“Leading the way: Libraries as Motors of Change” IFLA President Meeting in Barcelona

40896223892_f799c7e063_qOn 19 March 2018 in Barcelona I have participated to the IFLA President’s Meeting under the theme: “Leading the way: Libraries as Motors of Change”.

President Gloria Perez affirms: “Libraries do not need to be the victims of change. They do not have to sprint to keep up with change. They can drive change”.

IFLA is on the journey, ready to move, changing internally to deliver our mission, libraries are motors of change, pillars of digital development, supporting free speech and access to information.

The Secretary General Gerald Leitner has stressed that the main finding of the Global Vision Project is unity: Librarians around the world share common values and are united in their goals. There was input from more than 31,000 participants from 213 countries. The “Global Vision Report Summary” presents 10 highlights paired with 10 opportunities. Following the President’s Meeting there were 2 days of workshop activities   for the follow up of the Project.

After the introduction, the meeting has been organized in 4 sessions with the participation of external experts who have brought a critical contribution to the discussion on the transformation of libraries. The sessions are:
Foresight Session: Looking to the Future
Session I: Building Support in a Time of Austerity
Session II: Building Bridges to Deliver New Services
Session III: New Models for the Networked Age

The presentations of the President and the Secretary General are recorded at this URL:


The slides from the speakers presentations are available in the President’s Meeting website.


Foresight Session: Looking to the Future

Rafael Ramirez


Rafael Ramirez is Director of the Oxford Scenarios Programme and the University of Oxford’s first Professor of Practice. He is one of the world’s leading experts on scenario planning. He is the author of the book Strategic Reframing: The Oxford Scenario Planning Approach, co-authored with Angela Wilkinson (Oxford University Press in 2016). He has also been one of the first scholars to develop theories on the aesthetics of business and organisations, that help to clarify how scenario planning can be rendered more effective.

What is scenario? For Cambridge English Dictionary it is a description of possible actions or events in the future: future is time to come, different from the present! What is the scenario for the future of libraries? It is unpredictable and uncertain, it is better to consider different possibilities.

What is the cost of using only one map? He used the example of the map of the London underground, comparing the “standard” map with a map of the underground that also indicated where walking between two underground stations would be quicker than taking the underground.” How do we know this is the right map? Do you have only one vision? If you have two maps you can compare the chance assumptions for the future!

Frame out your libraries vision, not only one vision, it is better developing alternative frames and looking to different stakeholders approaches!

Turbulent-Uncertain-Novel-Ambiguous (TUNA) is the acronym used by an Oxford University Executive Education program. Turbulence is when contextual environment evidences ambiguity and unpredictable uncertainty. The external environment changes rapidly and unpredictably, making leaders look silly. What worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow. Traditional strategy assumes stability and predictability. Today’s world is better characterised by turbulence, uncertainty, novelty and ambiguity. Planning is learning, you should be a Learner! Learning with scenario planning is supported by re-framing and re-perception.

The OSPA (Oxford Scenario Planning Approach) considers that a scenario planning intervention can work best iteratively, in successive rounds of reframing and re-perceptions opposed to being a one-off project. Iterative reframing and re-perception is explicitly designed to have to disagree with each other, best conversations happen with people with different positions. Distinctive aspects of scenario planning as understood in Oxford are: 1) Everyone is considered a learner. 2) Iterative reframing and re- perception enabled by scenario planning. 3) Explicitly designed to help strategy & policymaking to find more and better options for coping and succeeding in ‘TUNA’ conditions.

By coming together, sharing perspectives, and developing plausible scenarios, we can develop strategies that give us the best chance of succeeding.

Your libraries focus on building citizens, not consumers. But what are the characteristics of the citizen of the future? What is the society that you will be serving?

Start considering the contextual environment, what may happen to your context? You should be invited to the table of decision makers! Design the strategy not only in your words, you should be received at different tables, where different stakeholders build their scenarios.

Session I: Building Support in a Time of Austerity

Cassie Robinson


Cassie Robinson has worked for fifteen years in the field of social innovation, social finance and public value, in particular in the digital age. She is currently the Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone, where she leads work on how the Internet is changing society and strengthening and protecting what matters most. Her work is towards connecting the tech sector to civil society and social innovation. Digital society need to reduce inequalities brought by technology, responsible technology is making the industry more accountable to society, digital understanding digital skills population.

Libraries make the Internet more useful, they curate knowledge that equalises power. By building up digital skills, libraries legitimise and build public trust in the Internet”.

Libraries work done by Doteveryone, make it easier to build communities. People are less convinced that Internet has been beneficial for society as a whole! Cassie Robinson argued that libraries could lead the response to this growing scepticism about the Internet. Their social mission, trusted status, and dedicated staff give them a key role in ensuring the web works for all.

Doteveryone believes we need libraries as neutral, non-commercial, community spaces for discovery, learning and existing in the digital age. We also believe libraries are a vital public institution, and provide vital social infrastructure, worth saving. Doteveryone started with some user research and a four-week discovery project (lead by Richard Pope) and then  created Librarieslab: libraries sustain the society equity. What can libraries do as active neutral spaces?

  • Libraries can provide safe, secure access by default
  • Librarians can help build digital understanding
  • Libraries can give us the tools we need to access the internet
  • Libraries can curate and publish information that equalises power
  • Libraries can look after our information
  • Libraries can help separate fact from fiction
  • Libraries can create virtual hubs for the community
  • Libraries can help build basic digital skills

Doteveryone has explored lots of ideas, but what can do a difference to libraries is simple: libraries need to talk more about themselves.

Iskra Mihaylova


Iskra Mihaylova is chair of the Regional Policy Committee at the European Parliament. She called on libraries to be proactive, to tell their representatives about the great work they are doing. When authorities need to make informed decisions, they can rely on libraries as partners. In sustainable development goals libraries are key players: without them it is not possible!

The role of libraries is to change the vision of people. They can realize projects about education, infrastructure, new challenges with migration, economic differences, security and safety of citizens:  shall we plan to invest in this direction?  This is a different role of libraries: they can be consultant, guarantee correct information for decision makers, advise about opportunities and expectations of people. When libraries will talk about refugees, climate change, where citizens can receive information?

Session II: Building Bridges to Deliver New Services

At a time that IFLA is looking to develop collaboration internally, the speakers in the second session underlined the potential for libraries to build alliances outside of the field. Our values are shared by many others, and should be a basis for partnership.

Finch Matthew


Matt Finch, Library Story-Teller, helps communities, companies, and institutions to create new and exciting activities, programmes, and partnerships. His work spans from policy consultation and strategic direction, to community outreach, events development for cultural institutions, and professional development of staff at all levels. Libraries are unique, but they should not be isolated.

Some statement from his speech:

For me, discovery, surprise, exploration, and the ability to do something the authorities didn’t predict, lie at the heart of a user’s encounter with a librarian”.

Libraries cooperation is still focused in product or services, not in relationship!”

Instead of saying: we know how to find water, engage community to find best solutions for them!

Roger Baig Viñas


Guifi-net is a community network, bringing the commons to the telecom sector. The network infrastructure is built collectively, from contributions from many participants, and governed as a common-pool resource (CPR). The results demonstrate that this increases efficiency, freedom of choice, professional activity, well aligned with commons principles.

CPR depletion is a well-known problem in other field: efficient and effective governance tools are needed and it is essential to clearly identify the stakeholders with a common pool of resources governance.

To bridge the Internet affordability gap, libraries can play a role as hubs for community networks. Openness, freedom & neutrality are characteristics of community networks, just like libraries”.

Session III: New Models for the Networked Age

Glyn Moody


Glyn Moody is a journalist and writes about the Internet, and related areas such as free software/open source, copyright, patents, open access, open data, trade deals, and digital rights. He has been a journalist for 35 years, and is best known for his book Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution (2001).

He underlined that we are facing a new dark age putting under attack:

  • Truth, for every fact an alternative fact,
  • Expertise under attack, symptomatic of larger contempt,
  • Knowledge under attack, common and belongs to world, but moved into a luxury product with serial crisis,
  • Sharing under attack EU: art 11 Copyright directive for snippets art 13 require filter upload or licence for all files,
  • Privacy under attack!

Knowledge is under attack: academic publishers are trying to turn it into a luxury product. As librarians you should promote open access: libraries are expertise made visible”.

Digital technologies have led to rapid changes in the way we create, share and access information. They have brought many advantages, but also require new ways of working – and thinking – in order to protect against the potential negative consequences the Internet can bring.  

Libraries could lead the fightback. Libraries should promote open access, support preprints, support for pyrite OA publish open access. Expertise is to be made visible by libraries, no solution but two metasolutions: 1) alliance with like-minded organisations to collaborate on this, 2) ask experts. Do not close the library doors, now you need to open the door, such as in extreme situations.

Unlibrarianless!! What can be society without libraries? More actively embrace concepts of new librarianship!

Toby Green


Toby Green, Head of Publishing at the OECD, talked about his efforts to build new platforms and services to survive. He pioneered the way books and data are published online alongside journals and working papers via the OECD iLibrary platform and he launched the iLibrary Partnership programme which now comprises five other intergovernmental organisations.

Collaboration offered a great means of preserving and promoting what matters. The idea that we solve the problem independently is not working!

Let’s get ourselves online, and create a platform to get the others online. Working together, pulling resources, takes us further. We can help other organizations to publish the way users expect.

Good example are ArXiv preprint repository by Ginsparg which is sustainable and  the preprint repository REPEC, monitoring the track. Build a system in a way a user expects, if service is not good, rebuild it! Really help user to access easily, share  and reuse for free, easy to use, simply posting content.







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