CFP: “The Past, Present, and Future of Libraries,” September 27-29, 2018

Adrianna Link is the Assistant Director of Library & Museum Programming at the American Philosophical Society. She received her Ph.D...

In commemoration of the American Philosophical Society’s 275th anniversary, the Society’s 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 conference will begin with a keynote discussion focused on the future of libraries on Thursday, September 27, hosted by Dr. Sarah Thomas (Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) and including Mary Lee Kennedy, MLS (Executive Director, Association of Research Libraries), Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad (Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Suzanne Young Murray Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies), and Dr. Michael Witmore (Folger Shakespeare Library).  

The conference is 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 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 catalogues


  • 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

We 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 C.V. by May 22, 2018 to 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.

More from the blog