Loida’s IFLA – Durban, South Africa

The World Library and Information Congress: 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council took place last August 19-23 in the Zulu Kingdom Durban, an interesting city with a population mainly composed by africans, whites and indians. It was a supernatural experience to walk the streets where not long ago, unfortunately, the apartheid ruled. It was absolutely electrifying to hear stories about so many heroes who fought hard to ensure  the right to education, recreation and simply daily-life activities for their fellow brothers and sisters.

Most of the IFLA people descended into Durban on Friday, August 17 and quickly got work. IFLA Core Activities and Standing Committees had their meetings on Saturday, 8/18 starting at 8:00 a.m. The FAIFE Committee of which I am a member met that early and I was there, sunglasses and all. The meeting was very fruitful.

Saturday night was the time for the caucuses to meet. As in the past, I attended the US Caucus and afterwards, the UK Caucus. For those of you who don’t know it, the Brits adopted me few years ago… or did I adopt them? 😉  Gotta love them!

Sunday, 8/19 was The Opening. In the best Friends’ fashion and in the style of Janice, I have to say “Oh…My…God,” the keynote speaker, Justice Albie Sachs brought down the house and tears to my eyes with his magnificent and moving speech. For a long time he has been an advocate of human rights and at one point while in solitary confinement -without trial- a librarian saved his life. Guards would bring titles of books Justice Albie wanted to read to a nearby library and this anonymous, unknown librarian will send him the books. Justice Albie said that that librarian saved his life. I can feel the tears coming to my eyes again. In 1988 he was blown up by a bomb placed in his car in Maputo by South African security agents, losing an arm and the sight of an eye. In 1994 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court.

I could’ve gone home after that speech. Instead I went to the Newcomers Sessions to talk about the New Professionals Discussion Group (NPDG) programme, Developing new professionals for the future presented on Monday, 8/20 starting at 8:30 am! This year all my IFLA committee meetings and programs started at 8:30 am. The world saw a lot of my very-dark sunglasses, uh-hum.

Apparently, the announcement at the Newcomers Session was what the NPDG needed to boost the attendance to more than 300 people!! Some sources say close to 400 people. Yay! NPDG convenors, Joanna Ball, Mr A (I should say, Andrew Cranfield) and I were ecstatic. There were people seating on every available space on the floor. Others stood at the back of the room for the duration of the program- 2 hours.

This program was my baby, the NPDG baby but since I am a convenor…  We had energetic Tracy Hall, former Director of the ALA Office for Diversity, and Assistant Dean at the LIS program of the Dominican University; amazing Veronda Pitchford, Program Officer of Urban Libraries Council; international lecturer and South African herself, Ujala Satgoor, Director of a library at the University of Pretoria, and the one and only Mr A, Director of EBLIDA.

The program was a huge success. People talked about it for ages. I still receive emails about it. We got invitations to work in conjunction with other IFLA committees and that is soooo good! I will let you know what are the final results… in the meantime, join the NPDG-L which currently has -the last time I looked at it- 451 participants.

I could say that after the huge Monday success the rest of the week was a blur but Not! South Africans had a wonderful surprise for IFLA delegates- a Beach Party! Oh, yes it is exactly what you are thinking… it was so much fun. There was yummy food, music, dance and really cool conversations. We loved the sand in our shoes. Some went barefoot; others got their feet wet in the Indian Ocean. One of the best Beach Parties ever.

The FAIFE programme on Tuesday, 8/21, Access to HIV/AIDS Information in Africa and Intellectual Property Issues was excellent. The speakers were terrific, but I remember the Q&A section where a librarian from India spoke about the campaign they have started in that country to create awareness of the disease among wives and older adults. Another highlight was the mention of a just-published book about children dealing with the HIV/AIDS stigma. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title. I’d appreciate if someone can send it to me, pls.

On Wednesday, I visited the library at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in the University of KwaZulu-Natal. There, we visited a theater named after Steve Bantu Biko.

Thursday, 8/23 we witness how the new Women, Information and Libraries Discussion Group successfully presented their program, Women, Information and Libraries in relation to the UN Millennium Development Goals. I was very glad to see the new set of convenors and the program they coordinated. It was great! Kudos to my friends, Maria Cotera and Em Claire Knowles, convenors of the DG.

During the closing session on Friday, 8/24, we said farewell to wonderful Alex Byrne, IFLA President 2005-2007. I must add my thanks to Alex who always supported the NPDG and was a really brilliant President.

IFLA- Durban findings:

Zulu Jazz Lounge -across City Hall and near the Royal Hotel (no website!). We found the place by serendipity when we ran into a bunch of people from the ALA Black Caucus and they invited us to go with them to ‘this Jazz place.’ What a Jazz venue! Little we knew, that we will experience an explosion of Jazz. Contemporary and local. Everyone danced- the visitors, the locals and the staff! What a fun place. At some point I looked around and the staff was all dancing on the steps to the bar, the visitors were dancing in front of the stage, and every one else still seating at the tables were moving arms, legs and head- all to the rhythm of Zulu songs by a fantastic singer with a powerful and sweet voice. We loved it so much that we returned.

Last but not least, the IFLA people were lovely as ever.  The Gang: Maria, Jo and Mr A were unbelievable. As always, Paul and Bob were terrific! and we got a new member, Liz 😉 We had fun, drama and Amarula. All combined is not bad for the health, if it is done once per year — smile, smile; wink, wink. Kidding aside, you guys are the best. Lots of love!

For pictures look at the Flickr section on this blog or look at this http://www.flickr.com/photos/45964032@N00/sets/72157600159912062/

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