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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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April 2008 Volume 6(2)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

International networking

Colleagues overseas

Margaret Forrest reports on an IFLA Section meeting in Paris.

The grassroots of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) are made up by its ‘Sections’ which, like the Special Interest Groups of CILIP, cover a wide range of professional interests. One such group is the Libraries Serving Disadvantaged Persons (LSDP) Section which is concerned with the provision of accessible and inclusive library services to people with disabilities, patients in hospitals and prisoners.

I recently attended the mid-year meeting of the LSDP Standing Committee (SC) in Paris at which the group prepared the programme for the LSDP session at the forthcoming Quebec conference, discussed a number of publication projects of the Section and explored a couple of libraries.

Ten countries were represented by the 17 members, including Croatia, France, Japan, Korea, the Scandinavian countries, Scotland, South Africa and the US. An important responsibility of the SC is to help prepare for the annual IFLA conference, but we also spent time discussing our Section’s recent publications,[1] making arrangements for translations of these to be made available on IFLA Net and planning future projects for the Section.

Our two-day meeting was held in the Pompidou Centre and our French hosts had arranged tours of the Public Reference Library at the Centre and a visit to the library of the oldest hospital in Paris at Saint Louis.

The Public Reference Library at the Pompidou Centre (Bibliotheque publique d’information (Bpi)) is a publicly-funded resource which is highly valued by the people of Paris and beyond. It is one of the few reference libraries in the city which is open at weekends and on public holidays and there are regularly queues of people waiting two to three hours for the library to open (as there was on the day we visited). The library is under the direction of the French Ministry of Culture and is a general information resource. Its services are managed on the principles of freedom of access (no registration formalities), currency of resources (regular ‘weeding’ and renewal of stock), evidence based practice (informed by regular public surveys and research) and cutting-edge technologies (including the availability of assistive technologies for people with disabilities).

Before leaving for Paris, I made a virtual visit to the Bpi library via the Web and was impressed by the video which introduces visitors to the library services using sign language and sub-titles for deaf people. Visiting the library in reality helped me to understand how successfully colour coding and space planning is used to ensure greater access to all. Not only are there colour codes for the broad subject areas of the library, but also for the utility services which are part of the unique architecture of the Pompidou Centre (blue pipes for water, green for air, etc). The Bpi has seating for 2,200 readers and a counter at the entrance keeps a tally of the number of people in the building. Similar to a very busy car park, when the maximum permitted number is reached, potential readers must wait outside until a space becomes available. How many libraries in the UK have queues of people waiting two to three hours to use its services?

The library of the oldest hospital in Paris is on a much smaller scale than the Bpi at the Pompidou Centre, but is just as highly valued by its users. Evelyne Menaud, Librarian at the hospital, welcomed our group and introduced us to this specialised service which focuses on the needs of patients but also includes an information resource for healthcare professionals. The library of Saint Louis Hospital is the largest of 21 libraries serving both hospital patients and staff in Paris. Hospital libraries in France are generally funded by the health service (rather than supported by public library authorities, as they are in some parts of the UK).

After returning home I reflected on the value of being able to meet with like-minded colleagues from all over the word to share information and ideas on issues of common concern to our profession. A few months before the IFLA Conference in Glasgow in 2002, I remember attending a ‘Meet the President’ event where Derek Law encouraged CILIPS members to become involved in IFLA and reap the benefits of international networking. I couldn’t agree more: there is something very special about being able to develop our professional skills through working together with colleagues with such diverse cultures and languages from all over the world.

1 Recent publications include Guidelines for Library Services to Persons with Dementia by Helle Arendrup Mortensen and Gyda Skat Nielsen; Guidelines for Library Services to Prisoners by Vibeke Lehmann and Joanne Locke; Access to Libraries for Persons with Disabilities: a checklist by Birgitta Irvall and Gyda Skat Nielsen. See the LSDP Section website:

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Information Scotland Vol. 6(2) April 2008

© Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

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Last updated: 16-Jul-2008