Ulrike Lang, Co-Chair of CPDWL
During the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Helsinki the issue of communication within IFLA was discussed and an active interest in strengthening the flow of information and communication was expressed.
As a result of one of these discussions, during the Division IV Leadership Brief on August 12, led by Division Chair Anna Maria Tammaro, the IFLA DIAL Working Group was established to investigate concerns related to IFLA communication issues and to develop proposals for the Professional Committee to consider at its meeting in December 2012 and to develop a work strategy and establish a consultation mechanism.
The group posted an opening statement in English and Spanish inviting participation to contribute to web-based discussions using different channels, including IFLA-L and comments on several IFLA blogs.
A short online survey available in English and Spanish received replies with a good geographical spread. 45% of the respondents were IFLA Officers, SC Members or SIG Conveners.
The questions of the survey were also posted on twitter.
Q1. What do you think about the way that IFLA communicates with its activists?
Q2. What do you think about the way that IFLA communicates with its members?
Q3. What do you think about the way that IFLA communicates with the general public?
Q4. What do you think about the way that IFLA uses social media? (blogs, twitter, etc)
Q5. What suggestions do you have to improve communications within IFLA?
A majority of respondents would like to see more transparency in decision-making processes, and more open discussions rather than just decisions communicated to officers and other activists.
There was also the general feeling that officers are limited by rules and the communication between sections is minimal and should be encouraged.
Most communication between IFLA officers and activists is face to face at the WLICs and some email contacts.
If members cannot join the WLIC, there is almost no communication. And for many colleagues IFLA is something far away and expensive.
Most respondents would like ongoing, constant communication online. The need for an
intensified exchange in these virtual spheres and the shift towards more participating media like social networks was expressed.
The responses of the survey also pointed out that IFLA would benefit from a much stronger and more strategic social media strategy. So far (with some exceptions) new media have just been added on top of the old structure. Respondent missed personal blogging and twittering that allow readers to sense the breath and pulse of the organisation.
IFLA’s Professional Committee’s own blog, ProfSpeak: blogs.ifla.org/profspeak was welcomed as a very good start although it should be more visible – at the moment the new blog, which uses a locally hosted WordPress platform, is not visible on IFLA’s own list of featured blogs thus, new ProfSpeak posts are not visible under Recent posts.
IFLA is the sum of its members. Respondents expressed a wish for IFLA to change for transparency and collective learning purposes, and in order to try new ways of engaging with the community.
While library and information professionals are eager to demonstrate the contributions we are making to society through our work in learning and research, information literacy, health information provision, social engagement, etc., IFLA communicates from the inside out,
We need a communication strategy from the user’s perspective (outside in) to showcase our contributions and bring the voice of librarians to the public discussion, especially in political issues such as copyright, open access, freedom of speech, etc.
IFLA is quite a large body with many parts, and rules and deadlines are needed to ensure that things get done in a coordinated way.
IFLA is made up of many people from many countries and different backgrounds and so there are different communication needs at different levels, in different groups and for different purposes.
While an update is definitely required and social media offers great opportunities, we should not forget that a significant proportion of IFLA members and potential members still encounter barriers due to lack of access to technological advances as well as language and skill barriers. Lack of resources brings a gap in participation as wide as the digital divide, which also needs bridging. Balancing IFLA participation between members from developed countries and professionals from countries still in development through greater communication and involvement, incorporating those from countries which currently still do not have much of a presence, and communicating with and strengthening national library associations are good starting points to achieve more balance.
How could we change for the better?
We could change for the better by practicing real dialogue, deep listening and organisational learning.
For example the leadership forums could be arranged as platforms with GB and PC members’ presence for activists to ask and suggest, and put more effort into organising virtual meetings to encourage greater participation.
Some investment on the website may be appropriate in order to develop a more user friendly IFLA website, including check lists / FAQs for newcomers, a blog to get the answers to common questions etc.
Library blogs exist in a competitive universe. Web readers expect blogs to be relatively informal but also frequently updated.
The IFLA Dial working group is very happy that PC and GB accepted the statement and will start a discussion within the IFLA community.
We see the importance to include this topic in our section work and ask everyone to come up with suggestions how we can improve our work in line with the surrounding needs.
Members of the IFLA Dial Working Group of CPDWL are Catharina Isberg, Information Coordinator and Ulrike Lang, Co-Chair of CPDWL.