The Governing Board and its committees

IFLA’s Governing Board (GB) is responsible for the governance and financial and professional directions of IFLA, and represents the Federation in legal and other formal proceedings.

The Governing Board consists of:

  • The President
  • The President-elect
  • Ten members elected by the membership at large
  • The Chair of the Professional Committee
  • The Chairs of each IFLA Division
  • The Chair of the Management of Library Associations Section’s Standing Committee
  • Up to three further GB members may be co-opted to provide expertise or represent special interests
  • IFLA’s Secretary General serves as the Board’s Secretary, but is not a member of the Governing Board.

The President and President-elect and the elected members of the Board are elected by postal ballot. Voting members of IFLA throughout the world are able to take part in these elections. The elected members of the Governing Board serve for an initial term of two years and may stand for a further consecutive term of two years. The co-opted members may serve for a two year term only.

The Governing Board has two standing committees established by the Statutes.

The Executive Committee (which consists of the President, President-elect, Treasurer, Chair of the Professional Committee, two members of the Governing Board and the Secretary General) has executive responsibility, delegated by the Governing Board, to oversee the direction of the Federation between meetings of the Board within the policies established by the Board.

The Professional Committee (composed of the chair, elected in accordance with Article 13.3.3, an officer of each Division, the President-elect and two members of the Governing Board, Chairs of the Federation’s committees relating to freedom of information, copyright, and others as determined in the Rules of Procedure, one additional co-opted member, if appropriate, for specified purposes and limited times) ensures coordination of the work of all IFLA’s units which are responsible for professional activities, policies and programmes. In addition it may establish other committees, such as the current Finance Committee, and working parties to deal with specific matters.

The President and President-elect

The President leads the Federation during a non-renewable two-year term of office and is its chief representative. The President works closely with the Secretary General to ensure that the policies determined by the Governing Board and the Council are implemented and promoted. The President presides over General Assembly meetings, which are held at the annual IFLA Congress, and gives a keynote speech during the opening session of the Congress. The President chairs the meetings of the Governing Board, Executive Committee and other committees and consultative groups. The post involves a significant amount of travelling (some 50 days a year),making keynote speeches and generally acting as an Ambassador for IFLA and the library and information profession. Because only limited IFLA funding is available to assist some of this travel, the President must have strong employer and other support.

The President-elect serves in that role for two years, followed by two years as President. The term of office, which is not renewable, provides an opportunity to identify priorities to be pursued on assuming the presidency. The President-elect works closely with the President and Secretary General and deputises for the President as required, for example to represent the Federation or chair meetings. Consequently, this post also involves a significant amount of travelling, speaking commitments and representation and therefore demands strong employer and other support. The President-elect is a full member of the Governing Board and the Executive and Professional Committees.

Duties of members of the Governing Board

Since the Governing Board has such important responsibilities for the direction and future well being of the Federation, the Board’s members must practice good governance* which includes:

  • Focusing on IFLA’s purpose and its intended outcomes for members, the profession and society
  • Performing effectively in clearly defined roles including those of the Governing Board and its committees, the Secretary General and staff, and the IFLA officers and members
  • Putting organisational values of good governance into practice and behaving in ways that uphold and exemplify effective governance
  • Taking informed, transparent decisions within a framework of effective controls, including managing risk
  • Developing the capacity of the governance team to be effective
  • Understanding and taking an active and planned approach to accountability to members, staff, the profession and society

One of the members of the Governing Board is elected to be the Treasurer of IFLA and others to be members of the Executive and Professional Committees and of any other committees or working groups which might be established. For each IFLA Core Programme, the Governing Board has established an Advisory Board which is chaired by a Governing Board Member. Members of the Governing Board are sometimes asked to represent IFLA at key conferences or other meetings, to ensure that the Federation’s voice is heard.

Members of the Governing Board are expected to make themselves available, usually at no cost to the Federation, to fulfil these responsibilities which include the requirement to meet on three occasions each year. At the IFLA Congress there are two meetings: one on the Friday before the Congress and one on the Friday after it ends. The Governing Board and its committees and working parties also meet in December and April at IFLA Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Business is conducted in between meetings by email.

Global representation and the rewards of participation

If IFLA is to achieve its aim of becoming a truly representative global organisation, representing the interests of library and information services, and their users, worldwide, it needs energetic, committed and capable people from a great variety of cultural and linguistic contexts to serve on its Governing Board. Routine business is conducted generally in English so competence in English is necessary to enable participation but it is also important for the Board to have a good representation of the IFLA working languages.

It can be time-consuming and challenging work. But it is also rewarding. The opportunity to work with colleagues from different types of library and information environments and from different cultures is stimulating in itself. Members generally enjoy themselves at the same time as striving to advance the cause of library and information services and to improve the practice of the profession.

Gerald Leitner
Secretary General

(* Based on: Independent Commission for Good Governance in Public Services (UK), The Good Governance Standard for Public Services, 2004)