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Berlin conference logo  

World Library and Information Congress: 69th IFLA General Conference and Council

Access Point Library:
Media - Information - Cultural

August 1st - 9th 2003
Berlin, Germany
Patron: German Federal President Johannes Rau









Some Frequently Asked Questions about IFLA and the IFLA Conference


Founded in 1927, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions is an independent international non-governmental association that has formal associate relations with UNESCO. The aims of IFLA are to promote international understanding, co-operation, discussion, research and development in all fields of library activity and information science, and to provide a body through which librarianship can be represented in matters of international interest. Currently, the Federation counts more than 1,700 members from 150 countries.

IFLA's Governing Board is responsible for IFLA's general policy, management and finances. The Professional Committee monitors the planning and programming of professional activities carried out by IFLA's two types of bodies: professional groups (47 Sections organised in eight Divisions) and six Core Activities. There are also six Discussion Groups linked to a sponsoring Section.

1. General Research Libraries
2. Special Libraries
3. Libraries Serving the General Public
4. Bibliographic Control
5. Collections and Services
6. Management and Technology
7. Education and Research
8. Regional Activities

Core Activities
· Advancement of Librarianship Program (ALP)
· Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM)
· Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE)
· Preservation and Conservation (PAC)
· Universal Availability of Publications (UAP)
· Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC (UBCIM)

IFLA and Germany

IFLA and Germany, previously this meant either IFLA and West-Germany or IFLA and East-Germany. During that period as a divided country, Germany hosted four IFLA conferences: in Munich (1956), in Frankfurt am Main (1968), in Leipzig (1981) and again in Munich (1983). Each time this offered an additional opportunity for librarians from East and West to meet and talk to each other. IFLA 2003 Berlin will be the fifth Conference on German soil. Today, the city of Berlin is a symbol for overcoming the division and for the unification of East and West.

The engagement of German librarians within IFLA is demonstrated by two IFLA presidents from Germany, i.e. Gustav Hofmann (1958-1963) and Hans-Peter Geh (1985-1991) who is honorary president today, as well as by Honorary Fellow Günther Pflug.

Today six library associations and 60 library institutions are members of IFLA. 43 German librarians are active in Standing Committees of Sections, and one member (Claudia Lux) from Germany was elected to the Governing Board. During the recent years the number of personal affiliates to IFLA from Germany has increased to 18.

IFLA activities in Germany are supported significantly by the German Research Foundation (DFG), an organization providing financial support to research libraries which are part of the research structure in Germany and financing international professional exchanges. IFLA 2003 Berlin will lend wings to these important and useful cooperation opportunities for Germany across borders.

IFLA Conference - 2003

How do I persuade my boss to support my attendance?

Here are a few endorsements from people who have attended previous IFLA conferences which might help:

    "IFLA has contributed enormously to my personal and professional growth and has allowed me to feel that I can put something back into the international agenda… I have been excited by the enormous diversity of our profession, at the leading edge of grasping the challenges and opportunities of technology, while still struggling to ensure that some of the poorer and less accessible parts of the world are empowered through literacy and access to books: barefoot librarians still exist." Professor Judith Elkin, Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Information and English, University of Central England, Birmingham)

    "An IFLA conference gives us a great opportunity to meet people in the library world from all over the globe, to participate in various kinds of events and programmes, to get the latest information about books and technological advances" Yuriko Miyaji, Shirayuri College Library, Tokyo, Japan.

    "Attending an IFLA conference gives an invaluable opportunity to have a closer look at the library developments of the host country." Gloria Rodriguez, Director, Department of Culture and Libraries, Comfenalco, Medellin, Colombia.

    "We just experienced a wonderful IFLA convention and we want to thank you for that. The venue was well chosen, the turnout impressive, the programme has been excellent. I have never experienced such a lively, inventive and well-organised ceremony." Klaus Saur, K.G.Saur, Munich, Germany.

    "I have enjoyed very much socially and educationally the IFLA Conference. Lots of activities, lots of people, and I just cannot imagine how the organising committee have managed it." Paul Jagipa, Papua New Guinea.

    "I will have the opportunity to consolidate my present knowledge; to understand the changing information environment and its impact on LIS education; to develop the necessary skills to achieve international standards; and last but not least to network with the international community." Dinesh, Gupta, Associate Professor and Head, department of library and Information Science, Kota Open University, India.

How can I get the best out of the conference?

Plan carefully the sessions you want to attend. Be prepared to contribute to sessions during the question and answer periods. Use the social events to meet people and exchange experiences. Bring your business cards with you and be ready to exchange them (or simply your address) with people you meet. Make notes during meetings, tours of the exhibits and library visits of good ideas and innovations that you would like to follow up when you get back home. Write a brief report on the conference for your colleagues, including things you have learned or new ideas you would like to put into practice. Plan how you could make even better use of your attendance at next year's conference!

How do I avoid clashes between library visits, workshops and sessions?

It's a good idea to sit down in a quiet place as soon as you have the printed programme with a highlighter pen and mark all those sessions, workshops and visits which particularly interest you. But it's wise not to confine your choices to your own sector of library work. (For example, if you are a school librarian, you may well find inspiration and ideas from speakers in a variety of programmes, in addition those put on by the School Libraries and Resource Centres and the Libraries for Children and Young Adults sections. Because there is so much going on, you will almost certainly be unable to avoid clashes altogether. We try to persuade all speakers to let us have the text of their papers well in advance. The papers of those who respond are posted on IFLANET and you can print them in the paper-handling centre. Many papers are received in time for them to be translated into other IFLA languages. If it's a choice between a library visit or a workshop and a session for which there is a printed paper (which will also be IFLANET), for example, you may decide on the visit or the workshop. Once you've decided on your preferred sessions write them in the small conference diary provided in your pack. You can also plan your time ahead to some extent by checking IFLANET regularly in the weeks before the conference. The conference pages are updated frequently.

What does "SI" mean in the programme?

SI means simultaneous interpretation. Sessions marked SI have interpreters who translate the lecture and any discussion into the five working IFLA languages (English, French, German, Russian and Spanish). You need to take headsets into the room if you wish to make use of the service. They are usually available just outside the room. When you take part in a discussion, please remember to speak slowly and clearly to help the interpreters. Please return the headsets after use.

What is IFLA EXPRESS? Where can I get copies?

IFLA Express is the free daily newsletter of the conference. It gives information about changes to the programme such as extra exhibitors, room changes, additional speakers, and cancellations. It also has reminders about the locations of social events, transport arrangements and so on. It's an essential read. English language editions are available each morning from Monday until Friday (except Thursday). Copies will be placed at many different points in the conference centre. It is hoped that, like 2002, editions in French, German, Russian and Spanish will also be available for the 2003 conference. If you have a piece of information to submit, simply take it to the IFLA HQ secretariat offices.

Are the conference papers published?

We do not publish the proceedings of the conference. However, we continue to mount papers received on IFLANET after the conference is over. We keep indefinitely all the papers received on IFLANET. In addition we publish some of the best papers in IFLA Journal.

Can I attend ANY of the meetings listed in the programme?

You can attend any of the meetings, except those very few which are marked "closed meeting". Many of the meetings scheduled for Saturday 2nd August and Friday 8th August are meetings of the Standing Committees of IFLA Sections. You may attend any of these by permission of the Chair. This is usually given. It's a really good way to get to understand the work of IFLA's 45 professional sections. Indeed, you may find yourself getting involved!

Who chooses the conference city?

We invite National Association Members of IFLA to bid to hold the conference. The invitation is made six years in advance. We usually receive 4 or 5 expressions of interest. The Conference Planning Committee selects a short-list of two candidates. These two submit a full bid book and the chair of the committee and a member of IFLA HQ staff undertake site visits. The candidates make a presentation to the Governing Board which decides having considered the recommendation of the conference Planning Committee. One of the criteria they use is to try to hold it in different parts of the world to give people in different regions a chance to attend. The chosen city is announced during the conference closing ceremony five years ahead. This year the conference is in Berlin, followed by Buenos Aires (2004), Oslo (2005), Seoul (2006) and Durban (2007).

What are caucus meetings?

They are meetings of participants from one country or language group. They are especially important when Council is expected to discuss controversial issues and voting will take place. A caucus will try to ensure maximum impact for their votes by, for example, planning on whom to nominate or support in a year when the members of the Governing Board will be elected. Other matters of particular interest to participants from that country or language group will also be discussed. Anyone from a given country or language group may take part in the relevant caucus meeting. They are listed in the programme.

Are there social events for people from my country?

One good way to find out is to attend "your" caucus meeting and ask. There is a tradition, for some countries, of the ambassador (or other official representative) holding a reception for the participants from that country. The evening of Wednesday 6th August is set aside for these receptions. Another way to find out is to look on the message board.

What goes on at the Council meetings? Why are there two Council meetings during the conference?

Council is the highest authority in the federation. It makes policy decisions often in the form of resolutions and can change the Statutes. It receives an annual report from the Secretary General and a financial report from the Treasurer. These matters are usually dealt with at Council I, which will take place on Sunday 3rd August. Resolutions which are formulated during the conference itself are dealt with at Council II, which will be held after the closing ceremony on Friday 8th August.

Can I vote at Council meetings?

Representatives of voting Members of IFLA (International Association Members, National Association Members and Institutional Members) are entitled to vote at Council meetings. But anyone may attend. The President, who chairs the meeting, has the power to allow people who are not representatives of voting members to speak during the meeting.

Why is the opening ceremony not at the very beginning of the conference?

Because the IFLA conference is not only a conference. It is really an occasion on which several events are happening at more or less the same time. Because IFLA is a worldwide organisation, the members of the committees concerned with managing IFLA have to meet at conference time. The same is true of the committees running the professional programmes (the divisions, sections and core activities). There is also the exhibition. All of this is in addition to the professional conference itself. The business meetings start on Friday 1st August and continue on Saturday. There are some more on Sunday, together with some Discussion Group sessions and the first meeting of IFLA Council. The exhibition opens on Sunday afternoon and the conference itself really begins on Sunday 3rd August. Monday is when the highest number of participants will be present and that's when we have the opening ceremony.

Why are some people always dashing off to meetings, but I seem to have only the sessions and the exhibition to attend? What's going on?

The answer to the previous question provides part of the answer. Also many participants belong to other multinational groupings (for example, the Conference of Directors of National Libraries). They take the opportunity of the IFLA conference to meet face-to-face during the IFLA conference.

Do I have to attend the whole of a session?

You will find that people come and go throughout meetings at IFLA conferences. It is not always easy to estimate just how relevant a session may be. The speakers do not always speak in the same order as listed in the programme. Sometimes, a specific speaker is not available at the last minute. And, of course, there is the problem of clashes. If you think that you may not stay for a whole session, it is a good idea to sit in a position from which you can leave without disturbing many people. In any case please do your best to enter and leave sessions progress quietly - you can often do so during short breaks between speakers.

Do I need to get to sessions early to be sure of a seat?

It is very difficult to estimate, out of a total attendance of up to 4,000, how many people will attend a particular session. We use records of previous conferences and estimates suggested by the Sections which develop the individual programmes. But we do not always get it right. Sometimes we can make last minute arrangements to move to a larger space, but this is not always possible. The best advice is to get to your chosen session early and to have a second choice for sessions which are likely to be popular. If you are still unlucky you may wish to print the paper and read it later. Remember that sessions described as Workshops have limited numbers.

Why are there no breaks between sessions for coffee, lunches and exhibition visits?

It's simply a matter of trying to pack as many sessions as possible, leaving the decision to the individual participants when to take a break. In most venues there are several places to get food and drink.

Will there be enough to eat at the main social events, or should I plan to have an evening meal?

An indication is given in the programme about the nature of the food available at the main social events.

Do I have to attend the whole conference?

The IFLA conference is a mix of many different activities taking place over a period of nine days. However, if you are only interested in the professional programme and the exhibition, most of the action takes place between Monday 4th August and Thursday 7th August. Last year we introduced the concept of the 'Flying Visit' which was valid from 13:00 on one day to 18:00 the next. This was successful for librarians within the host country who wanted to experience something of the conference, but could not afford the time or the money to attend the whole conference. This successful innovation will be repeated this year.

How is the registration fee determined?

The registration fee for the Berlin conference compares favourably with the fees for recent IFLA conferences. There are very high costs associated with putting on an international conference so large and complex. The hire of the conference centre and the provision of audio-visual equipment are, for example, very expensive. IFLA members receive a discounted fee of EUR 350, if they register before 1st May 2003. This entitles them to:
  • 7 conference days (the opening ceremony, a wide range of open sessions, workshops, guest lectures, discussions and the closing ceremony)
  • 3 days of a large exhibition of library products and services
  • poster sessions
  • a programme of organised visits to libraries and information centres
  • an invitation to the exhibition opening reception (Sunday 3 August)
  • an invitation to the conference opening reception (Monday 4 August)
  • an invitation to the cultural evening at the Berlin State Library (Thursday 7 August)
  • 7 days free use of public transport in Berlin
  • free publication on German libraries
  • all conference papers on a CD-ROM, with the ability to print on site
  • access to an Internet café
  • opportunity to observe IFLA Council in session
  • opportunity to observe any of the standing committees of the 45 IFLA sections in session
  • opportunity to network with librarians from 130 countries
The very broad professional programme of the conference, in which participants of all parts of the world take part, offers great opportunities to extend existing international contacts and to make new ones. We are able to keep the registration fee at EUR 350 by obtaining income from other sources. The registration fee will cover only about 65% of the actual cost per participant, assuming attendance at about 4,000. Income from sponsorship (14 %), support from public bodies (7%), exhibition revenues (13%) and advertising (1%) account for the rest. Every registration at EUR 350 is therefore supported by EUR 190 to cover the real costs. We have also tried to keep down the overall costs to participants by offering a wide range of hotels and other accommodation.


Remember that the IFLA conference is a kaleidoscope of activities, events and visits. Concentrate on what works best for you. Find an 'old-hand', perhaps from your own country or library sector to meet up with from time to time to compare notes and exchange tips - or do the same with a first-timer. If this is your first IFLA conference, wear your first-timer sticker and attend the IFLA Newcomers' Session on Sunday 3rd August. You'll find that other participants will make you feel welcome and answer your questions. Help us to continue to improve the conference for future years by completing and returning the evaluation form.

Above all - enjoy the IFLA experience!


Latest Revision: January 28, 2003 Copyright ©
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions