Report on the 62nd IFLA Conference in Beijing

Guoqing LI
East Asian Library
310 Main Library
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH 43210
Asian Studies
Rivera Library
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA 92521

The 62nd IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) Council and General Conference convened in Beijing, China in Aug. 25-31. The theme of this conference was: "Challenge of Change: Libraries and Economic Development". As it was an important international gathering in Beijing since the International Conference on Women, the Chinese government paid special attention to this conference and endeavored to make it a success. Over 2,800 participants attended the meeting. Librarians from the United States, about 160 in number, constituted the largest delegation from abroad. Many of them are of Chinese background, including members of the Internet Chinese Librarians Club (ICLC).

Since the Conference was held in China, quite a few round table meetings, open forums and panels were focused on topics related to China and Asia, and a substantial amount of papers were contributed by Chinese librarians. In addition, there were also several special conferences concurring with the IFLA Conference. In cooperation with the '96 IFLA China Organizing Committee, the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL) of the Association for Asian Studies sponsored a day-long conference entitled "The Evolving Research Library and East Asian Studies". This meeting was well received. Over one hundred people attended the meeting. Fourteen papers were contributed by American and Chinese delegations, and published in the Proceedings of the Special Conference on the Evolving Research Library and East Asian Studies. (Beijing: International Academic Publishers, 1996.) Topics presented in this conference included:

Dr. Hwa-wei Lee, member of the ICLC Board of Directors, presented a paper titled "The Dr. You-Bao Shao Overseas Chinese Documentation and Research Center". Kuei Chiu and Yu-lan Chou (University of California, Berkeley) presented a paper on "Cyberjournalism: News about China on the Internet".

Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) also held a panel at the IFLA Conference, with the China IFLA Organizing Committee as its co-sponsor. Susan T. Bau (Library of Congress) was the organizer, and Chi Wang (Library of Congress) was the consultant. The current CALA President Mengxiong Liu (San Jose State University) chaired the Panel. The CALA President-elected Harret Ying (Prince Geogre's County Memorial Library System, Maryland) made an introduction of CALA and the Panel. Fifteen papers were presented at the meeting on three topics:

The majority of presenters were from the United States. ICLC member Wenxian Zhang (Rollins College, Florida) presented a paper entitled "Library Electronic Resource Sharing among Liberal Arts Colleges: ACS Virtual Library Project". Guoqing Li presented his paper titled "Self Education of Librarians: Making Use of the Internet Resources" as well.

In addition, the International Association of Orientalist Librarians (IAOL), the Beijing University Library and the China National Publishing Industry Trading Corporation co-sponsored a panel hosted at the Beijing University Library. The current IAOL president William Wong (University of California, Irvine) and the former president Lai-bing Kan (University of Hong Kong), the director of Beijing University Library Lin Beidian, and the president of the China National Publishing Industry Trading Corporation Zhou Hongli attended the meeting. The main topic of this panel was: publishing industry and collection development for Oriental libraries. This panel was set up to help libraries and publishers to understand each other better. The panelists discussed the impacts of modern technology on library collection development and explored ways for Chinese publishers to flourish under the new challenge. Both Kuei Chiu and Guoqing Li made presentations at this meeting.

During the Conference, there was sufficient local news coverage on the event. In major Chinese newspapers, many articles were published reporting the current status of libraries in China and around the world with a view to increasing the public awareness of the importance of libraries for a nation. Two books, The Vigorous Advancement of Libraries in China and The General Survey of the China Society for Library Science, dedicated to the 96 IFLA Conference were published by China's Bibliography & Document Publishing House and given to each participant as gifts. Published in English and Chinese side by side, the two books provide rich information about Chinese libraries and society for library science. Besides meetings, some interesting activities were also organized for the Conference participants. About 20 major libraries in the Beijing area were open to the IFLA conference participants. In order to entertain the Conference participants, there were also a gala and two grand receptions. One of them was held at the Great Hall of the People by the Beijing municipal government. And the other was held at the Beijing Exhibition Hall by China's Ministry of Culture. Participants were impressed by the hospitality of the host.

China has been experiencing an economic boom in the last 15 years. Although the development of libraries is a priority on the agenda of many Chinese universities and governments at various levels, most libraries in China are facing obstacles for further development. Budget constraint is one of them. Except for few major libraries like China's National Library and the Shanghai Library which have relatively robust book budgets of 8.5 million and 4.8 million US dollars respectively, most academic libraries do not have a material budget exceeding half a million US dollars. Partly due to the same problem, most major libraries are not automated yet. Internet access is still a luxury. The march towards the information superhighway is further hindered by the lack of proper infrastructure. At the Beijing International Convention Center where the IFLA Conference was held, 20 state-of-art computer terminals were set up to help librarians to get on the Web or check emails. However, the transmit speed was very slow. It would take two hours to read four email messages.

Nevertheless, the IFLA Conference did give librarians around the world an excellent chance to exchange ideas with each other and explore the librarianship in China. It also opened a window for the librarians in China to see how libraries prevail in the rest of the world. They are enthusiastic about library automation and other library technology. Surely, there are plenty of opportunities for us ICLC members to cooperate with our Chinese colleagues in different areas of librarianship.

Copyright © 1996 Guoqing Li & Kuei Chiu.
Submitted to CLIEJ on October 11, 1996.