Public Libraries News has always included pertinent news stories from the library sector outside of the UK. This is not just because international happenings can inform us about great new ideas we can adopt. That is important but nope. Rather, I am aware that someone once said something to the effect that the future arrives in different times at different places and in different flavours so by looking at what is going on elsewhere, we can gain ideas about what may happen here. It also reveals possibilities like, for example, the current USA moves towards forcing publishers to allow libraries to lend e-Books – which is something every librarian here who has to explain why they cannot get anything digital from Hachette knows the importance of.

But it is entirely possible to go through a career in a British public library, even at senior levels, and not have any dealings or awareness of what is happening to colleagues abroad. This means mistakes are made that could have been avoided if experiences beyond our shores were taken into account and it also means best practice can be a parochial, rather than a truly global, thing. Which helps no-one. So, let’s applaud those librarians who look beyond our borders, like Ayub Khan, interviewed below and let’s, at least, think about the abroad, even if at the moment we unfortunately cannot physically go there. Bags I the first trip to New Zealand.

So, what is IFLA?: A short interview with Ayub Khan

What is IFLA?

The Euro 2020 football tournament is taking place as I write my answers – so let’s be topical and say IFLA is a bit like a FIFA for library associations. IFLA stands for the International Federation of Library Associations. It is the leading body representing the interests of library and information services – and their users – around the world. Founded in 1927, IFLA now has more than 1,500 members in 150 countries. That’s quite a squad.

What is your new role within IFLA?

I am one of five Governing Board Members – all from different countries – and responsible, in a nutshell, for the direction and future wellbeing of the Federation. I am delighted and honoured to take on the role, which complements me chairing CILIP’s Working Internationally Board.

How does IFLA impact UK public libraries?

The honest answer is ‘not enough’. UK libraries are well-regarded around the world and known for innovation. Yet their staff have not come forward in numbers so far – hence IFLA involvement and impact are relatively limited. We hope to change that. IFLA provides opportunities to share ideas, experiences, good practice and innovation on a global scale. It’s a chance for like-minded library professionals, wherever they are based, to learn from each other – which has to be a good thing. Also, there are some topics that need to be discussed across borders, such as e-books, e-licensing and e-copyright.

Why should British librarians care about what is going on outside of the UK?

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted what an interconnected and interdependent world we live in. Co-operating and collaborating across boundaries and borders seem to me to be essential for making progress towards solving global problems like the current pandemic or climate change.  Whatever sphere we operate in, and however we view political systems or regimes in other countries, I think we have to focus on the similarities between us – not the differences. IFLA believes that Together, we can build a strong and united library field, powering literate, informed and participatory societies. Hooray for that.

How can anyone interested get involved in IFLA?

There aren’t really any barriers because CILIP is a member organisation. There is an  annual conference – happening online this year – which anyone working in libraries is welcome to join for a modest fee. There are also annual nominations for various committees, including public libraries. IFLA also provides lots of free, online resources.

What’s the best way of standing a chance of attending an IFLA conference?

Under normal circumstances IFLA conferences take place in a different country each year – so there are travel costs. However, the 2022 and 2023 conferences are in Europe, which will help. Occasionally there are bursaries available for potential delegates, particularly if they are presenting a paper. I’ve been to several conferences, over the years – sometimes combining the trip with a family holiday – and attendance has certainly been a big part of my professional development. I think of the conference as a team-building training camp for international players – to help them develop game-changing skills.

Governor Ayub

Changes by local authority

National news

  • £1.1m for Museums and Libraries in Wales – Wales 247. Welsh Government’s Transformation Capital Grants: “Five libraries will be modernised with the funding going towards new community facilities, and supporting the establishment of wider ‘hubs’ where people can access library services alongside a range of other amenities”: Includes Treorchy and Rhayader.
  • Entries for SLIC Award Open – SLIC. “The Scottish Library and Information Council is delighted to announce an annual Award for the library sector in Scotland. The SLIC Award will celebrate the talent, innovation, and achievement of library teams throughout Scotland.”
  • LGA – Library investment key to helping children catch up following pandemic – LGA. “Libraries have a vital role to play in helping to build back the country following the pandemic with many already supporting children to recover from missed classroom time and helping to plug the widening attainment gap.”
  • The moral obligation for interlibrary lending – Birmingham City University. “The moral duty of a librarian is that access to information is maintained and resources are shared for the good of society as a whole.”
  • Trustee opportunities – Reading Agency. “The Reading Agency is seeking new Trustees with a passion for reading, and the positive impact that reading can have, to join our Board.”

International news

  • China – A natural library – Designing Libraries. “Zheshui Natural library is inspired by this traditional construction method, and the building is attached to the rock face. The river runs along the other side of the structure, and there is even a tree growing through the roof.”
  • Finland – Designing a new heart for a small city – Designing Libraries. “Kirkkonummi is a small town near Helsinki built around its medieval stone church. JKMM Architects has transformed the old city library facing the church to create a new civic centre.”
  • Global – Library Fires Have Always Been Tragedies. Just Ask Galen – Jstor Daily. “The three lost libraries Galen describes, all located in close proximity to each other on Rome’s Palatine hill, shared some important characteristics. In a world without printing presses or photography, a crucial function of imperial public libraries was to safeguard authoritative versions of important texts—ideally the original manuscripts—that scholars like Galen could consult and copy with confidence. Some texts were stored in special collections assembled by a notable individual, while others appear to have been shelved by subject. Galen boasts of finding inconsistencies and errors in the catalogues used as finding aids, suggesting that patrons were free to browse shelves on their own, without a librarian’s supervision.”
  • USA Why more public libraries are doubling as food distribution hubs – The Conversation. “The earliest example of this kind I’ve found dates back 35 years”. Survey of current feed and read schemes in the USA.

Local news by authority