Sunday 23 September 2018

17 Days in Malaysia: Part Five - The rest of IFLA WLIC 2018

So, at some point on Tuesday, the realisation hit me that I was reaching the halfway mark for my overseas trip. Fortunately, the bulk of my "work" for the conference was out of the way, and I was ready to sit back and just absorb and engage, without having to stress out too much about what I needed to do!

Which leads me to a reminder - when going to huge events like WLIC, make sure you give yourself breathing space. It's a huge conference, especially when also attending satellite events and business meetings!

But first up for the day was the Public Library of the Year Awards, where the winner would be announced. If you want a rundown of the finalists, you can see them listed here.

It was at this point that I realised that the Tampines Regional Library, which I'd visited the previous week, was one of the finalists! And the competition was very high, with each library bringing its unique regional focus and priorities to the fore. I was particularly intrigued by the Norwegian "youth-only" public library, Deichman Biblo Toyen, for its innovative and engaging ways of providing services to youth from disadvantaged and underprivileged backgrounds - and hearing about the challenges of managing services and user behaviour, once they'd opened the doors.

However, the winner went to the Netherlands for the KopGroep Bibliotheken (School 7), where they had taken an old school, and turned it into a public library, both maintaining the heritage of the building, but creating unique internal design, such as transforming toilet cubicles into private story time nooks! One interesting point about this library, which relates to the previous day's session on Librarian Fashion, is that School 7's staff were involved in the design and style of the staff uniform (as seen below) which prompted a few conversations after the session.

Although the people wearing them looked great, and professional and stylish, a uniform is not going to suit everybody's personal fashion sense, or everybody's body type! I was also curious as to what the uniform was for the male staff at the library.

After a lunch break, I headed to a session run by the Library Services to Multicultural Populations section, entitled "Library Services: Empowering people to develop their inter-cultural identities. There were some great takeaway messages from these session that really touched on topics that were close to my heart in libraries, such as the idea that the staff of a multicultural library should reflect the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the communities that they work with. One presentation by Leslie Kuo looked at the challenges faced by immigrant library workers in Germany, not only in the relationships that they have with library users, but also with their colleagues who may not be able to empathise with these challenges. It was also refreshing to hear somebody getting up and speaking out about these issues on an international forum, because it's important, but I feel that it's rarely addressed - particularly not on an academic platform - in Australia.

Another great presentation from Raquel Ortiz of the Centre for Puerto Rican studies, CUNY, looked at the delivery of bilingual programs and books to Puerto Rican communities, and another from Bernadette Lopez-Fitsimmons, Manhattan College, explored ways of developing multicultural competencies - looking to interculturalism as a transformative process where cultures interact and adapt for one another, as distinguished from multiculturalism where cultures exist alongside each other. Furthermore, it's a process by which we examine our own culture and our power relationships with others from an intersectional approach, considering not just cultural and racial identity, but gender, sexuality, class, etc. Whilst  personally, I already try to be intersectional in the ways I consider issues of identity and power relationships, this is actually the first time I've heard the term "interculturalism", and I think it's an important idea that we're going to be hearing more about in the future.

At the end of the session, it was time for the IFLA General Assembly - which I have to confess to skipping out of, whilst paying attention to the action on Twitter, as the library associations debated changes to membership fees for some time. Meanwhile, I ended wandering the Pasar Seni (old Art Market) and Chinatown for souvenir shopping and dinner with a couple of other librarians, in what was a relatively subdued evening compared with the previous few nights.

Wednesday - the final day of the congress - commenced with the session of the President-elect, Australia's own Christine McKenzie, which had various sessions about collaborations in the Library world that were contributing to the IFLA Global Vision. One thing that struck me, though, was the focus on "Opportunity 10: We must give young professionals effective opportunities to learn, develop and lead." I'm quite self-conscious of the fact that, despite being active in the New Professionals Special Interest Group, I'm not really a "new professional". Nor am I a "young professional". And yet these terms are often interchangeable, and in these kinds of forums, all eyes turn to me and others at the young-er end of the spectrum. The truth, however, is that there are much newer and younger voices out there that deserve to be heard much more than ours.

The IFLA President-elect with the "young" professionals of IFLA... I definitely felt like an imposter here!
This session was followed by one on library advocacy, "Every Librarian an advocate", where my key takeaway message was from the ever-inspiring Deborah Jacobs: Advocacy isn't rocket science. When you make too big a deal about advocacy, you scare people off. She instead used the example of a conversation that she might have with somebody at the shops, and using relatable conversation-starters with everyday people as being the most effective form of advocacy. The other presentation, from IFLA's Stephen Wyber, focused on the fact that everywhere we live, there will be somebody local to us who influences policy that affects libraries. These are the people we need to have to visit and lobby, and it's something that we can all do.

Afterwards, I grabbed some lunch and ended up networking with some of the folks from the Library Services to Multicultural Populations section, before running off to another meeting where people were (I couldn't believe it) starting conversations about planning sessions for next year's congress in Athens.

Before I knew it, it was time for the closing ceremony. There were speeches, but the real highlight was the worst-kept secret for the whole conference - the announcement that the IFLA congress in 2020 would be held in Auckland, New Zealand! There was singing, flag-waving, and a special video message:

And it was all over. Well, not really, because the New Professionals SIG decided to have an impromptu after-party drinks at the Sky Bar on the 33rd floor of the Trader's Hotel, which had this amazing view:

With Thursday, came the opportunity for more library tours, but instead I opted for some sleeping in, shopping, and enjoying my final night in Kuala Lumpur on, what turned out to be an auspicious occasion, as it was the eve of Hari Merdeka (Independence Day), which traditionally has fireworks at midnight. Unfortunately, from our hostel rooftop, we could only hear the fireworks and catch glimpses of them reflected off nearby skyscrapers, but it was still lovely to see some of the locals celebrating the occasion with songs.

Next: Off to Sarawak for Indigenous Matters and rainforest adventures.

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