A Look at the Geographic IFLA
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) can be recognition of a country’s importance to the library and information networks of the world. A geographical viewpoint of the countries of the world is presented through their affiliation with the United Nations, IFLA membership, and their representation at the IFLA meetings in Beijing (1996) and IFLA ’97 in Copenhagen. This information is linked also to those countries which received Danida Grants from Denmark for recipients to attend IFLA 1997.
The General Conference of IFLA was held in 1997 in Copenhagen, 31 August — 5 September, with the theme, Libraries and Information for Human Development. Access to information, to knowledge, and to culture are fundamental human rights which, in addition to education, are recognized worldwide as key elements with regard to sustained human development and to economic and social progress. The 1997 IFLA conference in Denmark dealt with important aspects of the theme with regard to the means, methods, demands, and opportunities of the Information Society, to point out current problems and to set up new strategies in both developed and less developed countries. Two sub–themes were planned as two sets of visions:
- Center of Information
- Libraries and information for education
- Libraries bridging the information gaps
- Libraries and the “Right to know”/Democratic development
- Center of Culture
- Libraries and cultural priorities
- Libraries promoting access to the Arts and to artistic innovation
- Libraries — the Memory of the World
Particularly suitable internationally, these are often stated as the goal, international understanding, which is one of the two major goals of internationalism.
The expectation for a large number of countries to be represented at IFLA ’97 was enhanced by the support of Danida, the Danish government’s donor agency. Cooperating with IFLA and developing countries, Danida invited 141 delegates from eighty–six countries, to insure an exceptional professional and cultural diversity. Priority in the allocation of grants was given generally to professionals with a minimum of five years of experience. Wide geographic distribution was an important factor, and the Danida Grant Committee also kept in mind that all types of libraries should be represented. These grants included funds for travel, registration, accommodation, and a per diem allotment. Although other sources for grants were available, Danida had the greatest number to offer.
IFLA is an independent international non-governmental organization with Consultative Status A with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). The aims of IFLA are to promote international understanding, cooperation, 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. The federation has grown from fifteen member–countries to more than 1,400 members from 148 countries.
IFLA’s Executive Board is responsible for general policy, management, and finance. The Professional Board monitors the planning and programming of the professional activities carried out by IFLA’s two types of bodies: Professional Groups (thirty–three Sections and twelve Round Tables organized in the following Divisions) and Core Programs.
- General Research Libraries
- Collections and Services
- Special Libraries
- Management and Technology
- Libraries Serving the General Public
- Education and Research
- Bibliographic Control
- Regional Activities
- Core Programs
- Universal Availability of Publications (UAP)
- Universal Bibliographic Control and International Marc (UBCIM)
- Preservation and Conservation (PAC)
- Universal Data Flow and Telecommunications (UDT)
- Advancement of Librarianship in the Third World (ALP)
- IFLA Headquarters
- P.O.B. 95313, 2509 CH, The Hague, The Netherlands
- Tel: + 31–70–3140 884, Fax: + 31–70–3834 827
- E-Mail: IFLA.HQ@IFLA.NL
- WWW: http://www.nlc–bnc.ca/ifla/
Attendance at IFLA Meetings
The increase in attendance at meetings of IFLA and the International Council on Archives (ICA) in 1996 was obvious and provoked by the locale and the dates for which they were scheduled: the 62nd IFLA General Conference was 25–31 August; the XIIIth International Congress on Archives was 2–7 September 1996. Both were held in Beijing, People’s Republic of China, one of the most exciting cities in the world at the present time. The meetings of IFLA and ICA attracted a large number of people from 133 geographical areas. The total attendance of over two thousand for each organization’s meeting exceeded the registrations for any of the previous meetings.
Scheduling of this kind cannot happen very often. IFLA meets annually; ICA meets once every four years. It was the first meeting of ICA to be held outside Europe. The other international, non–governmental organization in the triad that UNESCO includes in its perspective of information handling is the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID). There may have been other concurrent meetings of those organizations with IFLA in the past, but from my experience there was only one — IFLA and FID in Budapest, in 1972.
The goal of the meetings of IFLA and ICA in Beijing was to present to participants a clearer idea of the great influence of modern technology on information and information handling. This is the other major goal of internationalism, often stated as the advancement of knowledge. The goals of international meetings are planned to have an impact on the countries of the world and influence policies — in these cases, the policies related to information management, which have always required diligence to maintain. To quote a friend, the idea is maximum access to the maximum amount of information by the maximum number of people. A goal needs some practicality and that brings to the foreground the purpose of this article: the need to look geographically at which countries are represented at meetings of IFLA.
Countries of the World (✣)
|Attendance — Beijing (B); Copenhagen (C); Danida grant (D); IFLA membership (M); n, new.|
*Not a nation with UN membership; has libraries.
|Geographical Area||B||C||D||M||Geographical Area||B||C||D||M|
|Antigua and [Barbuda]||X||Luxembourg||X||X|
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||Morocco||X||X||X||X|
|Central African Republic||X||X||Norway||X||X||X|
|Comoros||X||X||Papua New Guinea||X|
|Dominican Republic||X||St. Kits and Nevis||X|
|El Salvador||X||X||n||St. Vincent & Grenadines|
|Equatorial Guinea||San Marino|
|Eritrea||São Tomé e Príncipe|
|India||X||X||X||X||Trinidad and Tobago||X||X||X||X|
|Jamaica||X||X||X||X||United Arab Emirates||X|
|Jordan||X||X||X||United States of America||X||X||X|
|Korea, People’s Democratic Republic of||X||X||*Vatican City||X||X|
|Korea, Republic of||X||X||X||Venezuela||X||X||X||X|
✣ [Ed. Note: In the original print version of this article, there were three indeterminate data points, as well as several mis–spellings and, in the case of Antigua, a missing name. Typographical errors were corrected as a matter of course. In two instances (Gambia and Sudan) the single data point was offset from the main list; in each case the X was placed with the vertical line it approached most closely. The line for the Netherlands Antilles data appears slightly offset. As the original document is missing, we opted to offset the line to account for the possible error. If the line is meant to reflect the data as it appears in print, then the Xs should fall as follows: B X; C (blank); D X; M (blank)]
A comprehensive list of the countries of the world had to be organized as well as general information sought on the availability of libraries in geographical areas, information which could be found in long–standing general reference sources.1, 2, 3, 4 The working list is a compilation of over 200 geographic areas, labeled for convenience, Countries of the World. All of these areas are known to have libraries. With the information from the Beijing meeting of IFLA already compiled, a list of the participants attending IFLA ’97 available in Copenhagen, and the pre–conference list of countries of the Danida Grant delegates, it is possible to survey and compare geographically the countries represented at the IFLA pre– and post–conference, 1997.
The attendance at the 1996 IFLA meeting in Beijing is recorded on the list, Countries of the World, in the first column, labeled B. The attendance at the 1997 IFLA meeting in Copenhagen is recorded in the second column, labeled C. The countries which the Danida Grant delegates represented, recorded in the third column and labeled D, were on the pre–conference invitation list of countries compiled by Danida. Membership in IFLA is recorded in the fourth column, labeled M, and is based upon membership lists compiled by country in the time period, 1992–97. More than one association or institution or person in a country may be a member of IFLA. Attendance at the meetings can be restricted by the government of the country in which the meeting is held. It is better to include rather than exclude if the goal is development. The working list, Countries of the World, reflected this idea.
A geographical area is considered to be a country if it is a member of the United Nations (UN). There were 185 members in 1997. If the geographical area has libraries but is not a member of the UN, the area is identified by an asterisk (*) on the list, Countries of the World. Twenty are included in this group. These geographical locations fall into two clusters. Seventeen are described with library–related activities on the list: B, attended IFLA in Beijing; and M, member of IFLA.
|Attendance (B)eijing||IFLA (M)embership||Both B and M|
|Puerto Rico||Netherlands Antilles|
These three are seemingly not active in the above ways: Faroe Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu. The Faroe Islands are similar to most of the above areas in that they are a possession governed by a nation, one of several types of possessions referred to as dependencies, territories, or overseas departments. However, the Faroe Islands have a national library. Tonga and Tuvalu are not possessions. Tonga is an independent kingdom and not a member of the UN, although it pays an assessed contribution, as do the Vatican and Switzerland, which are also not members. Tuvalu is an independent constitutional monarchy and not a member of the UN. Scotland and Wales hold membership in IFLA and the UN through the United Kingdom but were separately listed as attending IFLA in Beijing.
There are twenty–five countries (UN members) remaining on the list of Countries of the World that (1) are not members of IFLA, (2) have not been represented at the previous IFLA meeting, and (3) did not receive a Danida grant. Six of these countries are known to have national library service and the biography of the person in charge of it is included in the International Biographical Directory of National Archivists, Documentalists, and Librarians. The six are Belize, Dominica, Laos, Maldives, Monaco, and Somalia. This situation did not change in 1997 (based on representation at IFLA ’97 in Copenhagen).
The following seven countries are similar to those above because they probably have national library services: Andorra, Bhutan, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, and Liberia. In this group, Bhutan declined a grant, and the Dominican Republic was represented by one person with grant support.
In this group of twenty–five, one country — the Marshall Islands — has a national institution for the library and archives. The Marshall Islands were not represented at IFLA in 1997.
Also in this grouping, three countries have national archives but do not have national libraries. They are Oman, San Marino, and Yemen.5 This situation did not change in 1997.
Another eight countries in this grouping are known from the other reference sources to have libraries. *They are Bahrain, Eritrea, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, São Tomé e Príncipe, and Western Samoa. A Danida grant to Nevis presents the only change in this group.
The changes in the above group were relatively small in number. Geographically, these twenty–five countries are re–arranged below in relationship to continents and oceans, and very briefly described with the date of admission to the UN in parentheses ().
EUROPE, 3 small countries of 44 — Monaco (1991), the smallest of the three, co–governed by a constitutional monarchy and a National Council; Andorra (1993), next largest, relatively new as a nation although its long historic background resulted in its unique co–principality; San Marino (1992), the oldest existing state, a republic, landlocked within Italy.
ASIA, 3 of 28 countries — Maldives (1965), the smallest country in Asia, a republic composed of over a thousand islands located southwest of India; Laos (1955), among the countries at the top of the Indochinese Peninsula and touching China on its northern boundary; Bhutan (1971), a kingdom lying between China and India.
MIDDLE EAST Bahrain (1971), a group of islands in the Arabian Gulf; Iraq (1945, original member), republic, borders the Arabian Gulf in the southeast; Oman (1971) and Yemen (1947), two southernmost countries on the Arabian Peninsula.
AFRICA, 6 of 53 countries — three countries on the East coast as neighbors, Djibouti (1977), Eritrea (1993), Somalia (1960); in the West, Equatorial Guinea(1977), São Tomé e Príncipe(1975), composed of two islands, and Liberia (1945, original member), the colony of freed American slaves formed in 1822 which became a free and independent republic in 1847.
CENTRAL AMERICA, 1 of 7 countries — Belize (1981), formerly British Honduras, on the east coast of Central America.
CARIBBEAN SEA, 6 of 13 island–nations — Dominica (1978), one island; Dominican Republic (1945, original member), one–half of an island, founded in 1844; Grenada (1974), three islands; St. Lucia (1979), one island; St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1980), one island and a group of islands (the Grenadines, half of which are owned by St. Vincent); St. Kitts and Nevis (1983), two islands, previously known as St. Christopher–Nevis, a federation, fully independent since 1983.
PACIFIC OCEAN, 2 of 9 — Marshall Islands (1991), five islands and many atolls, north of the Equator; Western Samoa (1976), two large islands and smaller islands, located south of the Equator.
The Pattern for the Library World
Although the above explanations may seem to indicate that libraries are present in the countries of the world and many geographical areas not yet having national status, how do we know? This effort was not to judge the quality or the quantity of the libraries in each of over two hundred geographical locations. It is an attempt to form a mental map of the world of libraries on the basis of membership (UN and IFLA) and activity (attendance at the Beijing, 1996, and Copenhagen, 1997, IFLA meetings).
For over half the “library world” there is a pattern, best typified by Denmark, the host country in 1997 and previously in 1969 and 1979. Denmark was one of the original members of the UN in 1945. It has been a member of IFLA for the seventy years of that organization’s history, and it is probable that Denmark has been represented at every IFLA meeting. Sometimes, information about libraries is not available. Although a rare example, the phrase, “reliable information [for the libraries of a country] is unavailable,” is being used. Some general reference books of international scope do not include libraries in their survey format. A country may not be listed in a general reference source of international scope. Sometimes, an error is assumed. Confusion exists as to whether Kiribati is a member of the UN.
The mental map must now include the discovery of a new country. Palau is a new nation, an independent republic as of 1 October 1994, becoming a member of the UN the same year. As of February 1996, it was reported to be the most recent addition to the UN. There is a library!6 Palau is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, approximately five hundred miles east of the Philippine Islands, not to be confused with Palawan Island, one of the Philippine Islands in the South China Sea. Palau was under Spain (1886), Germany (1899), Japan (1914), and the United States of America (1944) — a typical background of small island possessions in the Pacific. The capital is Koror on the island of the same name. A new capital is being built on a larger island, Babelthuap. The appointment of an ambassador to the UN is anticipated. The population is 18,000, and the islands have 40,000 tourists per year.
Membership in IFLA and UN
Using membership in the United Nations as a criterion for a geographical area to be termed a nation is helpful, limiting but precise. For a number of reasons the exact number of countries in the world is an elusive figure. The membership of the UN, where the growth in the number of nations can be measured, has increased. There were fifty–one charter members (referenced 1945, original member). The growth years were 1955 (sixteen members from several continents) and 1960 (sixteen members from Africa), with an additional fourteen members from Africa by the end of the 1960s. In the 1970s, twenty–five new members included thirteen island–groupings. In the 1980s, there were considerably fewer admissions; seven countries joined, five of which were island–groupings.
The following list, Member States of the United Nations, 1990– , Years of Admission, permits some clustering. Beginning in 1990, many new members are derived from what might be described as breakaways or breakups of countries.
|Member States of the United Nations, 1990–|
Years of Admission
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1992||Micronesia||1991|
|Korea, Republic of||1991||Tajikistan||1992|
The similarities fall into two categories: nine of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), to which might be added three others bordering the CIS and six in southeastern Europe. There are three island–groupings.
New members of IFLA in the period from 1992–93 to July 1997 totaled twenty–seven (see List, Countries of the World, n denoting new members in the (M)embership column). Of these, twenty–three are members of the UN. Some of the countries in this new IFLA membership group are obviously the same as those on the list of new UN members for approximately the same time period. Nine countries from the CIS joined IFLA with Belarus, a new member of IFLA and an original member of the UN, leaving Tajikistan the only non–member of IFLA at this time. Two countries from the CIS, previously and currently, fit the pattern of Denmark. They are Russia and Ukraine, members of the UN in 1945, original members, and renewing members of IFLA. Russia and Ukraine were also represented at IFLA in Beijing. Within the grouping of new members in the UN and new members of IFLA in the 1990s, Kazakhstan and Moldova move into the pattern.
The overall attendance at IFLA of countries of the CIS improved in 1997. Danida offered grants to six of the CIS countries. Three Danida grantees from Azerbaijan, Kyrgystan, and Tajikistan represented their countries in Copenhagen at IFLA.
Fifty–eight islands or island–groupings appear on the working list, Countries of the World, from a possible seventy–five usually appearing in general reference sources. The fifty–eight were selected for any of the following reasons: UN member or IFLA membership or attendance at the Beijing meeting of IFLA. Of these fifty–eight, forty–one are members of the UN. These figures indicate that approximately one–fourth of the countries of the world are formed of islands. Six islands or island–groupings were original members of the UN in 1945, namely, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, New Zealand, Philippines, and the United Kingdom. The pattern of Denmark has been maintained by these countries with grants, especially to the Dominican Republic and Philippines.
Thirty–three of the fifty-eight island–groupings are located in the Caribbean Sea and or the Pacific Ocean.
Island–Groupings in Caribbean and Pacific Areas
|Geographic Area||UN Member||IFLA Member||Attend Beijing|
As a category the island–grouping is much larger and more diverse than the one of the CIS. No nations in the Caribbean were admitted to the UN in the 1990s; there were three new members of IFLA, two of which do not hold membership in the UN. In the Pacific there were three new members of the UN; these new nations are not members of IFLA. The one new IFLA member in the Pacific is not a member state of the UN.
Fourteen Danida invitations went to the thirty–three island–groupings in the Caribbean and Pacific areas. One Danida grant was offered to an “unincorporated territory” in the Pacific which holds membership in IFLA and attended the meeting in Beijing. Fiji, Micronesia, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu were represented in Copenhagen through their Danida grantees. The increase in attendance at IFLA ’97 in Copenhagen of the island–groupings was significant. One–third of those attending had not been at the meeting in Beijing.
The large number of recently–formed countries in Africa and the large number of Danida grants to attend IFLA ’97 offered to them provoked a similar assessment of the fifty–three nations of that continent. In 1945, four African countries were original members of the UN, namely, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Africa. Currently, all of the fifty–three nations are members of the UN. Of the fifty–three, ten are not members of IFLA. Attendance of seventeen African nations (sixteen of them were members of IFLA) at Beijing was not impressive.
Invitations from Danida to forty of the fifty–three African countries are admirable, and the first impression after analysis, pre–conference, was that Danida’s response to a situation was to take few risks and let most of the invitations fall on fertile ground. Only five of the forty African nations on Danida’s list did not have IFLA membership and had not attended the meeting in Beijing, but Danida took the risk and invited them. Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, and Niger were represented by Danida grantees only. Burkina Faso had representation beyond the Danida grantees.
- Of the remaining 35 countries invited:
- 20 were members of IFLA and attended the Beijing meeting;
- 14 were members of IFLA;
- 1 was not a member of IFLA but had attended Beijing meeting.
Forty–one African nations were represented at IFLA ’97 in Copenhagen, more than double the number at the Beijing meeting in 1996. Nineteen African nations were represented by Danida grant recipients only.
The Geographic IFLA
Overall, geographically, IFLA ’97 in Copenhagen looked like this: 185 nations recognized by the UN (excluding Switzerland and Vatican City).
Attendance at IFLA ’97
- 140 nations (including Switzerland and Vatican);
six of these nations did not hold UN membership
- 23 nations inactive in 1997
- 24 nations inactive in 1996 and 1997
Since there was a remarkable increase in the number of people attending IFLA in 1997, 2,976 announced, a thousand more than in Beijing, it should be noted that the increases in nations and participants are separate factors in the success of an IFLA conference. Overall, for example, the Danida grantees accounted for forty–eight nations’ being represented; these nations had only Danida grantees to represent them. The total number of Danida grantees was 175.
The seemingly total success of IFLA ’97 may be attributed to Denmark as its host, IFLA’s increasing importance as an NGO, and the growth of international professional communication in librarianship. The information relayed through a geographical viewpoint places a responsibility on IFLA to seek every opportunity to reach all nations.
A geographic IFLA cannot be interpreted without reference to recent publications in the field of international relations and the new incentive to redefine internationalism along cultural lines rather than the previous use of a geopolitical approach (see Bibliography). This may correspond with the self–determination of geographical areas that is evident in IFLA memberships and which often creates libraries. Enlightened public policy and successful information flow are future expectations, due to global concerns for the environment and peace. Non–governmental organizations have the prospect of greater importance with IFLA among the leaders to support goals that are considered vital.
The experience in Denmark was invigorating. The IFLA meeting in 1997 was held in a new conference building, the Bella Center. At this site the meetings, exhibits, and auxiliary staffs were situated. The latter included two hundred volunteers; the press; twenty–two translators; and the IFLA, Danida, and Danish organizing staffs. There were over two hundred meetings of sections and divisions, open forums, and workshops — and as many papers as meetings, or more (170, one hundred in translations). Many of the papers were, and will be, available in electronic forms. The exhibits were highlighted with displays of national libraries, electronic aids for handicapped, and books for children. During the week there were three presentations by distinguished speakers on electronic publishing, censorship, and human rights. Outside the conference center library visits and social events were held.
All of this cannot be described by one person. The last Council meeting and closing session coincide; and it is a time to draw many ideas, reflections, and affections to the surface. Among the reports, announcements, and the general and professional resolutions were these: (1) to decide by 1999 whether to add Chinese to IFLA’s five working languages (English, French, German, Russian, Spanish); (2) to recognize two new sections on Reading and Management & Marketing; (3) to announce the Medium–Term Programs for all sections set for 2001; and (4) to continue awareness, study, and support in two international areas by the establishment of two new committees. One would be a broad–based committee of approximately twenty–five people working with the UAP core program on the subject of copyright and other legal matters in relation to digital media. The other committee is related to freedom of access to information and freedom of expression (CAIFE) with an offer of an office for this work to be located in Copenhagen.
IFLA ’97 was termed a “voting” year. The new president of IFLA is Christine Deschamps, of the Bibliotheèque de l’Université René Descartes in Paris. The next meeting, the 64th General Conference of IFLA, will be held in Amsterdam, 16–21 August 1998, with the theme, On Crossroads of Information and Culture. Poster presentations and contributed papers should reach the IFLA Headquarters by February 1998. The meeting in 1999 will be in Bangkok (20–28 August), with the theme, Libraries as Gateways to an Enlightened World. IFLA, it is said, never ends; it just moves; and its founding celebration of 2002 will be in Scotland.
To entice people to come to IFLA meetings, I, an IFLA–watcher and participant over the years, tried to find one word for each of the several impressions of IFLA ’97. The hosts worried about the weather; it was fine. The success of Danida was in the eyes of the director and the grantees when they said, in answer to my question, yes, it was “good”. Two of us, at the reception of Denmark’s oldest and largest publisher, Gyldendal, found ourselves saying simultaneously, it [library development] all seems possible here. The keynote speaker from Denmark, Mrs. Lone Dybkjaer, Member of the EU Parliament, had set the stage for making us believers. Her report led to Denmark’s official action concerning the Information Society in which the libraries play a central role.
IFLA reached almost every area of librarianship throughout the week: attention to the Public Library Manifesto; School Libraries celebrating twenty years as a section, an important addition to IFLA which has led to many other types of libraries forming sections; the all–day meeting of national librarians; and a large attendance of library educators.
The IFLA headquarters staff in The Hague and the IFLA elected association members, headed by Secretary General Leo Voogt (Netherlands) and President Robert Wedgeworth (USA), both fairly new to IFLA, have been a duo in leadership that can be said to be “creative,” securing, utilizing, and appreciating supportive resources of all kinds —patron sponsors, distinguished members, library centers. IFLA is our international advocate of library use.
People come to IFLA, and IFLA assists them to further the development of libraries. The professional organization and the association of professional people in librarianship can make a difference in the world. The level for a professional is decision–making in countries and libraries. We are a small but influential profession; we know about information and communication. We can achieve a geographical world–encompassing network of communication for ourselves and others. It is a splendid time to be a librarian and for libraries to be built for people everywhere.
1. The Statesman’s Year–Book, 1996–97 (Macmillan).
2. World Guide to Libraries, 1995 (K. G. Saur).
3. The World of Learning, 1997 (Europa).
4. World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, 1993 (American Library Association).
5. International Biographical Directory of National Archivists, 1997 (Scarecrow).
6. Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, 1995 (Gale Research).
Clapham, Christopher. Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Iriye, Akira. Cultural Internationalism and World Orders. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
Mowlana, Hamid. Global Information and World Communication: New Frontiers in International Relations. 2nd ed. Sage Publications, 1977.
Skidmore, David, ed. Contested Social Orders and International Politics. Vanderbilt University Press, 1997.
The Status, Reputation and Image of the Library and Information Processing. Proceedings of Pre–session Seminar, Delhi, 24–28 August 1992. IFLA, 1994.
About the author
Frances Laverne Carroll is Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Oklahoma.