Libraries in Germany – Expert Discussion

IFLA: The International Federation of Libraries

Logo von IFLA © IFLALogo of the IFLA; © IFLA For more than eighty years, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has responsively represented the interests of libraries and their users around the world. A portrait.

Since libraries are seen as guarantors of free access to information, they have been given an increasingly significant role in the proliferating information society. It therefore becomes all the more important to lend an ear to the demands and needs of libraries.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) sees itself as the voice of all libraries and information centers in the world. It is the representative not only of library associations, but also for all types of libraries and all library issues. It thereby primarily represents the interests of library users, because its goal is the worldwide promotion of high-quality library and information services.

Good working network

Ellen Tise, President of the IFLA; © privatThe association was founded in 1927 in Edinburgh, Scotland. “In the beginning the IFLA was a small, rather elite club”, says Hella Klauser, head of the Secretariat of the German IFLA National Committee. “Today it’s much more open. It has become a well-functioning global network.” The IFLA now has nearly 1,700 members in more than 1,150 countries. Four thousand participants from all over the world attend the World Conference that takes place once a year. “That’s a gigantic advanced training course”, says Klauser, “with over 200 lectures and countless opportunities for personal exchange”.

Fruitful cooperation

Logo of the WIPO; © WIPO

A very important and close partner of the IFLA is UNESCO. Several of the manifestos prepared by committees of the IFLA have been recognized as UNESCO manifestos. These include the Manifesto for School Libraries, Public Libraries and Multicultural Library Work. In addition, the IFLA cooperates with, for instance, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the International Council on Archives (ICA), the Conference of Directors of National Libraries, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), which is committed to the preservation of cultural heritage.

Busy German National Committee

Logo of Open Access; ©“But at the center is the cooperation with the library associations in the respective member countries”, says Hella Klauser. “The IFLA is about strengthening this net of national associations and through them each individual library and each individual librarian.”

In Germany, all professional associations in the fields of library and information are members of the IFLA. In almost all 45 active IFLA sections sits a German representative. “That’s very important to us”, emphasizes Klauser. “First, we have the opportunity of setting forth our own national interests, and second we benefit immensely from the exchanges with colleagues around the world that take place in these sections.”

Hella Klauser then ensures that information from the committees is transmitted to her colleagues – for example, in the monthly online “Newsletter International” published by the German Library Association.

Concrete assistance

Logo of the IFLA 2010 in Oslo; © IFLAIn addition to lobbying, the great importance to the Association of supporting its members in concrete terms in their daily work may be seen in a new project. In the project, the IFLA has developed for its member organizations an extensive multi-module program on library association work, including establishing and developing an association, statistics, copyright, lobbying and marketing. For Klauser, this is “a fine example of how each library benefits from its membership”.

The project is financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has sponsored the activities of the IFLA for some years. Not only the German National Committee rates that as a great success: “It gives us an important confirmation that this major foundation realizes the huge role of libraries in the development of information competence.”

Dagmar Giersberg
is a freelance journalist living in Bonn.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Online-Redaktion
March 2010

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