Author: Roana Marie Flores of De La Salle University Libraries, Manila, Philippines
It started with a dream. My twenty-year-old self knew and believed that one day I would be able to participate in IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress (WLIC). As for the how and when– I honestly didn’t have a clear plan. I just knew that it was a big goal for me. I had no idea how I would be able to turn this goal into reality. Because let’s face it– attending an international congress like WLIC demands a great deal of money unless you are fully funded and supported by your organization to attend, or you have been selected as a grant recipient/volunteer, or you can just merely afford to attend because you have the means. So ever since 2018, I was on the lookout for grants. I prepared ahead of time and submitted applications weeks or months before the scheduled deadline. But every submission made was countered with a regret email.
I repeated the cycle, and on the fourth try– the very time I never expected to receive the answer I’d been waiting for the longest time, I made it.
I read the email thrice to check if I got it right. Then I read it for the fourth and the fifth time. I can’t really believe it, and no words can explain how I felt the time I received the notification. And so, my WLIC journey begins. In this blog post, I will share my experience and lessons learned before, during, and after the Congress. Whether you plan to participate next year at Rotterdam or in future Congresses, the following pointers might help you to get the most out of your WLIC experience. Just a disclaimer that this post is entirely my ideas and opinions and does not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations I am currently affiliated with.
Before the Congress
- If you are coming from a country where a visa is required before entering a certain border, I suggest that you apply for your visa three to four months before the scheduled date of the Congress. My colleague, who was accepted as a volunteer, and I faced a very difficult time in our visa application due to the long processing period. We got approved five days before the start of the event and booked a (very expensive–because of the last-minute booking!) flight right away. Can you imagine the anxiety and stress we felt back then? I hope you won’t experience this
- Consider arriving at least one or two days before the Congress to maximize your participation, not to mention your registration fees! I met a bunch of LIS professionals who were not able to attend the first two days of the Congress because of flight delays and immigration concern
- Choose learning sessions that you would want to attend in advance. It’s heartbreaking sometimes when two or three of your topics of interest get the same slot, though. This experience taught me how to evaluate things better. Take note that it’s impossible to attend all the sessions!
- Prepare and plan for your #OOTD (outfit of the day)! I know that we should not be defined by what we wear, but make sure you look presentable and smart in your clothing during the entire Congress. Make it also an opportunity to share your country’s national attire! I remember during Fellowship Night at DLR LexIcon Library, I wore a Filipiniana mestiza top made from pineapple fiber. The attire I wore sparked unexpected conversations and connections with other attendees.
During the Congress
- Get up early, eat your breakfast, and seize each day! You only get to experience WLIC once in a while, so why not make the most out of it? Go to the venue as early as you can so you can have enough time to connect and talk with fellow delegates.
- Don’t be shy, and be confident in who you are! A lot of delegates look intimidating at first, but when you come to talk and converse with them, you will know how friendly and accommodating they are. Also, don’t forget to bring your business cards!
- Do you only know your mother tongue and one or two languages? Fret no more! Who says language can be a barrier to making friendships and connections? I met a newfound friend in the Congress who could only speak Spanish, and we survived using a mobile app that captured what I wanted to tell her and translated it right away to Spanish. Though our conversation was not instant, as we needed to wait for the translated message to come along, it made me realize that friendship has no language as long as you are both willing to extend extra effort and time with one another. Currently, I am in touch with her every day, and we can’t wait for another opportunity to meet again.
- Enjoy the local food during breaks together with your newfound WLIC friends! They say that the best and fastest way to expose yourself to the local culture is to immerse yourself in their food and drinks. I couldn’t agree more!
- Be kind to the Congress volunteers. They are also professionals who are exerting extra effort and time to make the Congress perfect for every delegate. Hats off to the WLIC 2022 volunteers for a job well done! You all deserve a pat on the back!
- If your schedule permits, take the chance to join library tours! This is one perfect way to understand the culture and history of the place you are in. More than that, it’s also an opportunity to benchmark new trends and services which you can bring back to your organization back home.
- Don’t forget to enjoy and savor the moment! Share your WLIC experience and join the #WLICWOW contest and you might be joining the Congress again next year with free registration! You’ll never know unless you give it a try! One post or email won’t hurt you!
Attending WLIC 2022 was already a dream come true for me, but when I heard my name being called a WLIC WOW winner during the closing ceremonies, my jaw dropped, and I couldn’t believe what I heard. I only wished for one WLIC, but the Big Guy up there gave me two. This is, by far, one of the most memorable birthdays and WLICs for me.
After the Congress
- Keep in touch with your newfound friends at the Congress. There are many applications now which you can use to send regards to them. Follow and connect with them through various social media sites as you still have a lot to learn from them.
- Share and apply what you have learned from the Congress at your workplace, community, or country. Give back and help others to achieve their goals.
- Inspire fellow professionals who have never attended IFLA WLIC to try joining. From my random conversations with WLIC 2022 attendees, most of them are not aware that various grants are being provided by IFLA.
- Don’t forget to give thanks to all the people who helped make your dream come true. After returning to Manila last 06 August 2022, I took a day off to message everyone who helped me make the memorable trip to Ireland possible. From the Consulate staff to the grant provider and to my colleagues, family, and friends, I made sure to send everyone my big thanks and appreciation.
While my attendance at the Congress exposed me to endless learning possibilities and expanded my personal and professional vista in a global frame of reference, it also gave me an opportunity to correct a few misconceptions about IFLA and the WLIC. First, I used to think that money would be a barrier to attendance, but you can take advantage of the many grants released by IFLA each year. These grants come in different forms and sizes and they can greatly help reduce your overall expenses. The second misconception is that I thought IFLA officers, especially high-level ones, would not be approachable. But my participation in WLIC 2022 corrected this thought as I found out that the people behind IFLA are some of the funniest, most accommodating, and the easiest to get along with. I never even imagined being invited to join a dinner with IFLA-ARL officers, let alone enjoy the night with them and talk more than work-related matters with them.
Finally, I would like to reiterate a part of my Facebook post and #WLICWOW entry:
Almost a month after the Congress, I can still feel excitement and motivation. I am inspired and eager to help many people as long as I can.
Thank you, SAGE Publishing, Ex Libris, and IFLA Academic and Research Libraries Section, for making my #WLIC dreams come true. I am forever grateful! May you all continue to touch more lives of librarians around the world.
Let’s never cease to inspire, engage, enable, and collaborate! See you in Rotterdam next year!
Roana Marie Flores
De La Salle University,Manila, Philippines