Wake Forest University hosted Take Risks, Embrace Change: The 2014 Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians yesterday. This conference alternates locations between WFU and UNCG. Mary Scanlon, one of the WFU business librarians (and chair of BLINC), served as a co-director of the conference along with Kathy Crowe from my library. Slides from the keynote and the break-out programs should be online at the conference web site very soon.
I introduced my friend and colleague Professor Dianne Welsh as the keynote speaker. She opened the conference with a discussion of “Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship: Opportunities for Librarians in the 21st Century“. Prof. Welsh has a book coming out in December on how to create cross-campus interdisciplinary entrepreneurship programs. She has created three such programs, most recently the large and award-winning program here at UNCG. Prof. Welsh linked emerging trends in academia to the nature of entrepreneurship programs, but also tied in libraries (both public and academic — there were a handful of public librarians in the house) to many of the trends.
In part two of her keynote, Prof. Welsh stressed the essential role of libraries and librarians in supporting entrepreneurship on campus. She discussed the need for libraries to provide databases to support the writing of business models, feasibility analyses, and business plans. Such work (as many of you know) requires researching industries, markets, competitors, and financial benchmarks among other topics.
And Prof. Welsh discussed the need for libraries to hire and support the work of proactively-engaged business librarians who teach, consult, create research guides, and evaluate business databases. Prof. Welsh provided case studies of three business librarians who proactively support their campus entrepreneurship programs.
One such librarian was my friend Mary Scanlon. Mary teaches two credit classes:
- LIB235/ESE305: Research for Entrepreneurs
- LIB230 Research Strategies
Mary supports ESE101 classes by providing research sessions, pre-approving student concepts (very cool), and consulting with student teams on their research. She does similar work for other business school classes.
Another librarian profiled by Prof. Welsh was Diane Campbell of Rider University. I knew of Diane, and once blogged about one of her business information literacy articles, but didn’t know all the impressive things she does to support Rider’s entrepreneurship program. She provides teaching support for a number of ENT classes, but also is the research partner since 2009 of Dr. Ron Cook, the Director of Rider’s Entrepreneurial Studies Center and the Small Business Institute. Together they have written:
- one textbook
- four peer-reviewed journal articles
- one national grant
- and nine presentations for the Small Business Institute Annual Conference (where Prof. Welsh has gotten to know Diane).
Very impressive! I enjoyed getting to know Diane better.
(The third librarian case study was me for work I’ve blogged about before.)
Several business librarians provided programming at the conference.
Diane Campbell spoke on “When a Veteran is a Novice: A New Constituency and A New Opportunity.” She provides two 3-hour research workshops for a small group of military veterans about to begin a business plan class. These are adult students but not official Rider University students. Around half already own a business. All the students have to begin the class with a business concept already identified. The veterans also get a year’s worth of mentoring through the entrepreneurship program. Diane created a detailed libguide for the workshops, but also emphasizes the services provided by the veterans’ home public library (she looks up the home library for each student and adds those library links to her libguide). So Diane does a lot of customized prep-work for the veterans.
Among Diane’s lessons learned and students’ suggestions for the workshop:
- Provide more time for the workshops (any of you who have been asked to cover “business plan research” in a short workshop will sympathize with that!)
- Create tutorial videos to support the workshop topics
- Hold the research workshop during the semester, not right before it begins (then the framework for writing business plans would already have been firmly established by the teacher, Dr. Cook)
- Embed more into the class once it begins (schedules and time permitting)
Diane concluded by encouraging us to get involved with entrepreneurship programs one professor at a time, as she did with Dr. Cook, now her teaching, publishing, and presenting partner.
I always love hearing case studies on interesting business research teaching scenarios and certainly enjoyed Diane’s talk and the discussion that followed.
Corey Seeman, Director of Kresge Library Services, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, discussed “Creating The Ethereal Library: Thinking Creatively When You Have No Space To Think“. His summary:
How do you go from a full service library to one with only space for staff? Learn how the Kresge Business Library at The University of Michigan made the transformation to an ethereal library.
Yikes, what a story Corey had to tell. My freshman and sophomore dorm at the UM, East Quad, is next to the business school, and I remember walking past the business library building on the way to class. (I wasn’t a business major and so don’t think I ever went inside that library.) At the end of the spring semester, when Corey had just begun to serve as library director, he learned that the business school was taking over the library building. All of it. Everything had to go: all the books and other print material, all 700 student study spaces, and the librarian offices and work spaces. Even though the library had always received the highest student satisfaction ratings of all student services provided by the business school.
Corey noted that print materials constituted 2% of the library’s usage, but 50% of the perception of the library by its patrons. The library could no longer be a student destination, a status it long enjoyed. The library had to become a virtual library, or ethereal library as Corey puts it.
While acknowledging that the loss of the physical library forced all the staff into a grieving process, Corey emphasized the positive. He was able to keep all his staff. He discussed how 98% of the library’s content — ethereal content — didn’t go away, and that ethereal realm is where the library can still connect with the students. Corey also discussed how the library is now free of all tradition and can try most anything. Their emphasis now is (and must be) on proactive services — so the library is now officially called Kresge Library Services. (Even though the library was kicked out of the Kresge Building, the Kresge brand remains known and valuable to the students.) The librarians are expanding the existing embedded librarian program to more classes. Embracing experiments and change is essential for the library to adapt to its new situation.
The library will get a very small space in a new building, but there still won’t be any room for books, and the student spaces will be tiny compared to the original.
Corey provided many other interesting details (including plans to spend $400,000 to move a large, old oak tree — more than storing the now-lost book collection of the Kresge library would cost). Check the CEL web site for his slides for more.
I didn’t catch these two presentations by other business librarians, but here are the official descriptions:
Mark Bieraugel, Business Librarian at California Polytechnic State University, presented on “Lean Entrepreneurship in Your Library”.
Launching something new in your library is perilous. By applying lean entrepreneurship principles you reduce time to launch and the money spent on the project.
Finally, Lauren Reiter, Business Liaison Librarian at the Schreyer Business Library, Penn State University, described the “Student Financial Education Center: A Library/Student Startup For Financial Literacy“.
This presentation covers how Penn State University Libraries teamed up with students to develop and implement a peer-to-peer solution to the campus financial literacy problem.
There isn’t that much at this conference focusing on the traditional definition of the E-word; instead, entrepreneurship was usually defined as “innovation” or “intrapreneurship”. So this isn’t really a business librarianship event. Yet there was much value in hearing about innovating developments happening in libraries around the country.