We cannot predict the future, but research libraries can create and transform it. The research paradigm is shifting, and the wider context in which we operate grows ever more complex. We have glimpsed how technology is likely to revolutionise research, through artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how it is fundamentally changing the way in which research is approached, conducted and consumed; there is a greater collective drive towards revolutionising the scholarly publishing models. Increasingly the library is no longer seen as an impartial entity, but as an active partner and co-creator in the research process.

However, achieving our optimal future will require true diversity of thought and our embracing a breadth of ideas and experiences. Advancing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), through our outreach activities, services, policies, missions and collections, brings the benefits of greater innovation, accessibility and competitiveness for our institutions, and the resultant ripple effect on society at large. But this is a complex challenge, and building a truly inclusive research library also requires us to understand the inherent inequalities and opportunity gaps that exist within the HE sector.

The 2020 RLUK Conference will examine this future and seek to understand how the transformation of the library, and its transformational power, can change the culture of research, and correspondingly shift our thinking, values, services and offer.

RLUK20 themes

The RLUK20 call for papers welcomes submissions on the following themes:

The transforming library

What are the current challenges for libraries? How can we respond to the changing needs of researchers, and realise the potential of our collections and content in new ways?

  • Strategic leadership for cultural change in our libraries
  • The researcher voice: mapping the library offer to researcher needs
  • Digital scholarship: from provider to partner, project to process
  • Collections as data
  • Plan S and the impact on scholarly publishing

Transforming the library  

What will the research library look like in the future? And how can we lead, shape, enable and deliver this future?

  • Digital transformation and the evolving workforce
  • The future role of the library in a crowded digital landscape
  • Ex machina: machine learning and the future of the library
  • The opportunities, challenges, and risks of artificial intelligence
  • Discovering the undiscoverable: the vital role of the librarian and ‘the catalogue’ in scholarship
  • Storage centre or service provider?: the impact of Google and commercial technology services on the library catalogue
  • Realising the promise of discovery to digital delivery
  • From pages, to projects, to processes: the shift from collections to services

The library transforming

How can we best understand the transformative power of the library, its collections and people? How can this help us to reshape scholarship, communities, practices and attitudes?

  •  Mainstreaming EDI initiatives across the library
  •  Info-activism: the role of the library in an era of misinformation
  •  Internationalisation of research: the role of the library in facilitating cross-border collaboration
  •  No longer neutral: libraries, storytelling and social justice

Submitting to the RLUK20 call for papers

The RLUK20 Conference will be held at Wellcome Collection on 16-18 March 2020, and it will explore the transformational power of research libraries, both in the present and for the future.

The conference organisers welcome submissions from all colleagues with a professional interest in the issues affecting research libraries, and we look forward to hearing from a range of voices that will challenge, disrupt and inspire us. The conference is open to all.

Those unfamiliar with the RLUK Conference can view previous presentations by clicking on ‘previous events’ in the top navigation bar, or if you wish to have a general discussion about submitting to the RLUK20 call for papers you can get in touch with one of our conference planning committee members.

RLUK will be providing bursaries for the RLUK20 Conference, full details of which can be found here.

Submission formats


The conference organisers invite abstracts for the delivery of 20-minute presentations. Where possible, papers should relate to the conference sub-themes listed above, but can also relate to other topics pertinent to the conference theme. 10 minutes will be allowed for questions after each presentation.


We welcome proposals for practical 90 minute workshops on the theme of the conference. All workshops should involve a high level of interactivity and/or training which should be clearly demonstrated in the abstract.

Long table

The long table is an experimental open public forum that facilitates free flowing, unmoderated discussion on a particular topic. The conversation is focused around a central table that delegates can join if they wish to participate or they can simply observe. Long tables will require a host to set out the discussion at hand and gently guide the discussion if needed.

Poster presentation

Posters are a way to present a provocation or a project in a visual format, and offer good opportunities for interaction and discussion. Poster authors will be asked to present a condensed three minute summary of their poster to delegates during an interactive session. Posters will be displayed throughout conference.

Speed presentation

Speed presentations are fast-paced and highly visual, with speakers restricted to 20 slides at exactly 20 seconds per slide (six minutes and 40 seconds in total). 


Submission guidelines

 All submissions should include:

  • Name, job title and organisation of all speakers 
  • Submission title
  • The theme that your paper/workshop/session applies to. We welcome themes that are not listed above but that are related to our overall theme
  • A short summary of no more than 200 words. If your submission is selected for the conference, this summary will be published in the conference programme
  • An abstract of no more than 500 words (not required for poster or speed presentation submissions)
  • Any scheduling conflicts for speakers

All successful authors will be eligible for discounted conference tickets (up to two speakers for papers, workshops and long tables; one speaker per speed presentation and poster). RLUK will not be able to cover accommodation or travel costs for speakers.

Submissions will be reviewed by the RLUK Conference Committee, and will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Relevance: submissions should address the topics and challenges highlighted in the conference theme, or others that will be of relevance and interest to our audience.
  • Approach: for workshops and interactive sessions we are looking for submissions that demonstrate a high level of interaction, and are clear on the benefits and value they will bring to the conference and delegates
  • Innovative thinking: we are keen to receive submissions that break new ground or tackle new perspectives on the conference themes

Submissions should made via this form by Monday 25 November 2019. Any submissions received after this date will not be considered. We aim to notify applicants early in the new year.