Monday, August 15, 2005

Who went to IFLA 2005 in Oslo?

By July 25, 2.200 participants had been registered for the IFLA meeting in Oslo. In Berlin 2003, ten percent registered late, so we may perhaps end up with 2.400 to 2.500 delegates. With a couple of hundred volunteers and an unknown number of accompanying persons, with exhibition people and assorted staff, the gathering as a whole must involve more than three thousand people.

The delegate to the right is shown with a box of "Mother's flatbrød" - a thin, wafer-like crispbread, which we often eat with cured meats and sour cream. Yummy!

IFLA is a world wide association and the IFLA conferences are world wide gatherings. At the same time, it is very clear that the countries and regions of the world are very uneqally respresented at the IFLA meetings.

Part of the imbalance is due to the unequal size of the library communities in different countries. The more developed countries also have more libraries and more librarins - per one million inhabitants. As countries develop, that disparity will gradually disappear. And IFLA' s support of library development in less developed countries is, in fact, a contribution to their social, cultural and economic progress.

But from discussions with library colleagues it is also clear that the cost of participation has a great impact on recruitment to IFLA. Going to IFLA usually involves a week long trip to a big city several thousand kilometers away.

The venues surrounding Oslo are Glasgow (2002), Berlin (2003), Buenos Aires (2004), Seoul (2006), Durban (2007) and Quebec (2008). Such a trip can easily cost 2.000 euros or 2.200 US dollars, which in many countries is equivalent to the annual salary of a librarian.

These stark economic facts mean that many IFLA delegates need the support of strong institutions at home, or special travel grants, in order to participate. IFLA organizers generally work very hard to make travel support available. In 2005, 75 official scholarships have been granted. Many others have got grants from their home countries or elsewhere.

To make IFLA truly representative, it is clearly important that such efforts continue. At the same time, the IFLA organization could probably lower the practical barriers to participation by a fuller use of web based communication, by lower membership fees for small libraries and by a greater emphasis on regional meetings. Having annual rather than biannual or triannual meetings also impose high costs on those who want to participate in the ongoing work of IFLA.

The composition of the meeting

The delegates in the picture come from small public libraries in Norway (left) and Lithuania (right).
In 2003, in Berlin, I started to look at the social composition of the IFLA delegates, from a sociological point of view. Which countries and regions do they come from? What library types and organizations do they represent? The (informal) data from Berlin are available on the web - at Who goes to IFLA?

In Oslo, the list of participants was distributed yesterday, Sunday August 14. Here I report on a first count of representation by region.

The statistics are preliminary, since participants registered after July 25 are not included. But I do not expect big changes at the regional level. In Berlin, the list of participants by July 15, 2003, covered ninety percent of the delegates.

Participation rates

In Oslo 2005, as in Berlin 2003, there were three distinct levels of IFLA participation. Oceania (with Australia and New Zealand), Europe and North America (= United States + Canada) come at the top, with 100-160 participants per 100 million inhabitants. There are also great differences within Europe, which are not discussed here.

The second group is constituted by Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and East and Central Asia, with rates between 9 and 18 per 100M. The countries in South and South East Asia have the lowest rates, with about three delegates per 100 million inhabitants.

The meeting

At the IFLA meeting in Oslo, eighty percent of the participants (registered by July 25) come from the "high participation group", or the countries in Europe, North America and Oceania. Seventeen percent come from the "middle group": Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and East and Central Asia. Two percent come from South and South East Asia.

From Berlin to Oslo

In Buenos Aires, the geographical composition was surely different from that in Berlin, with a much stronger Latin American representation. In a broad regional perspective, the venues of Berlin and Oslo are rather similar. Differences in participation rates probably have other causes than location as such.

In a separate Table we have summarized the change from Berlin to Oslo. Changes of less than ten percent are treated as "constant". Compared with Berlin, South East Asia, East and Central Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are down. South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and - in particular - North America are up. Why this is so, is anybody' s guess.

I hope to study the IFLA participation data more deeply in the future. Since the statistics may be of interest to others in other contexts, however, I make them available in a rather unprocessed form.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Norwegian library journals

Three national journals

Norwegian librarians are served by three national journals: Bok og bibliotek [Book and Library], Bibliotekforum [Library Forum] and Bibliotekaren [The Librarian]. These are practice oriented rather than academic publications. They include news and reports from the field, but no peer-reviewed articles. They are eagerly read by the Norwegian library community, which is small enough - around five thousand persons - for everybody to taken a direct interest in everbody else.

Bok og bibliotek is published by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority, Bibliotekforum by the Norwegian Library Association and Bibliotekaren by Bibliotekarforbundet [choose English], which is the main library trade union. In connection with IFLA 2005, the latter two have published bilingual issues, which are available at the conference venue.

Research publication

Academic library research represents a new development in Norway. A substantial investment in research only took place in the mid-1990`s. At that time, three things happened:

  • a five year program of library research was initiated with funding from central library authorities, and channelled through the Norwegian Research Council
  • the library college in Oslo - which had a few hundred students - was merged with about twenty other teaching institutions in Oslo to form a large, professional college with about ten thousand students.
  • a Norwegian journal of library research [Norsk tidsskrift for bibliotekforskning] was started
The new journal was edited at the young and innovative Institute for Documentation Science and Library Studies in Tromsø. It was published for eight years (1994-2001), but finally had to close for lack of funding. The journal accepted contributions in English as well as in the three Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Swedish, Danish): see a listing of their articles in English.

The journal published many research reports and had a clear academic purpose. But it was not a fully academic journal based on peer review and strict quality control. This was hardly possible within the Norwegian library community. Our academic library community is still small.

The total number of full-time library teachers in the country is about forty - too few to sustain a full scale research journal on their own. It functioned, however, as a useful training ground as well as a publication outlet for essays and research report. We still miss it.


For additional information on Norwegian library studies in English, see the entries in the Frida data base and the Norwegian contributions to IFLA 2005.

I would also like to recommend the very useful dictionary of library terms (PDF) in Norwegian and English just published by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority. The Authority is often abbreviated to ABM in Norwegian - for Arkiv, Bibliotek and Museum. You may read brief summaries in English of some of their publications on the web.

But in English - may we call you NALMA?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Library and information studies in Norway 04-05

What's the buzz?

Tell me what's happening! For the benefit of IFLA participants we have collected information about current Norwegian research in library and information science. The bibliographic entries have been extracted from the database Frida. Only materials in English are included.

Frida is meant to cover all research output from the institutions of higher education that participate. At the moment Frida is used by Oslo University College and by four of Norway' s five universities: Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø. The fifth, Stavanger, only received university status this year.

Library studies

Norway's biggest library school, with about thirty staff members, is part of the Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science at Oslo University College. The school offers a three year bachelor and a two year master programme. The University of Tromsø has a Department of Documentation Studies, with a staff of eight, which also provides training in librarianship. Data oriented information management can be studied at the University of Trondheim.

Frida is a new, and very interesting, system for quality controlled author based registration of research publications and other types of research outputs. The driving force behind Frida is the new result based financing system for universities and colleges. The institutions now have to document what they do in order to get their proper share of government funding.

Frida became operational in 2004 and the user interface has not yet been translated into English. But those who want to try it out are welcome to visit the advanced search page, where you can specify language [språk] and institution/department [enhet].

Current research

The entries in my little survey comprise all registered publications and lectures (academic and popular) in English for the years 2004 and 2005:
  • from the school of librarianship in Oslo
  • from the Department of Documentation Studies in Tromsø
  • from the three teachers of Information Management in Trondheim

With Frida available, such a survey can be made in a few hours. Note that the list is incomplete. Many publications from 2005 have probably not been registered yet. But tracing additional publications to fill in the holes could easily take a full working week.

I publish the list as it stands. It works as a rough snapshot of current research. Eighty percent of a sausage is better than none.