IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón

Full text of IFLA President's address given at the Opening Session on Saturday, 25 August 2018

Welcome! Bienvenue! Bienvenido ! Wilkommen ! Dobro Pozhalovat’ ! ‘Ahlaan bik ! Huanying !

And of course, selamat datang!

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur, to the World Library and Information Congress. And I can see that the world truly has come to Kuala Lumpur here. What a crowd! And what a city to be in. Because I have learnt that the word ‘Kuala’ means confluence. As we are not just here for a conference.

We are here for a confluence. A convergence. A coming together of experience, ideas and inspiration. None of this would be possible without our hosts. I have so many thanks to give.

To the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia.

Thank you in particular to the honourable Mohamaddin Ketapi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

To Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary General to Government of Malaysia.

To the city authorities of Kuala Lumpur. And to its mayor, Tan Sri Haji Mohd Amin Nordin bin Abdul Aziz.

To the National Library of Malaysia.

To Dato’ Nafisah Ahmad, its Director General National Library of Malaysia, also the Chair of our National Committee and President of the Librarian Association of Malaysia.

To our National Committee. You have taken on a major task and delivered. You have made this happen. Again, I would like to thank you, Dato’ Nafisah Ahmad, for your and your colleagues’ work.

To Malaysia and its eleven and a half thousand librarians. We have seen such great examples of what your institutions are doing in our WLIC newsletters.

Many of us in the room will have the opportunity to see all this with their own eyes next week. Thank you too to everyone who has put together such a great programme. To the officers and members of our standing committees and special interest groups. To our division chairs and other board members. And of course, to IFLA’s staff and Secretary General.

I have already thanked the National Committee. But I wanted to thank them in particular for choosing the theme of the conference: “Transform libraries, Transform societies”. This is a positive message, a dynamic message, an empowering message. A message close to my own theme – Libraries motors of change.

Of course, there are so many great examples of this already happening. In communities, at the human level. Vulnerable populations given new confidence. Unemployed people helped to find new work. Students helped to do their homework and complete their courses. Mothers getting the health information they need to care for their families. Farmers enabled to receive support and find out the latest techniques.

In the new examples we’re receiving of SDG Stories in IFLA’s Library Map of the World. And libraries are also changing policies. Changing the settings of society.

I have been so proud to see the work of #BibliotecariosAlSenado. With support from IFLA, they started with a campaign around copyright reform. They have been smart, winning new friends, building understanding, and support, for libraries.  And they made change happen. And copyright reform was not enough. With a new government in place, they have immediately engaged, to shape the agenda of the new ministries. Their energy has spread to other countries in Latin America. It’s the start of a movement. I am so proud of them. It is proof of what libraries can do.

But there’s another key message in the theme of this conference. A timely one, one I will be discussing in my President’s session and at other times throughout this conference. That to make transformation happen, we cannot remain untransformed ourselves. The change within must come alongside the change in our broader environment.

We cannot sit back and relax.

Many of us come from countries where the library is the grandest building in the city. Where libraries’ place in society seemed as solid as the bricks and stone from which they were built. Permanent, immovable.

There were threats from disasters. And there still are, as the tragic examples of libraries in the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma, or the University Library of Mosul have shown. And of course, we must respond, rebuild, revive.

Yet the rise of the Internet has shown that we cannot only count on the physical. There are new means of delivering services and access to information. New competition for people’s attention. New connections, new divides.

We may be at the heart of our cities, towns and villages. But this does not necessarily mean that we are at the heart of our communities any more. We must find ourselves. Place ourselves right at the centre of things. Be as essential – more essential – to our users as ever before. Deliver on development goals. Because a transformed society needs transformed libraries. It cannot be a question of just doing the minimum to survive.

We cannot be satisfied with incremental change. Kicking just hard enough to keep our heads above water. We must kick out, jump higher, run ahead. This is not to say that it will be easy. We have our habits, our peculiarities, our truths. Or at least our truisms. But we cannot be passive. Complain rather than act. We have to fight fatalism. Embrace and spread our optimism, our confidence, our message. And we can do it. Because the change is already amongst us.

It’s you. I know this, because I see it, because I feel it. At meetings and conferences. In discussions and debates.

At all of the Vision meetings I’ve been involved in. When I stand in front of you here. In the room. Online. By coming to WLIC, by following our livestream, you are joining this transformation. And in turn, you will be agents of change in your communities.

So, it’s true. Transformed societies do require libraries to transform. But I like better the order proposed by our hosts this year: Transform libraries. Transform societies.

We are the motors of change, and we are ready. Ready to move up a gear. It is our duty. And our opportunity.  Because societies are better, fairer, stronger and more diverse for being shaped by libraries.

I want to invite you tomorrow to the President’s meeting, where we will hear from five past holders of the role. We’ll be talking about a key driver of transformation – mindset change. It will be a particular honour to me to share the stage with five people who have inspired me with their ideas. Who have fuelled my motor for change.

IFLA of course is undergoing its own transformation. And you are also all part of this. Because the success of an organisation – of a profession – depends on looking at itself as a whole. Making when every single person, every voice, count. Drawing on the sum of its ideas and turning these into actions to reach common goals. Drawing on the talent, experience and diversity of its Governing Board. Please stand up.

But I want to highlight in particular the contribution of one person here. Gerald Leitner, our Secretary General now for over two years. He is the driving force behind efforts to build a new architecture for IFLA. A more participatory and inclusive organisation.

This is not just nice words in a speech. But real actions, real transformation, day after day.

So, join me in a warm applause to welcome Gerald Leitner.

Glòria Pérez-Salmerón
IFLA President