Last March, when MLA leadership canceled MLA’s longstanding institutional membership with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), several members were disappointed. Leadership’s rationale was that spending $20,000 on IFLA membership and travel expenses was not affordable in
today’s belt-tightening environment. Those opposed to the decision argued that MLA should not turn its back on the “global voice of the library and information profession,” and that IFLA should be part of MLA’s international strategy.
Does MLA have an international strategy? Not really. We do have international programs and there is an international scope to MLA’s mission. Without a clearly established and communicated strategy, how can we make judicious decisions on questions like membership in IFLA?
In May 2015, based on the ongoing decisions that face us on how we should be involved internationally, the MLA board decided it was time to fully define an international strategy and then consider how that strategy fits in MLA’s overall priorities. The board asked me to work with MLA members directly invested and knowledgeable in international initiative and MLA Executive Director Kevin Baliozian, who has expertise in the realm of international relations. With insights and contributions from Gurpreet Rana, chair of the Librarian Without Borders Committee and close cohort of Lenny Rhine; Megan von Isenburg, chair of the International Cooperation Section (ICS); Katherine Downton from the Membership Committee; and Kathy Kwan, an expert in MLA’s bilateral international agreements, we created an international goal outline, which the board reviewed in November 2015.
Here is the outline of the proposed goal:
Goal: Strengthen MLA’s international presence and worldwide impact in health information and care, by
- developing and delivering educational programs for audiences in underserved countries and developed economies,
- building on MLA’s international network of health information practitioners and their professional organizations,
- understanding – and exploring whether to collaboratively define – the different roles in, and standards for, health information governance and management around the world,
- advocating for the adoption by industry of country models for access to information,
in order to
- Empower information professionals and researchers in developing countries,
- Enable MLA members to play a positive role in their global communities,
- Facilitate mutual learning from the worldwide community,
- Promote awareness of international issues,
- Enhance the quality of health care, education and research throughout the world (MLA mission).
In May, the board will reexamine the international goal and associated strategies (which need to be detailed further) to determine how best to proceed.
We want to hear your thoughts on the specifics, and how you feel those strategies should fit into MLA’s overall priorities. You can comment here, or provide your thoughts as part of this brief survey (where your comments will not be publicly visible).