(* Or, the laziest business librarianship blog post ever.)

A bunch of business librarians tweeted BRASS events in Las Vegas last weekend, using the #bizref tag. On behalf of us #leftbehinds, thank you to the following for keeping us connected with the good work of BRASS:

  • Genifer Snipes (WVU)  @GeniferAnne
  • Jared Hoppenfeld (Texas A&M) @JMHBizLibrarian
  • Chad F. Boeninger (Ohio U) @cfboeninger
  • Ilana Stonebraker (Purdue) @librarianilana
  • JPH @halfpennybiblio
  • Libookperson @libookperson
  • Elizabeth @ElizLibrarian
  • DKC @dkcLIBRN

Here are my favorite tweets, with minimal commentary.


From the BRASS discussion forum. I’m not sure what librarian reported these results. Of course, many other factors could have been at play too. But still, interesting. Yes, there are surveys that indicated many patrons don’t associate librarians with people you would need to sit down and talk to.


This isn’t an issue limited to BRASS. BLINC needs more public librarians to run for officer positions.


How to teach primary market research — I could use a workshop like that.


Don’t wanna ask Jared for details about this one…




Working with imperfect information or just non-existent data is a cornerstone of teaching entrepreneurship research. Getting students to understand the use of proxy or surrogate data can be tough but is worth the effort if you have time in the class.


That’s http://libguides.csuchico.edu/BRASS_Advertising_Sources

indy public

ilanas talk

Hard-working Ilana also talked about her very interesting flipped, required one-credit course at LOEX in May (the end of the Friday recap).


Ilana provided really detailed coverage of the advertising workshop.


The Hartman Center is very cool and has been used for academic research (not just advertising) in varied ways. (I once served on a search committee for their reference position and enjoyed learning more about the Center.)


That’s http://crln.acrl.org/content/75/2/76.full



Ouch, I just now have started to work on creating good captions/transcripts for my YouTube videos, Chad. (I realize this post would fail a screen reader test miserably. For some reason Tweeter doesn’t support linking directly to each tweet when scrolling through the #bizref  list v. looking up each librarian’s profile separately and finding the tweets I’ve captured here).



Given its “visual literacy” theme, there were several programs at LOEX this year on infographics. As I wrote regarding one of the Saturday morning programs, the issue of statistical literacy came up several times in the context of designing inforgraphics.

Sometimes the emphasis for these things seems to be more on the aesthetics of the image rather than the statistics – ostensibly (hopefully?) the reason the infographic exists. The cliché of lipstick on the pig comes to mind. Or the line “Terrance, this is silly stuff”. [Oops, it’s really “stupid stuff”. Sorry, A.E. Read that in high school.]

My library, for example, houses a service that helps students with the aesthetics of all sorts of visual projects, including infographics. But the students wouldn’t get help there in presenting the statistics is a meaningful and accurate way. (The Reference Desk could help, though, depending on who is around at the time.)

I wish I had read this nifty, 3-page article before attending LOEX this spring:

Statistics & the Single Girl: Incorporating Statistical Literacy into Information Literacy Instruction by Katharin Peter and Lynda Kellam, from a 2013 issue of LOEX Quarterly.

The authors (Kellam is a UNCG colleague) define statistical literacy and provide a sample classroom activity on evaluating public opinion statistics using a pop-ish source (a USA Today front page infographic) and a statistical database. In between they suggest showing the students a Colbert Report clip. The conclusion of the article advocates for incorporating statistical literacy into the student learning outcomes of a class, and provides examples. Good, practical stuff.

p.s. There’s also a cute Colbert infographic clip regarding the “last infographic” from USA Today.


As some of you know, I’ve been posting here about our liaison reorganization for a while – since March 2012, I saw just now. All those posts are tagged but for a quicker recap of the main developments, skim some of these:

The Retreat

Last Wednesday, the members of our liaison subject and functional teams met at UNCG’s Piney Lake facility out in the country for a day-long retreat. These teams consist of all of the Reference & Instructional Services Department as well as folks from other departments too – around 22 librarians total.

The main goal of the retreat was reviewing our year-long transition to the new liaison organizational model, and planning major goals for the next academic year. We also hoped to decide on a new name for the Reference department, one that better reflects the kind of work we now do.

Mary Krautter, our department head, briefly reviewed how we all worked together to create our new organizational scheme. She reminded us that teams can be messy even as they enable more productive and nimble work. Our liaison teams operate in an otherwise traditional and hierarchical library structure.

Next Kathy Crowe, our Associate Dean for Public Service, asked the teams to review what they accomplished in their first year of existence, and what goals haven’t happened yet. Accomplishments included:

  • Integrating Special Collections & University Archives into the liaison teams
  • Curriculum mapping for increased liaison teaching and consulting opportunities
  • Helping a new liaison get up to speed and meet faculty and students from her target subjects
  • Brainstorming on active learning techniques for specific class projects
  • Managing our latest collections budget crisis in an efficient and effective manner
  • Staffing reference services even as liaison time with the reference desk gets reduced
  • And more and better liaison training on research tools and strategies

The “room for improvement” discussion seemed to center on taking greater advantage of the collaborative possibilities of our teams: better communication and more sharing of ideas; working together more in outreach and instruction to specific academic departments. Also: making team goals more measureable.

After a mid-morning break, I broke up everyone into three random groups and had each group do a SWOT analysis of our current situation, with emphasis on the forward-looking aspects of “opportunity”. The goal was “big picture” thinking about next year, which sort-of happened. The three groups reported back some repeating needs:

  • More “safe” brainstorming
  • Improved cross-team communication
  • Defining expectations of liaison teams v. those of individual liaisons
  • Responding to classes getting larger (due to UNC budget cuts)
  • Clarifying authority over the teams and lines of responsibility (for example, when liaisons discuss swapping academic departments, who all needs to be in on the discussion? Who gives the final ok?)
  • More-creative set-ups for meetings, like flipped or walking meetings, or meeting scrums

After lunch and midday strolls around the lake, the subject teams and functional teams met in two 30-minute slots to discuss specific and practical responses to our “big picture” discussion. Then we had an hour of teams reporting back to the full group for sharing and discussion. Amy Harris moderated the discussion. This part of my retreat notes spans two pages, so I’ll be concise here.

Every team seems to be enjoying the collaboration and teamwork on projects of mutual interest — projects the team themselves have identified as needed or useful.

We discussed our communication channels quite a bit. (Communication issues have been an issue in my library for a long time). We pledged to use our existing communication tools, like our various internal blogs and Google Documents, more extensively rather than create even more blogs and shared documents. While we liked our emphasis on high-quality and focused training over the last year, we pledged to follow each training event with a write-up to our professional development blog. The post would preserve the training for the future and help us share with the other parts of the library what the liaison teams are up to. We also pledged to publish the notes for meeting of the team leaders. Early this fall, we will sponsor a “liaison teams” open house for the rest of the library as an orientation to our teams.

We need to write up the roles and expectations of the team leaders.

Should leadership of a team change each year? What might be the effect of a team having the same leader year after year? Would that team devolve into a committee? Also, should functional coordinators (ex. our Coordinator of Instruction and Head of Collections) always be the leaders of the corresponding functional teams? These are topics for future discussions.

We decided to try monthly, hour-long coffee chats for all liaison team members to attend. The object would be discussion and brainstorming on a chosen topic. Each chat would have an official note taker, who would share the notes via the professional development blog. These chats will help us stay in touch outside of our assigned liaison teams.

We discussed additional topics and issues, but that gives you a flavor of the afternoon discussion before we got to our final agenda items.

 Conclusion: the new name

So, finally: a new name for the Reference & Instructional Services department. Mary had invited us to submit possible names via a Google Form. Colleague Jenny Dale created a word cloud from our submissions:

Word cloud based on the submitted ideas for our new liaison department name

Word cloud created from submissions for our new liaison department name

Jenny handed out a copy of the word cloud to each of us and asked us to circle the words we thought were most important. “Research” and “Outreach” had the most votes, but colleague Amy argued convincingly that even if “research” suggests teaching among other kinds of research support, we do so much teaching that it would be a shame to lose that emphasis. And what would it suggest to outsiders to in effect drop “instruction” from our name? So with wide consent we ended up with:

Research, Outreach, & Instruction

 A bit long, perhaps, but having ROI as the acronym is pretty cool (right, business librarians?) and will help us remember to do lots of assessment (well, maybe). Colleague Mark Schumacher, our Romance Studies Librarian, reminded us what Roi means in French, heh.

(There are of course plenty of longer department names out there. A few years before I was hired at Duke, the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections departments there decided to merge. Those folks spend some time working on a new name. They finally chose “Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Library.”)

I think the main value of a department name like ours is mainly internal and motivational. It serves as a reminder of what our focus should be.

However, our liaison teams will continue to transcend the library’s organizational chart. So the Reference Department changing its name doesn’t really affect our teammates based outside of Reference. But for the folks who were in Reference, this name change serves as a reminder that our transition into our new liaison structure is over. Now we shall really see what we can accomplish.


While memories and notes from the spring semester are still fresh, I’ve been working on changes to my “Researching Opportunities in Entrepreneurship & Economic Development” class for the 2015 spring edition. I have written about creating this Coleman Fellow class, things I learned while teaching the class (including the OES site), and how the class turned out.

Student evaluations:

This class went well from my perspective, and the student evaluations were very positive. In the comments section of their evaluations, the students provided two good suggestions:

  • Have more in-class discussion on the assigned reading. (I once mentioned in class that I need to do better with that.)
  • Don’t assume much prior knowledge of basic business concepts and terminology. Include reviews of those in class. (A good point since there are no class prerequisites except for graduate or upper-level undergraduate status.)

One student didn’t appreciate having to follow up the capstone presentation with a written version of the capstone project, claiming the work on the written report was redundant and didn’t add knowledge of entrepreneurship research. That’s a fair criticism. I’m guessing one of the students who did well on the presentation wrote that comment. There were other students, though, whose presentations were quite lacking in research, got detailed feedback notes from me in response, and had to work hard in their final report to present adequate and relevant research on their proposed business or nonprofit idea. Those students really needed the two-stage capstone to develop and demonstrate competence with entrepreneurial research. (I modeled the two-stage capstone project from the Export Odyssey class and a couple of other research-intensive classes for undergraduate business students.) Also, most students need more writing practice. So I’m retaining the two-step capstone.

Changes for next time:

The Coleman Foundation approved UNCG’s 2014-15 grant and so both the veteran fellows and the three newest ones will be funded for our cross-campus entrepreneurship classes. So round two of my 530 class will be next spring. I would teach this class again even without funding. It’s fun to me and important to the students as well as to the library in my opinion.

In my review of the class this summer, I focused on structural changes – changes to the syllabus and the capstone write-up. Both documents are available on the class libguide (the 2015 syllabus is a draft, largely due to the calendar unknowns).

I’ll work on changes to classroom discussions, active learning exercises, etc. later. Ilana Barnes’ presentation at LOEX last month will be particularly useful for me to review then.

I made some minor changes to the syllabus involving grading and late policies – not too interesting.

But I did make major changes to the capstone. For the grading, I ramped up the possible points for “using a variety of high-quality sources, including data” and reduced the points for “organizing the information in a logical manner”. While grading the capstone work last April, I wished I had more flexibility in assigning points for the research – the main point of the class and capstone.

The biggest change in the capstone concerns the suggested topics and outline. This was the 2014 version:

You are not limited to these topics. Nor must you follow this order. Some of these topics may overlap in your outline.

    • Description of your proposed business & its product(s) or service(s)
    • Industry and consumer trends and forecasting
    • Your target market
    • Consumer spending patterns
    • Psychographics and consumer attitudes
    • Competition: how many, their names, locations, size, etc.
    • Trade magazines regarding trends and developments

I was trying to give the students some flexibility in content and organization. For example, a research presentation on opening a neighborhood bar might look pretty different than one on opening a wild animal rehab refuge (both are examples from this spring). And students like to have choice, right?

Here is the 2015 version:

 You are not limited to these topics. Nor must you follow this order. Some of these topics may overlap in your presentation and report.

1. Summary of your idea:

  • Description of the proposed business & its product(s) or service(s)
  • The NAICS code
  • The market you will serve (ex. what geographical areas)

2. Industry research

  • National and local size or performance
  • Growth projections on industry size or performance
  • Industry trends (from industry reports, trade magazines, etc.)
  • Mix of occupations in the industry

3. Market research

  • Size of the local market/demographics
  • Consumer spending levels/patterns
  • Psychographics/consumer attitudes
  • Consumer marketing trends (from market reports, trade magazines, etc.)

4. Competition: how many, their names, locations, size, etc.

5. Financial benchmarking

  • Typical annual sales for start-ups or established companies
  • Profit margins
  • Wages for occupations in the industry
  • Financial benchmarking trends (from industry reports, trade magazines, etc.)

Quite a difference, isn’t it. Well, some students really struggled with deciding what data to research and include in their presentations. A few non-procrastinating students asked for more guidance, which I was happy to provide. So I buried the entrepreneurial hatchet and went with this proscriptive outline. The outline mirrors the order of research required in UNCG’s undergraduate required feasibility plan and business plan classes for entrepreneurship majors and minors. I’ll compare the quality of the 2015 presentations to what happened in 2014.

Another change in the outline is more subtle and counteracts a mistake I might be making in the class: introducing trade magazines as its own, independent category of research. As most of you know, trade magazine articles can provide valuable information and data for any aspect of starting a business: industry analysis, consumer trends, financial benchmarking and trends, innovative practices of competitors, etc. In the original capstone write-up, I included a line in the grading rubric about using trade magazines throughout the capstone as appropriate. But above in the original list of suggested topics, I list trade magazines as the last topic. Several students ended their presentations with an isolated slide of various trends gleaned from trade articles – following the bad example my suggested list of topics provided.

So in the 2015 version, I emphasize applying trade magazines to each section, based on the relevant application of the information (industry, marketing, financial, etc.). That change will also ramp up the critical thinking a little bit, I hope. “So here is this article about my business idea,” a student thinks. “What is its main point, and which part of my business idea does this article help develop?” That question would make a good active-learning exercise when everyone is looking at the same article.

Now I’m eager to give that a try! Maybe I can sneak that exercise into ENT 300 this fall and see how it goes.

Part of the fun of teaching business research is your own learning: about your students, about yourself, and about new resources and strategies. Sometimes students discover interesting sources on their own (for example, the GAIN reports, which an Export Odyssey team introduced to me). Sometimes the process of creating assignments or active-learning exercises results in your own discoveries. From teaching the 530 class in the spring, my favorite discovery was the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics.

BLS homepage menu

BLS homepage menu

The BLS has so much data (see above) that I overlooked this site in the past, I guess. In class this spring, we looked at the OES late in the semester as part of a discussion of BLS employment and unemployment data. However, the next time I teach this class (next spring), the students will use the OES in the context of industry analysis and financial benchmarking. They will see how useful it is for their own career and job-hunting research, too. A couple of the students used OES data very effectively for their capstone project.

North Dakota occupation quotient

North Dakota occupation quotient

The OES provides statistical profiles of over 800 occupations. The data covers the U.S., states, and MSAs. The site also identifies the largest occupations in each industry – potentially useful for business plan writing as well as industry analysis. You can also look up what industries have the highest employment levels for each occupation – useful for job hunters to consider their options by industry. Wage data is here too (more financial benchmarking).

Largest occupations in an NAICS industry

Largest occupations in an NAICS industry

Documentation on the occupation definitions is provided.

Top industries for microbiologists

Top industries for microbiologists

In class, the students worked in teams on three applications of the OES data:

  1. Occupations in a MSA (using the Data section)
  2. Occupation profiles (Data)
  3. Rankings (Charts)

Exercise #1: What are the top computer-related occupations in the San Jose, CA MSA? Aspects to note:

  • Number of employment?
  • Annual mean wages?
  • Concentration of jobs?
  • Which specific computer occupation under 15-0000 has the most workers? The highest wages?

Exercise #2: OCC Profiles: Look up “Art Directors”

  • What is the biggest industry for this occupation? (levels v. concentration v. top-paying)
  • Note the maps. What does the quotient mean? (index = 1)
  • Next: look up your current or desired occupation
  • What are the highest-paying states?
  • What are the top employing industries?

Exercise #3: Charts

  • What NYC occupation has the highest quotient? (Try to guess this first.)
  • What about Rochester, NY?
  • What are the biggest occupations for the publishing industry? (NAICS 51)
  • Look up your [capstone] industry: what are the top occupations?

Mary Scanlon of Wake Forest University hosted yesterday’s quarterly BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) workshop in the new WFU business school building. Mary’s office moved from the WFU main library to the b-school building, making her physically embedded in the building where both undergraduate and graduate business students now go to class and study. (Before the new building, there were separate schools and buildings for the two groups of students.)

Mary reports that her consultations have increased dramatically and that she has formed stronger relationships with the students. She does miss the daily camaraderie of her library peers in the main library, though, and she has had reduced contact with the Economics Department, now physically more distant. (There is one other WFU business librarian. He was assigned to the graduate students before the merger of the schools and buildings.) We enjoyed learning about Mary’s transition and encouraged her to write up her experiences in an article.

Anyway, 21 librarians meet at WFU for this BLINC workshop. A majority were public librarians – a nice change of pace for our group, which lately had been skewed a bit to the academic side in terms of participation. The sharing of ideas and experiences between public and academic business librarians has been one of the wonderful aspects of BLINC over its 12 years.

After introductions and updates on our professional lives (personal life updates happened over lunch – such a friendly group!), Natasha Francois of Wayne County Public Library took the floor to discuss her library’s new outreach project: public librarians visiting small businesses one-on-one for short discussions. Natasha met Dan Maynard of Campbell University (and a BLINC officer with Mary) at a training session he provided southeast of Raleigh, and Dan invited Natasha to talk to BLINC about her plans for business outreach in her rural county.

The Wayne County Public Library strategic plan includes building partnerships with businesses as well as nonprofits and other community players. The library already works with the local Small Business Center to provide monthly workshops on entrepreneurship and small business themes.

The goal of the outreach initiative is to provide 5- to 15-minute one-on-one sessions with business owners. In this short time, the librarians would promote library services to the owner, but also ask for input on the services the business would like – making the visit more than a library sales pitch. Smart. The library hopes that some of the visits will result in future research consultations.

The library plans to spend two Wednesdays a month making these visits, hopefully visiting 10 businesses within 3 hours. The library will make some appointments but also try unscheduled drop-ins. They will begin the visits in August and hope to have visited 100 establishments by the end of the year. At that point the program will be reevaluated.

In preparation for the visits, Natasha used Mergent Intellect to identify businesses in Wayne County by industry sector, and Google Maps to map routes. Natasha has created an evaluation plan involving surveys and statistics on reference statistics, database usage, and her business research web site hits.

The BLINC folks thought this was a very interesting project. From the public librarians, there were suggestions to collect success stories as well as statistics. Another note was how important it is to revisit the targeted businesses; it’s often at the second or third contact that the working relationship between a business and the library really begins. We asked Natasha if she could provide an update for us next year.

After lunch and informal networking, we had a presentation and discussion with Barry Ryan of the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship in the NC Rural Economic Development Center. He profiled the various programs the institute provides (one of them, the Small Business Credit initiative, covers all NC 100 counties, not just the 85 classified as rural.) As usual whenever BLINC meets with an economic development official, we advocated for involving with the local libraries, since the libraries are already providing services and content (like NC LIVE business databases) that the institute’s clients are asking for.

We ended the workshop with Nina Exner from NC A&T providing an example of how she introduces SimplyMap to non-business students. Nina has a lot of fun with her ice cream case study and so did we. The librarians got into a discussion about the data needs of social scientists versus business researchers in the context of extrapolated survey data (like consumer expenditure data at the block group level). Lynda Kellam, you would have been proud of us.

This workshop recap doesn’t capture the fun BLINC friends have at the quarterly workshops, nor the satisfaction we get from the unplanned learning and sharing that goes on between (and during) the scheduled events. Kudos also to Betty Garrison of Elon University, the other current BLINC officer, for her leadership and hard work too.

A few months ago our stacks manager asked me if I could do some weeding around HF 5001. Among the few business periodicals my library still binds are the Harvard Business Review and Business Week. Both are shelved at that call number, and open shelf space is running out. So last Friday I went up to the 6th floor with a tall book truck to weed some monographs.

There is quite of hodgepodge of topics in HF 5001, including old entrepreneurship books. One of those books caught my eye:

How to Prosper in Your Own Business: Getting Started and Staying on Course (1981)

While skimming through this book quickly, a few words at the end of the two-page introduction caught my eye. I read the introduction and wow!

Last November at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization national conference, there was a discussion at my lunch table about the sexism on display there (coming from a 60-something featured speaker, not any of the students), but the conclusion of this book’s introduction moves all the way into creepiness:

“Sticking to our intended theme, then, the following story will drive home our advice to anyone thinking about getting into their own business:

A young man in his late teens was discussing his problems inherent in dating the opposite sex with his father. Although this usually touchy subject was being handled easily and without embarrassment to either party, the son was apparently anxious to bring up one particular subject. Finally, during a lull in the conversation, the son cleared his throat and asked his father what his opinion was of the son’s deflowering his girlfriend. The father said simply, “Son, if you don’t do it, someone else will.”

(The author dedicated this book “To Elizabeth, my daughter”.)


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