Libraries: dialogue for change opens in Athens!
26 August 2019
Lambrakis Hall in the Megaron Athens International Conference Centre came alive on Sunday 25 August, as more than 3600 delegates from 140 countries vied for a spot in Greece’s premier convention venue to experience the official opening of the 85th IFLA General Conference and Assembly.
A Dialogue for Change
IFLA WLIC 2019 kicked off not with a monologue but with an actual dialogue between Greek National Committee co-chairs, Alexandra Papazoglou and Dr Filippos Tsimpoglou, who have helped shape this year’s Congress in order to discuss and to re-examine the role of libraries as transformative agents in society.
Their collective goal for WLIC 2019 is simultaneously ambitious and encouraging, aiming at a bottom-up transformation.
Yes, the outcomes will be new ideas that librarians will bring back home to better promote the role of their libraries as vital institutions that enhance people’s lives. Librarians will once again be empowered and will face with more optimism the many challenges they face to innovate and keep up with the social and technological changes."
The Congress theme of ‘Libraries: dialogue for change’, reverberated throughout the rest of the session as another WLIC—the international flagship professional and trade event for the library and information services sector—opened.
I am proud to be a librarian. Yeah!
In a passionate address to WLIC delegates in Athens, IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón reflected on her own path in life—a journey that has taken her from being a proud librarian in Barcelona, to an eventful two-year term as IFLA President.
Throughout her presidency, Pérez-Salmerón has helped enable a global dialogue in order to power the motors of change, and “change the settings of society” through the work of IFLA and librarians across the globe.
She stressed that through constant dialogue, a strong foundation is being laid to go even further.
“…this is my contribution, my main goal here: to ensure that all participants in this Congress—in person and online—can take forward the message of libraries as motors of change and share it with their communities. To break down silos, to work with and through the Sustainable Development Goals to change libraries and the societies they serve, to update our own mindsets through the Global Vision.”
She brought home the powerful reminder that it is because of libraries “that societies are better, fairer, stronger and more diverse.”
From vision to strategy to action
In his address to delegates, IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner highlighted the essential role individuals have in paving the way to a united, global library field and gave a preview of what is to come for IFLA and the role the organisation will play in helping to shape the future of the global library family.
This ambitious undertaking could not happen without the tremendous public response received over the last 2.5 years since the Global Vision project began:
Over 30,000 people, from 190 countries, from all seven continents, shared their hopes, their ideas, their priorities. They gave us the most extensive, the most inclusive insight into the priorities of our profession ever. Of what is needed to succeed."
Secretary General Gerald Leitner went on to highlight that because of the Global Vision:
…a movement was born. Because all of these people – many for the first time – connected with each other, with the global library field. This is what the Global Vision brought us – it became our guiding star. And through this, it has steered us in building a roadmap for the future. The IFLA Strategy. Just as IFLA works to inspire, to engage, to enable and to connect you, we need you to inspire, to engage, to enable and to connect those around you. Our strategy is a call to action. Give a strong answer to the call!"
The new IFLA Strategy will be launched at Monday’s From Vision to Implementation — IFLA’s Strategy session in Lambrakis Hall.
This session and the President’s Session, will be live streamed, with a full recording made available afterwards.
Libraries as inspirational spaces for dreamers and doers
“On behalf of the Greek government I would like to welcome you here to Athens” remarked Sofia Zacharaki, Deputy Minister for Education and Religious Affairs, whose department is (in part) responsible for the majority of libraries in Greece. She outlined the different ways Greek citizens are working as agents of change, with libraries acting as key meeting points for knowledge, information and inspiration and enthusiastically stated: “Here in Greece, the public schools have opened their doors to a network of libraries. And now we take pride in announcing that more than 1565 schools participate in this network. They have created libraries.”
Dialogue of past and present
The Master of Ceremony, Lillian Agapalidou, then enthusiastically summed up the entrancing performances choreographed by Sofia Spyratou: “Wow. Thank you for this feast of colours, shapes and sounds and movement –incredible!” Their performance was conceived of as an ark (kivotos in Greek), which evokes key mythological spaces in Greek tradition, from Homer to contemporary times.
Change is in the air
Following the cultural performance, Keynote Speaker Dr Loukas Tsoukalis joked, “I’m afraid I cannot match the earlier performance. But I will do my best”. In his speech, Dr Tsoukalis unpacked a number of important concerns, namely that the constantly evolving nature of our interconnected world often comes with an unexpected price. But by acting as “guardians of the memory of the world and keepers of knowledge”, libraries and librarians are ideally positioned to help safeguard our future by advocating for the common good.
We certainly do not want to undo the benefits of technological progress. But we need public regulation as a means of protecting pluralism, social cohesion and human rights, privacy being surely one of them."
Dr Loukas Tsoukalis
Traditional Greek folk dances from a number of Greece’s regions were then performed by the Lykeion ton Hellenidon (Lyceum Club of Greek Women).
Finally, IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón declared the 85th IFLA General Conference and Assembly officially open!
See photographs from the Opening Session in our Flickr Album.