As a proof of concept, the Hesburgh Libraries partnered with the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights on a project to help bridge different ontologies for similar concepts across disciplines. Together, we developed and launched Convocate — a web-based tool that enables researchers to investigate the connections between international human rights policy and Catholic social teaching. The innovative platform searches theological and legal documents simultaneously and returns side-by-side, comparative results.

On the surface, Convocate behaves like a simple search engine. In reality, this platform employs multiple technologies and scholarly approaches to achieve cross-disciplinary discovery, including web programming and design, creation and application of domain specific vocabularies, natural language processing, machine learning, topic modeling, and concept mapping.

Convocate has received an overwhelming response in our respective communities of scholars. This inspired us to determine if there is a broad-based need for library-based tools that facilitate cross-disciplinary discovery.


We intend for this planning project to serve as a foundation for the future development of innovative tools that will support cross-disciplinary scholarship, leverage library expertise, and enhance digital stewardship.

The main components of the planning phase include a comprehensive literature review, an environmental scan, a series of workshops, and a white paper to report findings.

Should results surface broad, national need, the next step will be to organize a steering committee of diverse institutions charged with developing a comprehensive plan to advance the project.


The team intends to stimulate national stakeholder engagement and thought leadership through a series of strategically located workshops with a goal to identify the special challenges of navigating disparate, discipline-based vocabularies.

The sessions will facilitate collaboration among domain experts, librarians, and computer science specialists in order to:

  • Understand and document the unique current practices of each group
  • Identify the possibilities to use topic modeling and Natural Language Processing to enhance or augment library classification in order to meet cross-disciplinary research needs

Commitment to Inclusion

We are especially interested in recruiting participation from public and academic libraries and institutions of all sizes. Gathering diverse voices and perspectives will lead to solutions that have broad appeal and increase the ease of tool adoption. The workshop locations were chosen for broad geographic dispersion, all within driving distance of a diverse collection of academic and public libraries.