IFLA WLIC 2017 opening

Wrocław’s Centennial Hall came alive in spectacular fashion on Sunday 20 August, as some 3100 delegates from 122 countries filled the historic space to experience the official opening of the 83rd IFLA General Conference and Assembly.

Things started off with two inspiring addresses to Congress delegates by IFLA President Donna Scheeder and IFLA Secretary General and Gerald Leitner, as well as a deeply supportive letter to Congress delegates from Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland.  Their words left no doubt in attendees’ minds about the commitment, proactive vision and bright future both IFLA and Poland have for the global library profession.

IFLA WLIC 2017 opening

Libraries. Solidarity. Society., perfectly expresses our hopes and dreams for the future. The solidarity of a united library field can guarantee our continued ability to make a difference in people’s lives and to use knowledge to improve the conditions in society.”
IFLA President Donna Scheeder

Next phase for the vision

With the Global Vision discussion now well underway, one of IFLA’s aims is perhaps clearer and more timely than ever: to empower and strengthen the position of libraries and librarians worldwide.  IFLA is bringing this discussion to WLIC 2017 and to colleagues around the world.  This week will see the release of a several dynamic platforms (including launches of a global online voting platform and the Library Map of the World) that will both enable and empower librarians to “make the difference” that President Scheeder has envisioned. 

IFLA WLIC 2017 opening

In his speech, IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner elaborated on IFLA’s inclusive “global roadmap” and gave a tantalizing preview of what is to come:

We firmly believe that only a united and connected library field will be able to fulfil one of the true potentials of libraries: to build literate, informed and participative societies. To reach this ambitious goal, IFLA is working on new tools to support Members more effectively and strengthen the position of libraries globally. We are coming with a firework of new ideas and services for you to this congress!”

Bringing the international library field together is no small task and will require transformative change.  Fortunately, it was clear from the energy and enthusiasm on display in the room during this two-hour session that both IFLA, its members and the global library community are ready to take up the challenge.  Not only ready but also eager to be equipped with the tools to do so!

Why Wrocław?

Rafał Dutkiewicz (Mayor of Wrocław), Elżbieta Stefańczyk (President of the Polish Librarians’ Association) and Tomasz Makowski (Director of the National Library) provided a fascinating introduction to Wrocław’s deep connection to cultural development and literacy that paved the way for its attaining both UNESCO World Book Capital and European Capital of Culture status in 2016—the first city ever to obtain this double distinction.

With approximately 32000 active libraries, one for every 1000 citizens, Poland also has a long history of robust support for libraries and librarians.  IFLA is privileged to see this support echoed in President Andrzej Duda’s letter to delegates:

Gathering, storing, maintaining, developing and making available book collections constitutes a fundamental and indispensable form of preserving one`s cultural heritage.  Librarians are true custodians of human knowledge, seasoned experts and excellent promoters thereof.”

Prof. Piotr Gliński, Poland’s First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, laid out some concrete safeguards and innovative plans for a reinvention of Poland’s public library network that also seek “…to protect and maintain the core role and ongoing responsibility of libraries for enhancing readership, promoting information literacy, as well as providing free access to information.”  Such key values have long been established and promoted by IFLA.

IFLA WLIC 2017 opening

Besides the inspiring ideas on hand, including those from an eloquent and sobering keynote speech by Prof. Richard Butterwick-Pawlikowski, delegates and viewers were lastly treated with a captivating theatrical show which presented the history of Wrocław through music, motion and visuals.

The Opening Session was livestreamed on IFLA’s Facebook and YouTube channels.  An edited video version of the session will soon be made available.