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Librarians for the future: what happens next?

By Madiareni Sulaiman

‘The virtual get-together with global library communities through IFLA WLIC 2021 taught me that empathy is the best foundation for librarians of the future and the most effective basis for change. Actions start from your surroundings!’

IFLA WLIC 2021 was carried out online for the first time from 17-19 August 2021. It was a hugely successful event, attended by more than 2500 participants worldwide. Sessions were delivered across several topics, covering every aspect of the roles carried out by libraries, librarians, and information professionals. Delegates were able to explore the conference and build a schedule through the interactive website, as well as to attend virtual networking sessions with the speakers and other delegates. I enjoyed the gaming and wellness zones on the website where you could unwind by doing yoga or playing various games and quizzes (which included references to Indonesia’s Komodo Island!), or take a virtual photo at the IFLA WLIC 2021 photo booth. 

The virtual congress was a unique experience, encompassing three days of events conducted in three different time zones! As a delegate living in the Asian region (Jakarta), I had no problem in selecting and following topics that I am interested in. These include innovation, statistics, and data/digital skills used by librarians and information professionals. The discussions I took part in relating to these topics have inspired me to share my thoughts as a future librarian and agent of change in my institution.

The development of an innovative mindset could encourage librarians and information professionals to be more active and creative in their use of problem-solving mechanisms. In the Library Futures and Inspire section of the conference, the Emerging International Voices fellows  had participated in the Goethe Institut’s Design Sprint workshop and developed their own prototypes for solving given challenges related to information and internet literacy while using library services. We presented three personas that could be used to develop library solutions through the multiple points-of-view of different users, of various ages, genders, and personal preferences. Through the design sprint method, the fellows can develop empathy, classifying their ideas and thoughts, and in the end, responding to the issues through collaborations, designing, and co-creating programmes for the users.

What about the data produced on a daily basis through library activities? How can we maximise the use of it so as to learn more about our library patrons?

The conference organised by the IFLA Statistics and Evaluation gave us a good understanding of how to carry out more meaningful and in-depth investigations and surveys. One way to do that is to find the hidden gems of datasets in library work and services. They asked some questions to capture these hidden gems and to generate a more in-depth discussion with the delegates. In the session, Corrado di Tillio (@corradoditillio) also referred to the first day of the IFLA WLIC 2021 event in identifying users’ needs using the #designthinking method. The combination of qualitative and quantitative measures will add more value to the development of library programmes, especially for programmes that are rarely assessed in evaluation.

As I am also a research data librarian, I found the library carpentry meeting on the last day of the conference very useful for exploring the scope of the data literacy upgrade programme in the global context. Since then, I have started to explore online seminars and training on research data management to improve my professional skills. I have discovered that empathy is the best foundation for librarians of the future and is the most effective basis for change. Just start taking action! And don’t forget to continue to build your network through ongoing global collaboration.

Then, your remarkable journey will start… :)