Call for Papers now open

Closing date 19 June 2021

National Libraries Now 2021: International Perspectives on Library Curation 

Digital conference 16 – 17 September 2021

National libraries are responsible for collecting and preserving the published output of their countries and international publications of research interest, with library professionals tasked to build and promote these cultural heritage repositories of knowledge and creativity. However, curatorial roles within these institutions face unprecedented change in what is considered national heritage, the digital availability of collections, and an increased focus on social responsibility. 

Bringing together professionals from national libraries worldwide, this conference will explore the state of national library curation now, interrogating the complex challenges we face in building and interpreting collections, and the practical approaches that are being taken to address them. What does it mean to work in a national library now? What new possibilities are there for international collaboration? We will be especially interested in addressing the subject of inclusion, and how it manifests itself both in our profession and in the collections for which we are responsible.

The aim of the conference is to bring together library professionals working directly with collections in national libraries to share current practice and new approaches to curatorship. A primary goal of the conference is to establish a long-lasting network that will lead to international collaboration. 


Presentations will need to be pre-recorded and will take the following formats:  

  1. Long Papers (10-15 minutes) that explore the state of our field  
  2. Short ‘Lightning’ Talks (5-7 minutes) looking at specific case studies and library projects. 
  3. Themed Panels/Roundtables (3-5 presentations): If common topics or themes emerge in conversation with other partners, please consider submitting a joint proposal for a panel. We particularly encourage sessions that take an international outlook with participants from different institutions. 
  4. Creative contributions to the themes, such as digital posters, blogs, e-zines, videos, and visual art.

The papers will be followed by live discussions with Q&A sessions. There will also be the chance to contribute blog posts on our conference website.


We welcome presentations which cover good practice, but also those which reflect on times where projects have not succeeded or turned out as planned. Subjects to explore include, but are not limited to: 

  • What is a National Library?
  • New perspectives on developing national and international collections
  • What makes a curator? Who has access to curatorial roles?
  • Participatory / Community Co-Curation   
  • Collaborative research projects with library collections
  • Decolonising strategies
  • “Neutrality”: what is the library’s place in politics and activism?
  • Indigenous perspectives and approaches to material
  • Gaps and Silences in the collections:  Black and Minority Ethnic, Women, LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex) and Disabled people’s voices
  • Preservation of cultural heritage 
  • The ethics of digitisation 
  • Emerging technologies and formats
  • Collecting digital heritage
  • Copyright and collections
  • Libraries and the pandemic 
  • Evolving audiences
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion  
  • Multilingualism in National Libraries
  • National Libraries and public libraries
  • National Libraries and sustainability

Selected contributions will be considered for publication in a peer-reviewed edited collection.  

How to submit your proposal: 

Please use the submission form to submit your proposal. The deadline for proposals is 19 June, 2021. Proposals can be submitted in two formats: a written abstract; a video abstract. See the call for papers guidance for further information. 


The conference program will also include workshops to provide learning opportunities and skill sharing between attendees. Workshop topics will be guided by input from attendees. We will soon contact attendees for workshop ideas but please feel free to make suggestions at in the meantime! 

Conference Language:  

The main language for this conference will be English, however there is a small budget for translating presentations in other languages. Q&As and panel discussions will be held in English for the benefit of the widest audience, however there might be funds available for closed captioning or to translate these discussions for the conference website subsequently. 


To ensure the conference is accessible to a wide audience, participants will be asked in advance via the registration form if they require any help. Abstracts of presentations and workshops will be provided in advance to allow participants to prepare for session content and workshop choice. We will also have closed captioning during the live discussions.  

For anyone requiring help with the submission process or the conference itself, please contact us

Conference website:

The conference website will be ‘live’ prior to the start of the conference and will provide access to the pre-recorded presentations and host a gallery of creative contributions including blog posts.  

Conference Organisers: Mercedes Aguirre, Pardaad Chamsaz, Lucy Rowland, (British Library), Chantelle Richardson (National Library of Jamaica), Wouter Bracke (Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België/ Bibliothèque royale de Belgique)

Conference Email: 

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