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UBC librarian elected new 'global voice' for libraries

You might call her the new global defender of libraries.

This month, University of British Columbia librarian Ingrid Parent became president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), an 80-year-old organization that calls itself the "global voice" of the library and information profession.

Headquartered in The Hague, IFLA represents all types of libraries around the world. It promotes "high standards" of library and information services, as well as freedom of access to information.

Parent expects to face many challenges in her new role. For one, library services worldwide are threatened by economic downturn, she said.

Even in Canada, cuts to libraries are brought up regularly as a possible cost-saving measure, she added, citing recent proposals to close branches in the Toronto Public Library system.

"We've been fortunate in Canada that we've been able to not have to cut back on libraries as much as, for example, the U.S. and Great Britain. They're cutting back quite dramatically," Parent said.

As president, Parent will also work to enhance worldwide access to information.

"There are limits to what people can read or say in many parts of the world," she said. "(At IFLA), we work for copyright exceptions and limitations. We want to be able to continue providing access to information that is balanced."

Parent is the first Canadian to hold the elected presidential position, a two-year job. Libraries in over 120 countries took part in the election.

"I hope that we can justify our services, our existence," Parent said. "Libraries are the place for free access to information which will change people's lives."

Robyn Smith reports for The Tyee.

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