“As an active member of IFLA for many years, it is a natural part of my commitment”

Translated from an interview with Catherina Isberg with the Swedish Library Association, in Swedish, published on October 6, 2022:

The Swedish Library Association has several interesting and important professional networks. One of them is the network of IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, which is the world organization for libraries. Catharina Isberg, library manager in Lund, is the contact person for the network.

Woman with white wear in formal wear

Catherina Isberg

“I have been part of the network since it started, and have been a contact person since 2020. I have been active in IFLA since 2011 and was initially in the Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning (CPDWL) section, and now in the Management & Marketing section”.
Catherina has a history of leading positions in various types of libraries, both in the pharmaceutical industry, at university libraries and public libraries. Right now, she is in the transition between finishing her job as library manager in Helsingborg after nine years, and will move on to library manager in Lund on 1st October.
Why did you join IFLA?
[Catherina has taken on various roles within IFLA as Chair, Co-Chair, Secretary and Information Coordinator. In addition, she has been a division chairman and also served on IFLA Governing Board from 2019 to 2021.]
Catherina: I was involved in the years when IFLA’s new governance was produced, and I have to say that what is happening now in IFLA is far removed from the work we did and also far removed from my own personal values. Together we are IFLA and we all have a role in creating a sustainable future for IFLA.
What is the most important issue for you right now in the Experts Network?
Catherina: International work is important and IFLA is the largest international library organization covering all types of libraries. At the same time, IFLA is a huge organization and quite difficult to get a grip on. Therefore, a Swedish network is needed so that we can facilitate participation from the Swedish side. Together we can make IFLA’s work visible in Sweden, create engagement from the Swedish side, and develop our international participation. For us in the network, it is important to continue to push for IFLA to be the important global voice for libraries as it is. We want a more open and transparent organization that takes advantage of the experience and knowledge available. As I see it, this is at the top of our agenda.
Many Swedes are involved in IFLA and globally, more than 1,000 people work voluntarily and spend a lot of time and energy on this important work. This winter, there will be nominations for the upcoming term in IFLA’s work and there are many opportunities to get involved in, for example, in one of the Sections as a Standing Committee member. Catherina believes that the network plays an important role in guiding how to navigate this and finding opportunities to actively participate in IFLA’s work.
We are all part of a larger context and every library is part of local, regional, national, and international work, whether you think about it or not. It is therefore important that we increase our understanding of this and that many of us are involved in international work. For my part, I still remember a visit to a small library in a Township outside Cape Town in South Africa. So much that the library did, and their activities were so similar to the one we have [in Sweden]. We have a huge amount in common and can really learn a lot from each other.
At the same time, IFLA is working on major issues such as freedom of access to information (which it pushed for to be included in the UN’s global development goals), copyright and open access. Issues that really affect us all in our daily work.
What’s the best part of being part of IFLA?
Catherina: Learning new things and bringing lots of new knowledge home to your own workplace. To see how we are all part of something bigger and to learn from many other countries. And of course to create networks both with Swedish colleagues and with international colleagues.
In view of what has happened in the IFLA, what is your future?
Catherina: We are constantly monitoring the situation within IFLA and trying to familiarize ourselves with what is happening. For all of us it is important that IFLA really emerges from this as a stronger and more transparent organization.
How do you see on the network what has happened and what is happening in IFLA?
It is very unfortunate that the situation is so strained with a lot of unanswered questions concerning governance, economics, and the organizational culture that prevails. At the same time, the work continues as before in the professional sections. This is the largest part of IFLA’s work and the part where most Swedes are involved. So far, this work is not so much influenced by the wider discussions. But the longer it takes to answer the questions, the greater the impact on the whole organization, so we continue to follow the situation.