By Dianne Oberg
This August 2017, the International Association of School Librarianship recognized me as an Honorary IASL Ambassador. The citation reads:
Presented this day, 6 August 2017, to Dianne Oberg in recognition of her dedicated and continuing service to the education of future teacher-librarians, the expansion of school librarianship around the world, and the International Association of School Librarianship, hereby naming her as an Honorary IASL Ambassador, with all the rights, honors, and affection pertaining thereunto. Signed, Katy Manck, IASL President
The title of Honorary IASL Ambassador was initiated in 1998 by the 5th IASL President Sigrun Klara Hannesdottir from Iceland. The first person so honored was Gerald R. Brown from Winnipeg. President Hannesdottir established the role to recognize the ongoing work of former members of the IASL Board who had contributed and were continuing to contribute in extraordinary ways to the Association and to school librarianship around the world. The Ambassador’s position provides an informal role for the Ambassador at the IASL Board and also recognizes his or her ongoing work around the world as a school library consultant and IASL advocate.
IASL was inaugurated in 1971 in Kingston, Jamaica at a meeting held on the Mona Campus of the University of West Indies. Margaret B. Scott of Toronto, Canada was one of the directors elected to the first executive of the new association. IASL was established as an individual membership organization, unlike the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), which established its School Libraries Section in 1977. The January 1996 “Sustaining the Vision” issue of School Libraries Worldwide outlines the history and development of the Association. Canadian teacher-librarians continue to make their mark on the international school library scene through their contributions to both IASL and IFLA.
Thirty-five Years of Service
Gerald Brown and I began our work with IASL in 1982, at the 11th Annual IASL Conference, held in Red Deer, AB, the first time the conference was held in Canada. Both Gerald and I came to the Association through a personal contact. Gerald had been invited by Jean Lowrie, his library school professor from the Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and IASL’s first president. My participation was the result of encouragement from John G. Wright, my library school professor at the University of Alberta who was the Conference Chairman for the 1982 conference. Looking over the Proceedings of the 11th Conference once again, I am amazed to see how many of the participants have played important roles in my personal and professional life!
What other highlights stand out for me? IASL conferences have taken me around the world—to Jamaica, Iceland, Sweden, USA, England, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Portugal, Italy, Bali, Russia, the Netherlands and Japan—I have attended 26 IASL conferences so far and I am looking forward to the 2018 conference in Istanbul, Turkey. At every conference, I have participated in the International Book Exhibit program, always looking for that “perfect book” to portray my Canada to students in another country. And, at every conference, I have found something beautiful and unique to take home from the IASL Auction, a fundraiser that supports IASL programs such as leadership development.
A major highlight for me has been the creation of the Association’s international peer-reviewed journal: the first issue of School Libraries Worldwide was published January 1995, and it continues today under the capable editorship of Marcia Mardis and Nancy Everhart at Florida State University. More recently, I spearheaded the development of a “Best Conference Paper” award which honors the contributions to the Association of two early IASL leaders, Margot Nilson from Sweden and L. Anne Clyde from Australia. In 2015, that prize was first awarded to Canadians Ray Doiron and Marlene Asselin for their paper, “Ethical Dilemmas for Researchers Working in International Contexts.” Currently, as chair of the Publications Advisory Committee, I am working to develop a joint publication program with Libraries Unlimited (now part of ABC-CLIO). The first volume in the International Perspectives on School Libraries series, Librarians and Educators Collaborating for Success, was published in 2017.
Gerald, on the other hand, was involved as Vice President 1994-97, during which time the Special Interest Group for International Development was initiated. He chaired this SIG until 2008. Gerald also presented workshops and sessions at many of the conferences until 2010, when health issues forced him to become and internet supporter, counsellor and coach. Gerald was active as ‘the auctioneer’ from 1989 until 2008. In this role he made many connections, and became active as a private consultant in Information Literacy following his retirement from Winnipeg School Division in 1992. Since that time, he has worked in 49 countries around the world. Friendships engendered by this work have lasted a long time, and he still assists many with counselling, editing, and proposal writing. Gerald has been the IASL Liaison to Manitoba School Library Association since 1982.
Working in international school librarianship gives one an opportunity to share the successes one has at home with the wider community. It also gives one a perspective on developments and trends globally. The friends one makes in this association allows one to Initiate, Associate, Share, Lead. The payoff is personal, but the benefit is worldwide.
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Dianne Oberg, PhD, is Professor Emerita in teacher-librarianship in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta in Canada. Her research focuses on teacher-librarianship education and on the implementation and evaluation of school library programs. Dianne co-authored with J. Branch the award-winning professional document, Focus on Inquiry: A Teacher’s Guide to Implementing Inquiry-based Learning (2004). She was an early adopter of online technology for graduate-level school library education. Dianne co-edited, with Luisa Marquardt, Global Perspectives on School Libraries: Projects and Practices (2011) and, with Barbara Schultz-Jones, the second edition of the IFLA School Library Guidelines (2015) and Global Action on School Library Guidelines (2015). Dianne was the founding editor of the peer-reviewed international journal, School Libraries Worldwide, which she edited for 15 years. She continues to contribute to the work of IASL and the IFLA School Libraries Section. Currently, she is working on a book on school library education and training.