I went a week ago to Brighton's Jubilee library for a briefing meeting organised by CILIP's Career Development Group on the World Summit on the Information Society addressed by Debby Shorley and Jill Martin, CILIP's President and Director of Knowledge & Information respectively. IFLA made an impact at the Geneva round of WSIS and hopes to influence the second phase of WSIS, which culminates in the Tunis summit in November 2005. The British government has shuffled responsibility for WSIS between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The key points Debby and Jill made were:
• that British librarians should inform themselves about WSIS using the materials on CIIP's site
• and submit success stories to IFLA's database. I stumbled upon another library success site, Library success: a best practices wiki. It might be helpful if some sort of relationship could be established between the two.
Debby and Jill were realistic about the probable results of WSIS. The best we can hope for is that the final statements will mention libraries. But that in itself is an achievement, and on the way there, a number of politicians and dips may have gained a better understanding of the potential of libraries. As Debby pointed out, libraries are everywhere and offer a ready-made way of implementing the fine words of summit resolutions.
Internet governance, which looks as if it will be the major issue at the summit, is currently being debated at the preparatory meeting, or PrepCon, which takes place in Geneva until the end of the month (see InfoWorld's report).
From a health librarian's point of view, it seems to me we had a lot to contribute, not least because one of the priorities for WSIS is "to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases"; and knowledge is, I'm told, the enemy of disease .
Both Debby and Jill deplored the debasement of the English language that international meetings indulge in. Jill offered a particulary fine example involving ramps on the information highway. I shall scour the WSIS site for it.