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Digital Transformation and the Libraries in Extraordinary Circumstances

Digital Transformation and the Libraries in Extraordinary Circumstances

By Loida Garcia-Febo, ALA President 2018-2019, International Library Consultant, CPDWL Advisor

The Croatian Library Association, the National and University Library in Zagreb, and the University Library of Rijeka are hosting the first hybrid library conference I’ve attended since the pandemic. The theme is Digital Transformation and the Libraries in Extraordinary Circumstances. The hosts and the librarians are visionaries stepping up to provide a quality event to discuss a timely topic impacting everyone and everything on our planet.

The Croatian Ministry of Culture, the Director of the National and University Library, the President of the Croatian Library Council, and the President of the Croatian Library Association- all welcomed attendees expressing their joy and support of the event.  Everyone is thrilled about this opportunity!

This extraordinary effort showcases the determination of librarians to implement strategies to keep attendees secure while attending an in-person event, and strategies to use the latest technology to broadcast an event to benefit the continuing professional development of library workers nationally.

The theme of my opening keynote built on my speech for the 2019 Austrian Library Association Conference on “Artificial Intelligence in Libraries” was “Libraries and digital transformation: supersonic library services in the 2020s.”

The pandemic ushered libraries into full digital transformation. To meet the needs of library users and researchers accessing services only online, libraries faced a steep learning curve to implement elements of automation, AI, and machine learning. While libraries have been discussing and exploring digital transformation for years, the pandemic accelerated the process.

Our world and the global information environment were and are still being transformed by the profound impact of COVID-19 on people, society, and the planet. We are living in the era of digital transformation for the people. Digital transformation is a priority in the world, and it is people-centered.

My talk will be available on the Croatian Library Association website soon, but for now I will share an overview of salient points:

I also delved into:

  • what we have learned during the pandemic on our way to digital transformation,
  • explained how libraries can sustain these changes,
  • went over areas of concern,
  • the new requirements for successful librarians in this field,
  • what are the social, sustainability, and wellness implications for libraries/librarians,
  • how we are creating the future today by forecasting, and
  • what we need to do to achieve full digital transformation

Overall, I emphasized, technologies alone do not determine results. They must be adopted embedding our professional values and in particular, social, economic, and political contexts that influence their development and use.

The social inclusion of the community is the consolidation of democracy. All of these will help us to rebuild a just and equitable society transformed by technologies.


Useful logistics for this successful and secure conference that might help you to develop your next hybrid library event:

The conference, attended by 100 librarians on site, started with a large number of attendees, including myself, traveling by bus from Croatia’s capital, Zagreb to the beautiful coastal city of Lovran. Everyone on the bus wore masks and followed security and physical distance protocols.

At the conference, attendees must wear masks at all times as well, screen themselves to check their temperature, and use hand sanitizer when entering the meeting rooms. Virtual attendees participate in an engaging event featuring speakers and PPT slides on the same screen and opportunities to engage in various meeting rooms according to themes.

The conference name tags include a QR code for contactless information about all things conference-related. Bonus applause for beautiful conference bags and an exhibits room featuring prominent library vendors.

It is amazing to see how in-person attendees have big smiles as they greet one and another after so long without in-person conferences. For clarity, big smiling eyes when wearing masks are lovely. Big smiles at mealtimes when masks are removed are like the sun shining on us.

Recognition to an incredible national library team:

  • Dijana Machala, President of the Croatian Library Association
  • Ivanka Stričević, Director National and University Library of Croatia
  • Jelena Glavić-Perčin, delegate of the Minister of Culture and Media
  • Dejana Golenko, President of Law Libraries Section, Croatian Library Association
  • Lea Lazzarich, Director of Libraries for the University of Rikeja
  • Tatjana Aparac Jelušic, President of the Croatian Library Council