Prague Summer Seminar

The Prague Summer Seminar

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 15th! REGISTRATION NOW OPEN! The 2015 seminar will be offered May 17 - May 30, 2015. To register, click here.

Since 2002, SILS and Prague's Charles University have offered library students and professionals a chance to journey to the heart of the Czech Republic. Participants in this program will enjoy lectures and tours related to librarianship in a country that deals with a history of monarchy, empire, Communism, and the meeting of east and west. Participants experience firsthand how the democratization of the Czech Republic, formerly a communist state, has affected the accessibility of information, in both print and electronic forms. Students enrolled in a library science program can take the seminar for three (3) hours of graduate credit (more information below).  


Tour historic libraries, castles, and museums in Prague and the surrouding Czech countryside. A series of presentations is supplemented by a tour of Old Town, Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square; a bus tour of historic Prague, including Mala Strana, Nove Mesto, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter; visits to the Klementinum (National Library), the town of Kromeriz to see a castle library, the Parliament Library, and a tour of Strahov Monastery and its libraries. There is also ample free time to allow participants to explore on their own or to travel further afield in the Czech Republic or other nearby countries. Although the schedule for the seminar changes every year, please see this sample schedule for an idea of the activities participants can enjoy.

Particpants will be accompanied by SILS Professor and Librarian, Rebecca B. Vargha. Rebecca directs the Information and Library Science Library at UNC Chapel Hill. She is a regular international conference speaker sharing her knowledge and expertise with diverse audiences in the field of library and information science. She is also very active in IFLA and currently chairs the Statistics and Evaluation Section. In May 2012, she received UNC’s Deborah Barreau Award for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes faculty members for outstanding teaching. Her areas of teaching include specialized libraries, knowledge management and collection development.    


Participants stay in the Pinelli Hotel, Residence Bologna located in the heart of Old Town and only steps from the famous Charles Bridge. The hotel is located very close to a number of restaurants and stores. SILS will take care of lodging arrangements. Students do not need to make separate reservations unless they want to stay in Prague before or after the seminar.

Academic credit

The seminar is available for 3 hours of graduate credit from SILS. Participants are required to attend all class sessions and complete a research paper after the seminar ends about a topic discussed during the seminar and developed in conjunction with the SILS faculty advisor who accompanies participants on the program. Please indicate your wish to enroll for credit on your registration form. If you decide to take the seminar for credit, the UNC at Chapel Hill Cashier's Office will bill you approximately $300 additional. Contact the SILS program coordinator ( if your institution requires further information about the course.

The 2013 course Web site is here.

Cost and registration

To register, click here. The registration deadline has been extended to March 15th, 2015. Early registration encouraged. 

The registration fee for participants covers housing, instruction and a few meals. Most meals and airfare to and from the seminar are not included.

The price for this seminar is:

  • Shared accommodation (roommate): $4,050
  • Single accommodation (no roommate): $4,500
  • Participant plus guest: $6,800

If you decide to take the seminar for credit, an additional $300 (approx.) will be billed to you through the UNC Cashier. 

A guest is defined as someone who accompanies you on the program (usually a spouse) but does not participate in any of the instructional sessions and many tours.

The acceptable form of payment is credit card (Visa or MasterCard only). 

We recommend waiting to purchase airfare until registration has been finalized (after March 15) in order to ensure that minimum attendance has been reached. If you need to purchase your plane ticket prior to March 15, or if you have additional questions, please contact Kaitlyn Murphy (

Cancellation policy

A monetary penalty will be charged to those cancelling their registrations. Cancellation requests received on or before January 31: 10% penalty. Requests received between February 1 and February 15: 30% penalty. Requests received between February 16 and February 28: 60% penalty. Requests received after March 15: no refund


Semester in Prague Well Worth It

by Susan Huffman (MSLS 2001)

I have only one word of advice to any student considering one of the SILS exchange programs - GO!

I spent the fall semester in Prague at Charles University, where SILS has an exchange with the Institute of Information Studies and Librarianship. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to understand a different corner of the world, meet people from many countries and enrich my educational experience by learning about librarianship from a different perspective. While there, I took three courses and worked closely with two different professors. I completed an independent study with Richard Papik titled "Competitive Intelligence via Online Databases," which focused on CI resources for Central and Eastern Europe. I also attended his weekly online retrieval course, which gave me the experience of being in a Czech university classroom and interacting with Czech students.

Together with Dr. Stanley Kalkus I undertook a survey of special libraries in the Czech Republic. We visited a variety of libraries, including the Library of the Czech Parliament; the library of CERGE-EI, a joint academic program between the University of Pittsburgh and Charles University; the International Baptist Theological Seminary; the Patent Library of the Czech Republic; and the Libri Prohibiti, a library that collects Czech samizdat, which are underground writings from the communist era.

My visit to the Libri Prohibiti encouraged further research into Czech samizdat and I used this as the topic for my master's paper. Completing my paper while living abroad proved to be quite a challenge, but all problems were resolved with the help of my advisor, Dr. David Carr; SILS Student Services manager Lucia Zonn; and fellow SILS student Anna Cleveland. Dr. Carr and I corresponded solely via e-mail, swapping ideas and sending revisions of the paper as attachments. Lucia was a great help not only with the nuts and bolts of the paper, but she also helped out at the beginning of the semester when I completed my comprehensive exams via e-mail from Prague. The biggest obstacle to overcome turned out to be the most basic one - paper! As any SILS alumnus knows, the paper for printing must meet certain size and weight requirements.

With the writing and research aspects of my paper almost complete, I realized that European paper standards are different from those in the United States. After unsuccessfully scouring stationery shops and even calling the U.S. Embassy, I resolved the problem by e-mailing the paper to Anna and having her print it out stateside. A truly virtual master's paper experience!
Prague is simply an amazing place to live and study. While there, I lived in a dormitory for international students and came away with new friends from all over the world. In addition to my other classes, I participated in a beginning Czech language course. Because Prague is a popular tourist destination, most people in stores and restaurants speak English, but it is nice to be to say "Jedno pivo, prosim" and be understood.

I arrived in Prague in early October, just after the IMF/World Bank protests, and left a few days before Christmas. Christmas is cause for major celebration in the city, and features markets, concerts and other festivities. In between, I visited too many museums to count, saw the numerous sites of Prague, discovered the finer points of Czech cuisine (and the even finer points of Czech beer, the best in the world) and travelled to other towns near Prague such as Kutna Hora, Pilzen and Klatovy. I was fortunate that Czech native Pavla Skarlantova and I got to know each other while she was studying at SILS last year, and she proved to be a wonderful tour guide and friend. I even discovered a little bit of home while in Prague. I am a big fan of bluegrass music and I found that it is quite popular in the Czech Republic, with numerous bands picking and grinning in and around Prague.

Without exception, my experience in Prague was an excellent one. The professors I worked with made my educational pursuits challenging, interesting and most enjoyable. The city of Prague provided me with more extracurricular activities than I could have imagined. But the most valuable and rewarding experience was simply removing myself from familiar and comfortable surroundings and going to a different place to live and study.

The faculty at the Institute in Prague are excellent hosts and they are eager to have more SILS students studying with them. I encourage anyone interested in this unique experience to contact Dr. Barbara Moran for more information about opportunities in Prague.

This article originally appeared in the Spring SILS Newsletter, Number 58.