The IFLA Governing Board and Irish National Committee have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 World Library and Information Congress (WLIC). Dublin will instead welcome the 2022 Congress, following confirmation that the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland – the previous planned venue – is unlikely to be ready on time.

A Hard but Necessary Decision

As the most international event in the library calendar, providing a great opportunity for learning, networking, and building and continuing friendships, cancelling the 2020 Congress was no easy choice. We know how much inspiration and energy WLIC brings to our field as a whole. It will be the first year since 1946 without such a meeting.

However, for global events such as ours, the challenges are particularly acute. Alongside the overriding need to put the health of our members, volunteers, hosts, exhibitors, sponsors and staff first, we are also facing strict and evolving travel restrictions, and the varied progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of the world.

While we can and do hope that the worst will be behind us by August, there is too much uncertainty to be able to guarantee an event that is as safe, open and inspiring for all as we want, or that would do justice to all the great work already done by our hosts on the Irish National Committee. As a result, the IFLA Governing Board and Irish National Committee agree that because of the current circumstances, we cannot go ahead as planned.

While disappointing, we hope that providing certainty now will help the field in its planning for the future. Library and information workers around the world – of whom many are facing serious restrictions in their lives and work – need to be able to focus fully on continuing to provide the best possible service to our communities.

In line with our commitment, we will be providing full refunds to those who have already registered for WLIC, as well as to all sponsors and exhibitors.

Given that it will not be possible to hold the General Assembly during the Congress as usual, we will investigate a new date and location for this, to be held at the latest by 30 November 2020.

Our Next Congresses

Without the possibility to hold WLIC this year, our next Congresses will be all the more important as opportunities to continue the transformation of IFLA and the Global Library Field.

We are glad to say that preparations for Rotterdam in 2021 are going well. We are in regular communication with the Netherlands National Committee, who are working hard to ensure that this will be a great opportunity for learning, networking, and discovering the Dutch library field.

Looking ahead to 2022, we have received the unfortunate news that the planned venue in Auckland has suffered further delays in its construction. Current restrictions on movements and disruption to supply chains are creating further challenges. As a result, it is not possible to guarantee that it will be ready in time for our Congress. No other suitable venues are available in the country.

After consultation with the New Zealand National Committee, the IFLA Governing Board has therefore decided to halt preparations for Auckland in 2022. We are aware of how disappointing this is, not only for library and information workers around the world, but also particularly for the New Zealand National Committee. Their work to bring IFLA to the Pacific has been superb and has already highlighted the energy and expertise of the national library field.

Instead, the 2022 World Information and Library Congress will take place in Dublin. We are grateful to the Irish National Committee for its excellent work to date and its readiness to reschedule this year’s WLIC, and are looking forward to bringing WLIC to Ireland. For the 2023 Congress, a call for candidates will be issued for all world regions other than Europe.

IFLA President Christine Mackenzie said:

It’s a huge disappointment not to be able to meet with you all this August, but it is the best decision for our members and the communities they serve. However, there are so many other ways we can continue to work together in the meanwhile! I’m looking forward to being in touch with as many of you as possible, and to making the 2021 Congress in Rotterdam extra special.

The Irish National Committee said:

While we regret not being able to welcome the global library community to Ireland in 2020, we agree that cancelling WLIC this year is the right decision given the difficulty and uncertainty we all face. We look forward to offering an even warmer and more enthusiastic welcome – Céad Míle Fáilte – to everyone in two years’ time and we send our particular appreciation to our colleagues and friends on the New Zealand National Committee.

Bill Macnaught and Te Paea Paringatai, co-chairs of the NZ National Committee said:

The New Zealand National Committee takes great heart in the connections built between IFLA, LIANZA, and Te Rōpū Whakahau over the last few years of collaboration and is supportive of the Governing Board’s decision and direction. We send our warmest wishes to the Irish National Committee – 2022 is Dublin’s time to shine.

Continuing to Serve

It is of course sad not to be able to meet in person in August. Nonetheless, we are determined to maintain the momentum created by the Global Vision process and the launch of our Strategy last year.

We believe strongly that the mission it sets out – to inspire, engage, enable and connect the global library field – is as relevant now as it has ever been. There is a pressing need for the access to information, culture and services that libraries provide in order to fight the global pandemic and its consequences. The need for libraries will be no less great as the world recovers afterwards. We can best meet it together.

IFLA wants to thank all of the volunteers, partners, sponsors and exhibitors for all they have done. The IFLA Governing Board is particularly grateful to the New Zealand and Irish National Committees for all their work, and their understanding and full support for these difficult decisions.

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner said:

Even without a Congress this year, our efforts to strengthen and unify further the global field go on. To enable this, we have already worked hard to ensure that our volunteers and staff can continue their crucial work. We are reaching out to relevant groups and partners in order to explain the situation and the options for future work. We are also looking forward to announcing exciting new services and opportunities to build a stronger field powering literate, informed and participatory societies into the future.

We wish you all the best in these difficult times.

Christine Mackenzie
IFLA President 2019-2021

Gerald Leitner
IFLA Secretary General

9 April 2020