Task Force to Investigate Role of Roundtables

TS-SIS Task Force to Investigate Role of Roundtables Final Report – May 2015


The intent of this report is to present the TS-SIS Executive Board with findings and recommendations to consider as they examine the existing TS-SIS Roundtable structure and implement ways to expand the effective benefits of our vital roundtables to all members, especially those who cannot attend the annual meeting.

Purpose, Charge, and Membership

The TS-SIS Task Force to Investigate Role of Roundtables was appointed by TS-SIS Chair, Suzanne Graham, in September 2014. Its purpose was to review all existing TS-SIS Roundtables to determine if 1) they are continuing to serve an ongoing strategic purpose or whether their purpose and function is being fulfilled; and 2) if there are models of association workflow that may be more effective or suitable for fostering member participation and engagement.

The Task Force charge was specifically to:

  1. List all roundtables currently affiliated with the Technical Services Special Interest Section and document the activity of each over the past three years (to include programming at the annual meetings, reports produced, communications via email and My Communities)
  2. Compile a list of related roundtables in other Special Interest Sections of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)
  3. Submit a final report to Executive Board with recommendations for steps to empower vital roundtables, merge formally under committees, reposition into online forums, or disband.

The Task Force included the following members: Ashley Moye, chair; Sean Chen; Trina Holloway; Alan Keely; and Brian Trippodo.


The Task Force was first introduced to members via the TS-SIS My Community in October 2014 and sparked passionate discussion among our membership. The Task Force formally met in November via conference call and the five members discussed both on and off-line feedback they received thus far regarding bothroundtables in general and the specifics of the Task Force charge. Members decided to implement a survey to collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback on the current state of roundtables, incorporating questions tailored to the original charge measurements as well as additional suggestions from the TS-SIS membership. A notice was published in the December issue of TSLL, promoting the upcoming survey.

The hope was to gather evaluative information on each roundtable from current and past members and from other members that may have drifted from TS-SIS over the years. Some of the goals of the survey, beyond tracking metrics within the Task Force charge, were to:

  • Discern the primary purpose of roundtables in TS-SIS as well as their current value, based on our membership’s views
  • Develop ideas for future steps on roundtable interactions, including ways to structure the annual meeting roundtable communications and best practices for implementing and facilitating roundtable communications on a year-round basis
  • Identify current and previous roundtables and their popularity with membership
  • Identify related roundtables in other SIS communities within AALL and beyond
  • Brainstorm ways to encourage membership to participate in roundtables
  • Gather qualitative anecdotes that could be used in future roundtable marketing aims

The Task Force met several times via conference call to discuss progress throughout the months as well as communicated via email. The survey was implemented for the month of March 2015, following release of the TS-SIS volunteer survey. In April, the Task Force met to discuss survey results in a preliminary manner. Following this April call, the Task Force crafted its report and recommendations mostly via email.

Preliminary Findings

After reviewing the survey results and both the on and offline feedback the Task Force received, there are a number of things which stood out to our group.

Roundtable Experiences

Roundtables were historically meant to bring people together to discuss pressing issues and topics not addressed in annual meeting programs. These gatherings typically took the form of Q&As or ad-hoc small discussions, and sometimes would even continue a discussion about a formal program. These roundtables created a positive learning environment, in that face-to-face interactions were perceived as being less threatening for the novices and a wide range of experiences could be represented at the table; senior members could easily transfer knowledge to junior members of the profession or members new to particular department roles. Positive learning outcomes included new ideas for solving similar problems, best practices, future programs, and additional projects and initiatives. Networking and forming of new connections were a second outcome of roundtables, where members were connected with other people doing similar work, could create informal groups for problem investigation and solving, could become more involved in SIS and fostered increased participation in AALL.

The Task Force also had to untangle the confusion between the tangible outcomes related to committee work and the less tangible, but no less valuable, benefits of roundtables that generally do not produce a product.

We also identified that online discussion forums do not replace the value of face-to-face discussions, but face-to-face discussions can foster engagement in additional online discussions.

Current or Recent Previous Roundtables in TS-SIS

  • Cataloging & Classification
  • Heads of Cataloging
  • New Catalogers
  • Rare Book Cataloging
  • Management Issues
  • Serials & Acquisitions


This was a difficult category to track, as quite often programming and reports grow out of committee work instead of roundtables. However, ideas generated through roundtable discussions eventually manifest into official program proposals and reports. Approximately forty percent of the respondents reported a roundtable being involved in creating programming or drafting reports, although very few specific examples were offered.


Projects and initiatives related to roundtable work were reported by approximately twenty eight percent of the respondents, usually in the form of future projects to be undertaken by appropriate committees.

Related Roundtables in AALL

  • OBS-SIS/TS-SIS Research Roundtable: This roundtable is an example of positive collaboration between OBS-SIS and TS-SIS.
  • OBS-SIS Local Systems Roundtable: This roundtable has converted to a programming slot in the past few years, which serves to fill in gaps in practical annual meeting programming for TS-SIS and OBS-SIS members.
  • OBS-SIS OCLC Users Group: This roundtable combines both a presentation on OCLC updates and a discussion forum using a Q&A format.
  • CS-SIS Roundtable: This roundtable features small group discussions on a variety of topics, where attendees can choose an appropriate table from the list of topics that appeal to their interests and needs.
  • ALL-SIS Collection Development Roundtable
  • PLL Tech Services in Private Firms


  • Cataloging & Classification – Twelve percent of the respondents communicate weekly, another twelve percent communicate at least quarterly, and fifty six percent communicate at least once a year.
  • Heads of Cataloging – Twenty six percent of the respondents communicate at least quarterly, and fifty three percent of the respondents communicate at least once a year.
  • New Catalogers – Thirty six percent of respondents communicate at least once a year.
  • Rare Books Catalogers – Twenty five percent of respondents communicate at least once a year.
  • Management Issues – Fifty four percent of respondents communicate at least once a year.
  • Serials & Acquisitions – Eleven percent of respondents communicate at least once a quarter, and sixty one percent of respondents communicate at least once a year.

TS-SIS Roundtable Value Statement and Guidelines

Roundtable discussions are smaller, informal group discussions intended to give participants the opportunity to share best practices, participate in group discussions on hot topics, gather feedback on local practices & initiatives, and generate ideas. Roundtables also provide networking opportunities where TS-SIS members can meet and make connections with others who share similar interests and goals.

Roundtable gatherings should feature targeted discussion topics, moderated with specific questions and answers as well as potential for open discussion. Roundtable facilitators should be responsible for identifying and developing a topic, creating discussion questions, and facilitating the discussion. Roundtable meetings may also be used for more formal programming at the annual meeting, if the program topic provides value for our current membership.

Recommendations for the Future

Seventy five percent of the respondents reported roundtables as either very valuable or valuable in their current format, so we believe that our current roundtables should not be diminished further, but instead leveraged into year-round interactions and promoted more effectively to our membership.

Roundtables at the Annual Meeting

Our respondents clearly stated that location is not important to a roundtable meeting, that instead, the topics of conversation and colleagues who attend are the most important aspects. Annual meeting roundtables could meet at coffee shops or restaurants instead of conference rooms. This may help smaller, less attended roundtables still reap the benefits of interaction without requiring a large financial expenditure from TS-SIS.

TS-SIS needs to continue to submit ideas for Coffee Talks and Birds of a Feather at AALL to increase SIS visibility and allow for even more face-to-face discussion based forums specific to annual meeting attendees.

Cataloging roundtables could be, if they are not already, consolidated at the annual meeting, providing specific opportunities for New Catalogers, Rare Book Catalogers, and Heads of Cataloging to make valuable connections and discuss best practices specific to their own unique needs. This may be a way for some of the lower attended roundtables to maintain visibility and spark conversations and connections that can be continued throughout the year.

Based on respondent feedback, roundtables should have someone designated to lead them at the annual meeting, potentially linked through committee heads. In addition clear agendas should be provided for their meetings. The definition provided above should provide clear expectations for the roundtable meetings, but we recognize that each roundtable is different and will find unique ways of meeting the needs of their own particular membership.

ALA – Creative Ideas in Tech Services Interest Group facilitates roundtable discussions at American Library Association meetings. Individual roundtable topics are solicited from the membership in advance of the meeting with facilitators coming from those who propose topics. Currently the Acq/Serials Committee follows a similar approach, although response from the membership is low.

Roundtables outside the Annual Meeting

Because respondents stated that topics of conversation and colleagues who attend roundtables are the most important aspects, not the official location, leveraging events at annual regional chapter meetings, such as SEAALL, could expand the face-to-face benefits of roundtables, and could meet at coffee shops or restaurants as “Roundtables on the Road.”

Scheduling conflicts for attendees and members who do not attend the annual meeting reduce the overall attendance at annual meeting roundtables. The effectiveness of the roundtables can be leveraged to spur a continuing conversation beyond the annual meeting using virtual methods, e.g. MyCommunities, email listservs, or the TS-SIS subscription to Infinite Conferencing which could provide a free forum for these interactions, to draw those unable to attend into the continuing conversation. Training could also be incorporated into these virtual events.

ALCTS e-Forums may be a good example to follow for email discussions. These are hosted two day discussions on a large range of specific topics such as: Analytics for Electronic Resources and Managing Student Employees/Volunteers. These discussions are led by the hosts/moderators with questions and a daily summary is produced.

Additional Recommendations

In order to better support the roundtables we would propose specific steps to better market the roundtables to the membership of the section and AALL as a whole. These could include, based on feedback from our survey:

  • Improve the scheduling of the roundtables
  • Highlight the informality and flexibility of the roundtables to learn, share, and network
  • Encourage and support more online discussions to extend the roundtable discussions

Other ways to improve the roundtables at both the annual meeting and throughout the year include:

  • Making roundtable topics more open and flexible
  • Provide collegial and welcoming environments
  • Emphasizing smaller groups during roundtables

Members responses on the survey and discussion board dialogue commonly indicated a confusion among roundtable and committee work, and some respondents provided feedback which suggested that the TS-SIS would benefit from a Task Force to Investigate the Role of Committees, where further distinctions could be made between roundtables and committees and potential recommendations for leveraging the power of formal Standing committees to enhance roundtable activities and vice versa.



  • “I’m not alone in struggling to find answers to specific problems.”
  • “The most valuable conversations I have at AALL happen here.”
  • “Shared ideas, practices, and experiences are key in shaping my own ideas and work undertaken at my own library.”
  • “I love learning about what’s going on at other schools and how they are handling new challenges.”
  • “It’s where we can share what we do every day.”


  • Learning about pros & cons of multi-year purchasing agreements
  • Sharing strategies for print cancellations
  • Addressing staffing issues and workflow changes
  • Talking about access issues
  • Identifying similar problems with vendors
  • Understanding budget problems
  • Debating the importance of ownership versus access
  • Gaining knowledge of products and services available to libraries


  • TS-SIS Acquisitions and Serials Meeting and Roundtables – Monday, July 20, 2015 &ndash 4:30p.m.-5:30 p.m. – PCC-Room 105B
  • TS-SIS Cataloging and Classification Committee Meeting and Roundtables – Sunday, July 19, 2015 – 7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. – Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon C