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CASE HISTORY: World Library & Information Congress, KL

The choice of Kuala Lumpur for last year’s World Library & Information Congress proved to be a winner for the delegates and the destination. Angela Antrobus reports

Congress proves a real page-turner

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has a knack of choosing a destination and putting on the kind of congress library professionals really want to go to.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was chosen for the World Library & Information Congress (WLIC) last August when over 3,500 participants from more than 120 countries met in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (the Centre). For the second year running, the biggest and most popular sessions were live streamed through the WLIC website, You Tube and Facebook, ultimately reaching over 95,000 people globally. No registration was required for that.

Assisting IFLA in the city selection and in putting the programme together was Roberta Odebrecht, account director at IFLA’s core PCO K.I.T. Group. Following a limited number of bidders for the congress, she looked around for a fresh and exciting location and two cities ended up in the final bidding stage.

She made site visits to the two candidates along with IFLA secretary general Gerald Leitner and a member of its governing board. In the end the passionate and dedicated commitment to winning the congress by the Malaysian Librarians Association, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) and the convention centre won the day.

An added bonus was the financial support MyCEB offered towards the site inspection, the venue, the welcome reception, the congress bags and souvenirs and travel grants aimed at attracting more participants from the region. It was also involved with the congress planning and execution together with the local organising committee and the PCO team to ensure the event ran smoothly.

Odebrecht says: “Malaysia sits at the heart of Asia, the largest and fastest growing economic region in the world. A land rich in culture, nature, heritage and modernity, it all makes for a compelling business events destination with first-class accommodation, an international, purpose-built convention centre and services at a very competitive price.”

Up until then, it seems, K.I.T. had not organised any conferences in Kuala Lumpur but the fact that they were back there again a few weeks later involved in the organisation of another major world congress is proof enough that both the city and the venue are definite winners.

The theme of the congress was ‘Transform Libraries, Transform Societies’ in recognition of the role played by libraries in the development of a nation and particularly their ability to transform societies.

The message was taken to heart by the 1,000 delegates from the host country. “The congress attracted some of the world’s leading librarians to our shores who shared their vast knowledge and expertise with the many local participants which will greatly benefit our industry,” said Dato’ Dr Zaiton Osman, co-chair of the national committee for the congress. “At the macro level, the legacy that the congress left on the library professionals of Malaysia is the courage to aspire towards greater professionalism in the way we think and do things. It also taught local librarians that it can be done if you show commitment and that when high standards are set success follows.”

She continued: “At the micro level, not only did the congress empower and help prepare the young leaders within the Malaysian Librarians Association to drive the local industry to even greater heights but it developed and nurtured a spirit of volunteerism which was one of the main contributors to the event’s outstanding success.”

She was referring to the 300-plus volunteers working at the congress, many of them from local or regional libraries.

They used the whole of the Centre except for one exhibition hall and Roberta Odebrecht has nothing but praise for the venue. “Together with IFLA and my team, I worked very closely with the Centre after our first site visit in 2016,” she says. “We had numerous site visits when we experienced not only outstanding consultancy but also vital industry knowledge exchange and great hospitality, which made us feel in very good hands. We were most impressed by the team’s professionalism, enthusiasm and proactivity. They perfectly understood our client’s requirements and the importance of aligning each other’s business perspectives and objectives.

IFLA deputy secretary general Helen Mandl agrees: “There were no complaints from the delegates and the Centre’s staff were very supportive in attending to our requests and changes.”

“The venue is very well designed, offering state-of-the-art meeting space and features such as numerous options for digital signage and an amazing in-house culinary team,” adds Odebrecht. “Located in the heart of the city, it’s close to hotels of all categories, shopping malls and numerous entertainment options. During the congress we organised a wellbeing programme in the adjacent KLCC park – the delegates really enjoyed the experience.”

English was the official congress language but sessions in the two main session rooms were interpreted into the IFLA’s official languages, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese and Arabic.

The opening party took place in one of the venue’s exhibition halls and a Cultural Evening was held in the Malaysia Tourism Centre MaTiC, a heritage colonial-era building and distinctive landmark.

Tours before, during and after the congress were organised by Asia Experience Tours and visits to local and non-local libraries were arranged on the last day.

Long-time IFLA participant Wilda Bowers Newman from the USA said, “This was my 29th WLIC and I think my judgement is good when I say this venue is great and comfortable for IFLA and the facilities are fantastic. It’s a beautiful city and the people are very welcoming.

According to Helen Mandl, the combination of the Centre, Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia led to, ‘the best conference in the history of IFLA conferences’!

IFLA congress in number

7 days of business meetings and sessions

250 open sessions

600 speakers

120 poster sessions

1,000 sqm commercial exhibition

9 sessions live streamed

 

The Centre

Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has been pivotal to the city’s success as a world-class conference destination since 2005, offering two auditoria, 12,310 sqm of exhibition halls, a grand ballroom, a banquet hall, a large conference hall and 23 other meeting rooms. But more space has been needed for some time and the expansion due for completion this year will help attract more large international events to the city. It will add 11,000 sqm of multi-purpose space comprising three floors of a 45-storey tower block with enlarged foyer areas on Levels 1 and 3 linking directly to the existing facilities. There will also be underground car parking, two levels of retail and F&B outlets, a sky garden overlooking the KLCC park and a rooftop restaurant.