25 August 2019

From the Annual Conference

Opening Session Address by IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner

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IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner

Full transcript of the Secretary General’s speech given at the Opening Session on Sunday, 25 August 2019

Good morning IFLA, good morning colleagues and friends here in this spectacular room.

It´s fantastic to be in Athens, Greece. In such a beautiful, vibrant and interesting city, with such a great history – where democracy was born.

And where, sources suggest, the first public library was created, nearly two and half thousand years ago.

So, it is the perfect place to hold the World Library and Information Congress. Astonishingly, it is the first time that we are here. We have certainly to celebrate.

But of course, I am aware that even as so many of you have travelled far to get here, many others have not been able to make the journey.

So, I wish also a good morning, or maybe good afternoon, good evening or even goodnight to colleagues outside of this room, all around the world.

For the third time, IFLA will live stream some of the most popular parts of the of the World Library and Information Congress. And we will deliver it to the global library community without any cost.

And because IFLA always wants to grow, to improve, to become better, our livestreaming offer is also better than last year. We will give colleagues from all over the world the chance to participate in eleven sessions over five days. More than ever before.

This will allow you to get a taste of the conference and for sure we want to see all of you at our congress next year in Dublin, Ireland.

Because by joining us you are helping to build a critical mass, both to make change happen within our field, and to promote libraries, their services and values globally. This is what IFLA is all about.

So, it´s fantastic to see you all in this room, to feel your energy and good vibes.

And it´s fantastic that the congress starts now officially.

We have worked hard for two years with the Greek National Committee to make this happen.

My respect for their work has grown constantly through the process of planning this event.

Because despite all the beauty and great history of this city and country we should neither ignore nor forget the difficult conditions under which our colleagues are doing their daily work here in Greece.

They have shown enthusiasm and engagement in situations where others would have simply lost faith.

In the context of one of the most dramatic economic and social crises in recent history, they are doing their best for the people of their country and they have given their best to make this conference a success.

We all know: Libraries can make an important contribution to overcoming this crisis. Public investment in libraries shows a sense of civic responsibility and vision.

So we strongly encourage the new Greek government to recognise that libraries are a vital ingredient in counter-acting some of the most demoralising aspects of the current economic crisis, and to give libraries sufficient support and to enable  their efforts to improve people‘s lives in Greece, in this wonderful country.

Dear all, this is a really special Congress.

A defining moment in IFLA’s ongoing development.

And when I say IFLA, I mean all of us.

All who believe in IFLA’s values – in the importance of equitable, meaningful access to information, in intellectual freedom.

All those who work to deliver great library services that deliver better lives.

All those who advocate for libraries to governments, to funders, to influencers, to communities. 

This is a really special congress, because tomorrow we will be launching the IFLA Strategy 2019-2024.

A Strategy that is unique, both in its development and in its delivery.

Over the last two and a half years, we have organised the biggest, the most inclusive conversation in the history of our field – the IFLA Global Vision.

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 it needed to succeed.

But more than this, 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.

Now, it is almost time to share the results. To make the final step, from vision to strategy to action.

Our Governing Board, my team at IFLA Headquarters, and our Professional Units are hard at work already, developing action plans. Hundreds of actions which will contribute to our goal – a strong and united library field, powering literate, informed and participatory societies.

But with this Strategy we want more, we need more, we need your contributions.

Because just as you have been the key to the development of our Strategy, you are also the key to its success. We need your actions, your energy, your drive.

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!

This is your chance, your opportunity.

In doing so, you will strengthen the global movement to improve libraries, and to improve the lives of people in all parts of the world.

So, I invite you to the great reveal of our Strategy, tomorrow morning, 11:45 to 12:45, here in this room.

Find out how you can be involved, how you can power the field, how you can answer our call to action. How you can become part of the IFLA family, how you can become an active part of our movement.

Come also to our General Assembly on Wednesday to hear more about what we have planned for the future.

Colleagues, I am convinced we are going to have a vibrant congress here in beautiful Athens. Over 250 sessions, more than 500 speakers, and 3636 delegates from 140 countries will give you a unique opportunity to see the full richness and potential of the library field at work.

Use this opportunity, become an active part of it, build your network! Be part of the movement we are creating.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during the conference, to getting your ideas and feedback.

Have a great conference, see you all in the many fantastic sessions and exciting meetings that are coming up.

Make the most of the most international library and information conference in the world!

Enjoy and have fun. I wish you a wonderful congress here in Athens, Greece.

Gerald Leitner
IFLA Secretary General

Greece, IFLA Secretary General, IFLA WLIC 2019