18th LIASA Annual Conference: Abstracts: Growing older with LIASA: a microcosm of radical transformation

Growing older with LIASA: a microcosm of ‘radical transformation’

Clare Walker

My initial report about the founding of LIASA appeared in the News Section of IFLA Journal in October 1997. This 2017 visual presentation with anecdotal commentary focuses on well-known and less-remembered contexts of LIASA’s development over 20 years, and its achievements as a maturing professional body. The presentation concludes that “LIASA at 20” indeed reflects a radical transformation.

Democratic post-apartheid South Africa was only three years old in 1997; everyone was on a very steep personal and organisational learning curve, with fierce factions and considerable distrust within the profession. Yet out of the choking weeds and prickly thorns of those early years that I once called the LIS “acronym years”, the members of LIASA have cultivated a robust hybrid plant with many colourful flowers, new ideas and developments – “LIASA at 20”.

Starting points covered:

  • the “one voice” joint ALASA–SAILIS 1995 LISDESA conference in Durban;
  • the ULIS “unaligned” steering committee who in 18 months made feasible the
  • Johannesburg “unification conference” in July 1996, that nominated a
  • representative “Broad Support Group”, that carried the “ULIS-2” process forward to
  • the Pretoria ULIS-2 Constituent Conference, at which
  • LIASA was founded and named on 10 July 1997, and the first members enrolled;
  • a Transitional Executive Committee was elected and led LIASA forward to
  • Bloemfontein, November 1998 for the first LIASA Conference, AGM, elected President and Representative Council.

Further input noted:

  • a robust stakeholders’ Consultative Workshop in April 1997 from which emerged the “panel-beaten” clauses of a constitution for voting at the July 1997 conference; and
  • ongoing heated debates within existing LIS organizations, finally leading to “disbanding” resolutions from ALASA and SAILIS though not LIWO; and
  • a substantial “seed-money” donation from SAILIS to LIASA when SAILIS dissolved in 1998.

The presentation further identifies many major milestones of LIASA’s 20-year progress, and in particular recent developments including:

  • 2014 recognition by SAQA as a Professional Body;
  • 2015 IFLA WLIC;
  • Ongoing international participation by individual LIASA members;
  • Ongoing support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Mortenson Center UIUC;
  • a vibrant state-of-art newsletter showcasing member and branch activity.

LISDESA in 1995 recognised what had been lost for decades by not sharing “one voice”; “LIASA at 20” has become a tree to be nurtured, a microcosm of radical transformation for its members and the LIS profession.