Sunday, September 18, 2005

IFLA 2005: Blog reports from Oslo

Filed under: debate — plinius @ 12:25 pm

The king was dressed in a simple business suit
and looked like a typical business man.

The great event is past. IFLA has visited Oslo. The circus came from Buenos Aires – and moves on to Seoul, Durban and Quebec. It is time to reflect. What does IFLA "mean"?

As a sociologist, I am curious about IFLA as an institution. The IFLA conferences are important evenyts in the world of librarianship. IFLA itself is deeply committed to a global view of library services.

Since libraries must borrow from each other, the library community is necessarily a networked community. IFLA supports all basic human values. It works closely with UNESCO – and gives librarians an arena where they can combine technical collaboration with concrete efforts to build a decent world.

IFLA is also a complex organization. The organizational structure has grown from within, into a thorny thicket of bodies and responsiilities. From the outside it is hard to understand and hard to penetrate.

Commercial firms are streamlined by the market. Public institutions are supervised by cost-cutting governments. Voluntary organizations must modernize themselves.

IFLA has definitely started the process. But it has a long road ahead. The world outside is moving towards flexible, networked, spirited ways of communicating. To remain relevant and fresh, libraries and library organizations must do the same.

For this, blogging is a most appropriate tool.

Personal blogs about IFLA

  1. 025.431: The Dewey blog. Everything you always wanted to know about the Dewey Decimal Classification® system but were afraid to ask …
  2. ASC Online. A weblog of Information Science & Technology education and mentoring for LIS graduates.
  3. The Bog Standard Blog. The Bog Standard Blog of Stuart and Michele in Merseyside. Home to notes, updates, pictures, and general rants for friends and family. Welcome!
  4. Exlibris OLKGAL. The secret and not-so-secret mutterings, chatterings and grumblings
  5. The FRBR Blog. Work, expression, manifestation, item … blog. [FRBR = Functional requirements for bibliographical records]
  6. Rambling Librarian :: Incidental Thoughts of a Singapore Liblogarian. I'm a librarian from Singapore. The postings are library-related (mostly). I tend to ramble (my wife would agree). As with things in life, my thoughts are incidental (i.e. insignificant). DISCLAIMER – Views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent the official stand of my employer. But you know that already.
  7. The Log of a Librarian. We are the managers of world´s memory, a memory made of paper, ink and plastic, a labile memory which needs organizers. This is not a forum, but the diary of an Argentinian Librarian, where a professional (but primarily a human being) will express his search of an identity and a dream, living in a painful reality. Some ideas are here… I invite all of you to share them with me. [Spanish original: Bitácora de un Bibliotecario].


  1. Bitácora de un Bibliotecario. Más que un estereotipo… Más que un auxiliar… Más que una oscura profesión poco reconocida… Somos los gestores de la memoria del mundo, una memoria hecha de papel, tinta y plástico, una memoria lábil e infinita que necesita organizadores… No se trata de una lista, sino del diario en el cual un profesional -pero, sobre todo, un ser humano- reflejará su búsqueda de una identidad y un sueño, en una realidad que duele. Algunas ideas van aqui… Los invito a compartirlas. [English version: The Log of a Librarian].
  2. Eirikblogg. [Bloggen til Eirik Stillingen]
  3. Oitenta e Cinco. Entries in English as well as in Portuguese.
  4. Tribune Libre. Ce blog reflétera tout aussi bien mon humeur du jour que mes multiples questions concernant mon parcours professionnel [Not on hit list].
  5. Vestærn. Forum for bibliotekene i Vestfold. Utgitt av NBF Vestfold og Vestfold fylkesbibliotek.

The inside dope

In civilized social life, we always operate at two levels: the outer and the inner, appearance and the "real works". The sociologist Goffman speaks about front-stage and back-stage. To understand people, organizations and societies we must learn to see beyond the surface.

That does not mean discounting the surface. Appearances are real, significant and worthy of attention. The formal speeches on the lighted scene and the informal negotiations in the "smoke-filled back-room" are both components of political decision making.

We understand society when we understand the interplay between front and back, light and shadow. Formal institutions and informal networks are both parts of the Great Game.

Formal structures and processes are surrounded by a constant flow of informality: talk and whispers, gossip and chatter, jokes and outbursts, stories and interpretations. The moralist sees empty talk. The anthropologist sees community at work.

We constantly test and transmit the things we see and hear. This is a necessary process. Great events must be taken in and digested. Communities depend on gossip like individuals depend on dreams.

The blog medium – like letters and diaries – spans the gap between formal and informal social life. The blog, however, is inherently public. Diaries and letters stay within the private sphere unless they are deliberately released to the general public.

Googles blog index, at, allows us to access the world of blogs. Blogs have always been indexed by Big Mama Google. But a search tool that only covers the blogosphere makes such searches more convenient. We can, more easily than before, catch the personal, informal and spontaneous response of people to events.


1 Comment »

  1. […] the meantime, I have taken a new look at the conference blogging. I did a small blog survey in Oslo, in 2005. A first harvest from Quebec 2008 is listed […]

    Pingback by PL 25/08: IFLA Quebec on the web « Pliny the Librarian — Tuesday, August 19, 2008 @ 2:43 am

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