Help us crowdsource the agenda! Libraries and Research Forum at the 2016 MLA Convention

Photograph of a crystal ball

The Crystal Ball | Flickr CC BY-ND

Attending the 2016 MLA Convention in Austin, Texas? If so, then please join us at the Libraries and Research Forum for its first themed open meeting, described in this post – read on! Anyone with an interest in libraries and research in language and literature is invited to this open meeting.

We’re seeking a few individuals to crowdsource the agenda and inform the discussion. Submission details are below. The deadline is November 20, 2015.

The Libraries and Research Forum of the MLA will hold an open meeting, Session 632, at the 2016 convention in Austin, TX, where we will encourage debate and discussion on this topic, “What Was, Is, and Shall Be an Academic Library–and Who Will Work There?” This session will be held on Saturday, January 9, 3:30-4:45 PM.

The provocation of the title is intentional, and we seek participants who would relish speaking to it. Libraries are not cheap. Appropriated dollars for higher education are in decline. So are library budgets. Tuition is up and so is student debt, driving a bottom line mentality that prizes efficiency and cost cutting. That means you. Personnel costs are the largest expense item on any institution’s audit. Automation seems like one answer. Will libraries and archives become as automated as automobile factories? (Perhaps they already are.)

If so, where will humanist librarians be? How do we tap dance on the bottom line? How do we escape from talking about ourselves as costs? Who will use a library, and for what? As library and information science programs drop “library” from their names, what is a library anymore? Does information now subsume library?

We invite you to help shape the discussion at this open meeting. Anyone – librarians, technologists, faculty, independent scholars, graduate students, etc. – with an interest in the future of academic libraries is encouraged to submit a proposal for a short statement, question, or additional relevant provocation to start the discussion. Five people will have five minutes apiece on the soapbox, after which the audience, organizers, and presenters will discuss and debate questions and responses. An underlying goal of our discussion is to elicit suggestions for panel sessions that the Libraries and Research Forum might propose and collaborate on for MLA 2017. To submit a statement, please email William Thompson ( or Amanda Watson ( with a few sentences (no more than 10) by November 20, 2015.