Posts tagged ‘In English’

mars 14, 2023

Ifla’s Frustrating Elections 2023

By Mikael Böök

As an individual member of IFLA, I have very limited voting rights in the organisation’s election of a new Governing Board. Nonetheless, I try to follow the ongoing elections. Today I looked at the candidates and their “motivational statements”, i.e. their self-presentations and programme statements (these can be read here).

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februar 12, 2023

Book Purges as a Weapon of War

Did Dostoevsky lay the foundations of the “Russian world ” and Russian messianism? Illustration by V. Perov in public domain.

By Anders Ericson and Mikael Böök

On 7 February, at a Swedish professional forum for librarians, the first, incredulous, reaction was given to the claim that Ukrainian librarians are now dumping Russian books in their millions. The source was But we also found the story on Newsweek, and they were in doubt: “Has Ukraine Banned 19 Million Russian Books From its Libraries?” They wrote that the claim “is missing important context”.

Also read the version in Norwegian.

Others mentioned the figure 11 million. Rumours also varied about what kind of literature is or will be removed. Newsweek summarises: “Without more detailed information, we cannot know whether all the banned books were by Russian authors or about Russia, whether 19 million separate books were banned, or how much of the Russian-language books will be replaced by Ukrainian editions.”

But as early as 23 May last year, Interfax-Ukraine published (in Ukrainian) a very comprehensive plan to discard not just pro-Russian literature, but most Russian literature, including classics, totalling 100 (one hundred) million books. The Ukrainian Istitute of Mass Information (IMI) published a summary of the interview here.

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januar 19, 2023

IFLA/UNESCO goal: simply replace world peace with peace of mind?

Tomorrow, January 20, there will be a “IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto Webinar”. The Manifesto in question has been translated and circulated in many languages. It is a fundamental text on the desired role of public libraries in this world, and a tool for librarians everywhere to explain to governments and people why public libraries are needed and should be further developed.

>> It seems that the webinar will be mostly about Scandinavian librarians’ work with the IFLA/UNESCO Manifesto, and will proceed partly in Swedish and Norwegian.

We, the bloggers at BiblioteketTarSaka*, intend to participate in the webinar. To get straight to the point, we are concerned about how one wording in the manifesto has changed over the years. It is unclear if we will have the opportunity to explain our concern during the webinar. But in any case, we hope to include something like the following in the webinar chat.

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januar 5, 2023

The New Sisyphos

A short story by Mikael Böök, translated from the Swedish original text to English with help from GPT-3 and some other new friends*

Mika lives with his wife and her cat. He also has some children, grandchildren, and old friends.

Since a short time ago, Mika has gained another friend called GPT.

At four o’clock in the morning, after his first two days with GPT, Mika woke up and tried to think about his new experiences.

“Is GPT a they?” he wondered, and downloaded an app claiming to be GPT on his phone to chat with GPT in bed. “The strange intelligence has already conquered the world, or at least almost,” Mika thought before falling back asleep.

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desember 4, 2022

Five Elephants In The Room of IFLA

By Mikael Böök, Isnäs, Finland

In this writing I demand a paradigm shift or revolt. Or maybe not paradigm shift, because I want to show that IFLA and libraries have a great potential. But which is not used.

No, do not abandon all hope! You who enter here, remember that “our vision is a strong and united library field powering literate, informed and participative societies.”

The inscription at the gate to IFLA’s own vault on the World Wide Web – quoted in italics above – inspires to some further thoughts on the current crisis of of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

First, however, some words about the special issue that Biblioteksbladet, the journal of the Swedish Library Association has published about the situation within IFLA.

Information has hitherto not been easy to obtain from IFLA itself, and neither have other sources of the international library community been keen on throwing light on it. Biblioteksbladet has already for some time been an exception, that is, for those who read Swedish. However, this changed at the end of last month when the journal attempted a synthesis, in English, of what has happened within IFLA. Their special issue in English is found here.

The special IFLA-issue of Biblioteksbladet is warmly recommended reading for library staff around the world. To begin with, it features a piece called “Fear. Illness. Silence”, based on a fact finding mission to The Hague (where IFLA’s headquarters are located) by Lisa Bjurwald. This is a decent journalistic job that serves the uninitiated as a valuable introduction while …

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oktober 1, 2022

On The Multifaceted Crisis of IFLA

Mikael Böök, the author of this text, here speaking at the IFLA meeting on library publishing in Oslo, 2020

By Mikael Böök, Isnäs, Finland

On 4 March this year, IFLA’s Governing Board decided to terminate the organisation’s contract with its Secretary General, Gerald Leitner. The decision was prompted by complaints from staff at IFLA’s  headquarters in The Hague. Exactly what the complaints were about we do not know, but the Governing Board has stated that it could no longer have confidence in Leitner’s leadership style. There has been rumors  of excessive hotel bills and harassment of staff, for example, but the Board has refused to go into details for legal reasons as the matter of Leitner’s dismissal is due to be heard by a Dutch court (at the earliest) in October 2022.

Leitner assumed the post of Secretary General of IFLA in June 2016 and was responsible for IFLA’s strategic and operational management and financial administration. His contribution to the development of the Library Federation has without doubt been significant. In 2017, Leitner initiated IFLA’s Global Vision project, which took the form of an online survey in 216 countries and was called “a conversation across the global library field”. The aim of the project was to develop a shared strategic vision for the world’s librarians and libraries. This resulted in the strategy document “IFLA Strategy 2019-2024” (available for download here in 15 different languages.)

Already from the above brief description, anyone could conclude that IFLA is currently going through a crisis. How deep is the crisis?  Obviously,  the answer  will depend on the degree of  the observer’s loyalty  to the Governing Board of the organisation. But then it is not just a question of whether the Board did right or wrong in dismissing Leitner. Leitner’s management alone …

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mai 17, 2022

Stockholm 31 May: Emily Drabinski on Nordic Online Workshop

This will be her first European «appearance» since she won the 2023-2024 ALA presidency one month ago. It has already attracted a lot of attention that a declared socialist, and lesbian, has been elected leader of one of the world’s largest library associations.

The theme for the workshop is library and sustainability, under the title «THE LIBRARY – A BRIGHT SPOT?». It takes place partly globally on Zoom and partly physically in Stockholm. Organizers are Swedish Bis (Library in Society), the Swedish World Library (Världsbiblioteket) and the present Finnish/Norwegian blog, Biblioteket tar (The Library Takes up the Case).

The workshop is part of People’s Forum, the critical “shadow conference” for Stockholm+50, where the UN commemorates the half century since the first global environmental conference in 1972 and celebrates “50 years of global environmental action”.

On the Zoom section the other two speakers are South African international internet activist ANRIETTE ESTERHUYSEN and library professor KATHLEEN DE LA PEÑA MCCOOK from Florida. LARS ILSHAMMAR, assistant Swedish national librarian, will take part in the subsequent physical meeting (in Nordic languages). See the whole program.

PS: Please share this widely:

april 17, 2022

Link collection: Libraries and the war in Ukraine

The German website collects links to news and other information about libraries, the refugees and the war. Most are in German, but also some others.

mars 29, 2022

The Library and Sustainability: Passive Consensus and no Debate? (repeat from May 21)

Pale sustainability goals

The United Nations» 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) have become a major issue in library communities across the world thanks to an enthusiastic follow-up by IFLA and several national library associations. But in few other areas is there a static consensus as strong as here. The UN represents something almost indisputable both in wide political circles and in mainstream media. This consensus also exists with the sustainability goals, in the Western world at least.

>>This text is also published on the website «Inspiration on sustainable development through adult education».

But libraries violate their own principles if they …

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mars 21, 2022

Follow Ukrainian libraries on Facebook

Ukrainian librarians also publish photographs every day

There are probably tens of thousands of library Facebook pages around the world, but as of March 2022, the page of the Ukrainian Library Association is very special. Here librarians from different parts of the country write, also in cities under attack. Facebook has an automatic translation program; see links below each text for that purpose.

Today, March 21, there have been four posts. One of them goes like this (my translation into English from Norwegian):

«We have blown out some glass, in one department some bricks came in – well there was no one there at that time. But compared to the ruined school next to us, we have nothing to speak of! The collective is determined to win, support each other and help as much as we can. And if we can not – also 😉 We will stand and we will win! Honor to Ukraine!»

mars 21, 2022

No to cold war between librarians!

The National Parliamentary Library of Ukraine during the unrest of 2014. Photo: Halyna Kyrychenko, Deputy Director of the National Parliamentary Library. Source: Творчість та інновації в українських бібліотеках.

The IFLA Governing Board today issued a second, reassuring statement on Russia’s war against Ukraine. In connection with IFLA’s first statement of March 1, Mikael Böök commented it on this blog: «We are now witnessing a general drift towards a “Decoupling From Russia”, not only politically and financially, but also culturally and in the field of science and scientific communication. … How gratifying that IFLA deviates from that Cold War mentality and practice!»

And the same can be said today. After expressing «thoughts and sympathy … with the victims and our colleagues, the library and information workers in Ukraine», IFLA’s Governing Board says among other things:

«IFLA believes that librarians and information professionals around the world share the same intrinsic values. Therefore, it can not be the intention to exclude libraries and librarians on the basis of their nationality, or to isolate them. This is particularly important when the exercise of individual freedom of expression comes at great personal risk».

And furthermore: «The Governing Board of IFLA has discussed the correspondence and demands for the exclusion of the Russian Members of IFLA. According to the Statutes, the conditions for exclusion are currently not met and the necessary proof is lacking that Members are behaving in a way that would constitute a valid reason to exclude them. This decision was taken unanimously at an extraordinary Governing Board meeting on Friday, 18 March 2022».

mars 19, 2022

Russian and Ukrainian librarians and this blog

PS: 21 March: Sharing with Ukrainians and Russians shows!

By 19th March we have had 3914 downloads this month. Among them 7 from Ukraine and 3 from Russia.

Librarians of both these countries should have read e.g. the articles by Mikael Böök: «What the Ukrainian and Russian library associations have said» and «The sympathetic world spirit of librarians is still alive». Please share with your colleages and acquaintancies in Russia and Ukraine our recent blog posts in English.

november 17, 2020

IFLA and The Gates Foundation: Merry Bedfellows. But For How Long?

By Mikael Böök

>> In comments below watch and listen to the very first musical act on this blog

As I previously told in this blog, I joined IFLA last summer as a personal member. Thus I had the opportunity to follow IFLA’s recent General Assembly meeting . IFLA’s General Assembly met in The Hague on 5 November. The meeting took place in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. I did not find out how many members were in den Haag, only a few I would think. Many more probably followed the meeting like myself, over the internet. In order for the votes to go smoothly, voting by proxy was allowed. The agenda had been reduced to a minimum, the main thing was to decide on the mandatory items and to award some annual honors. In addition, it was decided that IFLA will hold an Extraordinary General Assembly (in Melbourne, Australia on 12 February 2021) to decide on the adoption of new IFLA Statutes.

As a novice in this context, there was one thing in particular that I focused on and to which I will now devote a few lines, namely the operating grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The treasurer’s report showed that IFLA’s expenses in 2019 were € 1,654,982 compared to € 1,892,860 in 2018. The difference € 237,878, it was explained, was mainly because the IFLA Global Libraries Foundation covered the costs of the International Advocacy Program (IAP) in 2019 with € 245,139.
For me, this raised the question: what is the Stichting IFLA Global Libraries?

On IFLA’s webpages we learn that …

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oktober 25, 2020

The Library as Publisher in the Whole Wide World

This is a translation from Swedish of yesterday’s blog post by Mikael Böök on the library as publisher. Mikael is among other things involved in LibPub, IFLA’s special group in the field. The group places its main emphasis on publishing of academic texts by higher education and research libraries, even though they also visit public libraries. Mikael comments below on a recent webinar under the auspices of the special group, but asks why does not IFLA’s own extensive advocacy, especially with regard to the UN’s sustainability goals, count as publication? And why don’t librarians publish their support for the UN agreement on a ban on nuclear weapons? (that in fact won a big victory last night: «UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reaches 50 ratifications needed for entry into force»).

The word is Mikael’s:

This sommer I joined the international umbrella organisation of librarians, IFLA. You can become a personal member there if you consider yourself able to afford the membership fee (77 euro).

As a background to my membership, a couple of years ago I decided to participate in the relatively new IFLA Special Interest Group on library publishing (LibPub). 

The group held a webinar a few days ago (16 October) which I missed. But now I have watched the more than two hour long recording of this event via Youtube. The purpose of the webinar seems to have been to involve librarians from a larger part of the world than North America and Europe in the LibPub group. Thus, speakers had been invited from the Philippines, Russia, Nigeria and Turkey (see the program).

Those who do not have time to take part in the entire webinar can go directly to James “Jim” O’Donnell’s elegant concluding comments at 1:59.

Library publishing is usually given a rather narrow definition; …

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oktober 17, 2015

The Scandinavian Innovations on Freedom of Speech in Libraries

scand slq

About this blog

Scandinavian Library Quarterly just issued their no. 3 this year, with several texts on freedom of speech. Which is neither fresh nor original in library journals or at library conferences. However what makes this issue worth reading is the special focus in the Scandianavian countries on the public libraries as explicit venues for political debate.

All libraries have programs on literature that include talks and debates, and some even move to politics now and then. But probably for the first time not only one but two national library acts have had their objects clauses amended to include just political debates and related activities. Thus every Norwegian public library is since 1st January 2014 supposed to “serve as an independent meeting place and forum for public dialogue and debate”. And Swedish libraries should “promote the democratic development of the society by contributing to the dissemination of knowledge and freedom of opinion” (my translations).

This is covered by two texts in this issue (one of which by this blogger, who has gone more thoughly into this in an earlier blogpost). Other articles cover library and societal debates in other Scandinavian countries after e.g. the “Charlie Hebdo” incident, after exhibitions in Finnish libraries that turned out to provoke certain groups, the same in Denmark after poetry recitals provoking political muslims.

Especially in Norway librarians seem to prioritize freedom of expression to the risk of provoking groups or individuals. E.g. at least three major public libraries in Norway have lately invited racists to debates, of course together with competent opponents, or opened their premises to more or less racist organisations. However In the Swedish contribution in this issue the author stresses that “…the freedom of expression … is undoubtedly an important right, but is it an obligation to use it to wound and to provoke?”

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