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Creativity in the virtual world

WLIC 2021 showed us how we can connect, help each other and be creative in an online environment. Information professionals must support each other in these difficult times, because collaboration is key to overcoming everyday obstacles and finding solutions for us, our libraries and our users.

By Ejla Ćurovac

Thanks to the Emerging International Voices project, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in this year’s IFLA conference. Given the current situation with the coronavirus and the impossibility of organising this event in person, this year’s conference was completely online. IFLA organised the most inclusive and accessible event in its history, bringing together professionals from all over the world who spoke on a variety of topics, from new practices in librarianship, to the state of special libraries at medical facilities.

On the first day of the conference I had two presentations. The first presentation was on the topic of ‘Design sprint’ as part of the Library Futures session. Alongside colleagues from the Emerging International Voices project, I discussed and evaluated the experience of workshops in which we had created three prototypes for library users without access to the Internet, or with limited digital skills.

We had three days of workshops and then, guided by our teacher, Adele Cristea, we worked in three teams, creating three prototypes to solve one problem. We also organised interviews with real people, in order to have a better insight into the issue. We presented these prototypes at the IFLA conference, which was an amazing experience. Being able to present your work and ideas at a conference like this is something really special and will forever remain in our memories. The whole process of working on this project was an inspirational experience, particularly as we will be able to use everything we learned. The idea of ​‘design thinking’ is something I immediately decided to implement in my work and my library, because I think it offers the best service to our users. It is necessary to develop empathy and to see things from library users’ perspectives, in order to understand what they want and what their needs are.

In the session entitled ‘Africa-Europe Emerging Leaders’, I presented the concept of ‘green libraries’ and their role over the next ten years. The key to any effort to plan for the future of libraries is to try to understand what that future might be like and the trends that will shape it. In this session, young leaders from the world of librarianship and information science presented the future of librarianship, with presentations covering a range of issues from lifelong learning to climate change, and from the role of technology to the importance of public space. It was extremely interesting to attend other sessions addressing the issue of green libraries and sustainability in libraries, because it is such a key issue today. I think green libraries will become even more important, especially because of the ongoing challenges for human health. They will become a new concept that, together with open access, will represent a new stage in the world of librarianship. Returning to nature also involves returning to traditional values of freedom and openness, which is really important to libraries nowadays. During the pandemic, we saw how significant the role of libraries is and how much they can contribute in the community. Libraries must adapt their work to users who need their services here and now, and therefore the librarian must be able to adapt to meet these new needs.  Open access to knowledge in a ‘green’ environment is something we should move towards.

All participants and attendees of the conference had their personal profiles on the WLIC2021 page, so we were able to share information with colleagues from other countries, and we had the opportunity to meet new people and share ideas with them. The wonderful result of this is that we will be able to continue our collaboration.

Many excellent ideas and examples of good practice were presented during this year’s conference, and especially important are those that showed how creative one can be even when we are not able to work in our library buildings. New technologies have made it possible for us to help our users from our homes, and to be librarians even without a library, because the knowledge we carry is invaluable and the ideas we have can make a positive difference to our users. A library without a librarian is just a building and a warehouse for books, whereas with a good librarian it becomes a magical place to meet, learn, socialise and exchange new experiences.

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