27 August 2012

News from the Chair

By John Pullinger

To every member of our Section who made it to Helsinki: it was great to see you. Some people had to overcome the most extraordinary challenges just to get there but it was a great joy that you made it.

To every member of our Section who did not make it: you missed out on something special.

Sari Pajula and her colleagues at the Library of Parliament gave us the most wonderful welcome and a brilliant introduction to their lovely country. This conference note, written as I return to my desk in London, is designed simply to share in a brief way my experiences and feelings about our days together.

We started in the Grand Committee room of the Parliament for a training day for our friends in the new Arab Parliamentary Libraries Network chaired by Mrs Amal Tarhini, Parliamentary Librarian in Lebanon. With the generous support of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament we were once again able to offer this day giving a practical learning experience to delegates. It was an inspiring occasion welcomed by those who were able to attend.

As our training day ended colleagues from around the world flew in for our Section pre-conference and tours of the impressive Parliament building. The story of Finnish parliamentary democracy was told in a setting that touched us all before we completed the day with a reception where we were warmly welcomed by the Deputy Secretary General.

Our well-attended pre-conference opened to a trumpet fanfare before a series of presentations on Finland, its parliamentary system and the role of its library and research services. Led by the Secretary General all the presenters, including Ms Paivi Lipponen MP and Chair of the Committee of the Future and members of the library and research services, served up many ideas and approaches to parliamentary life with a relevance to countries across the world. Our Finnish day ended with a magnificent dinner in the parliamentary Hall of State, a great honour for our Section.

The second day of our pre-conference was devoted to sharing innovations in our services to Members and to the public and to comparing experiences of cooperation at the regional level. The papers for both days are available here. We also took this opportunity to launch the new Handbook for ICT in Parliamentary Libraries made possible through the Global Centre and many volunteers.

See also the handbook, "Information and Communication Technologies in Parliamentary Libraries."

For some of us there was no let up over the weekend. It is my first time as Chair of the Section and there seemed to be endless meetings with other IFLA people. A highlight was a meeting with IFLA Director, Stuart Hamilton on the subject of Librarians and Democracy. IFLA is pleased to be partnering in the Beyond Access campaign which seeks to raise the profile of libraries as engines for development. As part of the campaign a significant conference is being held in Washington DC on October 3rd 2012. Donna Scheeder, member of the IFLA Governing Board, and former Section Chair will attend and report back on how we might contribute. See also their 2012 conference site.

Other important meetings included a discussion Sonia L’Heureux, Standing Committee member, and I had with Ingrid Parent, IFLA President and our own, exceptionally well attended, Section Standing Committee meetings. Minutes of the Standing Committee meetings will follow but they will highlight a substantial level of Section activity including our role in the forthcoming World e-Parliament conference in Rome, the IPU/ASGP meeting in Quebec and plans for next year’s IFLA conference in Singapore. We are also planning to apply to IFLA for funds to undertake two projects on Section communications and evaluation of the Section’s work.

At the main IFLA conference we were sponsors or joint sponsors of a record six sessions: a lively and well-attended knowledge cafe; a session on usability and accessibility – the mobile challenge; a session on parliamentary libraries strengthening democracy; a session on promoting global access to law; a session on the surprising world of government libraries: trends and prospects for new user services; and a session on libraries for the law and lawmakers. We worked closely with the Knowledge Management Section, Law Libraries Section, Government Libraries Section, Government Information and Official Publications Section and IT Section and plan to build on this cooperative approach in future. Information about all these sessions and everything else at IFLA is available on the conference website.

We learned a lot and had a lot of fun.  Thank you Finland for a great event.

Library and Research Services for Parliaments

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