5 April 2013

Lebanese Library Association (LLA): Moving Forward and Remaining Sustainable

By Randa Al-Chidiac, President, Lebanese Library Association

A famous quotation by Thomas J. "Tom" Peters states “If a window of opportunity appears, don't pull down the shade'. The Lebanese Library Association (LLA) was proud to be the first to be chosen as participants by the Asia and Oceania region as the candidates of the IFLA project on Building Strong Library Associations Programme.

Workshop attendees discussing action plan to be implemented by LLA

The Association Governing Committee had to make a major decision on its continued role after carrying out an extensive review. It realized that it either choose to continue to thrive and remain relevant or it would cease to exist. It decided that after surviving a war and civil unrest, it could not allow all that it had achieved go to waste. This is especially when the Lebanese Library Association was established in 1960. Although it suspended its activities in 1975 at the beginning of the Lebanese war, the Association gradually resumed its activities in 1990.

LLA felt that this Programme would allow it to:

  • Develop a vision on the manner and processes of the physical and managerial components.
  • Play a more effective and efficient role for the national community and on the international stage for its members.

The Programme started with a visit by Ms. Fiona Bradley in June 2010. After several meetings with LLA board members and other attendees from the different library sectors (government, public libraries and other special libraries affiliated with religious and other entities), she was able to carry out interviews to survey opinions about the LLA and its functionality. The brainstorming sessions resulted in the drafting of a list of needs arranged by priorities and a tentative timetable covering a period of two years. LLA decided on the following BSLA modules:

Building Your Library Associations:

  • Strategic Relationships: Partnerships and Fundraising
  • Libraries on the Agenda
  • Sustaining Your Library Association

The first two workshops held in January, 2011 in Beirut, Lebanon allowed LLA to identify action plans that highlighted challenges it would face:

  • Drafting a list of potential partners by linking partners’ and LLA objectives
  • Listing possible projects to apply for grants
  • Listing probable methods by which to communicate to members such as creating a Facebook page for downloading a report of workshop with pictures and the creating of hyperlink out to LLA website to invite members
  • Redesigning of the website as an effective mode/tool of communication
  • Amending LLA Bylaws, rules and regulations

The third workshop allowed LLA to delve deeper into issues that would form obstacles in our progress as some participants believed that LLA would not be a success because of continuous changes in government bodies and their agendas. Others pointed out that LLA is not recognized as official body of the profession. However, they all agreed that there is an absence of library culture in Lebanese society. The major accomplishment of the Programme is the drafting of suitable action plans and solutions. LLA needs to:

  • Reconnect with its members and be more transparent with them on all issues such as progress of BSLA
  • Revive LLA newsletter to provide better coverage and reach out to more members
  • Re-study its existing bylaws and organizational structure to include divisions and professional entities that focus on the various aspects of librarianship
  • Draft a strategic plan that would allow it to map its way for the future
  • Offer professional and recognized development programs to members
  • Address the matter of finding and funding a permanent location
  • Be aware of various channels of funding to allow for the sustainable development of the Association and its members
  • Act as the primary reference in all issues related to librarianship and the library world
  • Be more proactive towards national issues such as copyright infringement
  • Motivate current members and attract new members from various sectors

Workshop attendees sharing the resolve of SWOT analysis

The fourth workshop focused on how LLA could remain relevant in order to thrive and survive. The way forward is to build and maintain a solid membership base and establish good relations with its community partners. The Association will also need to continue to explore and undertake more attractive and interesting projects to sustain its momentum. During the two years of the project implementation, LLA was able to accomplish the following achievements:

  • Drafting of a new vision (To be the home of library and information professionals in Lebanon) and mission (LLA provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of the library and information sector)
  • Redrafting of the Association’s constitution and bylaws
  • Creating of a Website Committee Drafting of four feasible action plans that would portray a more dynamic Association, ie. reviving of its newsletter, updating its membership database electronically, and reaching out to new members and organize our upcoming conference
  • Drafting of a strategic plan

The first step is always the most difficult. LLA felt that the IFLA Project would allow it to discover new skills and the importance of commitment. LLA was able to work on SWOT and needs analysis, action plans, and strategic plans which were not adopted in its professional environment. Activities, especially brainstorming, allowed the participants to evaluate the functions of LLA and what they want from the Association. Many of the attendees said that they benefitted personally in being able to learn new skills that they would apply in their daily tasks and jobs. This sense of enthusiasm brings with it a sense of hopefulness to implement changes in LLA. A major benefit of the IFLA-BSLA programme is that it allowed LLA to reflect and evaluate itself in order to enhance its role and existence.

In conclusion, LLA has benefitted tremendously from the programme. The general feeling that prevailed in all the workshops is that all the participants were determined to contribute to the success of this project and the Association. They openly expressed their willingness to face the challenges and accept the wave of changes put forward by BSLA, IFLA and the LLA itself. Their common motto is “WE HAVE NOT GIVEN UP ON LLA.”

Asia and Oceania, Associations, Lebanon

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