Candidates for IFLA President-elect 2021-23 were invited to respond to questions from members. My responses appear below.
Question 1 – What is your motivation to stand for the role of IFLA President-elect?
I have been privileged to enjoy a lifelong career in a profession that is generous and collaborative. But more importantly, it is our commitment to improving the lives of the communities we serve that unites us as a profession, like no other.
An active member of IFLA since 2004, I have been honoured to serve on the IFLA Governing Board since 2017I have also held numerous leadership roles, including President, of the Australian Library and Information Association.
The Global Vision has given us the agenda to achieve so much in the last four years.
But talking to colleagues around the world, I know there is so much more we can achieve together and for this, I would like to take on the important leadership role of President-elect.
Each IFLA President inherits the good work of their predecessors and I acknowledge the outstanding contribution of so many others. Not only our past Presidents, Governing Board members and the IFLA team in The Hague—but all the thousands of volunteers and active participants in IFLA committees and programs who have made IFLA’s achievements possible.
Working on Governing Board as Division Chair and Professional Committee Chair has enabled me to build a strong understanding of the critical issues facing IFLA. I am now asking you to vote for me as President-elect. I make a commitment to serve IFLA and my fellow members to the best of my ability and always with your needs at the heart of my efforts.
I seek your endorsement so that I can give back to a profession that has given so much to me.
Question 2 – As President, how will you lead IFLA in addressing the question of financial sustainability?
Money is something that we all think about and it is important that we do.
Firstly, the good news is that IFLA is financially stable but we need to plan for the future.
In recent years the business models for all library associations—including IFLA—has been disrupted. Conferences and membership are two key income streams for many associations and these streams have been impacted negatively—even before COVID-19. As Chair of both the Professional Committee and Congress Advisory Committee, I am excited about the changes currently underway in rethinking our conference business model.
But we will need to do more. I want to continue working to develop new business models for IFLA and this needs to be a priority. The Governing Board needs to work with IFLA’s Secretary-General and staff to look at the services delivered, our revenue streams, and to consider options and prioritise strategies. We need to develop a Risk Plan and identify mitigation strategies.
Financial sustainability is something we all face in our own organisations, particularly as we seek to introduce new services that will make a difference. If we can’t fund them ourselves, we turn to partners. And that is something we all do so well. We are successful and trusted collaborators.
Rather than leaning on our members through increased fees, I would encourage the board to look outside IFLA for new partners whose aims and values match our own. Let’s activate all that goodwill about libraries on every continent to generate more money, more people and a stronger voice in support of the things we believe are important.
Question 3 – As President, how will you build on the inclusive and collaborative momentum that began with Global Vision and continue ensuring members have a voice in shaping IFLA’s future?
Over the last few years, through the Global Vision, IFLA has done an extraordinary amount of consultation. I was at the kickoff meeting in Athens as we embarked on the exciting journey to build a stronger IFLA. Since that time, I have participated in many meetings across the globe—both in person and online.
Most recently, as one of the leads of the Governance Review, I have seen first-hand that our members and volunteers are keen to participate in our work to strengthen the association. Your participation has been invaluable—and IFLA needs to continue to involve associations, institutions, members and volunteers.
In the past 12 months, our round tables delivered via Zoom have been an effective way to engage members in shaping IFLA’s future. These opportunities for engagement and discussion need to be scheduled on an ongoing basis.
Like you, I am really looking forward to the launch of the new IFLA website—its new functionality and design will enable stronger communication and interaction.
Our new Regional Councils, which commence in August this year, will be an important mechanism for two-way communication between all our regions and the Governing Board. We need to work together to ensure that their potential is fully realised.
I also know that consultation isn’t an end in itself.
Members need to see action as a result of consultation. So, I favour a two-pronged approach—checking in regularly with members along the way, but also making sure we have an action plan that’s delivering the change we have promised.
Question 4 – What do you see as the next challenge IFLA must address to promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how will you lead IFLA in achieving it?
One of the pillars of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the pledge to leave no one behind.
As a profession it is a pledge that we can uses as the strategic focus of IFLA’s work to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion.
The UN High Commission for Refugees tells us that there are now 80 million displaced people around the world and over 26 million refugees—more than at any time in our history. There are children being born in refugee camps who are destined for a lives of poverty and violence.
Sadly, no matter which country you live in there will be social and economic issues that create barriers to equity and inclusion.
We know from the UN’s SDGs that education and access to information are critical factors in breaking the cycle of disadvantage. IFLA can be a powerful voice, advocating for services which will help children learn to read, adults to learn and give everyone access to information—their basic human right. The pledge to leave no one behind needs to be at the centre of IFLA’s advocacy work, our strategic planning and our work collectively on a day-to-day basis.
The SDGs provide a powerful framework for libraries to demonstrate the work that we already do—and the work we can do. IFLA must continue to advocate at the international level, to work to identify partners, and to support your work by providing you with practical tools. We need a compelling narrative of the work that libraries do to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion.
There is so much work to be done to bridge the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in our communities. Libraries must continue to play a critical role here. With IFLA’s leadership and support we can work effectively within our own countries and communities to make a strong contribution to ensure that no one is left behind.
Question 5 – What excites, and worries, you most about the future of libraries in a post-COVID world?
After more than two years of living in a COVID-19 world, it can be challenging to imagine the future of libraries in a post-COVID-19 world. I know from my own experience that COVID-19 has changed the way that we deliver services, how we work and how we plan for the future.
COVID-19 has been more than a health crisis—it has also been a social and economic crisis. These three facets must be considered as we plan for the future. From an economic perspective, there will be more pressure to secure funding and many of us will be prioritising our services within stretched budgets. Each of us has personally experienced the social impact—on ourselves, families, friends, colleagues and on our communities. Although COVID-19’s impact has varied across the globe, it will be one of the great markers of the 21st century. Our libraries have responded with great skill, speed and creativity to ensure that services remain accessible—particularly to the most vulnerable. We have developed new services and accelerated our digital delivery.
So, I am far more excited than I am worried about libraries in a post-COVID-19 world.
I’m excited by the way people have taken to the media to say how much they missed libraries being open. I’m excited by how this gratitude has changed our relationship with governments as they have seen the incredible reach and value of our services.
It has been fantastic to see the record number of nominations in the current IFLA elections—the highest number ever. Nominations came from across the globe and from colleagues at all stages of their careers. This demonstrates your commitment and willingness to support and progress IFLA priorities. It also demonstrates your belief in the values and work of IFLA.
We can be very proud of our Professional Units—they have been more active in the last 12 months than ever before. There is no doubt that this commitment and enthusiasm will carry forward to the future.
It will make us an even stronger global voice for libraries. So, let’s work together to imagine and deliver the next phase of libraries supporting our global community.
Question 6 – How will you engage with next generation library professionals during your presidency?
The IFLA of the future will be in the hands of the next generation of library professionals. It is, therefore, our responsibility to give them opportunities to engage in the work of IFLA, to listen to their views and experiences, and to develop their skills and capabilities. In short, like those of all members and volunteers, their contributions and opinions must be respected and valued.
I am confident that our new professional units structure will provide new opportunities for next-generation professionals to engage in the work of the Professional Units. In addition to existing Standing Committees and Special Interest Groups, the new structure includes Working Groups and Networks. Standing Committees will also include new roles for mentors—up to three mentors for each Standing Committee—to provide support and encouragement to committee members.
Our Global Vision work has highlighted the importance of genuine, meaningful engagement. I would like to propose a leadership group that has a direct relationship with the Governing Board and helps us to keep ahead of social and professional issues. When the world is changing so rapidly, we can’t afford to set the agenda independent of younger voices.
Members of the Next Generation Leadership Group need to reflect the diversity of our membership—by region and library type. I would seek their advice on the most appropriate mode of engagement. I do know that we don’t need any more formal meetings. Instead, let’s explore creative means of engagement and take the opportunity to build a stronger IFLA for the future!
Question 7 – What experiences have prepared you for both the intensity and complexity of the job of IFLA President?
As President-elect, I bring significant experience as a senior leader in the library sector who has worked across public, academic and research libraries.
As State Librarian and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the State Library of Queensland, I am responsible for an annual budget of ~AUD$80M and leading a workforce of 350 people. I am accountable for the organisation’s financial and risk management, as well as for securing philanthropic support and sponsorship for new programs. Over the last 12 months, despite the impact of COVID-19 we have delivered programs and services to more members of our community than ever before in our 120-year history.
I believe my experience as a CEO, together with my experience as a President of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) have equipped me well to contribute effectively to the work of IFLA.
As a member of the IFLA Governing Board since 2017, I have been actively involved in the implementation of the IFLA Global Vision. As the Professional Committee chair, I led the Review of the Professional Units, which I believe responds well to the feedback from Standing Committee members. Together with the President, President-elect, and Secretary-General, I was a member of the Steering Committee that oversaw the full Governance Review, including the review of Statutes and Rules of Procedure. During my terms on the Governing Board, I have been a member of the Finance Committee and Chair of the Congress Advisory Committee.
I am confident I have the background and experience to be the IFLA President.