A postcard from Latvia and Finland

Alyson, Dace and Elina meet up in Latvia

Alyson, Dace and Elina meet up in Riga, Latvia

One of the great things about traveling is seeing other countries from the point of view of locals and one of the great things about being an international librarian is the chance to meet local librarians when you travel. In July I was lucky enough to to do both during my travels in Latvia and Finland.

I was heading to Latvia and Finland on holidays, but took the opportunity to  arrange an opportunity to meet up with some people that I had encountered through the ILN and other professional networks. Dace Udre, who is the Chair of the New Professionals Section of the Latvian Library Association, was kind enough to arrange for drinks at a bar called ALEhouse in Riga, where I got to meet my ILN partner Elīna Sniedze in real life, as well as their friend Sanita Maleja. It was interesting talking to them about libraries in Latvia, organising local professional networking events, and the challenge of generating engagement. So much of what we talked about reminded me of the challenges back home in Australia!

Dace also put me in touch with the organisers of the Vidzeme regional librarians’ annual seminar, where I was invited to deliver a presentation about the benefits of developing an international professional network and the International Librarians Network. The event was in a city called Valmiera, a gorgeous place on the banks of the Gauja River. The seminar was held in the Valmiera Regional Museum, and was my first experience presenting with a translator to a multilingual audience. Dace was my co-presenter, faithfully (I assume!) translating my presentation to Latvian. Working Dace was so straight-forward that the hardest part of the language barrier was the impact it had on being able to talk with the audience after the presentation, which was a challenge I hadn’t anticipated. The conference lunch followed, and, in true Latvian style, included a keg of fresh Valmiermuiža beer. I believe Australian library conferences could be improved with the addition of local beer at lunch.

My husband and I then continued our trip through Latvia and Estonia, and caught a ferry over to Helsinki where we met Marjo Perälä, who has helped us promote the cause of international librarianship since meeting fellow ILN Program Coordinator Kate Byrne at the IFLA conference in 2012. Marjo’s friend Jørn, a library science academic from Oslo, joined us for beer and pizza, and again we found our conversation moving to our respective library associations; how they operate and how we’d like them to operate. It was particularly interesting hearing about the differences between Finish and Norwegian libraries, given that, from the distance of Australia, they look so similar.

Being able to build these connections and meet up with each of these colleagues while I was on holiday made my holiday better. It took me a step beyond just being a tourist and allowed me to gain a local perspective on the culture and profession.  From a professional perspective, I found many similarities between the issues that we were dealing with and it added depth to put a face to names.

I would encourage any ILN participants or supporters who are traveling to Sydney to get in touch with us – I would gladly return the kindness that has been extended to me. And I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Dace, Marjo and the organising committee of the Vidzeme regional librarians’ annual seminar, all of whom made me feel very welcome!

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  1. A few years ago I was lucky to visit Finland as librarian. It was very nice experience. I am croat living in Macedonia. I would be happy to have a contact with librarians from around the world.Best regards

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