A global community of more than 300 library and information professionals from the region and around the world have reinforced their commitment to sharing ideas and expertise to learn from one another and to advance libraries to serve societies better at the 8th Sharjah International Library Conference (SILC), which opened Wednesday, November 10, on the sidelines of the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), in collaboration with the American Library Association (ALA), the two-day annual conference is fostering the professional excellence of participants through insightful discussions on new trends and technologies and exploring ways to enhance resources and services to support learning, literacy, and education to shape creative and innovative societies.
The conference also addressed the ongoing challenges facing libraries worldwide and served as a networking platform for participants.
The 8th edition of SILC opened in the presence of HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA; Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, USA; HE Meghan Gregonis, US Consul General in Dubai, UAE; Patty M. Wong, President of ALA; Sean Murphy, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy Abu Dhabi, UAE; Julius Jefferson Jr, Immediate Past President of ALA; and Eman Bushulaibi, Director of the Sharjah Public Library (SPL).
Other dignitaries at the opening session included Tracie Hall, Executive Director, ALA, and Michael Dowling, Director, International Relations Office, Chapter Relations Office, ALA.
Welcoming guests and participants at the start of the two-day conference, HE Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, shared his joy at the historic achievement of SIBF as the world’s largest book fair in terms of buying and selling copyrights for this year, and underlined how the 2021 edition marked the rebuilding of the post-pandemic growth of the book industry.
The SBA Chairman said: “Under the guidance and vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, investments in knowledge, books and culture are steering progress in the emirate and advancing research and human development. As gateways to knowledge and culture, libraries have preserved and strengthened the arts, sciences, poetry, humanities, and the world’s collective cultural heritage for future generations.”
He added: “Sharjah is the only city outside of the US, where a conference of this stature is held, and that gives us every reason to be proud. Libraries are the backbone of human development and organising the Sharjah International Library Conference reinforces our commitment to enhance the capabilities of libraries in both managing and strengthening operations, and enhancing services to empower communities to discover, access, and use of information.”
Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Carla Hayden – the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library of the United States, commended the emirate of Sharjah for its pioneering initiatives to develop a knowledge community and nurture a culture of reading.
Pointing out that visibility, engagement, impact, and collaboration are at the heart of what libraries do worldwide, she said: “Librarians are the original search engines; and it is our universal mission to expand access to trusted information and deliver superior services to bridge the gaps in technology and literacy by providing the essential tools that our communities need.”
Dr. Hayden stated that the pandemic amplified the inherent gaps in digital access amongst communities worldwide while describing how libraries responded quickly to become the “digital front doors” and ensure equitable access to a new digital infrastructure for those in need.
Thanking all conference participants for their belief in the power of the book and for coming together to strengthen partnerships, she said, “Libraries are empowerment agencies and librarians are the trusted sources in the digital age. We are the knowledge advocates; and we are at the heart of the world of literacy and books. I thank each one of you for the work that you do.”
Enriching learning experience
An international roster of experts led discussions and presentations on the opening day of the conference. Dr. Hassan A. Alsereihy, Department of Information Science, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, and President of AFLI, provided insights into the way forward for libraries in the MENA region at a session titled, ‘Libraries in the MENA Region During Covid and Beyond’. Dr. Huda Abbas, Director of Library and Research, King’s Academy, Jordan, discussed ways of ‘Helping Students Cope and Recover through Bibliotherapy’; while in a session titled, ‘Go Together!’, Tracie Hall, Executive Director, American Library Association explored the critical role of libraries in fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion and closing the information and digital divide.
Sonia Alnahawi, recipient of the 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award, organised by the Emirates Literature Foundation, discussed how to create successful school library programmes in ‘School Librarians of the Year: Sharing Stories, Lessons, and Keys to Successes’.
Dr. Fatma Elzahraa Mohamed Abdo, Library and Assistive Technology consultant, American University in Cairo, Egypt, discussed ways of ‘Serving the Visually Impaired’.
Rania Osman, Head of Library of the Future Section, Innovation, Research, and Technology Directorate, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt, enhanced the cataloguing skills of participants at the session titled, ‘Cataloging in Arabic with the new RDA’; Kara Jones, University Librarian, American University of Sharjah, delved into the concept of ‘Library as Place and Space: Adjusting during Covid and Beyond’; and Abeer Al Kuwari, Director, Research & Learning Services, Qatar National Library, shared strategies for engaging with the community in ‘Public Engagement During the Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities’.
The 8th Sharjah International Library Conference will continue its programming tomorrow (November 11) to spotlight successful initiatives and enhance the knowledge, skills and capabilities of library professionals. The day’s events will commence with a keynote address by Patty Wong, President of ALA. Conference participants will also have the opportunity for one-on-one and group discussions with experts on the key issues and challenges facing libraries.
In the lead up to the Sharjah International Library Conference, two interactive pre-conference workshops were held to outline ways to improve library services and advocacy
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Source: Press Release
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