Skip to Main Content

Science and Technology Section (STS): About Our Discussion Groups

This guide provides information you need to successfully run or participate in a STS discussion group. We have tips for discussion group co-chairs and members, along with specific guidelines for each discussion group.

Convener responsibilities

For chairs or co-chairs of a discussion group. Discussion group co-chairs are responsible for planning in-person discussion group meetings for ALA Midwinter and/or ALA Annual.

Getting started

Responsibilities of the Discussion Group Chair(s):


  1. If there is no co-chair continuing to provide background information, contact the outgoing chair prior to the ALA Annual Conference. Make arrangements with the outgoing chairperson(s) to discuss past topics, publicity, logistics, and other details related to the successful running of the Discussion Group, as well as coordination with other groups. This should be done at the Annual Conference before officially becoming chair, if possible.
  2. Make arrangements to have archival material transferred from the outgoing chair(s).
  3. Assume responsibility for the Discussion Group immediately after the ALA Annual conference.

Specific Responsibilities:

  1. The Chairperson(s) must complete the Volunteer Web Form.
  2. As soon as possible, but at least several months prior to each conference at which the Discussion Group will meet, the Chairperson(s) selects a topic for the Group's discussion.
  3. Select a format for the discussion. Identify and recruit experts to lead the discussion, if needed. There is no funding for speakers.
  4. Submit to STS Section Chair any requests related to the meeting room, seating, audiovisual requirements, etc. This must be done well in advance of the meeting; early in September for Midwinter and early in October for Annual.
  5. Submit information to STS Publicity Chair for posting in ACRL News and other sources.
  6. Several weeks prior to the conference, send announcement of the discussion topic to STS-L, including: date, time, location, title and description of topic, and speakers' names and affiliations. The announcement should be coordinated with all other discussion groups and the Publicity Chair, if possible.
  7. If desired, prepare publicity flyers to distribute at the conference. The opening STS Council is a good place to distribute flyers.
  8. Attend opening STS Council meeting to report on plans for the Discussion Group's session.
  9. Attend closing STS Council to recap discussion group session.
  10. Attend meeting of STS Committee Chairs, if scheduled.

The Discussion Group presentation:

  1. Discussion Group chairs start the session, introduce speakers, moderate the discussion, and close the session. Make announcements of other STS activities as appropriate.
  2. A sign-up sheet is distributed for all attendees to fill out. Minimum information required: name, institution, STS member (yes or no), a space for suggestions for future topics or speakers. Sometimes included: e-mail addresses, institution or home address.
  3. Supporting materials may be made available, such as bibliographies, handouts supplied by the speaker, STS membership and program announcement flyers. Reimbursement can be made by the Section.

After the meeting:

  1. Attend closing STS Council meeting; report on the Discussion Group's session.
  2. Give list of attendees to Membership Committee chair.
  3. Prepare minutes or Meeting Highlights form and send to ACRL Program Officer and to the STS Secretary.
  4. Submit report to STS Signal on the Group's session.
  5. Submit detailed report to STS-L.
  6. Send thank-you letters to speakers.
  7. Any Discussion Group Chair who is ending his/her assignment makes arrangements to meet with the incoming Chair to pass along appropriate information about the Discussion Group.

Scheduling discussions

You are required to have two in-person meetings per year: one at ALA Annual and one at ALA Midwinter. You can have online meetings between conferences if you like.

About six months before ALA Midwinter and Annual, the ULS chair will send out an e-mail asking about scheduling your in-person meetings, including room setup and technology requests. Requests are usually just replicated from the previous year, but as convener you can make changes. Be responsive to the chair and the instructions in the e-mail.

If you meet virtually between conferences, do so in whatever way is most convenient: conference call, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Skype, etc. You can also request to schedule an Adobe Connect/WebEx space through ACRL for more formal online discussions. See ACRL policies.

Planning and promoting discussions

Find out if a topic was proposed at a previous discussion. If so, you can run with this topic. For other ideas, you may want to try the following approaches:

  • Generate ideas among discussion group conveners and members (via e-mail or online meetings).
  • Send out a call for ideas to the entire ULS community via our e-mail list and the ULS blog.
  • Send out a call on ULS and other relevant e-mail lists to get proposals to present a topic and lead a discussion, optionally followed by a convener-led group discussion.
  • Contact other ACRL discussion groups to inquire about their plans and, if appropriate, propose cosponsoring a discussion (this can draw more people).

Publicize the discussion several weeks before the conference. Post to the ULS e-mail list and the ULS Executive Committee list. To share it on the ULS blog and social media, fill out the promotion request form. This form is routed to the ULS Communications Committee that manages those channels.

Assign a discussion group convener or member to capture notes during the discussion.

Running discussions

  • Show up at least ten minutes early to check on the room setup, welcome the speakers, and make sure you have a notetaker.
  • If you are facilitating an open discussion, keep the group on topic and on time.
  • Count how many people attend.

Following up after discussions

Clean up notes that were taken and send the meeting summary to the ULS chair and ACRL staff liaison Megan Griffin within two weeks of the conference.

Generally, the ULS chair will ask for a report at the end of the year (soon after ALA Annual). This should include discussion recaps along with any challenges you had.

As your term is ending, get in touch with your successor and make their life easier:

  • Provide a summary of discussion group activities during your term.
  • Give them all necessary materials to take over.
  • Offer support and advice during their term.