Posted by: bluesyemre | December 8, 2022

Organizing an event on-site gives great satisfaction: Interview with Dr. Anna Wałek, president of IATUL

Dr Anna Wałek, president of the International Association of University Libraries; photo: IATUL

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly subsides, you have decided to hold the 43rd International Association of University Libraries Annual Conference 2023 in Dubai. Will it be a live or a hybrid format? What sparked this decision?
The conference in the United Arab Emirates, organized by our members from Dubai and Sharjah, will be a fully on-site event.

When the board chose the winning application, both the experience of future organizers and a well-thought-out and reasonable proposal on how to organize an event on-site were important to us. Our community is based on the exchange of experiences, cooperation and mutual inspiration of representatives and leaders of libraries from around the world. After two years of spending time in front of screens, we finally wanted to give ourselves a chance to return to normal.

What will your event look like? Do you plan any major changes to the last Congress? And how many delegates do you expect offline/online?
Certainly, the conference will be different from the previous two due to the lack of remote participation. However, we want to return to the pre-pandemic format.

We expect to host over 100 participants from all continents. Also, from countries that have only recently opened up to the possibility of travelling.

The organizers and the program committee meticulously prepare both the program and the entire organizational setting of the event. The conference will last four days. Sessions will be held at both Zayed University in Dubai and American University of Sharjah campuses. In addition, as is the tradition of the IATUL conference, one day – a study tour day – will be devoted to getting to know the cultural and culinary benefits of the region.

Did you conduct virtual or hybrid events before? If you compare a virtual with a live event, how different are the planning and organization?
A virtual IATUL Conference was held in 2021. It was originally scheduled to take place in Porto in the summer of 2020. Although it was a very successful conference in terms of content and program, and the organizers did a great job transforming the conference into a remote format, we all felt that we were missing something.

In June 2022, the IATUL Annual Conference was held in Miami. Despite the uncertainty about the situation in the world, both pandemic and political, we decided to organize this conference in a hybrid format. The opportunity to participate on-site turned out to be successful. Despite various obstacles, most of the participants decided to come to Miami. They were both our members and representatives of institutions that are not members of IATUL. The possibility of remote participation was also appreciated but met with moderate interest.

From our point of view and the organizers’ point of view, the most difficult and costly is to organize a hybrid event. In turn, the host institution sees the least benefits from a virtual event. Organizing an event on-site is a huge undertaking, but it also gives great satisfaction and the greatest benefits to the participants.

The MICE industry has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?
Certainly, the pandemic has changed the industry and the whole thinking about organizing events, especially on-site. It is difficult to predict what awaits us in the future. On the one hand, we have gotten used to the convenience of remote meetings at home or in the office.

However, when I recently participated in numerous events that have returned after years to the on-site or hybrid version, I heard voices above all saying ‘how nice to meet again’. People fall into each other’s arms, go to dinner together, and enjoy the meetings. Friendships, as well as professional and business relationships, are formed and renewed. It’s very uplifting.


Dr Anna Wałek is president of the International Association of University Libraries.

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