An Open Letter to IFLA

Who, according to John Hostage on the frbr listserv, can be contacted in a number of ways

The webmaster is Simon Lemstra webmaster at ifla org.

You can also go to and use the contact form. On that page you can also click through to the headquarters staff. The Secretary General is the equivalent of an executive director.

The officers are on

(I’d link to his post in the listserv archives, but the listserv archives are presented as a “cumulative PDF document”.  Um. Never seen that before. But that’s actually not what this letter is about, so moving on…).

Dear IFLA:

I am writing about the recent change in URLs to access all electronically published IFLA documents. It’s really awfully important that the old URLs keep working — not only for the PDFs, but for the individual HTML pages as well. For important IFLA standards, guidelines, and principles, like FRBR, FRAD, and the Cataloging Principles.

This is really the minimum that must be done to responsibly steward standards/guidelines/principles documents in the internet age.

When those links break, the documents become harder to find on the web. And other documents on the web that referenced them with we blinks no longer reference them. (Those other documents could be discussions, debates — or further guidelines or standards that justify or explain themselves by pointing to IFLA documents).

If IFLA-stewarded guidelines, standards, and principles are going to be succesful in the current era, people need to be able to link to them at a persistent place.  Being able to do this is part of being able to make use of them.  If IFLA wants it’s documents to be useful within the library community — and it’s stewardship of such documents to be taken seriously by anyone outside the library community — IFLA really needs to fulfill this responsibility to keep links working.  And I really want IFLA documents to be maximally useful and to be taken seriously.

Perhaps the new CMS makes that inconvenient (and perhaps the necesity of persistent URLs for document stewardship should have been considered when moving to a new publishing platform), but what’s done is done, and keeping those old URLs working (simply through manually created redirects if necessary) is important even if it’s become inconvenient. It may not be possible for every page (although it would be nice), but it’s vital for important community documents like the FRBR report, the FRAD report, and the Statement of Cataloging principles (PDF as well as HTML verisons of all).

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