EBLIDA President on outgoing IFLA President and incoming IFLA President and President-elect19 August 2015
Cape-Town (South-Africa), 19 August 2015
Dear Sinikka, Dear Friends
Strong libraries and Strong societies everybody!
As you know, Sinikka is not only the president of the IFLA but she is also the outgoing general secretary of the Finnish Library Association. So as her boss, I guess it is my duty to evaluate how she has been doing.
I think she has been doing a wonderful job.
I am sure Sinikka, that you would like me to list briefly what has happened during your presidency, but this time I am not going to obey your order.
I am going to say good things about you.
Libraries have a power to change the local communities. They are sources of growth, understanding and learning. Those are the things we want to work with, when we do our jobs at libraries and surrounding organizations.
All of these words, change, growth, understanding and learning come to my mind when I look back and think of Sinikka's presidency.
I have met very few people who would be as easy to approach as Sinikka. And in reverse, no matter if you are a poor child from a rural village, or President of the country, her approach remains the same. She sees a person, not a position.
I said two years ago in Singapore, that Sinikka will be a listening president. I think she was. As a person, Sinikka wants to listen, she wants to learn from you, and she wants to understand not what you are saying but also who you are, where you come from and what are your hopes and dreams.
What I did not know, was that there was so much more to come.
Last May I saw her in action. As a newly elected president of Eblida I was invited to speak at a seminar in Milan on her presidential theme.
You know how that kind of journeys look like. Flight, train, taxi, a reception and a dinner. Then some emails, some preparation for the next day, and some sleep. In the morning there is breakfast, seminar, speaking and socialising.
If you are the president, you do not go through your emails or make witty updates in facebook. Being the president mean sitting either in the first row or on stage, listening to every word.
And she does that with the friendly, the almost smiling face that has become so familiar to us during these years.
After that day I was exhausted, and did the same taxi-train-flight thing in reverse, as I did the previous day. She went to a library visit.
Meeting hundreds and hundreds of library people around the world over and over again does not consume her energy. It strengthens her, as she empowers the others.
Most impressed, and amazed, I have been of her ability to change and to grow to the position she now has held for two memorable years. I am sure it was a bit frightening idea to become the centre and a symbolic figure of our global library community.
But she got there. Sinikka told me before the previous Ifla in Lyon, that it is actually not so difficult to be the Ifla president. She said, that the thing to do is to step into the role, and let it carry you.
It takes a lot of courage, a lot of openness, and a well-developed ability to learn and to grow, to be IFLA President. The same role will now be left to Sinikka's successors, Donna, and Gloria.
I think the role is in good shape, and having met you many times, Donna and Gloria, I am sure you wear it well.
Sinikka always tells how grateful she is for everybody's support. Now I want to thank you, Sinikka, for the wonderful Journey you have made.
I also would like to thank Kristina, Nora and Antti, and countless others, both in Finland and abroad, for your support and dedication behind the curtains of Sinikka's presidency.
You did this together. Sinikka leaves big boots behind her. But let me tell you, those boots are made for walking.
Jukka Relander, President of EBLIDA< back to overview