By Solomon Nda-Isaiah
Libraries need to resist justifying their existence with Return on Investment initiatives – that was a key message delivered at the opening of the SIBF/ALA Conference at the 36th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair.
HE Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) welcomed the attending delegates to the main programme of the fourth edition of the conference, which is the only ALA event to be hosted outside the United States.
“I would like to welcome you all to Sharjah, the World Book Capital for 2019, and say that I am delighted to see you all at the fourth edition of the SIBF/ALA Conference. Sharjah Book Authority is here to exchange best practices in the field and has provided a platform to connect with our counterparts in the USA,” said Al Ameri during his welcoming address.
“We have in Sharjah a strong belief in human-centred communication and believe in the pivotal role of libraries as bridges and as keys to open the vaults of knowledge. This edition of the conference will explore the vital role of libraries in society in the face of rapid technological development. In the words of Alberto Manguel, Argentinian/Canadian author ‘libraries are worlds of opportunity’. We need to spread the importance of libraries around the world,” he added.
Speaking during his key note address at the event, James Neal, President of the American Library Association (ALA), argued that the most important role of libraries was the work that they do to support public interest, saying that users depend on them to maintain those core information values and to fight for them in the public arenas. He said that libraries should stand firm in the face of increasing scrutiny on their value and cost-effectiveness from funding organisations.
“There is a tendency in many libraries around the world to apply the concept and techniques of Return On Investment – R.O.I. It’s insane. We need to stop. Too often we don’t know how to conduct R.O.I research, too often we are providing simplistic presentations and documentation to the government organisations and the universities we serve and they see right through this. We need to be much more focused on good stories and on effective qualitative information that helps demonstrate the value and impact we bring to our communities,” he said.
Following the opening addresses, the SIBF/ALA Conference 2017 programme got under way, with yesterday’s schedule including the topics ‘Empowering Local Innovation in Public and School Libraries: Thinking out of the Box,’ ‘School Librarians of the Year: Sharing Stories, Lessons, and Keys to Successes’ and ‘Public Libraries Transform the Arab World.’
This year’s SIBF/ALA Conference will see 26 activities featuring 300 experts from university, public, school, government and private libraries from around the world. Commenced in 2014, the partnership programme between SBA and ALA aims to evaluate the challenges and opportunities for libraries and archiving services in an age ofnd opportunities ngesa \\ership programme er Futures.e the United States the Box,books as well as from characters that appeas increasing digitalisation and technological advancements.
Currently underway and running until November 11 at Expo Centre Sharjah, the 36th edition of SIBF 2017 is hosting 1,650 publishing houses from 60 countries. Themed ‘A World in my Book,’ the fair has more than 1.5 million titles on display.
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