Opening Address by IFLA President Donna Scheeder
20 August 2017
Good Morning IFLA!
Welcome to Wrocław! This is my third visit here and I feel a bit like this is a second home. The people of Wrocław are very warm and welcoming and I am sure will do their best to make you feel welcomed as well. It is also fitting that this meeting is taking place in Wrocław, a city whose history dates back a thousand years, and whose extensive heritage combines almost all religions and cultures of Europe. It is also an honor for IFLA to meet in The Centennial Hall, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.
I want to thank Mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz and all of the many city officials and workers for in his words, “putting at our disposal all its scientific back-up, cultural richness, and a wide range of opportunities to spend our free time.” This includes many fine university and public libraries, which I hope you will visit. I had the honor earlier this year to help open the newest public library in the train station and it is clear to me how society here loves its libraries.
We gather here this year to celebrate the many achievements that we have all accomplished together since our last meeting in Columbus and to continue the important work of uniting the library field. The theme of this year’s Congress, 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. I want to thank the National Committee Co-Chairs, Dr. Tomasz Makowski and Elźbieta Stefańczyk, leaders of in their words, a robust library community that managed not only to survive the challenges of the transformation but excelled and flourished in the new social and political reality in Poland. Not only are we inspired by your choice of a theme we look forward to meeting the members of the Polish library community and learning from and enjoying all you are offering during our week in Wrocław.
I also especially want to acknowledge all of our first timers; will you stand up and be welcomed by your colleagues? I remember my first IFLA conference so there just may be a future IFLA president amongst them.
As I mentioned we are standing on ground that has witnessed thousands of years of history and we are about to make history of our own. The opportunities at this conference to move the change agenda forward are boundless. The conference programme is full of opportunities to learn new techniques and tools such as storytelling and library ethnography for user assessment, discuss critical issues such as information inequality, to share experiences on how libraries are contributing to the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and to look to the future and the opportunities it presents. The IFLA staff, the Professional Committee, and standing committee and committee chairs have done a magnificent job of building a programme that provides a wealth of ideas on opportunities to transform our libraries and ourselves. Will all of the programme planners please stand and be recognized? Thank you for your hard work to make the WLIC a success.
However, there is more work to be done. It is time at this conference for you to engage and explore!
Since becoming President, I have travelled all over the world to speak at your association meetings and to see firsthand the excellent work that is going on all over the world to transform libraries. What became clear however is that these wonderful efforts are happening in isolation and we will not be successful unless each of us makes an individual commitment to a collective and joint response. We must achieve a common vision. When I first issued the call to action there was limited opportunity to build our change agenda as a global community. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IFLA is able to embark on a 10-year project to work globally to answer this question, and I am very grateful to Deborah Jacobs and the foundation for giving all of us this wonderful chance to unite our field and make it stronger.
The work to achieve a vision began at my second President’s meeting in Athens. The IFLA professional leadership participated in the first global vision workshop which was followed by six regional events. Thanks to the efforts of many in this room this work was carried on in library associations and libraries all over the world and has engaged thousands of librarians. The next very important steps will happen here at this World Congress. I urge you to be a part of this. I hope you will be at my President’s session tomorrow. I will continue the call to action. We are setting out our Global Vision, which will empower all of us not just to survive, but to thrive into the future and this session will offer the biggest opportunity yet to listen, to reflect, and to contribute to this work. Panel discussions will bring us up to date on global challenges and our responses, but the highlight will be your participation, as IFLA asks you to share your views on the key questions we are asking as part of the Vision. Please be sure your votes are recorded. Be there, and also at the other vision related events at this Congress. Your voices and ideas are needed. You will hear much more about the Global Vision from our Secretary General.
It is also time to explore new products and opportunities at this conference. At this conference IFLA will launch the Library Map of the World. It is a representative source of basic library statistics and a robust tool for providing a worldwide comparison of different library performance metrics, mapped by country level data. Thanks to all of our contributors and we hope the map will grow as more countries provide their data. You can check it out at the IFLA booth.
Finally, you will hear a great deal this week about the efforts of libraries all over the world to help their countries achieve the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals represent important opportunities for libraries to demonstrate their relevance to community needs and to obtain funding and recognition from their governments for their work. Check out these sessions that are full of library success stories.
I hope you will work hard, have fun, and keep in mind the words of the American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
This Congress tells the story of how we are taking that advice and the amazing things we are all achieving together. Therefore, it is with great pride that for the final time I declare the 83rd IFLA General Conference and Assembly open.