CHICAGO — Around 300 librarians gathered at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) in the United Arab Emirates Nov. 10-12 for the second SIBF/ALA Library Conference, ALA’s most ambitious international professional development event. Librarians from UAE, Afghanistan, Oman, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, India, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan and other countries participated in the three days of programs, training and lively networking, in both Arabic and English with translation provided.
SIBF Director and Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority Ahmed Al-Ameri said he was thrilled to welcome this second conference and sees it growing in the future. “I am confident this mutual cooperation between the SIBF and ALA will be helpful in skill development of the industry’s professionals,” he said.
ALA President Sari Feldman’s opening keynote on the topic of the Libraries Transform™ campaign was followed by 17 concurrent sessions and a poster session (16 posters) on a wide range of topics for all types of libraries. Former ALA Treasurer Jim Neal addressed the future of academic libraries as the keynote speaker the second day of the conference. Magda El-Sherbini led a preconference on RDA: Resource Description and Access that attracted almost 100 registrants. The international roster of expert presenters addressed topics including trends, new technologies, mobile strategies, applying data and statistics, teacher librarians, the library as cultural and family hub, digital scholarship and literacy, collection development, visual literacy, e-resources, implementing RDA and proving the value of the library. (The full program and the list of presenters are at www.ala.org/sibf.) Presenter Courtney Greene McDonald created this Storify for a complete look at the conference and experience based on related social media.)
Groups gathered throughout the conference in the Librarians’ Lounge (expanded to include a second floor), while the newly added “Library Solutions” exhibits area offered an extra meeting point. Attendee Khalid Ismail, chief librarian at Al Khawarizmi International College, said that in 2014 he came by himself; but this year he brought five specialist librarians from his staff, and next year he hopes to attend with 10. “We need to get new ideas and develop our skills with practices from other areas,” he said. School librarian Mona Alsheikh said that she came “to find out what’s new in school libraries that I didn’t know before.”
Tony Mulliken, chairman of Midas Public Relations (UK) and actively involved in getting the SIBF/ALA Library Conference off the ground, commented, “[This partnership] has proved not only a great success but also very necessary. Sharjah, as the cultural capital of the UAE, is proud of its passion for books and has some of the most beautiful libraries in the world but it needs to modernize, professionalize and make these libraries important destinations for learning and entertainment. This second ALA/SIBF conference is going from strength to strength.”
Located for maximum visibility in the main lobby of the book fair, the Librarians’ Lounge was sponsored by several companies as well as SIBF. Platinum sponsors were the American Psychological Association, Ingram and Kinokuniya Books. The conference was managed by ALA International Relations Office and ALA marketing, the Sharjah International Book Fair, and Combined Book Exhibit.
During its 10-day run, the 34th SIBF drew 1.27 million visitors to review and buy books and other materials from 1,547 publishing houses featuring 1.5 million titles and representing 64 countries. For more about SIBF/ALA Library Conference, visit http://www.ala.org/offices/sharjah-international-book-fairala-library-conference and for more about SIBF itself www.sharjahbookfair.com/. The hashtag for the conference was #SIBFALA15.