First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Hossein Salimi, President of the University; and especially Dr. Mandana Tishehyar, Director of International Academic Cooperation of Allameh Tabataba’i University; Dr. Ahmad Borjali, Head of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences and Director of the Conference; Dr. Mohammad Asgari, Vice-President for Research and Executive Board Member; Dr. Esmat Momeni, Executive Secretary and Scientific Committee Member; all the members of the Scientific and Executive Committee; Dr. Almasi, University Technology Director; Technical Experts Ms. Samadi and Mr. Salehabadi; and former and current students and those who helped us during the conference. I thank all of you and express my sincere appreciation.
Holding this international conference was part of the commitments of the Jean Monnet Joint Project with the European Commission entitled "European Union Plans and Experiences for Public Libraries: Applicability for Iran." The Allameh Tabataba’i University submitted the project to the European Union’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency in the form of a Jean Monnet Programme grant proposal. In September 2019 it was judged and announced as the sole grant winner from Iran.
Dr. Golnessa Galyani-Moghaddam, a faculty member at Dept. of Knowledge and Information Science of Allameh Tabataba’i University and the Jean Monnet Project coordinator, conducted the project with Dr. Farideh Ossareh, from Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz; and Dr. Rahmatollah Fattahi, from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad.
The purpose of this conference was to share with Iranian librarians the findings of the project regarding the experiences of their European counterparts, and vice versa, and the implications for the roles of public libraries in the cultural, social and economic development of the country.
The conference focused on the following:
- The structure, organization, and strategies of public libraries in Iran and Europe
- Specialized and personalized services in public libraries in Iran and Europe
- Public libraries and civil society in Iran and Europe
- The review, analysis, and developmental design of future services in public libraries in Iran and Europe
The members of the scientific committee of the conference included seventeen faculty members of domestic and foreign universities (2 from Allameh Tabataba’i University, 8 from other Iranian universities and 7 from France, Norway, and India). Conference papers are indexed in the Islamic World Science Citation Database (ISC) with the permission of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology with the special code 00210-68337.
The articles received were reviewed and judged by the scientific committee; 29 articles were accepted. All papers submitted and accepted were uploaded on the ISC website and are also found in the conference proceedings currently under publication. After publication by Allameh Tabataba’i University Press, the proceedings will be available free of charge on the conference website (intconf-euppl.atu.ac.ir) and on the project website (euppl.atu.ac.ir).
Among the papers received for the conference, 16 papers were accepted for oral presentation, of which 6 papers were from outside Iran. Prominent individuals in the public library field in Iran were invited as keynote speakers, among them the Secretary General of the Iran Public Libraries Foundation, the Director General of the Foundation in Tehran and Fars, and faculty members from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Allameh Tabataba’i, Shahid Beheshti, Isfahan, Shahid Chamran Universities and others.
Six foreign guests spoke on the day of the conference and answered participants' questions online. Our speakers came online from Norway, the USA, France and India. The videos of the lectures were received before the conference and were broadcast with Persian subtitles on the day of the conference. This conference was held as a virtual forum of Allameh Tabataba’i University using the platform Skyroom. Several hundred people viewed the conference proceedings without technical problems and with good sound and image quality. The proceedings could be downloaded and used throughout the country.
The conference was divided into four panels; at the end of each there was a Q&A session with the online speakers. Before each lecture, introductions were conducted in two languages. Questions were translated into English and Persian simultaneously. Some participants in the messages section of Skyroom asked questions from domestic and foreign speakers and received answers.
The conference was well received by the audience. More than 540 people from all over the country attended online, but the actual number of participants was more than 700, and so far about 700 certificates of attendance have been issued, with more anticipated.
Using an evaluation form, we asked the participants to express their opinions in about the conference in nine questions respectively: its call for papers, admission and registration, event management, quality of the virtual platform of the conference, relevance of the lectures, content of the speeches, the relevancy of lecture with the conference themes, the overall effectiveness of the conference, and knowledge about EU plan and Jean Monnet activities. More than 415 completed forms were received. Analysis of the completed evaluation forms indicates a very high level of conference evaluation. The chart below shows an overview of the results.
It may be seen, more than eighty percent of the participants evaluated the conference at an excellent and good level, which indicates the success of the conference due to the significant number of participants. In addition, the feedback received from professors inside and outside the country, as well as from foreign speakers, shows that the conference achieved its goals to a relatively large extent. The foreign guests expressed their satisfaction in attending a conference with this level of participation in Iran. All stressed the need to continue working with their Iranian counterparts.
At the end of the conference, a statement was read as follows:
According to the topics discussed at the International Conference on Public Libraries of Iran (with emphasis on European experiences), the participants in this conference emphasize the following:
1- In order to use the experiences and general orientation of the European Union in the field of public libraries, a study of the EU public library experiences and the "A Library Manifesto for Europe" (https://www.europe4libraries2019.eu/) and its implementation in accordance with the societal and cultural needs of Islamic Iran is emphasized.
2- Digital skills and media literacy of users are important issues for public libraries in Iran. It is necessary to pay more attention to empowering public librarians in the country.
3- As was emphasized by the participants in this conference, freedom, democracy and the promotion of educational discourse, based on wise study, are among the important missions of Iranian public libraries.
4- Public libraries in Iran are social institutions that are responsible for educating and empowering people in the community to take responsibility and meet social needs and achieve prosperity and well-being.
5- It is appropriate for Iranian public libraries to prioritize the provision of specialized and personalized services in their programs and activities and to be prepared to provide such services.
6- It is necessary to seriously review, adjust and reform the administrative system in public libraries and to take into account the interests of the people and public librarians in Iran by providing appropriate manpower, budget and spaces.
7- Sustainable and inclusive development, which is one of the most important needs of the country, should be addressed and discussed, and decisions should be made in this regard for the public libraries of Iran.
8- Public libraries of Iran can play an effective and constructive role in the sustainable development of the country in accordance with “Statement of the Second Step of the Islamic Revolution”. Therefore, it is necessary to study and plan properly in this field.
9- One of the most important principles in public libraries is equal access to library materials and resources. (Participants in this conference also emphasized this.)
10- Iranian public librarians need to ensure that open access programs for all, especially access to literary works, are supported by libraries as custodians of the country's documentary heritage. The digitization of resources should be prioritized. (The participants in this conference also emphasized this.)
Finally, it is worth mentioning a point regarding the experience of holding an international conference. Compared to the high capacity of services provided in public libraries in Iran and the huge scientific and research potential of the country, the international reflection of these activities is very low. By creating academic events at the international level, including holding international conferences, we can enhance the scientific image of Iran and demonstrate it to the world in a valuable and effective way.
Thanks again to all who through their efforts provided the conditions necessary for our holding this international conference. It is hoped that by carrying out joint international projects that enhance the work of our nation’s public libraries we will be able to achieve the services required by the Iranian society.
Dr. Golnessa Galyani-Moghaddam,
Jean Monnet Project Coordinator and Conference Manager,
Tehran, Iran, 19 May 2021