Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa

IFLA by the numbers

LIANZA is bidding to bring the IFLA congress to New Zealand, and to support our bid NZ Tourism funded our attendance at this year’s IFLA congress.

Attending IFLA was definitely an experience – a conference on a scale I’ve never experienced before:

·         88 hours of travel (53 over, 35 home)

·         8  different airports

·         4 airlines

·         3 lost suitcases

·         14 days away from home

·         151,496 steps

·         32 hours of conference sessions

·         20 hours of evening functions and networking

·         3,000 plus attendees

IFLA was mind blowing – it was possible in the space of an hour to go from a conversation about the Finnish Library pony to a session on the ethics of freedom of speech and a debate on how much tolerance should be given to intolerance.  The range and breadth of topics and specialities was amazing. Often there were up to 13 concurrents happening at the same time and there was always more than one thing I wanted to attend.

I found myself learning from the conference on three levels:

  1. Event delivery – there were things I could learn for LIANZA conferences about the way things were run, the type of events, layout, signage, communication, accessibility etc.
  2. Association management – how does IFLA do things, and are there things that LIANZA could copy or improve upon in the way we operate?
  3. The session topic – finally I learnt A LOT from each session with regard to the topic that was being presented.

Our conference began three hours after we landed in Poland with an introduction to Martyn Wade (Chair of the IFLA FAIFE Committee) with whom we spent the afternoon and shared dinner.   He was a mine of information – both about the inner workings of IFLA, but also about his passion – freedom of access to information.  

On the Saturday morning we were at the conference venue by 7.30am to register and get to our first session.  We attended the section meetings on the Saturday before the congress officially opened – to get an understanding of how IFLA operates and ensure that the New Zealand delegation was visible.   Sessions ran from 8am to 10am, 10.15 to 12.15, and 12.30 to 2.30 and we divided and conquered to see and hear as much as possible.   At 2.30 we finally stopped for food before heading out to grab a few more clothes as our suitcases still weren’t in evidence.  Then it was back to the venue for meetings at 6pm (a global caucus) and at 7pm (the Australian Caucus) where Louise presented about our bid to host IFLA.  This was well received and then it was off to dinner with the Aussie contingent.

After a late night we were back at the venue by 8am on Sunday to ensure we were in plenty of time for the Newcomers session.   We actually met an Austrian LIANZA member at this session which was pretty cool.   Then it was the Opening Session – which blew us away with a detailed history of  Wroclaw (pronounced Vroxwav) – the host city.  From there it was a mad dash to the airport to retrieve our suitcases which had finally showed (well – most of them – Louise had to wait another day for her suitcase).   However, we made the most of the time travelling out with a LIS education provider from Australia and learning a lot about the current education climate over there.   Then it was time to scurry back for drinks amongst the exhibitors and another dinner out networking like crazy.

Monday didn’t see our pace slow and we were back at the venue first thing for an overview of the conference in 45 minutes and then the President’s session.   This was a great update on the IFLA global vision and some of the other initiatives IFLA is working on in order to create a united global profession.   Then it was back into session mode – and once again we split up to cover the most ground.  We also got an invite to a 6pm meeting on Internet Universality where we committed to supporting an IFLA effort in this area.  Then it was out to dinner with another Australian.  Joanna (battling insomnia and jetlag) was also up at 5am making the changes to the accounts requested by our auditors to ensure that our Annual report would be out on time.

Tuesday was more of the same with sessions galore – and we learnt a lot!  We also learnt how far ahead New Zealand is in so many areas, especially around measuring impact and community engagement (believe it or not).  The cultural evening was also on Tuesday and blew us away with the range of food, beer, and Polish dancing on offer.

Wednesday was more of the same and our energy was starting to flag but we kept up the pace.  Joanna whizzed round the last of the exhibitors before the exhibition closed and we continued to maximise our attendance and our learning across as many streams as possible.  The day culminated in the IFLA AGM and that was fascinatingly similar to our own!

Thursday was bitter sweet – the last day and we were both relieved and sad to have made it to the end.  We started off super early again hitting the 8.30am session of the President Elect – and I’m glad we did – as Louise got to present on behalf of New Zealand to the entire group (some 200 plus people).  By the time we reached the closing ceremony we were glad to be headed back to our apartment to relax and unwind.

Friday and Saturday we again split up and took in the sights and libraries of Poland – networking where we could.  Saturday night we had a final dinner with all the friends we’d made during the week who were still around – and on Sunday we headed home.

Of course it wasn’t all hard work.  Wroclaw (pronounced Vroxwav) – the conference city – was absolutely beautiful, and it was amazing experiencing Poland.  We were also challenged, inspired, and met some really great people.  We’ll be sharing some of these new friendships through webinars over the coming months and we’ll also share what we’ve learnt – in blogposts, on the list-servs, and in presentations.

We’re also closer to our goal of bringing IFLA to New Zealand – and if we do you should absolutely plan on attending.  This conference is life-changing.

Share this on