and analysed by IFLA. This unique material will provide a basis for the IFLA Global Vision report which will be published in early 2018.

Photos from both events are available on IFLA's Flickr.

IFLA President's Meeting 2017

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner

The IFLA President’s Meeting 2017, held on 3 April, set the tone for discussion about the future of the library field.

“Today we begin a very important journey,” remarked IFLA President Donna Scheeder during her opening speech, underlining that the challenges facing libraries today need “individual commitment to a collective and joint response to achieve a common vision. If we are to succeed, we must act.”

Keynote speaker Dave Snowden

Gerald Leitner, IFLA Secretary General, reinforced this message in his address: “We firmly believe that thinking globally and acting locally is the best way to create a global vision for a united and connected library field that will help achieving one of the true potentials of libraries: to build literate, informed and participative societies.”

Karl Schroeder discusses “antilibries”

Diverse speakers from academia, and the public, private and non-governmental sectors presented on current societal, global and technological trends.

Keynote speaker Dave Snowden, founder and chief scientific officer at Cognitive Edge, emphasized the continuous change in society and the role of libraries in developing novel thinking: “Evolution is about luck, not the fittest. Cultivating the ability to see the inconsequential is key to innovation, and librarians are the custodians of the inconsequential.”

Nick Ashton-Hart speaking on how the Internet can support local identity and social development

Futurist and science fiction writer Karl Schroeder talked about the role of libraries in transforming information into knowledge and stirred up a vibrant discussion about a concept of “antilibrary”: a rapidly self-creating, dematerialized, digital and portable, impossible to verify collection of information and contrasted it with the idea of libraries as physical places where contextual knowledge and trust reside.

Nick Ashton-Hart, consultant and adviser at the UN Conference on Trade and Development, highlighted a few of the megatrends in the global economy, education and migration and drew connections between these and new technologies that have accelerated these trends. 

Vassilis Haralambidis, Anriette Esterhuysen and moderator Maria Carme Torras i Calvo (IFLA Professional Committee Chair)

Other speakers included Anriette Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications in Melville, South Africa; Vassilis Haralambidis, founder and artistic director of the Bios cultural center in Athens; Betty Tsakarestou, assistant professor and head of Advertising and Public Relations Lab, Panteion University; and Ivan Owen, Makerspace Lab Manager at the University of Washington, USA.

Betty Tsakarestou, Ivan Owen and moderator Glòria Pérez-Salmerón (IFLA President-elect)

Following the presentations, participants moved into small groups to discuss ways that libraries can tackle the challenges and opportunities that future might bring. A number of references to the IFLA Trend Report were made during the discussion.

Global Vision Workshop

Global Vision workshop

The two-day Global Vision Workshop that followed the IFLA President’s Meeting included a series of interactive and often passionate discussions facilitated by IFLA Governing Board members.

Discussions revolved around library values, strengths, objectives, challenges and solutions as part of developing a global vision for a united library field. Librarians also shared inspiring stories and examples of their own actions.

Ulla Pötsönen, Chair of the IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section, asks a question during the open mic session

Participants included representatives from all of IFLA’s Professional Units—thereby representing all types of libraries—from 40 countries. After the workshop, participants committed to continue the discussion in their Sections and Special Interest Groups, as well as to engage in national and local discussions in their respective countries and local communities.

Global Vision workshop participants on 3 April

All library professionals can take action by organizing and facilitating Global Vision meetings in coming months. A variety of support materials will be available in May on Global Vision website.

Six closed, regional workshops organized by IFLA will take place in North America, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia Oceania and Europe during the coming months. An online voting platform open to all will be launched during the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2017 in Wrocław, Poland.

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner hands IFLA President Donna Scheeder a draft summary report on the Global Vision Discussion

Stay tuned and have your say on Twitter by following #iflaGlobalVision and show your engagement by taking a photo with the claim “Together we create the future" and upload it to your Instagram account using the #iflaGlobalVision hashtag!