IFLA MENA RDC and IFLA MLAS partnered with the Lebanese Library Association and ESCWA to organize the sixth conference of the Lebanese Library Association, titled “Libraries and Digital Preservation of Cultural Heritage.” The conference took place at ESCWA in Beirut from May 14 to 16, 2024. It marked a significant event, being the first in-person conference after the COVID-19 pandemic, and successfully addressed a topic of great importance to various cultural sectors.

Dr. Saif al-Jabiri, Chair of IFLA MENA RDC, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony, emphasizing the critical role of IFLA MENA RDC in fostering networking and collaboration among libraries in the region, in line with IFLA’s principles and strategic goals. Dr. Loida Garcia-Febo, Chair of IFLA/MLAS, also spoke, highlighting the role of library associations in advocacy at national and regional levels. The conference was attended by Dr. Hasna Askhita, the Representative of Syria, and Ms. Fatme Charafeddine, Information Coordinator and Representative of Lebanon in IFLA MENA RDC.

The conference provided an opportunity for colleagues and experts from Arab countries to share experiences and exchange expertise, particularly in the field of Arabic language processing in digitization projects, and in standards and best practices for preserving cultural heritage. Dr. al-Jabiri presented “Technological Innovations and Their Role in Meeting the Goals of the National Records and Archives Authority in the Sultanate of Oman” during one of the sessions. Ms. Charafeddine planned a session dedicated to IFLA MENA Advocacy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which included the following presentations: “MENA RDC Committee to Raise Awareness About its Role in Library Advocacy, Networking, and Capacity Building” by Fatme Charafeddine; “IFLA Membership Issues and Concerns and Library Associations Challenges Worldwide and in MENA” by Dr. Loida Garcia-Febo and Stephan Wyber. Dr. Imad Bachir from IFLA MLAS planned and moderated a session focused on IFLA Cultural Heritage Preservation Projects and Activities. Participants in this session included Claire Macguire and Stephane Ipert from IFLA, who joined the conference virtually.

During the conference, IFLA MENA RDC attendees scheduled a meeting with Deputy Executive Secretary Mr. Mounir Tabet, and Ms. Jana Baba, Sustainable Development Officer at ESCWA. Both meetings were very fruitful and opened conversation with ESCWA officers about recognizing the role of libraries in achieving national sustainable development goals. During these meetings, IFLA representatives advocated for including the library field in all activities, VNRS, and other national reports concerning the SDGs. The Chair of IFLA MENA RDC will follow up with ESCWA on this matter.

Participating in this activity is in alignment with the MENA RDC goals and strategic plan to foster networking and advocacy among libraries, and with the national and international entities.