It All Started and Ended in CONSAL: The Journey of the INELI-ASEAN Project of the National Library of the Philippines

By Blesila P. Velasco

The 17th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XVII), with the theme “Next Generation Libraries: Collaborate and Connect,” was held at the Naypyitaw International Convention Center in Myanmar on 2-5 May 2018. This year’s theme highlights the future role of the library and the information services profession. With around 600 delegates from countries in the ASEAN region and beyond, participants were treated to relevant discussions on various topics and issues affecting libraries, librarians, and the field as a whole.

The Opening Ceremonies of CONSAL XVII was graced by the State Counselor of Myanmar, Ms. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who welcomed all the delegates and delivered an opening speech. In her speech, she said that “CONSAL was launched 48 years ago, in 1970, with the objectives to promote the library and information development in the region, and to lead us towards greater participation in the international information community. Also, to provide a platform for the sharing and exchange of information and experience on issues in the field of librarianship, library and information sciences, documentation, information and related services in the region”. Further, she said that the long history of CONSAL serves as an evidence of strength and unity of the organization. After her speech, she officially opened the congress by sounding the golden Mingalar gong three times.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivering her message during the Opening Ceremonies at MICC, Naypyitaw, Myanmar on May 3, 2018.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivering her message during the Opening Ceremonies at MICC, Naypyitaw, Myanmar on May 3, 2018.

 

This was followed by messages delivered by Mr. Thura U Aung Ko, Union Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture; Ms. Christine Mackenzie, President Elect, International Federation of Libraries and Associations (IFLA); and, Mr. U Than Aung, Chairman, Myanmar Library Association (MLA), who read the message of MLA Patron Sithu Dr. Thaw Kaung. Special musical numbers were also performed by artists from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and Department of Fine Arts performed to the tune of the ASEAN song and the CONSAL XVII theme song. Special guests in the Opening Ceremonies included Vice-President U Myint Swe, Former President U Htin Kyaw and wife Daw Su Su Lwin, Union Ministers Dr. Pe Myint, Thura U Aung Ko, U Thein Swe, U Ohn Maung, Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, Nay Pyi Taw Council Chairman Dr. Myo Aung, Deputy Ministers, Ambassadors from ASEAN countries, Permanent Secretaries and departmental heads from the Ministries, congress representatives, Myanmar Library Association Chairman, executive committee members and other members, chief librarians from local and abroad, and invited guests.

 

A commemorative group photo was taken with the State Counselor, the Vice-President, IFLA President Elect, national library directors and representatives in ASEAN region, and guests attending the Opening Ceremonies.

 

After the opening ceremonies, parallel sessions were held on several themes, such as, Access and Opportunities for All, Media and Information Literacy, Digital Library Management, Advocacy, Transforming Libraries, Strategic Alliances and Partnership, New Competencies and Training for Library and Information Professionals, Marketing and Promotion, Conservation and Preservation, and ASEAN Vision and Libraries.

The International Network of Emerging Library Innovators – Association of Southeast Asian Nations (INELI-ASEAN)’s participation in CONSAL XVII in Myanmar was a fitting culmination to the INELI-ASEAN Project – it started in CONSAL XVI where the Project was launched in Bangkok, Thailand in June 2015, and ended in CONSAL where the initial project evaluation was presented. The INELI-ASEAN Project is the first long term international project of the National Library of the Philippines (NLP). It is a response to the lack of partnership and collaboration of public libraries in the Southeast Asian region. The Project aimed to enhance the leadership skills and build capacities of emerging public library leaders in the region; create a vibrant network of public library leaders; foster collaboration and strong partnership among stakeholders, and; implement collaborative projects in the ASEAN region that will help improve public libraries and their communities.

Three Members of the INELI-ASEAN Project Team, namely, Ms. Blesila P. Velasco, Project Director, Ms. Xenia B. Romero, Asst. Project Director, and Mr. Michael James R. Reyno, Technical Senrio Staff, with Prof. Rhea Rowena U. Apolinario, Consultant, attended the sessions of some INELI-ASEAN innovators, namely: Mr. Aung Than Htut - Innovative Library Activities in Myanmar; Ms. Tran My Dung – Marketing Activities at the National Library of Vietnam: Opportunities and Challenges, and Mr. Irhamni – The Role of Public Libraries Network in ASEAN Economic Community: A Preliminary Study on ASEAN Public Library and Information Network.

But the main reason why the Project Team attended the CONSAL was to present the initial evaluation of the INELI ASEAN Project, which was entitled “Building Capacities and Fostering Collaboration through the INELI-ASEAN Project.” The paper presented aimed to impart and share the INELI-ASEAN Project and how it helped public librarians and libraries in the region build societies through capacity building and the creation of sustainable library projects or programs. It was great to share the Project to the participants of CONSAL and inspire them to participate in the future endeavors and sustainability programs of the INELI-ASEAN.

All in all, it is wonderful and heartwarming to witness some of the INELI-ASEAN innovators shining and taking the lead in presenting their own research papers in the Congress; to meet the INELI-ASEAN sponsors and hear their commitment once again in supporting the projects of their innovators in their countries, and more than that, initiating INELI in their country, and; to meet colleagues in other countries who share the same passion in librarianship, which provided opportunities for collaboration.

 

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