Report On IFLA Meeting in South Africa
by Claire M. Germain
I attended the IFLA meeting in Durban, South Africa as the official AALL Representative to IFLA. It was a tremendous learning experience. The newly established Law Libraries Section elected officers: Holger Knudsen (Germany) was appointed Chair, and Claire Germain (USA) was appointed Secretary. Frank Hurinville (France) was appointed Information Coordinator, and Donna Scheeder (USA) Treasurer.
Out of the total 3,100 attendees, a large contingent of 1,300 African librarians were attending. The opening event, in a large amphitheater, was hosted by a Zulu story teller in beautiful traditional dress, surrounded by children and a huge book, which displayed, page by page, the various speakers. Dr. Pallo-Jordan, Minister of Arts and Culture, mentioned the importance of freedom of exchange of ideas and books. In 1994, the segregated library system was reunited, and there is now a pressing need to develop a reading culture. Justice Abbie Sachs, South Africa Constitutional Court, gave an inspiring and moving speech, explaining that he was arrested in 1963, and put into solitary confinement. It is only through the intervention of a librarian that he preserved his sanity, because they finally allowed him to borrow books from a local library. The Law Libraries Section program focused on open access to legal information, and included four speakers, on the South African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII), the Constitutional Court Library, and on open access to journal literature. A visit of the University of KwaZulu - Natal Libraries, including the Law Library, was particularly interesting.
IFLA represents library and information services interests on a global basis. It was present at the World Summit on Information Society, and is recognized as the public policy forum by such international organizations as UNESCO and WIPO. There is great potential for AALL to be active in IFLA, and it is hoped that many U.S. law libraries will join IFLA. The 2008 meeting is in Quebec City, a destination easily reachable from the United States. Programs are planned on authentication of official digital law in the U.S., Europe, and Canada, as well as a program on doing research in Quebec law. Alex Byrne, current President, challenged the U.S. and Canada to raise money to sponsor Latin American and Caribbean librarians to attend IFLA in Quebec in August 2008. The Australian library associations raised enough money to sponsor 16 African librarians to the Durban meeting. It might be a nice gesture for AALL's FCIL SIS to sponsor one or two law librarians from Latin America or the Caribbean area to attend the meeting.