Monthly Archives: September 2018

PLS through the eyes of a newcomer

Saleh modelling Fatemeh’s PLSC name badge! We could tell the difference.

At the Public Libraries Standing Committee sessions in Kuala Lumpur we were delighted to welcome Saleh Zamani from Iran. Saleh is a colleague of our corresponding member Fatemeh Pazooki and as she was unable to come Saleh attended so he could report back to Fatemeh when he returned home..

We have just received this report from Saleh (via Fatemeh) and we would like to share it with you. We think it demonstrates what IFLA is all about.

This was the first time that I came to IFLA as newcomers. Although I was not familiar with IFLA’s structures, I first got acquainted with Public Libraries Section. So, my first visit to IFLA was through the Public Libraries group in the Chinese restaurant. I got surprised due to the friendly, warm and inclusive behaviors of all the members specially Jan. I’m not a librarian, but from the time of meeting Jan and her friends, I was interested in Librarianship. From the two Public Library’s sessions, I could attend the first session and enjoy the reports of the program. I remember one of the reports was on the investment in Libraries that could reduce social costs of communities. This report was important to me because of bearing social background. Another attractive point for me was that among the sections which I participated in, the Public Library Committee was much more active than the others. Empathy and coordination among the members made them an effective family. Jan’s flexible management has made it so easy for any non-librarian to be interested in librarianship. Unfortunately, at the second session of the committee, I was not able to attend because I took part in another section (CDNL).

However, I will never forget the memories of friendship with committee members. I really thank Fatemeh Pazooki because she introduced me to this committee for the first time, and I had the chance to take part in that section. I remember, I was so happy with the selection of Public Library Section on the last day at the Planetary Theater. I realized Jan and her colleagues are doing a lot of ongoing efforts to update their activities while loving their profession. I really love to see them all again and wish them good luck.

Sanctuaries in the city: the public library as a safe space


Kuala Lumpur

Synopsis prepared by Corinne Hill, Public Libraries Section member.

Sponsored by Metropolitan Libraries and the Public Libraries Section, this program had the unenviable scheduling position next to IFLA’s Global Vision session. Nevertheless, Sanctuaries still drew a respectable crowd.

The session opened quite strongly with Derr Leonee Ariel’s “Public Libraries are safe and neutral spaces…when people aren’t in them!From Malvern Library in Melbourne, Australia, Ms. Ariel delivered a compelling presentation framed around the use of language, and why language matters. She is a lover of language, and evidence of this can be seen throughout her entire presentation. She spoke of how “the past informs practice and expectations today.” My favorite slide was when she compared “Safe and Sanctuary,” vs “Inclusive and Refuge.”

What I took away from this was that we build trust with our communities over time. While we have standards of behavior when working in public space there is the reality of what it is truly like to work in a public space—and it’s not a safe space. We strive to create inclusive experiences in an unpredictable world often with vulnerable populations not captured in census.

Ms. Ariel see’s our future as social justice in action—while we are not a political institution, our current political environment has made us one.

She is someone to watch as she has her pulse on our current predicaments. I encourage you to read her presentation in its entirety:

Walsh Benjamin followed with his “Public library and private space: Homeless queer youth navigating information access and identity in Toronto.” Mr. Benjamin examines the public library as an important space for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirit, and/or queer youth. As an academic librarian, he’s report stands at the intersection of public library services and library research—something not well represented in the literature and something for which he should receive accolades.

The first challenge to delivering services to this population is finding them –essentially, delivering services for those you cannot see. Homeless queer youth often hide their identity and such deception often leads to chronic and/or critical information poverty. Essentially, queer youth are seeking privacy in an Urban Hybrid Space as they cannot embrace their queerness in a public space.

The entire presentation is available here:

The discussion shifted to building design with Traci Engel Lesniski, Minneapolis, USA, “Welcome to All: Design’s Role in Creating an Inclusive, Safe, and Beloved Community Destination.” Ms. Engel spoke of the community’s resistance to the Central Library’s redesign identifying it as a “fancy homeless shelter and an irrelevant space for the rest of the population.” Ms. Lesniski’s architectural firm, MSR,  took this “homeless issue” as a design challenge recognizing the actual and perceived safetyissues. They incorporated onsite offices for social service providers, study rooms for consultations, computer table design that allowed for privacy and space for belongings of the homeless, and they created a 2nd controlled entry to the children’s suite. Essentially, MSR turned the library from a fear-based program to a home-based program, and opened in 2013 to community acclaim. The entire presentation is available here:

Libraries Without Borders, Paris, France presented “Libraries as vectors of integration for immigrants and refugees: access to information and education in the Ideas Box in France. With 68.5 million displaced individuals worldwide, libraries play an important role in integrating immigrants and refugees into host communities. The “Ideas Box” is a flexible, modular, mobile library that makes for an excellent outreach tool. Outreach to displaced individuals helps them to regain a sense of normalcy after trauma, and demonstrates that the library is a place to build hope again. Presentation not available.

Continuing the discussion of the public library as a safe space, “Public library as a safe place: principles and experiences of Brazilian Park Libraries in Rio de Janeiro,” looks at a public library as a space and place rather than as a service. Park Libraries in Rio de Janeiro are located in very poor and violent regions of the city. The purpose is to explore the social capital theory as it applies to public libraries. The entire presentation is available here:

The final presentation, “Library for the homeless: A case study of a Shelter House and a School for Homeless in Indonesia and Malaysia,” examined the impact of library materials and services at homeless shelters. The study found that sustainability is an issue both for materials and staff training. The entire presentation is available here: