IFLA 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa was an interesting and informative experience. Last year’s conference in Lyon, France, can us a good perspective on the congress but at a very early stage of our planning. For this year’s congress, we were much more knowledgeable about what needed our careful attention. In particular, we were very focused on the volunteer operation, the opening session, the cultural evening, and the plenary session. All are aspects that our Columbus 2016 National Committee is responsible for next year.
Our 8 person team included the CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Pat Losinski; Gregg Dodd and Wendy Ramsey (CML); Quanetta Batts, Wes Boomgaarden, Lisa Carter, Lisa Patton-Glinski, and me (OSU). This local team has been working together for some time to plan for the congress. Getting to South Africa took approximately two days – we departed the afternoon of Monday, August 11 and arrived in Cape Town late at night on Tuesday, August 12th. While getting to Africa takes a while, the time difference is just 6 hours ahead. I can assure you that our first priority on arrival was to get some sleep!
Wednesday, August 13, 2015
Wes’ primary responsibility as our Volunteer Coordinator is to oversee the work 300+ volunteers. As a result, he needed to be on the ground today to participate in the packing of the congress bags. These are the conference tote bags which are given to each registered attendee of the congress. They are filled with the program documents and advertisements from congress supporters, but perhaps more importantly to us, the final congress announcement for Columbus 2016. Here’s a picture of the beautiful Cape Town bag created in one of the townships. The next picture(s) are the pallet of final announcements for our congress – note the vibrant red color – as well as close-up of the actual announcement.
It will probably come as no surprise to those who know Wes that he quickly became good friends with the Cape Town National Committee chairs and the Volunteer Coordinator. It wasn’t long before he was having his lunch every day with them, and following along as they arranged and oversaw the work of the volunteer. Each National Committee has the choice of having polo shirts or vests for their volunteers. We haven’t decided yet but here’s an example of the volunteer vest from Cape Town.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
We had two primary responsibilities on Saturday – to get our exhibition booth set up and to attend the US Caucus. As happens at most library conferences, there is an exhibits portion of the congress which includes a booth for IFLA to highlight the upcoming congress. This booth was the primary responsibility of Quanetta and Wendy with help from Diane Share] from Experience Columbus. Experience Columbus had spent a wide variety of things to be handled out including pens, travel plasters (that Africa speak for bandaids!), and lip balm, all branded with the Columbus logo. We also took along bookmarks that included our IFLA Columbus 2015 logo, dates and web address.
On Saturday evening, the various IFLA Caucuses meet. These are country or region based sessions for registrants for the congress. Sometimes these caucuses are extremely important. During election years for a new IFLA President, they work similarly to US party caucuses where there are discussions about who the members of the caucus will support. Since this was not an election year, the US Caucus was largely a brief program followed by a reception.
Pat and I had primary responsibility for presenting as part of this program. We showed another brief video about Columbus and talked about our plans for the Congress. Perhaps more importantly we asked our US colleagues to be prepared for the closing session by teaching them how to do OH-IO and O-H-I-O cheers. Many (particularly those from the Big Ten) later told me how difficult it was for them to cheer for Ohio!
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Sunday was a busy today as the opening of the congress occurred in the morning. This Opening Session is a time for the National Committee to highlight the culture and experiences of their country for the attendees. And the Cape Town NC did a magnificent job. One of the highlights for me was the 15 member youth choir who sang traditional songs, danced, and built considerable participation and energy from the audience.
We certainly have our work cut out for us to match the show put on by the South Africans.
The second big event of the day was the opening reception for the exhibits. This was an “all-hands-on deck” event where our entire team staffed the IFLA Columbus exhibit booth. We handed out takeways and bookmarks, talked about coming to Columbus, and talked about the scholarship/travel grant opportunities to be available this fall. The reception attracted the majority of the 3000+ attendees so we were busy from start to finish (2 hours).
Monday, August 17, 2015
Monday was a little lighter day with our primary responsibly being the meeting of the Columbus National Committee. The National Committee is co-chaired by Pat and me and included 8-10 other representatives from a variety of library associations and groups in the US (including ALA, ARL, OCLC). Our local team also attends this meeting; Wendy and Quanetta create the agendas, do the minutes, and generally keep us on track. This meeting is largely a time to bring the NC up to date on progress; to ask for their input on various items; and to touch base with the IFLA and KIT leadership. (KIT Is the professional conference organizer that assists IFLA with its congresses). In particular, we work with two key contacts, Josche Ouwerkerk from IFLA and Roberta Odebrecht from KIT. But at the congress, we also had the chance to talk with all of the individuals on their teams who were in attendance.
At this meeting, we also received an even more detailed agenda and timeline with key dates between now and the congress in 2016.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Tuesday included three big events – the plenary session, a visit to the Conference for Directors of National Libraries, and the Cultural Evening.
During our 2016 congress, the NC will have responsibility for selecting speakers for two plenary sessions. Plenary sessions are held at times when there is no other programming so that all attendees can attend. For 2016, we have already confirmed David Ferriero, National Archivist of the United States (former library director at Duke and the New York Public Library) as one of our speakers. We’re still working on the second speaker. The rest of the IFLA program is planned by the various sections and committees of the association.
In the late afternoon, Pat and I traveled to the South African Centre for the Book where the Conference of Directors of National Libraries was meeting. This is a very formal setting with each director of a national library (such as the Library of Congress or the National Library of Australia) seated by a microphone in a semi-circle with a national flag from their country (think pictures you have seen of the United Nations). Pat and I had been invited to talk about the upcoming congress in Columbus.
But the highlight of the day was the Cultural Evening. The Cultural Evening is the host country’s opportunity to entertain and feed the all 3000+ attendees. And what a party it was. There was an array of food from around the entire country; entertainment including singing and dancing; face painting; and actors dressed as animals native to Africa.
This part of our own planning is well advanced. The evening will be hosted at COSI and will focus on five regions of the US. Each region will have food and entertainment reflective of that region.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Wednesday included another plenary session and an opportunity for the Columbus National Committee to meet with the Cape Town National Committee. We had a chance to pick their brains about their experience, what worked, what didn’t as well as particular challenges they faced.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Thursday morning provided an opportunity for our local committee to meet again (as the congress was drawing to a close) with Josche (IFLA) and Roberta (KIT) and their teams. In particular, we began to plan for their site visit in January (which will planned to coincide with ALA Midwinter so that they can experience that conference before coming on to Columbus for a few days). We will also begin having monthly conference calls with them. Those will be scheduled every two weeks as the conference gets closer.
The IFLA Closing Session occurred in the late afternoon. During this session, IFLA presents its awards and completes the transition to a new president who begins a 2 year term. The session also announced the location of the 2017 congress in Wroclaw Poland.
A key element of the closing session is the invitation to the Columbus 2016 congress which was presented by Pat and me. We showed a video about Columbus and talked about our plans. We taught our international colleagues how to do the OH-IO and O-H-I-O cheers to prepare them for their arrival in Columbus. And at the end of the session, we distributed more than 3,000 luggage tags bearing the 2016 Columbus logo. We were also presented with a gift from the Cape Town National Committee – a beautiful local custom – a painted ostrich egg.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Friday of the IFLA Congress is library visit day. Early in the morning, attendees line up for pre-registered visits to libraries in the area. Quanetta and Wes observed the logistics of the departures in the morning. Lisa Carter participated in a library visit to see how it was handled. During Columbus 2016, we will be hosting visits at OSU, CML, and around the state.
Of course, we worked very hard while we were away including the extensive travel. But we also had a chance to have some fun. Many of us were able to visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, the V&A Waterfront, Robbin Island (where Nelson Mandala was imprisoned), the Stellenbosch wine region, the Cape and Table Mountain. Over the weekend following the congress, some of us extended our stay for whale watching and safari activities.