I recently got to participate in a very successful roundtable at a library conference. I co-moderated an evaluation roundtable entitled “Library assessment: You’ve measured your success – now how do you get people to listen?” with OU-Tulsa Schusterman Library Associate Director Katie Prentice at the South Central Chapter of the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting in Little Rock, AR.
What makes roundtables unique among educational opportunities at library conferences is that unlike presentations or papers where attendees sit and listen, in a roundtable everyone can participate. It is a moderated discussion on a given topic among the people who attend, and since anyone can chime in, learning is active instead of passive.
About 25 people attended this roundtable and enthusiastically participated in a discussion about library assessment and evaluation data. Katie and I led the discussion with questions starting from what kind of data you collect at your library and leading to what libraries do with the data and how to make it work better for them. Our goal was to use our questions to all issues and solutions to come from the attendees themselves.
As an example, when we asked the question “what would you really like to know about your library and what do you dream of finding out about your users?” one hospital librarian said that she wanted to know how doctors were using the information and how it impacted the patients. Katie Prentice asked “can anyone help her with this?” and another hospital librarian responded that she sends emails to some of her doctors to ask for a sentence or two describing how the information was used. These sentences, when collected and analyzed, could be a powerful tool to show hospital administration the importance of the library to patient outcomes.
Other kinds of evaluation ideas that were generated from attendees at this roundtable were:
- using heat map software to determine where people go most often on your website
- having student workers note what pieces of furniture are being used to improve furniture types and placement in the library
- using a product like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp to send library newsletters to the doctors and employees at hospitals with assessment data.
While not all roundtables at conferences are this successful, this roundtable demonstrated the ability of librarians brought together in a group to learn from each other and solve problems.