The effort to create a global information infrastructure¾of which the Internet is often described as the prelude¾is progressing at a rate that continues to astound. It has leapt from relative obscuri ty three years ago to become a driving force in mainstream society. It has revolutionized human communication, allowing geographically dispersed individuals and organizations to form “virtual communi ties” and “virtual organizations“. devoid of the constraints of physical location.
Because of the far-reaching effects of this new environment, many libraries, businesses, private and governmental organizations and institutions are devoting considerable resources to ensure that the ir own internal information infrastructures are in place¾that the necessary skills, technology, policies, and procedures are in place to take advantage of this rapidly expanding environment.
Building upon its efforts in 1995 to improve personal and professional communication between IFLA HQ, its membership, and the international library community, UDT has been working toward the establis hment of an information infrastructure for IFLA, providing enhanced communication and information exchange for the international library community. As part of its infrastructure building efforts, UDT continues to acquire and implement the necessary technology, to work to develop networked information services, and to assist in determining procedures and responsibilities for managing IFLA’s infra structure.
IFLANET, UDT’s well-regarded Web service providing information about IFLA and about trends and issues of concern to the library community as a whole, is a starting point for this effort. Robert Wedge worth, in his presidential address last year in Havana, described his dream to create a “virtual IFLA” which would “act as a stimulant to national and local library activity”. This virtual organizati on would be available to its members and to the wider international library community¾not just once a year at a conference¾but constantly at the touch of a few keys. This dream has come to fruition t hrough the development of IFLANET.
When IFLANET was proposed in 1993, it was suggested that IFLA would be able to:
This idea is now a reality. IFLANET uses a combination of networking and communications technologies to provide IFLA with an unprecedented opportunity to deliver information services to members and n on-members alike.
The first steps in developing IFLANET began last year with the formation of IFLA-L, an Internet mailing list that now has over 500 subscribers and is growing. Mailing lists have proved to be a popula r means for special interest groups to communicate amongst themselves and to others. IFLANET will be expanding the use of Internet mailing lists to bring library and information professionals togethe r in discussing issues such as “Digital Libraries”. We will be encouraging sections and roundtables to use the IFLANET mailing facilities to better communicate with their constituents.
The discussion list IFLA-L has been supported thus far by SilverPlatter and I would like to take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge their support in the early stages of IFLANET. As many of ma y have noted, the discussion list has now joined the IFLANET Web site at the National Library of Canada. All IFLA communications and information services are now supported by the National Library. Th ank you once again to SilverPlatter for their involvement.
IFLANET began the full operation of a World Wide Web service in March of this year at the National Library of Canada. Within a very short time, the IFLANET WWW service has become a primary resource f or library and information science information on the Internet. Some examples of this success will illustrate the point:
For those of you who wish to see IFLANET, Gary Cleveland, author of several UDT reports, will be demonstrating the system in the UDT booth.
An important aspect of IFLANET is the information it provides about the technologies, trends, and policy issues facing contemporary libraries. The UDT Newsletter has traditionally been UDT’s vehicle for providing this valuable information. However, the use of IFLANET for this purpose represents a quantum leap beyond paper in the ability to disseminate information. It is globally accessible, it i s highly current, and it has capabilities that go far beyond paper. The flurry of activity and discussion surrounding the future of libraries just cannot be adequately captured in a paper newsletter three times yearly. IFLANET represents a much more powerful publishing tool that provides the ability to bring together more information more rapidly to its users than was ever possible on paper. For example, rather than just describe an exciting new development on the Network, IFLANET can actually take you to the site and let you experience it first hand.
Over the next year, the UDT Programme intends to expand IFLANET services into new areas. We will be providing topical mailing lists for LIS Job Listings and for Digital Library research and discussio n. Neither of these currently exist on the Internet. IFLANET will be encouraging and assisting special interest groups within IFLA to exploit the advantages of electronic communications.
The world of librarianship is facing many changes. IFLANET will respond to these changes by providing the most current information that is electronically available on issues of importance to libraria ns around the world. Beginning in the Fall of 1995, the UDT Core Programme will be initiating a monthly electronic news digest of current happenings in library and information science technologies. R ecently, the Core Programme began to publish a very successful occasional papers series on information technology. Future electronic series will be solicited papers on the topic of “Digital Libraries ”.
All parts of IFLA are encouraged to participate in the “virtual IFLA” to use the electronic discussion lists and to provide it with the content that enriches and enhances it. With IFLANET, the Intern ational Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has entered a new era, one in which networked communication allows it to constantly be in touch with its membership and to have a constant presence international library community. With IFLANET, it makes an invaluable contribution to the development of libraries around the world.