The Association of Greek Librarians and Information Scientists (ΑGLIS) together with the National Library of Greece (NLG) organised a meeting last month, 23 November, entitled ‘Meta- IFLA WLIC Athens 2019: Its scientific aftermath and the impact of the conference on the Greek Library Community’. Participants gathered at the Book Castle of the National Library of Greece, situated at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), to discuss libraries’ future and the outcomes of the 85th World Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

Neos Kosmos interviewed two co-chairs of the national committee of the 85th World Library and Information Congress, Dr Filippos Tsimpoglou, general director of the NLG, and Alexandra Papazoglou, president of the Association of Greek Librarians and Information Scientists

They revealed what they have learned from the experiences as national co-chairs of IFLA’s Congress in Greece.

Why was IFLA’s Congress important to the NLG and the AGLIS? What were its benefits?

Filippos Tsimpoglou: The National Library of Greece had just moved to its new premises at the SNFCC. Therefore, we were very fortunate to welcome guests from the world’s librarian community. While the Library was still new, fresh and striking, every guest became aware of what it meant to enjoy “an open National Library”. The National Library became more known to a worldwide public as a result of IFLA’s Congress.

Alexandra Papazoglou: Speaking on the Association’s behalf, the scholarships offered by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, the Onassis Foundation and the Hellenic Academic Libraries Association, provided an opportunity for many librarians to attend the Conference. It really was a lifetime opportunity. Despite the public sector’s rigidity and difficulties, more than 500 librarians registered to attend the Conference encouraging openness and connecting Greek librarians with the global (librarian) community that encounter the same problems and challenges. This is the Conference’s legacy and I hope that we can build on this experience, so that this is not the last time that some participate in such a Conference. Since 2012 there have only been a few Greeks who have been involved in IFLA. I wish and hope that this experience becomes a lifetime lesson for all; you have to stand up to receive more opportunities and acquire better professional training. Because in the end this is what it is all about: becoming a better professional.

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IFLA (2019), Filippos Tsimpoglou (Director General of the National Library of Greece), Alexandra Papazoglou (President of the Association of Greek Librarians and Information Scientists).

What was it like to co-organise the Conference and what did you learn from this collaboration?

AP: It was a huge effort. For example, the sponsorship issue was very confusing. There were very few commitments that were not kept at the end. Borrowing Daniel Mendelsohn’s words from Odyssey I believe that in this ‘struggle’ it was unity that helped us. The unity between myself and Filippos Tsimpoglou was exceptional. We would not have managed otherwise. There was mutual support. We had solidarity.

FT: And complementarity. At times when I stopped, Alexandra would continue and reach the end. For reasons of ability, availability and character, we complemented each other and we never competed.

ΑP: Yes, I agree. That helped a lot.

FT: We also could not rely on individual participation in the Conference. We were supported by the Association of Greek Librarians and Information Scientists and reached more than 500 Greek participants. Towards the end, the Association played an important role. Panos Laskaridis also contributed fundamentally since he committed towards providing funding from the beginning to the end. That made a difference.

ΑP: And the SNF, of course.

FT: The volunteers offered a lot too. There were approximately 200 volunteers, including the international ones. The volunteers radiated an atmosphere similar to that of the Greek Olympic Games 2004.

ΑP: I also shouldn’t neglect to mention that we too improved constantly through our efforts to organise the Conference. We learned many things on the way.

IFLA (2019), Session 184, Australian Robert Knight.

What did the Meta-IFLA Conference discover about the future of librarians and libraries?

ΑP: Libraries are changing constantly and we must be able to face the challenges raised by technology, education and society. I was impressed by a session called ‘Change’. The environmental and climate change has been discussed as one of the issues concerning libraries. It has become part of the libraries’ role. This sustainability issue affects community preservation, and so it defines the way forward for libraries because they form part of society, economy, and culture.

FT: As we know, National Libraries join a separate Conference in parallel to the IFLA one, the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL). During this separate Conference, we discussed National Libraries’ role and argued that National Libraries must respond to the planet’s challenges by adapting also to the regional circumstances. Secondly, National Libraries must shift, or become more open to the general public, instead of only reaching out to researchers. Today, National Libraries are open to all. Libraries change. Connectivity is what matters. There is a saying that I like very much: Libraries are living οrganisations. Living, not immortal! Libraries have life, but if you don’t adapt to the environment, life ends.

Finally, after having co-organised IFLA, what are the future goals for your organisations?

FT: The National Library of Greece has to follow up with the changes, and enable one or two or even three people to keep up to date with IFLA’s sectors and their developments. The World Library and Information Congress, held in Athens last August has not finished yet! Those who are really interested will visit the links and click on the Conference’s Program, videos, now that we experience the Conference’s impact. At least that is what I shall do.

ΑP: As far as the Association of Greek Librarians and Information Scientists is concerned, since we made this great start, we wish to illustrate librarians’ different roles. There are many different professions under this umbrella term. Therefore, we wish them, with the ultimate goal to improve librarians’ studies, and the Greek Librarian Universities’ curriculum. We are also aiming to initiate an open day for libraries, where the public can visit to meet us, talk to us, and experience the benefits of a library visit.

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