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Past, Present, and Future of Libraries Conference: Proposal Deadline Extended to May 22, 2018

American Philosophical Society Library

In commemoration of the American Philosophical Society’s (APS) 275th anniversary, the APS Library—along with the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)—is hosting an interdisciplinary and international conference that explores the history of libraries, the present opportunities for libraries (especially independent research libraries and those with special collections), and the potential future for libraries as they continue to evolve in the 21st century.

“The Past, Present, and Future of Libraries” will take place Thursday–Saturday, September 27–29, 2018, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Registration for the conference is free and open to all. The conference organizers have extended the deadline for paper proposals to Tuesday, May 22, at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time.

The conference will begin with a keynote discussion focused on the future of libraries hosted by Sarah Thomas (vice president for the Harvard Library and university librarian and the Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) and including Mary Lee Kennedy (executive director, Association of Research Libraries), Khalil Gibran Muhammad (professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies), and Michael Witmore (director, Folger Shakespeare Library).

The conference organizers are interested in papers from scholars, librarians, and other practitioners whose work contributes to the themes of the conference.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • The history and evolution of libraries, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries
  • The uses and users of libraries over time
  • Reception and readership studies
  • Scholarship based on the analysis of library records and catalogs


  • Changing practices at libraries
  • Access issues, especially those that deal with government records and culturally sensitive materials
  • New modes and tools of cataloging and description
  • Innovative projects at special collection and other libraries


  • The opportunities and challenges presented by the digital revolution
  • Works of digital scholarship
  • Visions of and ideas for libraries of the future
  • The evolving roles of libraries as repositories, work spaces, and places for exchange

The conference organizers hope the chronological scope and topical breadth of the conference will stimulate an interdisciplinary dialogue that crosses traditional professional barriers.

Applicants should submit a title and 250-word proposal along with a curriculum vitae by May 22, 2018. Decisions will be made by June 2018. All presenters will receive travel subsidies and hotel accommodations. Accepted papers will be due a month before the conference and pre-circulated to registered attendees. Papers should be no longer than 15 double-spaced pages. Presenters may also have the opportunity to publish revised papers in the APS’s Proceedings, one of the longest running scholarly journals in America.

Register for this free conference on the American Philosophical Society website.

About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise, promotes equity and diversity, and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.

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