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MLA ’22 FAQ: Papers, Posters, Lightning Talks, and Immersion Sessions

Content contributed by professionals in the field, including research and program description papers, lightning talks, and posters; plus highly-engaging and interactive immersion sessions, is the heart of each MLA conference. Share your professional research and explorations with your colleagues and contribute to the knowledge of the profession!

  • NOW OPEN: Round 1 abstract submissions (papers & immersion sessions): Deadline extended to October 27, 2021
  • Round 2 abstract submissions (posters and lightning talks): Open December 15, 2021-January 26, 2022

Submit Abstracts for Papers, Posters, and Lightning Talks

General Abstract & Presentation Questions

Research abstracts and program description abstracts will be reviewed and accepted using separate rubrics:

  • Research abstracts report on designing, conducting, and analyzing a research project.
  • Program description abstracts describe the creation and improvement of products, programs, technologies, administrative practices, or services that librarians and information professionals conduct.

Authors will select one type of abstract for each submission during the submission process.

Abstracts and presentations shall be scholarly works free from commercialism or private interests. The MLA meeting provides a limited number of contributed session slots that are reserved for members and nonmembers to submit their ideas, via the peer review process, in order to share the very best research and demonstration projects. When a session is biased toward one vendor and excludes or devalues others, the session crosses the line from being a scholarly session with a balanced message to a targeted commercial presentation.

Commercial presentations are not eligible as a contributed submission. MLA reserves the right at any stage of the review process to remove from consideration a submission that has a clear commercial or marketing bias. Exhibitors have many promotional opportunities that are designed to accommodate their training and marketing needs such as Sunrise Seminars and Technology Showcases.

  • Three types of presentation formats are solicited: papers, posters, and lightning talks. Paper submissions will be accepted Wednesday, August 18, 2021, through Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 6:00 p.m., central time. Poster and lightning talk abstract submissions will be accepted beginning December 15, 2021.
  • Typically, paper presentations are limited to fifteen minutes and lightning talk presentations are limited to five minutes—but this depends on the total number of presentations scheduled during a session. Some presentations may have a little more time, some a little less. The limits also apply to the virtual recorded presentations.
  • Poster authors should prepare to staff their poster for one hour during the in-person meeting.
  • Authors that present virtually only will record their presentations and interact with text.
  • Consider your presentation style and the nature of the material you wish to present. Posters are highly visual presentations; lightning talks are brief, focus on one main point, and are more verbally oriented; and papers are lengthier and verbally oriented. You may also wish to consider the rules or guidelines of your institution for obtaining travel funding and consider your career goals. In past MLA meetings, paper acceptance has been more competitive than poster or lightning talk acceptances.
  • Determine the type of project you will be submitting. Research abstracts report on designing, conducting, and analyzing a research project. Program description abstracts describe the creation, improvement, and assessment of products, programs, technologies, administrative practices, or services conducted by librarians and information professionals. As a general principle, abstracts should be prepared in an academic style and be free of commercialism.
  • The two types of abstracts will be scored using set criteria and rubrics. Review the rubrics carefully to help you determine which type best fits your project. Abstracts will not be transferred between types, and selecting an inappropriate type for your project may result in a poor score and lack of acceptance. You will have the best chance of acceptance if you select the appropriate type—research or program description—when submitting your abstract.
  • Given space constraints, there is a maximum number of papers, posters, and lightning talks that can be presented. To make acceptance decisions, all scored abstracts submitted as papers will be pooled, and the highest-scoring abstracts will be accepted. Similar processes will occur with posters and lightning talks.

Please review the criteria (rubrics) that will be used to review submitted abstracts.

As part of Medical Library Association’s (MLA’s) professional development and continuing education efforts, MLA records sessions at the annual meeting and makes those audio and video recordings available to attendees, members, and other professionals interested in the topics being covered. You agree to participate in the annual meeting program as described and, therefore, would grant the following rights for no monetary compensation:

You hereby grant to MLA the following rights to any written or visual material submitted in connection with your presentation(s) at the annual meeting in any and all media or form of communication whether now or existing or hereafter developed:

  1. the non-exclusive worldwide right to transcribe, publish, reproduce, distribute, sell, display, or license your presentation(s), as presented for the annual meeting, alone or in conjunction with other materials;
  2. the non-exclusive worldwide right to use your presentation(s) as part of a course book or in any other publication produced by MLA; and
  3. the non-exclusive worldwide right to use your name, likeness and biography in connection with the advertising and promotion of your presentation(s) and/or MLA.

You warrant that you have authority to enter into this agreement and that your presentation and any other material:

  • is original to you or your coauthors, not subject to any third party copyright;
  • will not libel anyone or infringe on or invade the rights of others and you have obtained permission from the copyright proprietor for use of any third party copyrighted material;
  • is not under consideration elsewhere for this annual meeting and has not previously been presented at an MLA annual meeting;
  • is free of commercial bias; and
  • will include a disclosure to the audience of any relevant conflicts of interest.

Please understand that there is nothing in this speaker release requiring you to give your ideas to MLA. If you plan to give the same talk somewhere else, there is certainly nothing in this release that would keep you from that engagement.

MLA is happy to provide a copy of the session recording to you and will grant you a non-exclusive license to use the recording in any way you would like.

For questions, please contact Kate Corcoran.

Sources of funding should always be disclosed. Where a clinical trial registration number is available, this should be included.

Conflicts of interest

Presenters shall provide a statement and slide at the beginning of the presentation that discloses any conflicts of interest (or lack thereof). Sample wording:

  • [Name of individual] has received fees for serving as a speaker, a consultant, or an advisory board member for [names of organizations], and has received research funding from [names of organization].
  • [Name of individual] is an employee of [name of organization].
  • [Name of individual] owns stocks and shares in [name of organization].
  • [Name of individual] owns other interest in the organization and brief description.


MLA assumes no responsibility for statements or opinions expressed in the presentations. The MLA president and/or MLA executive director have the authority to exclude a presentation from the program.

The MLA Research Caucus gives out several awards recognizing those paper and poster presenters whose work demonstrates high-quality research, and they will continue this for the 2022 meeting. We will indicate all accepted research papers and posters with a symbol in the Official Program. The submission site asks if you want to be considered for the Research Awards. Criteria used to assess research projects and the process used to judge projects are created by the MLA Research Caucus.

Abstract Submission-Specific Questions

  • Submit abstracts for papers, posters, and lightning talks using MLA’s online abstract submission site. You may continue to make changes to your abstract until the specific submission deadlines, noted below. There will be no extensions of these deadlines. You are encouraged to submit your abstract before the deadline to avoid the last minute rush and allow time for technical assistance, if needed.
    • Paper deadline: October 27, 2021, 6:00 p.m., central time
    • Poster and lightning talk deadline: January 26, 2022, 6:00 p.m., central time
  • To use the system, you need to have an account on MLANET. You do not need to be an MLA member to have an account.
    • Check if you have an account. If the system recognizes your email address and you do not remember your password, the system will allow you to reset it in this step.
    • If you do not have an account, you can “Request login” and create a guest account. You can then proceed to submit your abstract.
  • Your full abstract submission includes multiple areas where you will need to provide information. Please see additional FAQ entries on these specific topics.
  • You MUST write a blinded, structured abstract. Please refer to the MLA Research Section page for guidance on writing a structured research abstract. Please consult the MLA Style Manual for guidance on style, spelling, and grammar.
  • Structured abstracts for program description submissions will include Background, Description, and Conclusions.
  • Structured abstracts for research submissions will include Objectives, Methods, Results, and Conclusions.
  • When completing your submissions, please include results or conclusions (if complete). These will be included in the peer review process. See the question below for more information on adding results and conclusions after the submission process.

Area of practice

Categorize your submission based one of the MLA Areas of Practice [login required], which will provide the NPC and meeting planners a common taxonomy for organizing and scheduling meeting content. If your submission is accepted, your selections will also help attendees to identify content of most interest to them.

  • Authors should choose a primary Area of Practice per abstract and may choose an optional secondary area if relevant.
  • If you are unsure which specific area of practice listed best fits your abstract, you can contact the Contributed Content Work Group with questions.

Other areas

  • Additional authors, if any
  • Speaker release (applies to the use of your presentation, if accepted)
  • Research award consideration (if you submit a research abstract)
  • Disclosure policy agreement
  • New Voices: let us know if you are a first-time MLA meeting presenter, or if you have previously presented at an annual meeting
  • Your submission MUST include the author block, background, and description sections of the structured abstract.
  • Titles and abstracts will not be formatted or edited. It is your responsibility to check for correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You will be judged in the review process on the professionalism of your submitted abstract. The abstract as submitted will be put into the online meeting scheduler and abstract supplement.
  • The background section should include program objectives or purpose and may not exceed 100 words.
  • The description section should include the process of developing, implementing, and evaluating your new service, program, or initiative and may not exceed 140 words.
  • For the author block, please be complete and accurate with author information. If your abstract is approved and you need to update author information, you will access your abstract in the Conference Harvester site to make the necessary changes.
  • Your submission MUST include the author block, objective, and methods sections of the structured abstract.
  • Titles and abstracts will not be formatted or edited prior to being reviewed. It is your responsibility to check for correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You will be judged in the review process on the professionalism of your submitted abstract. The abstract as submitted will be put into the online meeting scheduler and abstract supplement.
  • The objective section (for which you may substitute the research question) may not exceed 100 words, and the methods section (which should include brief descriptions of the population, methods of measurement or assessment, and expected results) may not exceed 140 words.
  • For the author block, please be complete and accurate with author information. If your abstract is approved and you need to update author information, you will access your abstract in the Conference Harvester site to make the necessary changes.
  • Yes, you may enter either results or conclusions (or both) with your initial abstract submission. The results section may not exceed 100 words; the conclusion section may not exceed 120 words.
  • Reviewers will be sent all sections of your submission, including the abstract, your chosen categories/key concepts, and learning outcomes.
  • Authors MAY postpone entering results (for research abstracts only) or conclusions until after the peer-review process is completed. Authors with selected abstracts will need to add the results and conclusions sections if they did not already do so in the initial abstract submission; please add by late February 2022.

No. Structured abstracts should NOT contain tables, figures, or bibliographic references.

To allow blinded review, author names, institutional affiliations, and address information must be listed ONLY in the author section of the electronic submission system, NOT in the body of the abstract. The National Program Committee (NPC) reserves the right to edit abstracts containing any author, institutional, location, or company names for the purpose of eliminating identifying information before sending the abstract to reviewers. You are urged to blind your abstract yourself, because the NPC cannot guarantee the resulting quality if changes must be made after submission.

  • Authors of paper abstracts will receive by email an automated acceptance or rejection notification letter on/after December 6, 2021. If you are a paper author and have not received the notification email by December 15, please contact Debra Cavanaugh.
  • If you submit a poster or lightning talk abstract, you will receive notification by February 21, 2022.

All withdrawals or cancellations must be in writing and emailed to Debra Cavanaugh, director, Professional Development. Be sure to include the full title of your abstract, abstract control number, and author name.

Submit an Abstract for an Immersion Session

Immersion sessions are meant to provide an in-depth perspective on areas of interest to MLA members. They are your chance to design and offer the programming that you want to see. Immersion sessions should strive for excellent engagement and can vary in format from a panel of invited speakers to a single invited speaker, a facilitated book discussion, as well as less-conventional sessions like an “unconference” or flipped session, or to create a work product to benefit the profession. The only type of programming excluded from immersion sessions are paper presentations.

Immersion sessions are also not an opportunity for vendors to showcase new products or services. For information on advertising and sponsorship opportunities at MLA ’22, vendors should contact Sabrina Sheth.

Immersion session proposals will be competitively reviewed and scored using a standard rubric. The rubric will guide the selection process with the end result being that a limited number of submissions will be selected for presentation. If your submission is not selected for an immersion session, you may be encouraged to submit it as a different type of session later in the year.

The 2022 NPC welcomes a broad range of topics and will be especially interested to see proposals in the following topic areas:

  • Trends in data science
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Clinical care
  • Areas covered by the MLA InSight Initiative (engaging users in a disruptive era, meeting the evolving needs of library stakeholders, expanding diversity in publishing)
  • Advocacy of the health information librarian profession

Submit your proposal through the online abstract submission site through October 27, 2021, 6:00 p.m., central time.

We plan to accommodate up to 12–20 sessions at the in-person conference in New Orleans. Immersion sessions do require in-person attendance. NOTE that there were many more applications than could be accommodated at MLA ’20 (initially planned as an in-person conference), so applicants should expect the process to be competitive.

Anyone can submit an application, but the 2022 NPC encourages collaboration in authorship (e.g., an MLA caucus, domain hub, or chapter). Informal groups—for example, “nine librarians interested in team-based learning” or “a group of librarians who think they have an innovative way of doing something”—are also encouraged to apply. The 2022 NPC encourages groups to work together and cosponsor sessions.

MLA will provide the option of multiple room set-ups for immersion sessions:

  • a room at the annual meeting center
  • theatre-style seating; OR classroom seating; OR round/crescent round table seating. INDICATE YOUR CHOICE in the Technical Requirements area
  • a computer and projector
  • a podium or table for speakers (you will select)
  • one floor mic for participant questions
  • options for using MLA app audience response system (live polling in the meeting app and in your presentation, and the option for Q&A through the meeting app in each immersion session room)
  • your session included in the Official Program, online program schedule, and meeting app

For any additional setup and fixtures beyond MLA’s standard meeting budget (including the costs of speaker travel and fees, a wired Internet connection, additional AV equipment, or other special needs) the submitter or sponsoring groups will explore with MLA alternate methods of funding, room configurations, equipment needs, or logistics. Please connect with Kate Corcoran for a discussion of your needs.

If your group is sponsoring a single invited speaker:

  • Invited speakers who are not current members of MLA, or who have not held membership in MLA in the past five years, will be given one day of complimentary meeting registration. To request courtesy registration for invited speakers, contact Kate Corcoran.
  • If the invited speaker is a current member of MLA, they are required to register at least for the day of their presentation.

One-day and multi-day registrations are available on the MLA meeting site beginning in January.

Submit your proposals for immersion sessions by October 27, 2021, 6:00 p.m., central time, using MLA’s online submission site. Since the application requires some writing, it is suggested that the application be prepared in word processing software, and then the content be copied and pasted into the online submission site.

Immersion session submission fields include:

  • Title: (200 character limit)
  • Format: 1 sentence description of format (e.g., presentation, debate, fishbowl, panel discussion).
  • Objective: 3 to 4 sentences describing what you will cover in your session in a way that will inform and appeal to your audience.
  • Sponsors: Include name of caucus, chapter, or other groups. Submissions can be cosponsored by several groups.
  • Audience: Who is the session designed for? What prior knowledge and skills should participants have, if any?
  • Learning outcomes: 3 to 4 statements describing in clear, measurable terms the skills and knowledge participants will gain from your session.
    • Example of a well-written outcome: “By the end of the session, participants will be able to describe the steps of the research process.”
    • Example of an ambiguous outcome: “By the end of the session, participants will have greater confidence in their ability to understand complex research designs.” (This is considered poor because it refers to “confidence” and “understanding,” which cannot be observed or measured.)
  • Instructional methods: 3 to 4 sentences describing what you will do to help participants achieve the learning outcomes.
  • Participant engagement: 1 to 2 sentences describing what you will do to actively involve participants in the session.
  • Presenters: List affiliation of all presenters and their skills and knowledge in the topic.
  • Technical requirements: List specific requirements for your proposed session, such as ideal room set-up, audiovisual, audience response systems.
  • Budget requirements: Provide a budget for any proposed out-of-pocket expenses and potential sources of funding (e.g., caucus, sponsor).
  • Logistics contact: Provide the name, contact information, and experience of the person from your group who will work with MLA to coordinate logistics for your session.

No. Immersion session primary contacts and participant names are not blinded. Information such as the name and qualifications of the session speakers or participants can be helpful to reviewers who are assessing the potential quality, impact, and audience appeal of the proposal.

NPC 2022 will score the applications using stated criteria. Final selections will be made by the 2022 NPC Program Planning Group.

The primary contact for immersion sessions will be notified of acceptance or rejection by December 6, 2021. You will be notified of the precise date and time of your session no later than the end of December 2021.

Inquiries about immersion session applications and review criteria should be directed to: Contributed Content Planning Group

For help with other aspects of your immersion session experience, please contact staff: Debra Cavanaugh, director, Professional Development, 312.419.9097; or Kate Corcoran, MLA Chief Operating Officer. Support is available 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., central time, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

Further FAQs on next steps after the NPC selects abstracts will be available in October.