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Guidelines for Topical Discussion Group Facilitators

Facilitators are assigned to lead the 11 conference topical discussion groups. These groups are for the purpose of identifying recommendations by the speakers and commentators in their presentations and for developing recommended actions and an overall action plan for discussion and approval by the Conference in its concluding plenary session.

Each topical discussion group will have approximately 13 participants, who are assigned a specific topic related to the presentations that serves as the focal point for discussion and proposed actions. In addition to the facilitator, each session will also have an LC staff member to record notes throughout the discussion. All groups are scheduled to meet in the afternoon of Day 2 and conclude their assignments in the morning of Day 3 of the conference.

The following are guidelines for use in your role as a facilitator. We hope they will help you in leading your topical discussion group. The Conference Organizing Team wishes to thank you for accepting this assignment and for your contribution to the success of the Conference.

First meeting:

A) Meet your topical discussion group and LC staff recorder at the scheduled time in the assigned meeting room. Introduce yourself and review the handout for the assigned topic (participants will have had the opportunity to select topics of their choice in advance of the conference). Have everyone introduce themselves.

B) Explain that there are two meeting times for the topical discussion group. Inform the group of the Ground Rules for Meetings, as well as the Rules for Brainstorming Meetings. This first meeting is for participants to brainstorm their assigned topic by sharing their thoughts and ideas in an informal setting. The second meeting on Day 3 is to review discussion points made in the first meeting, and to extract from them recommended actions and an overall action plan for presentation to the Conference in its closing session.

C) Determine the format of the discussion; for example, you might use the questions listed in the handout as a way to initiate discussion. You might also start by having the group identify the suggestions and recommendations offered by the speakers, commentators, and conferees on the topic. Whatever format you decide to use, it is most important that you keep the discussion moving and focused, and that you ensure all members of the group have the opportunity to participate.

D) Fifteen minutes before close of the meeting, warn the participants they need to conclude their discussion. Upon departure, remind them to return to the same place and at the scheduled time for their second meeting on Day 3. Review discussion points with the LC staff recorder to make sure all are recorded.

Second meeting:

A) Meet the topical discussion group and the LC staff recorder. Review the purpose of this meeting, which is to have the group focus on the discussion points made in the first meeting and to extract from them a list of recommended actions and an overall action plan to be presented to the Conference in its closing session.

B) Explain and emphasize that the group should limit its recommendations to 4-6 proposed actions and that these should be in order of priority from the most important to the least.

C) Keep the group focused on concluding its assignment and, again, ensure that all members have the opportunity to participate.

D) Fifteen minutes before close of the meeting, have the group review its prioritized list of actions and make any final changes. Thank and dismiss the group.

E) Have the LC staff recorder input the finalized list of recommendations.

F) Present the list (which will be in PowerPoint format) for discussion and approval by the Conference in its closing session.

Facilitative Leadership Techniques for Meetings, Brainstorming, and Prioritizing

  1. Ground Rules for Meetings
    Stick to agenda
    Honor time limits of agenda
    Listen to others
    Find common ground
    Welcome all ideas
    Do not interrupt others
    Minimize sidebar conversations
  2. Rules for Brainstorming
    All ideas are OK
    Defer evaluation of ideas
    Build on others' ideas
    Clarify ideas before recording
    Record ideas
  3. Prioritizing
    Organize the ideas by eliminating duplicates
    Prioritize using N/3
    N = number of ideas
    divided by 3 = number of votes per participant
    (If there are 12 ideas, then each participant may select the 4 ideas he/she believes to be the most important.)
    Recorder or facilitator polls the group for the number of votes for each idea. The ideas with the most votes form the recommendations from the group.

Library of Congress
October 30, 2000
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