Conference Report: The New Shape of Sharing: Networks, Expertise, Information. An online forum on European librarianship. January 11 – April 19, 2021.

Kathleen Smith, Claude Potts, Sarah Sussman

ESS Newsletter

2021, Vol. 1

Left to right: detail of “Veduta della catena” by Francesco Petrini and Raffaello Petrini (1887), Bavarian State Library, Roma communis patria in Biblioteca Hertziana.

Librarians, researchers, and booksellers came together virtually in Spring 2021 for TheNew Shape of Sharing: Networks, Expertise, Information [ ], a virtual conference featuring eight online events that covered a wide variety of topics related to key issues facing Western European collections and public services.Starting in January and continuing through April 2021, this online forum had its roots in the New Directions for Libraries, Scholars, and Partnerships:  An International Symposium that was held at the German National Library during the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2017. The New Shape of Sharing continued the discussions and interactions that took place in Frankfurt. Originally The New Shape of Sharing was organized as an in-person event to be hosted by Casalini Libri in Fiesole, Italy, in May 2020.  However, the Covid-19 pandemic that caused international travel shutdowns and worldwide widespread lockdowns forced this event to be postponed and reorganized as an online forum in spring 2021. The advantage of this format was the expansion of the audience and the ability of many to attend who otherwise would not have been able to join. The capacity for the in-person forum was 70 whereas the number of registrants for the online forum exceeded 300, and there were a considerable number of countries represented by presenters and attendees from Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

On January 11, 2021, Klaus Ceynowa (Director General of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Germany) opened the conference with his thought-provoking keynote “Research Libraries in Digital Times – Last Stand or First Choice? The Perspective of the Bavarian State Library.” Subsequent sessions included “National and Historical Libraries,” “Digital Archives, Digital Humanists, and Librarians,” “Bibliodiversity in Southern Europe: A Panel on Independent and Small Press Publishing,” two sessions on “Consortial Collection Development,” “Assessment and Collection Development,” a poster session featuring brief presentations of eight posters, and finally a “Discussion and Next Steps” session closing out the online conference on April 19. Each session was well-attended, with the number of participants varying from 70-90, and was followed by a lively discussion.

Some ideas that arose from the final conference session including a directory of attendees; a calendar for listing virtual and in-person events related to the forum’s topics; opportunities for peer mentoring; the creation of a discussion group and/or ongoing monthly or bi-monthly virtual events centered around questions of interest; and other ways to keep the conversations moving after the close of the forum.

The New Shape of Sharing was sponsored by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), the Collaborative Initiative for French Language Collections (CIFNAL), and the German-North American Resources Partnership (GNARP).

Slides, and in some cases full videos of the presentations and subsequent Q&A sessions, are available through the conference website at