Monday, August 20, 2012

PL 33/12: From San Juan to Helsinki

Filed under: IFLA, ifladial, wlic2012 — plinius @ 7:57 am

I am just back from Helsinki.

Picture: LATINA training at Makerere University Library

This was my first conference as an officer. Seeing the circus from the inside was energizing. IFLA activities follows an annual rhythm. In August we try to cram several months of meetings, discussions, planning and decision making into a single week. Here is a personal summary of the last year:

  • to clear my own mind
  • to keep friends and colleagues updated
  • to do some open-ended thinking about IFLA communications

Finland was a great host. The whole gathering felt like a group therapy workshop – or perhaps a mixed sauna – with four thousand people.

  • You don’t have to be mad to go there, but it helps.

[Plinius = Tord Høivik. This is a long blog post … ]

Statistics and evaluation section

I’ve been a member of the Standing Committee (SC) since 2007. This means I started on my second term last year.

In Puerto Rico Ulla Wimmer (Germany) was elected chair after Colleen Cook (US). Markku Laitinen (Finland) continues his dedicated work as news editor. I became the new secretary, replacing Ulla.

The two short meetings during the conferences are rushed. They leave little time for professional (rather than administrative) discussions.  The section needed a mid-term meeting. We decided on a noon-to-noon gathering in Berlin.

This was a welcome chance to explore issues and simply to know each other better. My report to the meeting is here: News form the North.

In Helsinki we agreed to have a mid-term meeting next year as well. After Berlin we went across the Atlantic: New York – just before Easter (exact dates not decided yet). We have four members from North America: Julie McKenna (Canada), Michelle Farrell, Rebecca Vargha and Wanda Dole.

Model Library Census

We also hope for participation from the team that did the recent library census in the Dominican Republic. This census represents an original and promising  approach to evidence-based advocacy – see

ST 9/11: A new library census / ST 8/11: Nuevo censo de bibliotecas

To me, this has been an example of the entrepreneurial mode: how international cooperation may develop step by step,without previous planning, :

  • The team approached us in San Juan and asked for feedback on their project.
  • Together with Toni Oller I wrote an evaluation of the project plan in September.
  • We got a very positive response to this evaluation
  • As a consequence the section invited the team to present the project at our main session in Helsinki.
  • They were able to get finance – and did their presentation last week. In Spanish, of course.
  • At our section meetings in Helsinki I suggested that the Dominican Library Census – given its high quality – could be developed into a Model Census
  • The idea was supported. I plan to start work on that early in 2013
  • The next step would be joint work with the DR team in New York in March
  • Then we may think about a draft document before next year’s conference in Singapore
  • – while keeping in close touch with Patrice Landry and the new IFLA committee on standards

Statistics for Advocacy

The task that has taken most of my IFLA time is the Statistics for Advocacy training module.

The SFA course was developed for IFLA in 2009-2010, as part of BSLA – the Building Strong Library Associations program. It waspiloted in Chania, Greece and in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2010. Last year I translated the materials into Norwegian, and also developed add-on modules for Norwegian librarians.

In Norway, I have worked closely with Jannicke Røgler at Buskerud County Library. Buskerud lies southwest of Oslo. The library arranged the first SFA course in May 2011. We did an additional five courses between San Juan and Helsinki – and will do three more this autumn. More info

Uganda, Poland, Singapore, Romania

This summer we were able to do the first SFA training in Africa, at Makerere University Library in Kampala, with the Director, Dr. Maria Musoke, and myself as co-instructors. The full documentation is here. For a short report, see ST 16/12: Statistics for Advocacy in Africa

The county library in Olsztyn, Poland, has translated the materials into Polish and will do the first Polish course this autumn. I have also heard from IDLA that courses have been done in Lithuania and Ukraina, probably based on translations?

The future of this project looks promising. The Section would like to do a one day SFA training (off site) during the Singapore conference. Several African colleagues have expressed an interest in more statistics training. Colleagues from Romania are interested in doing a course sometime next year. As a fan of Romania – I did a bit of research there in the 1970s – I’d love to see that realized. And we are always open for a training in Spanish, whether in Latin America and Europe.

What does it cost?

The statistics course is part of the BSLA program. Here, instructors work as volunteers (unpaid). So far, IFLA has tried to cover the travel expenses for instructors from abroad. The original Gates grant is running out, but I hear that the organization is looking for new sources of support. The Section will also ask for project funds for 2013. If we are successful, we can support local expenses up to euros 1,000 per course.


At the end of February, after twenty years, I left my position as a library studies teacher at Oslo and Akerhus University College. I now work freelance as a library and statistics consultant (writer, trainer,…). Retired is not the same as tired.

A good part of the time is spent as senior consultant to the LATINA/Lab – a development and training laboratory under the college learning centre. This summer we worked in East Africa, collaborating with Makerere University Library and its director, Professor Maria Musoke. My paper in Helsinki described this project, see PL 30/12: LATINA at IFLA.

We were able to do the statistics training as an add-on. The two courses fit well together. Library statistics, library assessment and evidence based decision making are natural components of the LATINA approach. We also emphasize

  • individual and collective learning processes
  • the social aspects of digital technology
  • concepts and models that help us to understand and to act in new digital environments

Keep on innovating

The participants in Kampala came from four East African countries: Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Sudan. The course evaluation was quite positive, and the participants expressed a strong interest in new training courses:

  • It was a well planned training, keep on innovating
  • I am looking forward for any other opportunity for such trainings
  • Latina has [been] so good and it should come back to East Africa.
  • I see that this course is very interesting and it should be conducted in other East African countries
  • Good work done, Facilitators and partners sponsoring this project carry on and we hope this training is hosted in Juba, South Sudan.
  • See Results 2 for more details

IFLA was a good place to discuss library training. IFLA is not an academic conference in the traditional sense. It is a professional gathering that mixes professors with practitioners, sellers with buyers, students with teachers, politicians with citizens and managers with activists. It is an academic platform, a commercial trade fair, a political caucus and a volunteer circus. The LATINA/Lab, which also has given courses in China, Europe and the Middle East,  is happy to respond to questions and queries.

IFLA dialogue

Being an officer rather than a foot soldier was useful. It does not give you any power to order people about. Rather the contrary. IFLA is kept going by volunteeers, and officers are volunteers that take on more work.

But officers are invited to meetings that are close to the centres of power (sort of …). The IFLA site tells me that

  • GB is responsible for the governance and financial and professional directions of IFLA, and represents the Federation in legal and other formal proceedings.
  • PC ensures coordination of the work of all the units within the Federation responsible for professional activities, policies and programmes (Sections, Core Activities, Special Interest Groups)

The persons at the top are

  • The Governing Board is headed by Ingrid Parent (President) till 2013
  • – and later by Sinikka Sipilä (President Elect) 2013-15
  • The Professional Committee is headed by Ann Okerson
  • IFLA Headquarters is headed by Jennefer Nicholson (Secretary General)

We can speak up and be heard in their assemblies. That’s nice.


Several things happened during the week We started on Saturday with a so-called Leadership Brief – at 8 AM on Saturday morning.

  • The Leadership Brief is a closed session for Officers (Chairs and Secretaries of sections), SIG Conveners, Strategic Programme Directors, and Regional Managers who have been invited by the Professional Committee to discuss matters relating to the professional programme. 
  • An agenda has been sent in advance by email. 
  • It is followed by the Division Leadership Forums on Sunday when the topics can be discussed in more detail.

The agenda might as well be public. It contained nothing confidential.

The agenda was very information-heavy. It started with four sections (I-IV) devoted to information from the centre to the grassroots – but allowing a few questions – and ended with


I made some suggestions for improving internal communication:

  • greater transparency around strategic debates and decisions
  • more dialogue in word and writing
  • more web-based discussions

– and received a fair amount of support on the spot.


The discussion continued on Sunday, at the meeting of the Division Leadership Forum.

The many IFLA sections are divided into five groups, called divisions. SES belongs to Division 4, which is led by Anna Maria Tammaro. At the forum, there was broad agreement that communication within IFLA ought to be more collegial and peer based, and less bureacratic in its language. There was also concern from the Special Interest Groups that they were forced to disband – or to become regular sections (with their many rules) – once the permitted SIG period had passed.

Anna Maria proposed, and the meeting supported, the appointment of a “communications working group”, coordinated by Sebastian Wilke, to prepare a proposal for the PC meeting before Christmas. Sebastian asked interested persons to meet on Tuesday.

Formal position of the Forum

IFLA Rules of procedure state:

  • At each Congress, the Division Chair will convene a Leadership Forum, comprising the Chair and Secretary of each of its Sections, the conveners of its Special Interest Groups, along with the Chair of the Advisory Board of any Core Activities assigned to the Division. 
  • At the Leadership Forum, participants will discuss issues, inform Division Chairs of views, make suggestions for future congresses, and bring up matters of concern.

Division chairs – who become members of the Professional Committee ex officio – are elected by the forum

Working group

The communication working group now consists of:

  • Sebastian Wilke, Convenor of the New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG)
  • Maria Cortera, Convenor of the Women, Information and Libraries Special Interest Group
  • Tord Høivik, Secretary of Statistics and Evaluation Section
  • Dace Udre, NPSIG activist
  • Sanita Maleja, NPSIG activist
  • Dierk Eichel, Information Coordinator of NPSIG
  • Ulrike Lang, Co-Chair of the Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section (CPDWL)
  • Catharina Isberg, Information Coordinator of the CPDWL Section

We have started working. I have drafted an opening statement from the group (currently with Sebastian), twittered a lot, had a lively discussion with Ann Okerson on the web, and written several blog posts:

Maria reports that the final proposal must be ready by November 2.

That suits me fine, since that’s the day I leave Norway for our next LATINA training (in Palestine).


Before the main conference I attended the statistics satellite in Turku and the “free flow” IFLAcamp organized by the New Professionals SIG  in Hämeenlinna. More of that later …



1 Comment »

  1. […] PL 33/12: From San Juan to Helsinki. That was the year that was. […]

    Pingback by PL 17/13: IFLA voices 2013 | Plinius — Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 11:16 am

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