19 August 2021

From the Annual Conference

Libraries building a sustainable future: WLIC 2021 President-elect's session

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With the announcement of her presidential theme – libraries building a sustainable future – IFLA President-elect Barbara Lison focused her session at WLIC on the long-term trends facing our field, as defined by the emerging talents who will lead it.

Libraries building a sustainable future will be the theme of the IFLA President 2021-23, Barbara Lison. But to ensure this sustainability – for our profession, for our users, for our Federation – what will be necessary?

In the President-elect’s session at IFLA WLIC 2021, Barbara underlined that a key element will be to stay alert to the world around us, and how it is changing. A wide variety of trends, in different aspects of life, are likely to have an impact on our field.

While some – such as a growing recognition of the importance of information, literacy, or a need for people to retrain throughout life – may strengthen the case for libraries, others – such as the privatisation of knowledge or tough economic times – may do the opposite.

Therefore, just as a builder planning a new construction project should first carry out a surveyor’s report, the library field too needs to reflect on the world we are moving into.

To do this, IFLA asked emerging professionals from around the world – the people who will lead the library field in the future – to share their suggestions about the trends we most need to look out for.

In just a couple of weeks, we received nearly 150 ideas that we then summarised into 20 trends for the future of libraires.

In a dynamic session, the President-elect, with the support of IFLA’s Secretary General Gerald Leitner, and a panel of people who have inspired her – Kay Raseroka, Andreas Mitrowann, Rashidah Bolhassan and Heba Ismail – led participants through a process of identifying the top priorities.

Through rounds of voting, the meeting went from 20, to 10 to just 5 ideas which will feature strongly in work undertaken during Barbara’s IFLA Presidency. These were:

  • Virtual is here to stay: people continue to prefer to access library services remotely, putting into question the value of spaces and physical offerings
  • Diversity gets taken seriously: a growing awareness of the existence and impacts of discrimination leads to a radical reform in our collections, services and practices
  • An environmental reckoning: climate change brings new threats to libraries and the communities they serve, forcing radical adaptation in order to avoid disaster
  • Lifelong learners: there is no such thing as a job for life any more, meaning that more and more people need to retrain throughout life. Libraries intensify learning activities in response
  • Inequalities deepen: with technology creating new possibilities for those with access, the gap between them and those without grows, risking confining large shares of the population to poverty unless action is taken.

Don’t forget to join our General Assembly next week to hear more about Barbara’s theme and plans for her presidency!

IFLA Strategy, IFLA WLIC 2021