Since IFAC's foundation in 1957, Düsseldorf was the Seat of the Secretariat of IFAC until 1975. After that the Secretariat was temporarily shifted to Helsinki, Finland. In June 1977, the Executive Council of IFAC decided to accept the invitation of the Austrian Federal Government and the Austrian Academy of Sciences to start negotiations about installing a permanent Secretariat in Laxenburg. These negotiations, having been successfully completed, suitable premises were provided in Laxenburg. By taking this step, the Austrian Government worked towards realizing the objective of making Laxenburg a centre of international scientific encounter. A further step in this direction was the installation of the IFIP Secretariat in Laxenburg in 1995. On April 21, 1978, the agreement between the Austrian Federal Government and IFAC was signed, which established the Secretariat in Laxenburg.
Laxenburg is situated about 20 km South of Vienna and can be reached by car or by bus. The Secretariat is located on the second floor of an 18th century building. It has a library of all IFAC Proceedings and holds the archives of the Federation which is open to visitors. A huge park with a pond, ideally suited for skating in winter and boating in summer, and a castle, hosting a theatre festival in the summer, is only a stone's throw away from the Secretariat.
Once a year the IFAC Secretariat premises are the site of an informal meeting of the IFAC President, President Elect, Past President, the two Vice Presidents, the Treasurer, the Secretary and the Secretariat staff. These meetings have a twofold purpose. On the one hand they serve to have informal discussions in preparation of the annual Council meeting and on the other hand they have the purpose to strengthen the link to the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, the Technical Universities and the IFAC Beirat. This has recently been done by organizing lecture sessions to which representatives of Austrian academia and industry were invited.
The work of the Secretariat is organized and monitored by the IFAC Secretary, who is an appointed officer of IFAC. The first Secretary at the Laxenburg Secretariat was Fred Margulies, who was instrumental in bringing the Secretariat to Austria. He was followed by Gusztav Hencsey who served in this capacity from 1984 to the General Assembly in July 2005. Following his retirement he has now been succeeded by Kurt Schlacher.
Barbara Aumann has been with the Secretariat since it moved to Laxenburg in 1978 and celebrated her 30th anniversary with the Federation in 2008. Ernestine Rudas joined the Secretariat in 1985, following Elfriede Schrott who retired at that time. Elisabeth Löschinger has worked at the Secretariat from 1983 until her retirement in 2004. Harald Albrecht joined the Secretariat as web developer and administrator in 2006. In January 2011, Elske Haberl joined the adminstrative staff. Katharina Willixhofer joined the Secretariat staff in December 2011.
The number and variety of tasks the staff has to see to has changed and grown over the years. It is hard to believe that they started with electric typewriters, telex machine, telephones. No FAX machines, no computers, no e-mail, no world wide web at the time. The first innovation was a huge Philips computer, which helped set up a first database. Then, the Secretariat had its first "real" computer, an Apple MacIntosh with a storage capacity of 20 MB! But it was the first step into the electronic world. Personal Computers with more capacity followed, then e-mail and finally the connection to the World Wide Web. All this has changed the work of the staff dramatically. First of all, response times have dwindled to practically instantaneous, mailing is mostly done via e-mail and the number of services to the outside world, IFAC Officials, event organizers, National Member Organizations and other interested parties have grown dramatically. The Secretariat now maintains databases of persons and events which are available for IFAC purposes and help people organize events, get information about IFAC meetings or get hold of IFAC publications. The Secretariat also publishes the bimonthly IFAC Newsletter under the editorship of the IFAC Secretary. The production of the Newsletter also started with typewritten and typeset copies and has meanwhile changed to desk-top publication. The Newsletter is now also available electronically, directly on the Home Page.
This is just a glance at some of the tasks the Secretariat performs. There are many more, in connection with the production of minutes of IFAC Council- and Related Meetings, preparing the General Assembly, orchestrating event approval, etc.