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Call for Proposals: Unconference Sessions

We are no longer accepting proposals for unconference discussion sessions and workshops. We have posted a draft schedule online and all guests registered for the Unconference will be able to comment in a private online discussion community until the week of the event. For more information on how to join this community, visit our Unconference Draft Schedule page.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is seeking proposals for its Pre-Symposium Unconference, which will kick off the 2015 Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Symposium: Innovation, Collaboration, and Models.

The Unconference is a day for practitioners who have been engaged in Hidden Collections projects and their colleagues to work together on strategies to meet shared challenges related to creating access to their collections. Rather than reflecting upon past achievements on individual projects, participants will spend their time learning new skills, sharing experiences, and developing plans to implement new ideas and practices that will maximize the efficiency and impact of their work.

The Unconference will take place on March 12, 2015 at The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries in Philadelphia, PA. Anyone who is registered for the Unconference is welcome to submit a proposal.

Submission and Review Information

All proposals are due by 5:00PM ET January 16, 2015 and must be submitted through CLIR’s online application system. CLIR’s program committee will do an initial assessment of proposals immediately after the  deadline and may suggest that those who propose closely related topics work together. Selected proposals will then be posted to a registrants-only discussion board in early January 2015. All registrants will be invited to review and submit feedback on their preferred proposals. Those proposals receiving the most feedback and expressions of interest will be given slots on the Unconference schedule.

Session Types

  1. Mini-Workshops: These two-hour sessions should be led by one to three experienced practitioners. The proposal should include a brief lesson plan and describe one or more learning outcomes for participants.
  2. Discussion Sessions: These one-hour sessions should be led by one or two practitioners who identify a shared challenge or problem and solicit specific types of input from other participants.

Proposal Guidelines

Mini-Workshops: These two-hour sessions should be led by one to three experienced practitioners. The proposal description should define a specific set of learning outcomes and include a brief lesson plan or agenda. Lesson plans do not necessarily need to conform to the template below, which is provided for reference only; they should be organized to fit the proposed topic, learning outcomes, and two-hour timeframe. If special equipment is required, this equipment should be mentioned in the proposal description.

Generic mini-workshop lesson plan template:

  • 0:00-0:20: Introductions and explanation of the first exercise, Q&A
  • 0:20-0:40: First exercise, in which participants work in small groups on one problem or set of problems pre-selected by the instructor(s)
  • 0:40-0:50: Reporting back and discussing the first exercise
  • 0:50-1:00: Introduction and Q/A about second exercise
  • 1:00-1:30: Second exercise, in which participants work in smaller groups on more complex pre-selected or actual cases contributed by participants
  • 1:30-1:50: Reporting back and discussing the second exercise
  • 1:50-2:00: Reflections and feedback on overall workshop

Possible topic areas suitable for this format: how to use a particular digital tool relevant to rare and unique collections; developing training materials for student workers; doing user testing of finding aids and/or special collections web resources; using processing plan templates to facilitate minimal processing strategies; strategies for tracking use of collections; developing student assignments with original sources; assessing and improving online exhibits; successful project management strategies and tools; marketing collections through social media; strategies for incorporating collections and collection records into Wikipedia; developing a standard donor agreement for your institution; assessing risk in digitization of collections protected by law; keeping processing and/or digitization metrics.

Do you have something simple that you would like to learn in a mini-workshop? Send your suggestions to and we will post them here.

Discussion Sessions: These one-hour sessions should be led by one or two practitioners who can identify a shared challenge, problem, or opportunity and who would like to solicit specific types of input from other participants. A good session proposal should have a specific, achievable outcome toward which participants can work together as a group. Proposals can be on any topic of broad interest to professionals working in collecting institutions responsible for unique and rare materials. They may or may not be related to the topics addressed in the Symposium Schedule, and they may or may not be related to cataloging and processing. Proposals need not adhere strictly to the template provided below. The goal of these sessions is to provide space and time for like-minded professionals to share ideas and to incubate potential new collaborative initiatives that could address common problems and challenges and/or broaden the impact of cultural heritage on research, education, and public life; any set of hour-long group activities that accomplishes this goal will be worthy of consideration for inclusion in the program.

Generic discussion session description template:

  1. Provide a title for the proposed discussion session.
  2. Provide the name(s) of proposed session leader(s).
  3. (if needed) Describe any special equipment needed for the session.
  4. Briefly (in one to three sentences) define a specific problem, challenge, or missed opportunity that you have observed in your work with rare and unique materials.
  5. Briefly describe possible strategies, tools, or approaches to addressing the problem, meeting the challenge, or capitalizing on the opportunity you have identified.
  6. Describe what a small group of professionals (10-30 people) might achieve together in the space of an hour related to the topic you have defined. This could be as simple as a set of shared notes that could be made public, an annotated bibliography, a collection of examples of related activities taking place across participants’ institutions, a new page on the CLIR Hidden Collections website, a draft collaborative proposal for a session proposal for another future conference, an outline for a collaboratively written article, or a description of a potential new collaborative initiative. Descriptions may offer two or three options of possible outcomes, since the nature of the desired outcome may evolve with participants’ needs and interests expressed before or during the Unconference.

Possible topics suitable to this format: strategies for working with living donors (in which participants would produce a set of session notes on problems and solutions related to work with living donors and/or a list of readings related to the topic); collaboration across different sizes and types of institutions (an annotated list of examples of successful collaboration that includes notes on why these have been successful, as well as a list of barriers to success observed in the experience of participants); setting priorities for digitization (a collaboratively written series of steps summarizing how participants have approached this, including examples of resources that have proven helpful); choosing and implementing particular new tools and standards (a list of examples of why and how participants have chosen to implement that tool or standard).

Is there a topic you would like to discuss at an Unconference session but about which you are not equipped to lead a discussion yourself? Send your suggestions to and we will post them here.

What equipment can be made available: The Kislak Center is equipped with a wireless network. Computer workstations are not available, but session leaders may request that session participants bring their laptops. Rooms equipped with projectors and screens or flip charts and markers can be made available upon request.

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