Knowledge Café 2014: New wrap-up

Learning together: when experts from developed libraries work with developing countries, everyone learns and everyone teaches

MARY AUGUSTA THOMAS (Smithsonian Libraries, Washington, DC. United States)
Right from the start, the topic was reworked to lessen the “developed/developing polarity.

However it provided a great springboard for discussions in all three rotations. Library visits or using external consults worked best when the type of library or the type of work was a good match.

For example, parliamentary libraries learned the most from each other. The identification of common issues and concerns also promoted learning in these visits. Common concerns seem to include sustaining networks of colleagues, use of technology for active information exchange, and changing practices in all libraries right now.

Many participants come from areas where travel is limited and therefore make heavy use of E Learning, in interacting with their colleagues in similar libraries. At the end of each session elements of “Best practices” were suggested. These were formed around mutual respect and mutual needs.

For individuals who were able to travel, visits to perhaps larger or better developed libraries offered exposure, which on their return can be leveraged by sharing the knowledge gained, encouraging teams to all move forward.

Types of exchanges included person to person attachments or assignments and participation in IFLA or State Department tours but these were perhaps not as effective as the regional or affinity based visits.

For visiting librarians — partnering around projects to have mutual benefit– must include give and take and ways to identify the benefits regionally and internationally. Sharing the information on your return was most important.

Everyone remarked that one often uses outside consultants to say things to management that will not he heard from the internal audience.
Digital life has changed things and in each group, there were more similarities of issue than differences.

What needs to be brought into these sessions by both sides is a respect for community knowledge.

These projects also require meeting challenges of different cultures with appropriate vocabulary and the need to being with common concerns.