What comes to mind when you hear the words “library roundtable?” Is it a round table in a library? No, that’s not quite what I’m talking about. Does it have something to do with King Arthur? Not really, but the symbolism of the legend of King Arthur’s famed table could lend itself to our modern idea of a library roundtable.
So, what are library roundtables? Generally, a roundtable is defined as “a conference for discussion or deliberation by several participants.” In the library world, not unlike the table in King Arthur’s court, all members of a roundtable are of equal status and no one is at the head of the table.
Library roundtables have been going on for many years throughout Indiana. Traditionally, library roundtables are discussion groups that meet in person. Members of these groups are comprised of library staff with similar jobs.
Benefits of library roundtables
There are many advantages and benefits of being a part of a library roundtable group. They’re a great way to network with your professional peers. These connections can be beneficial to your current and future career opportunities. These groups are also effective for discussing ideas, problems and plans. They can act as a pseudo support group if you need a sympathetic ear, as sometimes there are private and sensitive issues that you don’t want to put on a public forum. Roundtables should be a no judgement zone where you can hear differing opinions and views. Insights and experiences from your peers are invaluable. They also provide an opportunity, in an informal setting, to share knowledge, ask questions and discuss solutions at a deeper level than in a formal training or conference setting. It’s a wonderful forum for brainstorming, connecting and sharing programming ideas.
An extra bonus of library roundtables are visiting other libraries. This is a wonderful opportunity to see how other libraries are set up and organized. I love visiting libraries to see what furniture they have, what colors they chose, what their displays look like. You can get awesome ideas to take back to your library.
Who can attend a library roundtable?
Pretty much anyone working in a library can attend a library roundtable. There are roundtables for library directors, branch managers, children’s, circulation, IT, reference and teens. Before attending, check with your department head or director first to make sure that your current job could benefit from participating and that attending works with staffing considerations. There are established roundtable groups all over the state of Indiana. The Indiana State Library has a list of most of the roundtable groups that are currently meeting. If you have a question about roundtables, you can contact your regional coordinator or children’s coordinator and they can connect you with a group.
What if I’m not able to leave my library to attend a roundtable?
Many library roundtable groups have been meeting virtually using networking software such as Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Google Meeting or Microsoft Teams. Some networking software is free – with time restrictions – and others are subscription based. Equipment recommended for virtual roundtables include a device with a camera, microphone, keyboard and speaker. The camera and microphone are not entirely necessary, but essentials are a keyboard, to be able to participate in chat and a speaker, to hear what others are saying. Whatever virtual networking software you have access to, you should be able to use them on a tablet, laptop or smartphone. Along with your discussion, maybe think about adding a virtual tour of your library.
There have been quite a few new virtual roundtables established recently: adult services, bookkeepers, children’s, library directors, games and gaming, marketing, programming, teen and a new webmasters group, which is currently in the works. A grievance I’ve often heard is, “I wish I could attend the roundtable that was posted on the Listserv, but it’s at the opposite side of the state.” With the virtual meertings, you no longer have that travel barrier. We have compiled a new list of the virtual roundtable groups.
Library Education Units may be earned by attending roundtable discussions. If your library job is classified to earn LEUs, page 12 of the Indiana State Library Certification Manual for Public Library Professionals spells out the parameters:
- 1 LEU per roundtable attended.
- LEUs are capped. Earn up to 10 LEUs per five-year certificate period attending professional roundtable meetings.
- Professional roundtables do not require prior LEU approval from the Indiana State Library.
- The host library shall create and award LEU certificates for all attending library professionals
Note: Only individuals holding a five-year certificate are eligible to count LEUs from professional roundtable meetings.
Click here for a sample roundtable LEU certificate. If you have further questions about certification, please contact Cheri Harris, certification program director.
Interested in hosting a roundtable?
If you’d like to start or join a roundtable that doesn’t already exist, you can contact your regional coordinator or children’s coordinator from Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office. They will assist you with getting a roundtable started.
Being a meeting leader does not require a lot of time, and Indiana State Library staff are here to assist with organizing and publicizing the first meeting. Roundtables are usually a collective effort with everyone contributing. Often, attendees take turns hosting.
Your primary responsibilities would include:
- Setting the first meeting date.
- Setting up the meeting in your meeting software.
- Setting a general topic of discussion for the first meeting.
Articles about roundtables
Finally, here are some articles you might find helpful in your roundtable research:
“How to Run a Successful Roundtable Discussion”
“The Roundtable discussion: What, When Why”
“13 Tips for Planning and Hosting Successful Roundtables”
You can also find this information on the newly-created Indiana Roundtable Discussion Groups for Library Staff page on the Indiana State Library website.
This post was written by Northeast Regional Coordinator Paula Newcom, Professional Development Office.