Congress theme: “Libraries Now! - Inspiring, Surprising, Empowering”

Swimming placidly but paddling furiously

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Ann OkersonThe Professional Committee (PC) coordinates the work of the professional units (sections, strategic activities, special interest groups, etc), and is responsible for IFLA’s professional activities, policies, and programmes.  It is composed of a Chair, the Chair of each of the five IFLA Divisions, the President-Elect, two other members of the Governing Board, and the Chairs of FAIFE and CLM.  It meets three times a year in person, and also keeps in touch to work between meetings by email and Skype.  

Ann Okerson was elected as Chair of the PC in 2011 after being Chair of Division II for two years. She is also on the Standing Committee of the Acquisition and Collection Development Section.


You started the congress early on Saturday morning with the Leadership Brief where you and the PC members met the Officers of the Sections and other leaders of IFLA’s professional units to share information with them and discuss certain issues. What were the “hot topics” this year?

From the PC point of view, the "hot topic" was our finances:  boring, I know, but essential.  The PC is allocated a budget each year for administrative and programmatic purposes.  Given the 50 or so units within PC's purview, the expenditure of these funds (for activities that advance IFLA's professionals) has been ragged and unpredictable; in addition, the old guidelines no longer fully suit today's needs and work styles.  So the PC has done a significant conceptual and allocation re-assessment, and this has been presented to the officers.  Needless to say, funding can be a controversial topic.

Do you see a different side of IFLA when you are on the PC (compared to when you are in a section)?

Yes, very much so.  Perceptions of IFLA change as one moves through different roles:  attendee, committee member, officer, PC/board member.  There are sayings such as "the duck swims placidly on the lake but underneath it's paddling furiously."  It takes a lot of furious paddling to keep the various conferences, meetings, programmes, and finances going in a robust and productive manner.  There's a lot of administrative as well as innovative work to be supported and introduced.  "It takes a village" is a quote that can be properly applied to IFLA's activities.  The PC is part – but only a small part – of that village.

What do you think is the main challenge for the PC in trying to fulfill its role?

From where I sit, the main challenge is balancing administration with innovation.  There's so much to do vis-à-vis administration, coordination, and process (our work calendar is ruthless!), that it can be hard to allocate time for innovation in professional support, and innovation is what advances us and generates more enthusiasm and participation.  Finding time and ways to grow/change, as well as to maintain, is crucial.

What are you looking forward to working on in the next year, your second, and last year, as the Chair of the PC?

Picking up from the question above, I hope we will be able to move forward from the "hot topic" of budget into more innovation space, working with IFLA's talented members to help us with that.  We've had some discussions along these lines already and I truly welcome anyone who has ideas for newer, better ways for PC to support the profession, to be in touch.  I'm a keen e-mailer and correspondent and truly delighted to hear and engage.