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LIASA Conference – a personal perspective
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I was one of the 750 lucky delegates who attended the 15th annual LIASA (Library and Information Association of South Africa) Conference that was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 8 to 11 October 2013. The theme of the conference was “Libraries in Dialogue for Transformation and Innovation”.

The action-packed four day programme consisted of plenaries, themed parallel sessions, workshops, posters, business sessions and socials. National and international speakers informed us and challenged our thinking. Thirty eight exhibitors showcased their latest products and services available to libraries, and the creators of 28 interesting posters talked to the visitors at their displays.

The conference was preceded by a number of pre-conference workshops which started on Saturday 5 October with the School Library and Youth Services Interest Group (SLYSIG) workshop that was held at the Centre for the Book. The workshops continued on Monday 7 October with nine different workshops which were held at the Southern Sun hotels. The workshops covered a range of diverse topics like “Library marketing”, “Introduction to open access” and “Customer care and social media in your library”.

The conference proper kicked off Tuesday 8 October. The keynote speaker was motivational speaker Colleen Paige (http://www.colleen-joy.com/), known as the Apple Tree Lady. Her speech inspired everyone to find their apple tree and set the tone for the rest of the day.

There were two different sessions the afternoon. The session that I chose to attend was entitled “The public library: the people’s university – voices from the different corners of the circle”. The panel included Ms Susan Schnuer, who presented an international perspective; Prof Genevieve Hart, with a local perspective; Prof Peter Lor, who spoke about the burning of libraries during service delivery protests, Prof Ari Sitas, who presented a sociological perspective; Mr Righardt le Roux, who presented the community’s views and Ms Sibongile Nzimande, who spoke from the government’s perspective. This session certainly highlighted the dynamic role of public libraries in society.

Wednesday, 9 October, started off with a very interesting presentation entitled “Bridging the theory-practice gap in LIS education: a UCT experiment”. This paper was presented jointly by the Head of UCT Library School, Prof. Jaya Raju, and the Director of UCT Libraries, Ms Gwenda Thomas. At UCT, the library school and the university library have merged in the instruction of library students. There is now a much closer link between theory and practice.

Other highlights of the conference include:
  • Ms Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, delivered an eloquent speech entitled: ”The power of knowledge for deepening democracy”
  • Mr Francois Hendrickz, from the SA Library of the Blind delivered a very informative paper entitled: “WIPO Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and the Reading Disabled Persons: the implications for libraries”
  • Mr Ned Potter (http://thewikiman.org/blog/) a dynamic librarian from the UK, who spoke about “Branding for the new professional”
  • A thought-provoking address by Dr Vishwas Satgar entitled “Economic and social democracy: the role of access to information”.

Besides these papers, there were many other well-researched, thought-provoking papers. A total of 73 papers were presented, many which will be published in due course as part of the conference proceedings.

It was difficult to decide which of the parallel sessions to attend as various interesting sessions took place during the same time slots. I mostly based my choices on my areas of interest or where I felt I had a gap in my knowledge.

On Thursday, 10 October, I had no choice about which session to attend as I had to present my paper at the parallel session entitled: “Empowerment through reading”. At this session, I presented my paper “First Words in Print: libraries and civil society engagement”. As this day was also my birthday, my colleagues of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) surprised me by singing “Happy Birthday” when I visited their stand at the exhibition. The gala dinner took place in the evening with a very entertaining Marc Lottering as Master of Ceremony. The cherry on top of a very enjoyable day was when my friend and the Western Cape’s candidate for the LIASA 2013 Librarian of the year award, Theresa de Young, was announced as the winner of the award.

The last day of the conference, Friday, 11 October, in a session entitled “Developing our own”, librarianship students presented their academic papers to the audience. A panel of academics chose the best paper. Mu-Izz Hendricks, of UCT, won the Best Student Paper Award, for his paper: “Two empiricisms: validating the intellectual property of indigenous knowledge”. The Western Cape’s winning streak was not yet over, as my friend, Fadeela Davids, was announced as the winner of the poster presentations.

The conference was very well organized and the time-keeping was excellent. A team of extremely helpful and efficient volunteers under the leadership of my colleague, Laddy Mckechnie, of NLSA, ensured that everything ran smoothly.

Attending the LIASA Conference was a very good experience. It was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and to build new friendships and connections. It was also an opportunity to learn, think, question, debate and be exposed to new ideas and practices. Conferences are certainly essential to professional development.

I look forward to the next LIASA conference which will be held on 6 to 10 October 2014 in Gauteng, which I hope I will be able to attend. I am also very excited about the prospects of attending the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) Conference which will be held in Cape Town from 13 to 15 August 2015. It is indeed an honour for LIASA to be chosen to host this very important international conference.

Visit the LIASA website for more information. http://www.liasa.org.za/

Anita Shaw, Deputy Programme Manager, CFB
anita.shaw@nlsa.ac.za

 

 

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