Dear colleagues and friends,

Since the last issue of this newsletter, we have had the opportunity to meet face-to-face again for the first time since 2019. The IFLA Congress this year in Dublin, Ireland, was smaller than what we used to think was ‘normal’, and the reasons are obvious: in July this year air travel was only just getting back to ‘normal’, and it was more expensive; the health restrictions due to Covid-19 were very slowly being lifted, but the pandemic was definitely still with us, certainly in our region at least, so it was a deterrent.

The congress was also a little shorter than in previous years, without the General Assembly. And perhaps one further reason for a smaller attendance was that over two years of online meetings we had become used to meeting through a screen… But the nearly 2000 participants who did attend experienced a strong feeling of relief that they could at last meet colleagues face-to-face for the most important discussions, which this year included not only professional policies and projects but also questions from the membership about the governance of IFLA.

Unfortunately, few of the Asia-Oceania Regional Division Committee managed to attend the Congress, but those who did also experienced the “At last!” effect: many of us had never met in person since the new IFLA regional structure was created nearly two years ago.

For me personally, some highlights were the open session held by the Asia-Oceania Regional Division Committee, which attracted a wide audience; a session to celebrate the 75 years of cooperation between IFLA and UNESCO; and a planning discussion on IFLA involvement in Internet governance, which may lead to an IFLA side event at the 2023 IGF (Internet Governance Forum) in Japan.

But our professional work as a Committee needs a review and reset. We are more than half-way through our term, we have been engaged in numerous activities – the most recent being a workshop at the APrIGF (Asia-Pacific regional Internet Governance Forum) meeting in Singapore in September – but we must continue to reflect on the impact of our activities, to ensure that they constitute effective advocacy for the profession and a good advertisement for IFLA in particular.

We need to attract new, talented and enthusiastic professionals to our Asia-Oceania committee. Looking ahead, our term ends in August next year, at the Rotterdam congress, so we must already start to reflect on what we have achieved, and the lessons we have learned from the challenges we have encountered. We must make some mid-course adjustments to our programme, in consultation with the Regional Council of IFLA, and decide which activities we can complete in our term and which should be handed over to the new committee next year. In particular, we must consider who might fill the gaps in our ranks, and who might come forward to lead that work. We will be reflecting on these important questions at a regional seminar in November. We have no time to lose!

I cannot finish this editorial without paying tribute, sadly, to a member of the Asia-Oceania committee – Sabine Weber-Beard from New Zealand – who passed away in July this year. She was a determined advocate for library services for deprived and vulnerable communities, and she is greatly missed.

Written by Winston Roberts, Chair, Regional Division Committee for Asia and Oceania