Proposing, Organizing, and Selecting Preconference Seminars: Procedures and Guidelines

Table of Contents


I. Seminar Preparation Guidelines

A. Introduction

In cooperation with the Preconference Program Planning Committee, the Seminars Committee is charged with initiating and coordinating educational programs at RBMS preconferences, with specific responsibility for developing a number of ninety-minute sessions, known as seminars, for each preconference. The Seminars Committee invites all members of RBMS to propose and organize preconference seminars and has prepared this document to assist and inform prospective seminar organizers. In addition to describing what a seminar is, it details the responsibilities of those involved in seminar planning, gives the criteria the Committee uses to evaluate seminar proposals, and provides a timetable for the entire process of seminar planning and presentation.


B. What Is a Seminar?

An RBMS Seminar is a ninety-minute program with the goal of educating attendees on a specific topic. They constitute an important educational component of each preconference and a valuable forum for the exchange of ideas and information on particular topics of relevance to rare book and manuscript librarians.

Seminars generally consist of a small panel of speakers, with a moderator, followed by a question-and-answer period involving the audience, although formats are flexible as long as basic seminar goals are met.

Seminars are scheduled concurrently, with two or three seminars offered at a time. Historically, each RBMS preconference has featured between eight and twelve seminars.

Seminar topics are not required to complement the preconference theme developed in the plenary sessions designed by the Preconference Program Planning Committee, but may do so. Seminars seek to provide expanded educational opportunities beyond the subject of the preconference.

The Seminars Committee encourages prospective seminar organizers to consider a range of formats in developing seminars, including the panel discussion, workshop, and topic-focused information exchange. Prospective seminar organizers should contact the Chair of the Committee if they are interested in designing a seminar with a format not mentioned above.

Seminars vary widely in content. Prospective organizers are encouraged to browse the list of past RBMS preconference seminars, both to discover what topics have been covered recently and what might bear revisiting.


C. Seminar Goals


D. Characteristics of Successful Seminars

i. Go Beyond Project Reports

Speakers should use their experience with specific projects to address broader issues, rather than using the seminar as a forum for reporting on a project. Use the experience of completing a project to think about:

When thinking about a project in the abstract rather than the specific, it may help to find other individuals, groups or institutions that have done similar projects who can partner with you to formulate an educational program.

ii. Coordinate Speakers to Avoid Duplication

When a panel has multiple speakers addressing the same topic, sometimes they highlight the same points. This happens especially if you have individuals reporting on projects. To avoid this problem:


E. How Seminars Are Selected

Proposals are judged according to how pertinent they are to the overall mission of RBMS and to the perceived needs of its members, how well they fit into the framework of the preconference for which they are intended, and how well-matched the seminar presenters are to the tasks they are being assigned.

Seminars Committee members review proposals before the Committee's meeting at the ALA Annual Conference a year in advance of the preconference. At the meeting, members may ask seminar Organizers (or their representatives) to clarify or add to information given in the proposal. After open discussion of the proposals, the Committee members select those most suitable for the following year's preconference. Proposals lacking consensus support but winning the support of half of the voting members of the Committee will be deemed accepted. Should the Committee accept more proposals than can be scheduled, the Chair has the authority to decide which will go forward. Seminar proposals accepted but not preferred for the upcoming preconference will automatically be considered in the following year's deliberations.


F. Seminar Preparation Schedule

i. Thirteen to Fifteen Months Before the Preconference: Prospective seminar Organizers who wish to submit a proposal for an upcoming preconference should have a full proposal ready for submission thirteen to fifteen months before the preconference. (e.g., proposals for the 2010 preconference should be underway no later than May 2009).

Nota Bene -- Proposers who do not wish to act as Organizers may submit ideas at any time. Such submissions will be discussed at the next committee meeting after consideration of full proposals. Acceptance of such proposals will be based on remaining available time slots for additional seminars and the Committee’s ability to identify a willing and qualified Organizer.

ii. June 1, a year in advance of the preconference, is the deadline for submitting a seminar proposal to the Seminars Committee Chair. Proposals postmarked, faxed, or e-mailed after June 1 will not normally be considered, unless time slots for additional seminars remain after consideration of proposals received by the deadline. As proposals are received, the Chair distributes them to Committee members.

iii. During June, a year in advance of the preconference, Committee members review the complete group of proposals submitted for the following year's preconference.

iv. During the ALA Annual Conference a year in advance of the preconference, prospective seminar Organizers attend the Seminars Committee meeting or send a representative to present the proposal before the Committee. Committee members review and discuss proposals, then select those most suitable for the following year's preconference.

v. At the RBMS Information Exchange during the Annual Conference, the Committee Chair will read the list of chosen seminars, if meeting schedules permit.

vi. By the first week of January, seminar Organizers must provide the Chair of the Seminars Committee with the following information in writing:

  1. Title of seminar as it should be listed in the preconference program.

  2. Names and institutional affiliations (if any) of seminar presenters, as they should be listed in the preconference program, with an indication of their role in the seminar (e.g., moderator, panelist, presenter, instructor).

  3. Addresses of seminar presenters (mailing, phone & fax, and e-mail).

  4. brief (25 to 50 words) description of the seminar's purpose and format.

  5. A list of all equipment needs, including specific hardware, software, and communications requirements for computer equipment.

  6. Information about any special scheduling constraints for the seminar.

  7. An indication of the ALA/ACRL/RBMS membership status of seminar presenters.

  8. Confirmation that each presenter has been informed of the following:
    • a. RBMS does not provide presenters with honoraria, gratis preconference registration, or funding for housing or transportation; and

    • b. presenters not registered to attend the preconference may attend preconference programs and receptions on the day of their presentation, but they must pay in advance (by the preconference registration deadline) for meals requiring tickets.

vii. During the Midwinter meeting, the Committee Chair will announce seminars chosen and confirmed for the upcoming preconference and solicit proposals for the following year. The Chair also reports relevant information from the previous year's preconference evaluations.

viii. After the Midwinter meeting, the Committee Chair continues to work with the Preconference Program Committee to ensure that seminars are properly scheduled and publicized, and with the Local Arrangements Committee to make sure that appropriate rooms are assigned and equipment needs are met.

ix. By January 31, the Committee Chair sends a final proofed copy of the information supplied by the seminar organizers to the ACRL Staff Liaison, the Preconference Program Planning Committee Chair and the Local Arrangements Committee Chair. The Seminars Chair cooperates with these Committee Chairs to ensure that information on seminars is included in the preconference registration brochure and program, and that scheduling and equipment needs are met.

x. By mid February, the ACRL Staff Liaison will send all seminar participants an Agreement Letter outlining the seminar date and time and information pertaining to the full preconference program, registration, housing, and available audio-visual equipment.

xi. During the spring immediately preceding the preconference, seminar Organizers maintain contact with seminar Presenters, checking with them to make sure they receive appropriate registration and travel information. Organizers remain in contact with the Committee Chair together coordinate arrangements to provide any equipment not provided by ACRL, such as laptops.

xii. At the preconference, each seminar is overseen by two persons: 1) a Moderator appointed by the Organizer (who may or may not fill that role) and 2) an On-site Coordinator.

I. Roles and Responsibilities

A. Definitions of Roles

People participate in the development and presentation of seminars in several ways. The following list provides definitions of specific roles referenced in the rest of this document. Please note that it is common (but not mandatory) for an individual to play multiple roles, e.g., be both the Proposer and Organizer of a seminar.

i. Seminar Preparation

Organizer: One who holds primary responsibility for the development of seminar content, developing and providing guidance for the theme, recruiting speakers and a moderator (unless also performing that role), and identifying equipment needs. Organizers who are members of the Seminars Committee communicate directly with the Committee’s Chair. Organizers who are not committee members will be assigned a Liaison with whom to communicate required information. For specific duties see: Responsibilities of the Seminar Organizer.

Proposer: One who suggests an idea for a seminar. Anyone can propose an idea for consideration by the Committee and does not have to commit to organizing the seminar he or she proposes.

Seminars Committee Liaison: A committee member assigned to be the primary contact for the Organizer in cases where the Organizer is not a member of the Seminars Committee. The Liaison assists the Organizer to refine the content of the seminar, emphasize seminar goals, and provide a communication link between the Committee and the Organizer during seminar preparation. For specific duties see: Responsibilities of the Seminars Committee Liaison.

ii. Seminar Delivery

Moderator: One who serves as emcee for a seminar. The Moderator introduces speakers, enforces time limits, and oversees the question and answer period. The seminar Organizer often serves as moderator, but it is not required. The Moderator and the On-site Coordinator roles should NOT be fulfilled by the same person. For specific duties see: Responsibilities of the Moderator.

On-site Coordinator: One who serves as support for the Seminar, taking attendance, calling technical support when necessary, and visibly reminding the Moderator of time limits. Backs-up the Moderator on enforcing time limits when necessary. The Moderator and the On-site Coordinator roles should NOT be fulfilled by the same person. For specific duties see: Responsibilities of the On-site Coordinator.

Presenter: One who makes a presentation as part of a seminar. Presenters are responsible for coordinating their content with that of other Presenters in order to avoid repetition and for keeping their remarks within the designated time limits.


B. Responsibilities of the Seminar Organizer

i. Voluntary and Recruited Organizers

People may become Organizers in one of two ways:

a) Individuals voluntarily submit a proposal of no more than 500 words to the Seminars Committee, 13 to 15 months in advance of the preconference.

In this case, prospective seminar Organizers should attend the meeting of the Seminars Committee at the ALA Annual Conference the year preceding the preconference or send a representative to present the proposal. If the Committee selects a seminar proposal for the preconference, the Organizer is then responsible for providing essential information to the Seminars Committee Chair and for shepherding the seminar through to completion in cooperation with a Liaison from the Seminars Committee. Important deadlines in this process are given in the Seminar Preparation Schedule.

Each proposal should outline the purpose and format of the seminar and provide the names and credentials of all participants. If a seminar is known to have special requirements (e.g., equipment needs or scheduling constraints) these must be carefully described. The Committee requests that proposals be prepared using the online submission form; submissions to the Chair by email, mail, and fax are also acceptable.

b) Individuals are recruited to organize a seminar based on undeveloped ideas submitted to the Committee by a Proposer. Typically this will be a member of the Seminars Committee.

ii. Developing Content and Recruiting Participants

In each case, the Organizer is responsible for developing the content and recruiting participants: Presenters and a Moderator, unless the Organizer will perform the role of Moderator. During the recruitment phase and throughout the development phase it is the responsibility of the Organizer to promote the quality of the programming by communicating and discussing seminar goals and characteristics of successful seminars with Presenters.

It is also the responsibility of the Organizer to determine the amount of time permissible for each Presenter on the basis of the number of Presenters involved as well as communicating that it will be the responsibility of both the Moderator and the On-site Coordinator to strictly enforce time limits.

When the seminar is presented at the preconference, it is customary but not mandatory for the seminar Organizer to act as Moderator, introducing the presenters and ensuring that the seminar ends on time (see Responsibilities of the Moderator). Seminar Organizers not fulfilling this role must arrange for someone else to perform this duty. The Seminars Committee will appoint an On-site Coordinator to help support the Moderator with duties such as enforcing time limits and locating technical support.

iii. Communicating with Participants

During both the recruitment and content development phases, the Organizer is responsible for communicating important information to seminar participants and make certain that presenters understand preconference schedule requirements. Information important to Presenters includes preconference registration, finances, equipment and publication opportunities. For the convenience of seminar Organizers, this information has been compiled into a handout suitable for distribution to prospective presenters: Information for RBMS Seminar Presenters.

1. Participant Preconference Registration

During the spring immediately preceding the preconference, seminar Organizers should confirm that presenters have received preconference registration information, including information that may be helpful in making travel arrangements and securing accommodations. Seminar Organizers must also confirm that presenters either register for the preconference or, if they choose not to register, are aware that they receive complimentary registration only for the day of their presentation. It is essential that Organizers alert Presenters to any changes in schedule, and relay any scheduling conflicts to the Seminars Committee Chair immediately.

2. Seminar Finances

RBMS cannot provide honoraria or travel funds for seminar Presenters. When an organization or individual provides funding that enables someone who is not an RBMS member to participate, this is considered an in-kind donation to RBMS. Seminar Organizers should report such funding to the Seminars Committee Chair, who will inform the Section Chair, in addition to reporting it to the RBMS Budget and Development Committee.

Seminar Organizers should inform Presenters that unregistered conference participants are indeed welcome to attend all seminars, plenary sessions, and receptions held during the day of their presentations, but, should they desire to attend pre-paid lunches or dinners for which meal tickets are necessary, they must purchase meal tickets in advance. Seminar Organizers should advise Presenters that meal tickets may not be available after the preconference registration deadline.

3. Equipment

Seminar Organizers are responsible for providing the Committee (via their appointed Liaison if not a committee member) with a list of equipment requested for their seminars including computers, interfaces (i.e. – USB ports, CD/DVD ROM), internet access. As indicated in the Seminar Preparation Schedule, requests for equipment should be made to the Committee by the Midwinter Meeting 6 months prior to the preconference.

Since supplying equipment usually involves a monetary consequence, presenters should be counseled to request only equipment they intend to use. Seminar Organizers must report any change in equipment requests to the Committee Chair as soon as possible.

Not all equipment requests will be able to be met. In cases where equipment is not provided, the Organizer must communicate with the Seminars Committee and coordinate efforts with other Organizers to provide equipment. In some cases Presenters may be required to provide their own equipment.

Computers: RBMS is not able to guarantee computers at all venues and Organizers may be asked to coordinate provision of a laptop from among the seminar participants.

Internet Access: RBMS is not able to guarantee Internet access at all venues. Also, it has been noted that presentations tend to be better structured when presentation software and screen captures are used instead of live Internet sites. Organizers and speakers are encouraged to use these methods.

4. Publication Opportunities

Seminar presentations may be suitable for publication (especially after revision or expansion) in RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage, and seminar Organizers are encouraged to inform Presenters of this and to recommend suitable candidates to the journal's editor.

iv. Information for Conference Publicity Publications

The Organizer is responsible for providing text describing the seminar suitable for a variety of publications:

v. Committee Support: Liaisons

In cases where an Organizer is not a member of the Seminars Committee, they will be appointed a Committee Liaison who will assist them in communicating seminar goals and who will function as their primary contact with the Committee.

C. Responsibilities of the Seminars Committee Liaison

i. Appointment of Liaison

When the Organizer of a seminar is not a Committee member a Liaison will be appointed to partner with the Organizer in order to ensure communication and understanding of seminar goals and characteristics of successful seminars, as well as to provide other support as needed. If the Organizer is a Committee member, a separate Liaison will not be appointed, but the Organizer should aim to structure their seminar according to the same principles that would be advocated by a formal Liaison.

ii. Seminar Development

The Liaison evaluates the proposal as submitted by the Organizer based on the Seminar Preparation Guidelines. The Liaison works with the Organizer to address any areas of weakness and helps determine how to better structure and describe the proposed seminar. This may include (but is not limited to):

ii. Communication between the Organizer and Committee

The Liaison is the first point of contact between the Organizer and the Committee. When an Organizer is required to provide information to the Committee (e.g., information for websites and other publicity), that information will be communicated to the Liaison.


D. Responsibilities of the Moderator

i. Introductions

Moderators should provide brief, clear introductions for each seminar participant. Depending on the structure of the seminar, the Moderator may also provide a general introduction to the seminar as a whole or may play a role as a presenters.

ii. Time-keeping

The seminar Organizer, having determined the amount of time available for each speaker and leaving adequate time for Q&A, will communicate time limits to the Moderator.

The Moderator must signal to Presenters when time is running up. If a presenter begins to run over, the Moderator must verbally inform them that time is up and ask them to wrap up their presentation. The On-site Coordinator appointed by the Seminars Committee will assist in enforcing time limits.

It is essential to keep presentations to a prearranged schedule, using no more time than the preconference program allows them. Panelists who follow a speaker must be allowed to use their allotted time. Also, audience members must be permitted time for questions and answers. Time to engage speakers in spirited, meaningful exchanges following their presentations is an integral and widely-valued part of the RBMS preconference seminar.

iii. Q&A Moderation

Moderators have the responsibility to call for questions and to call on interested attendees. Moderators should ask seminar attendees who speak from the floor to identify themselves by name and institution. This practice follows ALA policy and is a courtesy to newcomers, as well. Moderators should keep an eye on the time, and if necessary call for an end to questions. The period following seminars is sometimes a short break for refreshments and attendees should be afforded that time.


E. Responsibilities of the On-site Coordinator

i. Communication

It is the responsibility of the On-Site Coordinator to contact the Moderator in advance of the Preconference in order to prepare for any special requirements, needs, and/or duties relevant to the upcoming seminar.

ii. Attendance

The On-site Coordinator takes a count of attendees at the seminar to provide to the Committee Chair. This report should be given to the Chair as soon as possible after the seminar and no later than at the Committee meeting at the ALA Annual Conference. The On-site Coordinator may be given a form to complete on which to provide attendance information and answer general questions about the subject of the content and its intended audience.

iii. Technical Support

The on-site coordinator contacts local arrangements personnel in case of technical difficulties. Often the Local Arrangements Committee will have assigned a representative to assist with seminars.

The Chair of the Seminars Committee will provide information regarding whom to contact. The On-site Coordinator is not expected to provide technical support, although if they are able and willing they may.

iv. Time-keeping

The On-site Coordinator works with the Moderator to keep presentations to the prearranged schedule and ensure a sufficient period of exchange with audience members.


NOTE: This document was developed by the RBMS Education and Professional Development Committee, January 1992. References to the Education and Professional Development Committee were changed to Seminars Committee in 1993, when the latter committee was created to handle preconference seminars. The document was revised in October 1994 and again in February 1996. Revised, January 2008.

Revisions are prepared by the Seminars Committee in consultation with the RBMS Chair and the Preconference Program Planning Committee Chair. The document is issued as part of both the RBMS Manual and the RBMS Preconference Planning Manual; care should be taken to ensure that the same version appears in both manuals in any given year.