Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian presents … Government in the Sunshine State: Where and How to Dig for State Information in Florida
I’m having a great conference at IFLA. I’ve met people from all over the world, including Croatia, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa, Nigeria, Germany, Norway, the UK, as well as our large US contingent. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the variety of projects people are working on from library support for refugees to reading habits of Iranian students to a new VR initiative at the Bergen public library. You can see the variety of topics from a selection of posters.
Today I had my first meeting with the Standing Committee for the Social Science Libraries section. The structure of IFLA is a bit convoluted, but I am slowly learning. Basically, my Standing Committee does great projects like tomorrow’s workshop on using ethnography in the library and more. Looking forward to sharing their work when I am officially a member of the committee after this conference.
Spencer Acadia and I also represented IASSIST at our poster session. We were able to talk to a few people and our poster will stay up all through the conference. We are still looking to build up our membership in South America and Africa!
Finally, I’ve been trying to get to know Wrocław again. The city has changed quite a bit and is much more vibrant now. It has developed a student-oriented character that wasn’t quite here in 1995.
Several times in my walks around town a place suddenly seemed familiar and I could see it again through my memories. The picture below is of a lovely square and roundabout called Plac Kościuszki near my hotel and the train station. I walked by it a few times before I remembered this evening that it was the place I used to go for coffee almost once a week. I think a post office was also on the corner. But it seems to be gone now.
Tonight I was also able to do a food tour of the city. When I was here last, I was a student and I couldn’t afford to eat out much. We cooked a lot of pierogi that semester. On the tour, one of the restaurants had a room decorated like a Polish living room during the Communist period. In one corner was a shrine to Solidarność, the trade union and opposition group, and its members from Wrocław.
So, just a few of the things going on. Tomorrow I have an all day workshop and will post notes as possible. It has been a blast sharing and learning with everyone at IFLA. Although I am new to the organization and only know a few people, everybody has been friendly and welcoming.
And I will close out with a picture of the translation booth and the IFLA President on the stage. I’ve never seen a translation booth in action, so quite a fun moment for me!
Tonight I am heading out for the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Wroclaw, Poland. The city is special for me because I studied abroad there in 1995. In preparing the trip, I noticed that the congress meetings are being held at the Hala Stulecia. I was quite confused at first because I didn’t remember anything with that name. Finally it hit me — they had renamed the large meeting exhibition hall in the east of the city. The building I knew had been called Hala Ludowa, the People’s Hall, but that wasn’t its original name. Designed by German architect Max Berg as a commemoration of 1813 victory against Napoleon, it opened in 1913 as Jahrhunderthalle, or Centennial Hall. Since the mid-18th century, Wroclaw, named Breslau, had been a part of the Prussian Empire and then the German Empire. After World War II, the city and region became part of Poland and the majority German population were expelled, fled, or resettled in Soviet-occupied Germany. After the fall of Communism, the hall remained Hala Ludowa until the mid-2000s when it was renamed Hala Stulecia, the Polish translation of Centennial Hall. In 2006, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. For my historians and archivists, here are some great historical photos.
With the debates surrounding our own monuments, it might be helpful to look at this issue from another perspective. Wroclaw and all of Poland have had a difficult history to contend with many times over, and we all know the history of Poland’s emergence and demise and reemergence (hopefully). In addition to dealing with political changes, Poland has contended with powerful symbolic politics during its history. Hala Stulecia is great example of that attempt to confront the past through shifting memorialization.
In particular, the hall when built had a large Iron Cross built inside its dome. During the Communist period, the Iron Cross was covered with large piece of fabric. When I was there, the story was that the Cross had been built into the dome and was part of its support structure (I don’t know if this is true). The Communist authorities couldn’t remove the Cross without damaging the dome so they used the sheet. That sheet was still there in 1995. Looking at more recent pictures the sheet is gone and it appears that the Iron Cross has been removed. I can’t find a good photo that confirms that it is still there or not.
While I am certain that there are some residents who would lament the loss of this specific memorialization, removing symbols does not equate a loss of the past. Removing the Iron Cross or changing the hall’s name is a recognition that the society has changed and that the symbol no longer resonates or that it resonates in a new way in the present day. Names can change without causing harm and memorials can be rebuilt or brought down without forgetting a past. In the United States, we will always have the scars of slavery and the Civil War imprinted in our books, told in our classrooms, and reverberating in our society. We don’t need the monumental reminders that the Jim Crow era tried to re-establish a racial order many years after slavery ended. Similarly, Wroclaw doesn’t need to hide its past or keep in a public hall a symbol that was later adopted by a regime that killed millions.
I look forward to seeing Hala Stulecia again with new eyes and its new name. I hope that the Iron Cross is in the Wroclaw museum, where it belongs, and I hope IFLA attendees visit the museum to learn more about Wroclaw’s past. Because people have been asking me about this trip, I will try to blog regularly and post pictures. I am new to IFLA, but I am excited to be a part of this international community of librarians.
The Free Government Information (FGI) group has been active lately in light of attempts to revise Title 44, Chapter 19, the governing law for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The FDLP is what ensures your right to access government information freely through your local depository library (like UNCG) both now and in the long-term. The depository community is currently weighing in, but I firmly believe this is an issue that all Americans should learn, care, and speak out about.
FGI has made a call for specific proposals. I encourage you to read them, and then sign the petition “Protect the public right to govt information: help preserve and expand Title 44”. The group’s main activists are based in California and Alaska and were hoping to wake up to 100 signatures. They have 100 now. Let’s double or triple that, at least.
You can also write your Senators and representatives using the model of the letter Stanford Library Director Michael Keller made public. If you work at a library, please ask your Dean or Director to speak out!
In these troubled times, you can take tangible actions to protect our freedom by protecting our right to government information. Take action and PLEASE spread the word of the good work FGI is doing!
I’ve posted the NCLA GRS Help! webinar on NASA resources. See more gov info videos on our YouTube channel.
(Sorry about the sound quality. I’ve finally received a new mic!)