Category Archives: conference

Learning about Qatari society at the Academic Research Conference 2014

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Academic Research Conference 2014 at the Qatar National Convention Center. Hosted by Qatar Foundation, the conference is considered “a unique platform to activate multidisciplinary knowledge sharing and collaboration needed to tackle the most pressing national challenges in research, as well as bolster Qatar’s research and development sector”. And indeed, visiting several sessions in the Social Sciences stream throughout the conference, I gained interesting insights into current issues in Qatari society I would normally not get to talk about with colleagues or people in the public. Among others, this included challenges within the educational system, the engagement of GCC nationals and expats at their workplace, Qatari marriage practices and miscarriage among Qatari women. I thought to share these with you as the most interesting talks I heard along with a selection of posters from the poster sessoin. Living in Doha for almost a year, I am still learning a lot about local culture. The two days at ARC definitely added some valuable perspectives to this process.

Day 1 | 11:00 – 12:15 Four Parallel Invited Presentation Sessions | Social Sciences


Among the three presentations, the one entitled “Youth aspiration and motivation in Qatar: Evidence from education surveys“ was the most interesting one for me. Dr. Darwish Al-Emadi from the Social and Economic Research Institute at Qatar University presented the findings of a survey conducted at independent schools with students, parents and school admins. The results revealed a chronic motivation problem among students in both their preparatory and secondary phase. Students generally felt that Math, Science, Arabic and English classes are important for their future, although they provided a more diverse feedback about this at the end of their school life. Asked about planned occupations in the future, major groups were indicating the business and military sector, whereas very few chose healthcare, education, arts and other areas. In addition, many students don’t see their future career in the knowledge society, which, according to the presenter, should be considered very problematic for achieving Qatar’s national vision.20141118_111839Overall, Al-Emadi was concerned and skeptical about the future of the educational system in Qatar in its current state. Unfortunately though, he did only describe the status quo and did not provide any suggestions for solutions to tackle the problems addressed.

Day 1 | 15:15 – 17:00 Four Parallel Abstract Presentation Sessions | Social Sciences

In her presentation “Motherhood Lost: Women, miscarriage, and birds in heaven in Qatar”, Susie Kilshaw from the University College London provided some fascinating insights into the situation of Qatari women who experience a miscarriage. The larger project had been conducted with both Qatari and UK women, while following a mix of anthropological and medical approaches to provide a broader context. As for Qatar, according to Kilshaw, procreation is considered to be one the most important pillars of society. The total fertility rate of Qatari women is one of the highest in the Arab Gulf States, with an average age of 23 years of Qatari women at their first marriage. The following statement by one of the participants in the study shows the ongoing stigmatization that Qatari women often have to face when experiencing a miscarriage: “Yes, of course! …they look at her as if she has something missing …I don’t know how to explain this but they look at her as if she has a problem of a defect that prevents her from getting pregnant or as if she has been cursed by an evil eye (so is it her fault?) sort of because the normal thing is that the woman gets pregnant and then has her baby.” The second part of the presentation focused on another phenomenon referred to as “birds in heaven”. Interestingly, the researchers came along this metaphor of hope several times when talking to Qatari women as well as their physicians:


Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar from Northwestern University Qatar, author of a number of novels related to the region and editor of several essay anthologies such as Qatari Voices, presented findings of a study dedicated to Qatari marriage practices (Contemporary Qatari Marriage Practices: Education And Marriageability For Modern Qatari Women). Using both qualitative and quantitative research approaches, the study examined the potential impact of the level of Qatari women’s education on their plans for marriage. An online survey had been conducted among 355 female Qatari participants that included participants aged 18 to 25+ at Qatar University, Qatar Foundation branch campuses and the Community College Doha. In addition, the researchers had the possibility to facilitate focus groups as well as individual interviews and to examine 50 marriage contracts. Overall, the findings suggest a broad variation among women within Qatari society when it comes to their choices of marriage and education. Young Qatari women are expected to be educated and married, but, at the same time, the age of marriage among Qatari women is clearly rising over the past three generations. Enriched with several interesting anecdotes, the presentation also highlighted some statements of participants to illustrate the results.


Rajakumar concluded that marriage in Qatar and the perceptions among men and women is a very complex research topic. The study can only be seen as a starting point, as there are still many potential areas for future research such as the view of Qatari men on marriage.

Day 2 | 11:30 – 13:30 Four Parallel Abstract Presentation Sessions | Social Sciences

David Barrie Jones from The Talent Enterprise in the UAE presented findings from a longterm study on engagement and productivity of GCC national and expats at their workplace (Engagement and Productivity: What are the Key Drivers for GCC Nationals and Expatriates? Findings & Implications The Largest GCC Workplace Study Ever Conducted – A Longitudinal Study 2010 – 2012). While the concept of ‘engagement’ remained a bit vague, the results showed some interesting tendencies:

  • Whilst Qatari nationals were the most engaged, GCC nationals are consistency and significantly less engaged than their expatriate counter-parts in their home countries.
  • The younger generation of nationals is significantly less engaged with their work than the older generation.
  • There has been a statistically significant decline in youth engagement (age under 25) from 2010 to 2012.
  • Surprisingly, amongst all age groups, those under the age of 25 and especially those in the 25 to 34 year age groups report the lowest level of acceptance with diversity in the workplace.
  • Those workers under the age of 34 are experiencing an “early mid-career crisis” compared with their peers elsewhere in the world.
  • Average levels of employee engagement are higher in the private sector, rather than in the public sector.
  • GCC nationals report better relationships with their managers in the private sector, greater development opportunities and a more dynamic workplace.
  • GCC national women are significantly more comfortable than their male counterparts in a diverse working environment.

One slide that resonated with me in particular, was showing the ten top and bottom strengths of GCC Youth. Among the bottom strengths, flexibility, curiosity and empathy ranked very high. Much as the findings in the talk about challenges in the educational system above, this must be seen as a warning sign for the development of human capacity in the region in upcoming years. Thus, Jones concluded with a call for action to tackle this and other challenges:


(–> further readings as suggested on the slide above: The Edge – Is the future female? | The Edge – Qatar: The new talent realities | Unlocking the paradox of plenty – A review of the talent landscape in the Arab world and your role in shaping the future)

Poster Session

Apart from the paper presentations, the poster session featured a number of interesting projects, for me, again, mostly in the Social Sciences section. Below is a selection of posters that caught my attention:

Social Media as a Source of Unbiased News20141119_130425(0)-1

Borrowed Words in Qatari Dialect

Preserving and Improving Traditional Built Environments in Doha: The case of Old-Mushaireb area

Politicization of migrants as seen on Twitter

20141119_130009(0)-1Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World (website of encyclopedia)

Digitizing and Indexing Arabic Historical Manuscripts in Qatar

A20141119_130104-1nalytical Database of Arabic Poetry

Qatar Olympic Participation (1984-2012) – Creating a national representation through sport

Building Tools for Dietary Health Monitoring: Studying Food Consumption Through Twitter

Beliefs about Jinn, Black Magic & Evil Eye among Muslim Nursing Students at University of Calgary in Qatar (UCQ)


20th SLA AGC Conference, storified

From 25-27 March, I was lucky to attend the 20th Conference of the SLA Arabian Gulf Chapter that was located in the beautiful Ritz Carlton Doha. Under the major theme “Enhancing the Digital Knowledge Society’s Information Needs”, the program included several keynotes, regular sessions and plenary sessions with both international speakers and presenters from the GCC region. Part of the conference was also an exhibition area with many international companies (mostly publishing houses), several product presentations in the main program, some library tours during the day and social dinners in the evenings. I very much enjoyed the three days, attending several of the sessions, being at the QNL booth with my colleagues, and making many new contacts along the way! What I really liked was the good mix of regional and international guests and presentations. Also, with up to two parallel streams, the size of the event was quite enjoyable and not too overwhelming. As for the language of the conference, all sessions were hold either in English or Arabic, both with simultaneous interpretation. Apart from the Recitation from the Holy Koran at the start of the opening session (which happens at many official events here), I could not spot any other differences to conferences outside of the MENA region I have attended over the past years. To give you a better idea about the look and feel of the conference and a closer look at some of the presentations, I have created a summary of my #slaagc2014 experience on storify that follows all the sessions I attended. Enjoy!

#slaagc2014, storyfied

New Librarians and new ways of professional exchange – presentation at the 58th Congress of the Italian Library Association

On 28 November, I will have the pleasure to represent IFLA’s New Professionals Special Interest Group by giving a presentation at the 58th Congress of the Italian Library Association in Rome. This year, the conference focuses on how to improve the professional recognition of the library sector. My presentation “New Librarians and new ways of professional exchange: Inspiration from the international context” (see the abstract below) will be part of a session devoted to new librarians. You find more info on the talk on the website of the Goethe Institute Rome who is kindly supporting my trip.

A strong library community is based on effective networking and professional exchange between each other and with the public. It is worth taking an international point of view and considering the activities of library associations in other countries, as they can act as a source of inspiration for your own work. Especially the work done with and by LIS students and new librarians often includes innovative approaches that can be achieved easily and with low cost but, at the same time, provide plenty of space for networking and exchange. The presentation will start with an overview on innovative event formats such as speed networking, barcamps, and cycling tours organized by librarians. The second part will focus on the virtual exchange and give practical advice on how to facilitate webinars and different mentoring models. It will become apparent that these approaches not only help New Professionals at the start of their career, but the whole library sector can greatly benefit from them, for they change the way we do networking and professional exchange across educational degrees and library types.

goethe rom

UPDATE: The slides of my presentation are now available on slideshare:

Rückblick auf den 79. IFLA-Kongress in Singapur

beliebter Ort für Gruppenfotos: die gigantische Leinwand mit IFLA-Logo am KongresszentrumAuch in diesem Jahr kamen im August wieder mehr als 3500 BibliothekarInnen aus aller Welt beim IFLA-Kongress zusammen. Meine Konferenz­aktivitäten in Singapur waren eng mit dem Programm der New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG) verbunden, als deren Co-Convenor ich ein Satellite Meeting und eine Session organisierte und an verschiedenen Arbeits­treffen teilnahm. Ansonsten bot der Kongress ein breites Spektrum an Sessions, eine umfangreiche Firmenausstellung mit Postersession sowie ein ansprechendes Rahmenprogramm. Schließlich blieb auch noch Zeit für ein wenig Sightseeing und kulinarische Entdeckungsreisen im beein­drucken­den Singapur.

Bevor die eigentliche Hauptkonferenz begann, fand am 15. und 16. August das IFLAcamp² statt, ein Barcamp für IFLA-Teilnehmer, welches nach 2012 in Finnland nun schon zum zweiten Mal von der NPSIG angeboten wurde. Die Li Ka Shing-Bibliothek der Singapore Management University hatte uns dazu freundlicherweise ihre Räum­lichkeiten zur Verfügung gestellt. Wie bei Unkonferenzen üblich, wurden zu Beginn beider Tage zusammen mit den insgesamt 39 inter­nationalen Teilnehmern Themen­vorschläge für einzelne Sessions gesammelt und der Tagesplan erstellt. In lockerer Atmosphäre wurden diese dann über den Tag verteilt in kleinen Gruppen diskutiert, wobei das Themenspektrum dabei von „Cataloguing issues“ und „Statistics in libraries“ über „Professional leadership in LIS“ und  „Library marketing and advocacy“ bis hin zu „Libraries in the Future 2020“ reichte. Neben dem fachlichen Input haben die Teilnehmer bei einem solchen Format vor allem viel Zeit sich gegenseitig kennenzulernen und Kontakte zu knüpfen, was gerade im Vorfeld einer so großen Konferenz wie dem IFLA-Kongress von großem Wert ist, da man sich im Laufe der Woche immer wieder über den Weg läuft und somit diverse Anknüpfungspunkte hat.


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Cycling for Libraries 2013 – ready for take-off!

This Tuesday, Cycling for Libraries 2013 will take off in Amsterdam. Within nine days, an international crowd of 100 librarians and library lovers will cycle all the way down to Brussels. I am extremely happy and excited to participate in the whole tour this year!


The last couple of weeks have been shaped by all kinds of preparations to get ready for this huge adventure. Besides working through the packing list, every participant was asked to do some special homework in advance: After getting some cultural, political, historical and geographical background about the region we will be passing through, we needed to do some regular cycling exercises (best 120 km in two days) to get used to the daily dose of 50-60 km that will await us every day. Finally, we had to think of one particular problem, issue or challenge from the libraryworld that we want to focus on working during Cycling for libraries. This has already lead to a long list of topics – each presented by one or more participants – that covers a wide range of really interesting issues. My chosen topic of interest for the tour will be synergies between library associations and informal learning networks.

Heading to Amsterdam tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to seeing many friends again, meeting lots of new faces, cycling every day, having good conversations along the way, enjoying the countryside, going for a swim in the North Sea, getting sunburned rather thant rain-soaked, feeling my legs after a long day of cycling, relaxing in the evenings while eating and drinking local specialties, visiting both libraries and library associations, occupying the European Parliament and, in the end, having that kind of group experience that you will never forget!

IFLA 2011 revisited

Der IFLA-Kongress 2011 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, war für mich geprägt durch die vielfältigen Aktivitäten der New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG) und eine Reihe von Sessions und business meetings, die für mich als Convenor dieser Gruppe auf dem Programm standen.

Trotz viel zu kalt eingestellter Klimaanlange verlief das Caucus-Meeting der deutschsprachigen Teilnehmer u. a. mit Neuigkeiten vom IFLA-Nationalkomitee und Kurzberichten aus den IFLA-Gremien wie immer angenehm entspannt. Sogar IFLA-Präsidentin Ellen Tise schaute kurz vorbei und bedankte sich für die Unterstützung in den vergangenen zwei Jahren ihrer Amtszeit. Beim Überblick über die Aktivitäten deutscher Kollegen innerhalb der Sektionen und Special Interest Groups fiel auf, wie enorm viele Posten diese zur Zeit eigentlich besetzen.

Zu Beginn jeder IFLA-Konferenz findet für die vielen Erstteilnehmer mit der Newcomers Session eine ganz spezielle Veranstaltung statt. In lockerer Atmosphäre geben Personen aus unterschiedlichsten Bereichen des Verbands einen Einblick in die Welt von IFLA, speziell in den Ablauf und die Besonderheiten eines IFLA-Kongresses. Nebenbei erzählen sie auch von ihren eigenen Erfahrungen auf IFLA-Terrain. Die Session soll den „First Timers“ vor allem praktische Tipps an die Hand geben, wie man sich als Neuling auf einem IFLA-Kongress am besten organisiert und die vielen Chancen auf interessante Kontakte effektiv nutzen kann. Da erfahrungsgemäß viele Studierende und Berufseinsteiger in dieser Session zu finden sind, passte es gut, dass ich in diesem Jahr ein bisschen aus der Perspektive eines Studenten auf IFLA erzählen und die Aktivitäten der NPSIG vorstellen konnte (Titel: „The New Professionals at the congress… focus on the young at heart“). Nach der Session kamen dadurch auch gleich ein paar sehr angeregte Gespräche mit Leuten aus dem Publikum zustande.

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LIBREAS-Podcast zur New Professionals Special Interest Group (IFLA)

Mein letzter Blogeintrag liegt jetzt schon eine ganze Weile zurück… Es ist aber nicht so, dass seitdem nichts Interessantes mehr passiert wäre, über das es sich zu berichten lohnte. Ganz im Gegenteil! Vor allem die Inetbib-Tagung und kurze Zeit später das BibCamp waren dieses Jahr extrem spannend und haben mir viele wichtige Impulse für meine aktuellen Projekte mitgegeben. Es fehlte allerdings immer wieder die Zeit, um darüber hier zu schreiben (zum Glück ging das nicht allen so, wie man zum Beispiel hier schön sehen kann). Meine freien Kapazitäten flossen stattdessen zu einem großen Teil in die Arbeit der New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG) der IFLA, in der ich seit diesem Jahr aktiv bin. Und damit komme ich auch zum Anlass dieses Eintrags…

Anfang Mai bekamen Dierk und ich in einem LIBREAS-Podcast die schöne Gelegenheit, über Aufgaben und Ziele der NPSIG, unsere konkreten Aktivitäten innerhalb der Gruppe, New Professionals und Konferenzen im Allgemeinen und vieles andere zu reden. Seit Kurzem steht das Interview zum Nachhören und -lesen online. Da inzwischen schon über zwei Monate ins Land gezogen sind, sich die NPSIG weiterentwickelt hat und man bei solch einem Interview sowieso immer noch viel mehr hätte sagen können, gibt’s im Folgenden noch einen Kommentar bzw. Ergänzungen zu einigen Aspekten:

  • New Professionals gehören zwar häufig einer eher jüngeren Generation an, es bedeutet aber nicht zwangsläufig jung zu sein. Man denke nur an die teils größeren Altersschwankungen unter Studierenden an den Hochschulen (u. a. aufgrund von Erst-/Zweitstudium, Ausbildung/Berufserfahrung davor), die dann natürlich auch beim (erneuten) Berufseinstieg erhalten bleiben. (Noch einmal zurück zum BibCamp: Dass Technologieaffinität, Aufgeschlossenheit gegenüber “Web2.0”,  semantic web usw. häufig altersunabhängig sind und von ganz anderen Faktoren beeinflusst werden, wurde auch dort in einer der Sessions diskutiert.) Wir stürzen uns aber aus den im Interview genannten Gründen trotzdem gerade auf die junge Generation: Die IFLA ist zur Zeit vor allem auf den beruflichen Nachwuchs (und zwar wörtlich 😉 ) angewiesen. Continue reading