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Last week was busy for me, with 12 class sessions plus a few early research consultations. (Two of those sessions were for my own for-credit class, but I had to prep for those too — accessing Census industry data using the new data.census.gov interface, which I’m not a big fan of yet. At least it didn’t freeze up in class this time.)

My first class last week was the only new one — Retail & Consumer Studies 355: Retail Consumer Research: 

An introduction to reading and evaluating retail consumer data to make key merchandise buying and planning decisions. Analysis of retail consumer data as applied to the development of business strategy.

The instructor, Professor Wood, talked to me about this class last fall when she was creating the syllabus. The industry advisory board for this department (CARS) reported that data analysis had become a vital need but that few new hires had skills in that area. CARS Faculty had additional anecdotal feedback about analytics becoming a big deal, even for a mere internships in the Wal-Mart HQ (which makes a lot of sense for that company).

One of the four student learning outcomes in RCS 355 is “demonstrate how to use retail data to develop customer insights and business strategy through hands-on experience.” One of the textbooks is the new Storytelling with Data: Let’s Practice.

The workshop set-up

We met in the smaller computer classroom in the library. This was a small class, so I asked all the students to introduce themselves and wrote their names down in their seating order. I told them that their instructor and I decided that the goals for this workshop include:

  • Developing some familiarity with professional databases for retailing data;
  • Improving their statistical literacy skills;
  • Getting experience with telling stories and making decisions with data.

I shared my agenda with the class:

  1. Introductions
  2. Warm up with Euromonitor: Discussion — what country drinks the most beer?
  3. Euromonitor Passport data and analytics: explaining a country’s sales forecast for womenswear
  4. Mintel market data and research: making decisions based on a table in a market report
  5. SimplyAnalytics for mapping U.S. demographic & psychographics: map a variable of your choice in a favorite city, block group level

Spoiler: we ran out of time before getting to data mapping. More on that below. That happens sometimes with a new lesson plan focusing on active learning and discussion. Those lesson plans usually take more time than you first predict. 

What happened

Warm-up discussion: what country drinks the most beer?

Box of markers

Box of markers (I used to have more colors — need to replenish)

I asked each student to pick their favorite color from my box of white-board markers. We got up and gathered around one of the big whiteboards. I asked the students to start writing down their guesses to the above question. Lots of ideas. Then I asked:

 “Ok, but how do we define “most beer”? How do we measure that?” 

The students started talking about volume, per person/capita, total money spent, etc. 

After discussing their guesses, we returned to the computers and opened up Euromonitor Passport. Using the “search statistics” box on the Passport homepage, it’s easy to get beer consumption by country on screen. Then I asked the students to start manipulating the data, for example, showing the data for total spending.

  • My question: What is wrong with using this data to compare countries?
  • A: Well, the data is in the native currency for each county. 
  • Q: Yes, good! See if you can figure out how to fix that….
  • A: Ah, you can change to one currency here…
  • Q: Ok, with all country data reported in U.S. dollars now, which country spends the most?
  • A: China. 
  • Another student: But it has the most people too.
  • Q: Ok, earlier, student X wrote “per person” on the board — can you make that change?
  • A: Umm yes, you do that here…wow, none of us guessed that country!

And so on. The students were using different versions of the Euromonitor data to tell stories, each story highlighting a different country that drinks the most beer according to different measurements.

After that warm-up, we focused on apparel for the rest of the workshop.

Second activity: interpreting sales forecasting (more story-telling)

I provided a short introduction to Euromonitor as a research company famous for global consumer data. Retail companies also buy their data, as I demonstrated using marketrearch.com (and noting the prices for a report).

I asked the students to pair up, pick a county, and then look up that country’s “Womenswear” report. 

“Look at the 5-year sales forecast. Summarize the forecast for your country (high growth, low growth, flat, or decline?)” 

“Ok, now please spend 5 minutes looking at both the industry trends and data as well as the macro-environment trends and data in this womenswear report. Based on what you learn, explain that sales forecast. Why does Euromonitor predict growth or decline in their forecast? What’s the story?”

We had an interesting discussion about Canada v. Italy, including the role of birth rates and immigration but also fashion trends and more general consumer trends.

Third (and final) activity: making a strategic decision using retail data

I briefly introduced Mintel as a research company, again showing the per-report prices in marketresearch.com. Professor Wood mentioned that early in her professional career, her company purchased Mintel reports. Back then the reports arrived on paper.

The students opened the recently-updated Luxury Fashion–US report. I asked each pair of students to find one table in that report that interested them. 

“What does that data mean? If you owned a luxury brand or a luxury fashion store, what decision might you make based on this data?”

Student answers (among others):

  • Gotta offer sales and discounts, even for luxury products.
  • Omni-channel is vital. Sell using both online and bricks ‘n mortar.
  • Younger women have less disposable income, so create a separate retailing brand with cheaper luxury goods for that market.

End of workshop feedback

One student said “it was useful to learn how to navigate these databases.” Another volunteered “I don’t like numbers but this workshop was fun.” Professor Wood told me that the workshop was “exactly what they needed.”

Two days later, after their next class session, Professor Wood emailed me to report that the students “felt it was a very valuable session and really liked learning how to find data in the Euromonitor and Mintel. They liked it so much that we discussed having one more session late this semester if you could be persuaded to do so?” 

She suggested we begin the second workshop with data mapping via SimplyAnalytics and end with prepared questions from the students regarding their final projects. Looking forward to that. Hopefully the students will sit in the same seats so that I’ll get their names right.

sunrise in New Orleans

sunset in New Orleans (hotel room view over Canal Street — tiny bit of river at center-right)

Carol and I returned from visiting my snowbirding parents in Florida on December 31. We enjoyed New Year’s Day at home, went back to work for two days, and then I flew to New Orleans for three nights at USASBE 2020. I’ve never been to a conference so early in the year. A bit of shock.

Alyson Vaaler (in 2018) and I (2017) have written about the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference before. Six librarians attended this year with four of us providing programs. We managed to all get together for drinks in a cozy, literary-themed hole-in-the-wall in the French Quarter. I also encountered two Coleman Fellow director friends (cross-campus entrepreneurship program heads) and got caught up with them. This time though I was the only UNC Greensboro person at USASBE.

As both Alyson and I wrote, USASBE features an interesting mix of programming types [see scan] – not mostly panel discussions. I really like the programming diversity. The ELC 2020 conference will follow their example.

types of programs

types of programs

The “Emerging Teaching Exercises” program Genifer Snipes (U. of Oregon) and I provided ended up scheduled for the final hour of the conference, mid-morning on the Tuesday. Before the full conference schedule was released in late Fall 2019, I had already booked my flights with a convenient direct flight Tuesday morning, with a Tuesday evening church meeting at home in mind. So for the second conference in a row, I abandoned Genifer to the wolves err asked her to speak without me despite planning the program together. And yet she still talks to me and replies to my emails — a generous and forgiving soul.

USASBE 2020 was my last professional travel sponsored by our Coleman Fellows grant. We’ll see if I get back to an entrepreneurship education conference like USASBE, SBI, or GCEC again soon.

USASBE remains an excellent conference for learning about entrepreneurship education, classroom trends, pedagogical research, and (to a lesser extent) campus programming (centers and incubators — but GCEC is better for those topics). It remains useful to me to learn how entrepreneurship professors require (or not) primary and secondary research and how they talk about what we librarians call information literacy. Then I can better talk to my own UNCG profs using their own language — much more effective than using language cultivated in the librarian echo chamber. That’s a big reason I go to these conferences.

Krewe of Joan of Arc Mardi Gras parade

Krewe of Joan of Arc Mardi Gras parade

On the final night of the conference, Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) and I walked over toward Jackson Square for the first Mardi Gras parade of the year. It was sponsored by the Krewe of Joan of Arc and told the story of Joan from birth through her canonization in 1920. It was so much fun and I thanked Nancy for inviting me along.

Here are my highlights from my two full days at USASBE.

Sunday

The librarians congratulated Karen MacDonald (Kent State U) for attaining tenure this school year. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know Sara Ness (Penn State); Sara and I sat together for all the morning and lunch keynotes.

Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons

Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons

The opening keynote speakers were Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons, Founders of Mixtroz. They are African-American female tech entrepreneurs (also mother and daughter), not “techies” but “tech founders” and outsiders in multiple ways in this industry (although upper-income). Their app fosters face to face communication and helps develop communication skills. Schrader and Ammons emphasized the vital role of networking while discussing their experiences developing this company, positive and negative.

“Leveraging entrepreneurship as a tool of empowerment”

Mike Morris (Notre Dame) is well known in entrepreneurship education for running the Experiential Classroom for entrepreneurship instructors in Florida where he used to work. I last heard him speak about entrepreneurship as an anti-poverty strategy at GCEC in Chicago two years ago. He has a new book on this topic focusing on entrepreneurship as empowerment and transformation.

Morris talked about how poverty is a characteristic of one’s situation, not the person. That situation often involves education, diet, housing, single parenting, transportation, and work stresses and scarcities. Needs are often immediate and short-term. A long-term focus is more likely in situations of privilege, and therefore the lean startup and business canvas models don’t work well in the poverty context, he asserted.  So don’t force middle and upper-class attitudes and entrepreneurship techniques. Listen to and support the people on their terms. It’s not unlike what we learned about supporting refugee families resettled into North Carolina.

Performance and success are better measured by growth of skills and competencies plus progress along an entrepreneurial journey. Don’t emphasize the “number of start-ups” and other metrics better applied to entrepreneurs with a lot of time and capital.

Morris talked about the community engagement program in South Bend. Students are involved at every stage and provide lots of consulting. Less than half of the students are business majors — other skill sets are also needed, such as communication, design, and social work.

Reginald Tucker (Louisiana State University) discussed launching the same program in Baton Rouge. He has found the local churches to be effective to build relationships with people in poverty interested in entrepreneurship. That was apparently not the case in South Bend. LSU has not historically been part of the local African-American community, Tucker reported, so working with local trusted partners has been essential for buy-in and engagement.

Monday

Martin Atkins

Martin Atkins

The morning keynote made sure we were all awake and excited. Martin Atkins is an arts administration and entrepreneurship faculty member at Millikin University. My friend Julie Shields, the director of the Millikin entrepreneurship program (and one of those Coleman directors at the conference) introduced him. Atkins was a drummer for Public Image Ltd (Johnny Rotten’s post-punk band), Nine Inch Nails (he’s in the “Head in a Hole” video), and more recently Pigface. He bought Steve Albini’s studio. For the Pigface tour last summer, he created a 3-credit class for a group of students joining the tour on their own bus. Atkins was effective at challenging teaching norms. He also dropped lots of f-bombs and threw muffins out into the USASBE crowd. (Hey, he also provided a chart from Statista on the sales growth of vinyl records. Library database!)

“The Power of Defining the Problem: A New Model for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills”

Summer Krstevska and Nancy Lovas

Summer Krstevska and Nancy Lovas

Entrepreneurship Librarians Summer Krstevska (Wake Forest U) and Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) presented “The Power of Defining the Problem: A New Model for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills” in an Emerging Teaching Exercises group session. Good attendance for this one, and many questions for the two librarians from the professors in the room. One comment: critical thinking in the classroom is very much like due diligence in industry. Another: too often students jump to the solution without first exploring the problem. I bet Summer and Nancy post something about their exercise at their blog later this year. Keep your eyes open for that.

(At another conference, one prof described their “understanding the problem competition” — instead of pitching solutions, the students are judged by how well they have researched and understood the problem. What an amazing opportunity to teach both primary and secondary research, as well as empathy, active listening, etc.)

Quick takes

From a program on interdisciplinary, cross-campus programs: Penn State’s preferred measure of success is not the number of on-campus startups but rather the number of students who have taken at least one entrepreneurship class.

Another cross-campus program, Eastern Washington University, has an emphasis on telling stories using data — entrepreneurial analytics, they call it. First in their curriculum is a startup research class. Library/database instruction is a core concept and competency for their program among 13 others. Post-Great Recession, the Communications and Music programs at EWU suffered steep declines in enrollment until entrepreneurship classes were added to their curricula. Now enrollments are increasing. Causation? But now students can respond to their parents “See, this is how I can make a living with this degree.”

I attended an experiential education program in which we played with Play-Doh err explored entrepreneurial mindset educational techniques using Play-Doh and play money.

Tuesday morning

“Measuring the Market: Developing Data Driven Estimates of Market Size and Value”

Genifer Snipes (with me in absentia) spoke on “Measuring the Market: Developing Data Driven Estimates of Market Size and Value.” Our issue:

Entrepreneurship students often lack the skills and situational awareness needed to effectively determine the potential market size for their product or service proposals. This is particularly the case when making forecasts for new or niche products & services. Consequently, students often target markets too large to cover or too small to be lucrative, or end up predicting unrealistically optimistic sales, while failing to use & cite authoritative data that can justify their projections.

Snipes & Cramer decision tree

Snipes & Cramer decision tree

After providing some examples (“Market size of the cannabis extraction equipment manufacturing industry”; “Market size for green formal wear (incl. wedding) for women”), we presented our decision tree, covering both B2B and B2C scenarios. Genifer then asked for feedback. One of the best comments was that we really have two separate objectives covered in that flowchart: customer profile (what is the nature of your customer? Your best customer?) and market size. So maybe we need to use a two-chart approach instead.

Catching up

Sorry about the slow rate of posting this fall. Besides the usual liaison workload, I had three co-writing projects (a book chapter, conference proceeding, and an article still in progress), ELC co-planning (see below), and co-submitting an experiential education program to USASBE.

Some recommended reads since summer:

  • Becoming a librarian for Computer Science by the Pegasus Librarian (Iris Jastram from Carleton College). Jastram has been a primarily a literature and language librarian but writes about picking up this new department. I love how she adopted a subject-centered and student-centered approach to beginning this new liaison work, using the field’s concepts and terminology instead of starting with a more traditional librarian info lit approach. She has also written recently about differential privacy in the Census 2020.
  • Where’d you go, Ruby Chen? by Ilana Stonebraker. Powerful post about caring for the students in your class (or students missing from your class). Congrats and good luck to Ilana on her new position.
  • Lots of good stuff this fall from the three biz libratory authors, including discussions of instruction (one-shot, embedded, and for-credit) plus a guest post on intensive work with data consultations.

Update on the ELC 2020

ELC 2020 homepage snapshot

ELC 2020 homepage: https://entrelib.org/

In late June, I wrote about BLINC being offered the Entrepreneurial Librarians Conference brand and turning it into a new Entrepreneurship & Libraries Conference.

Planning the ELC 2020 seems to be going well. Starting with 8 or 9 BLINC members, the planning group now includes about 20 public, academic, and special librarians from the U.S. coast to coast plus one librarian from Toronto.

We are about finished with the big picture planning. The conference will have two full days (Nov. 12-13) plus a half day (Nov. 11) afternoon preconference (or maybe two) followed by a rooftop kick-off party.

There will be four tracks of concurrent sessions:

  • Community Engagement, Economic Development, & Outreach
  • Instruction & Programming
  • Resources & Spaces
  • Entrepreneurship Outside the Box [the miscellaneous track]

And there will be four types of concurrent programs:

  • Panels & presentations
  • Lightning rounds
  • Experiential instruction/programming exercises
  • Discussion circles

We plan on two hours total of plenary talks/panels, one hour of posters, and several social/networking events plus the Ebsco-funding pitch competition.

The web site will be updated very soon with those details plus the “conference at a glance”. The dates of the call for submissions will follow later this winter.

Planning discussions

The planning group has collaborating through online meetings, emails, and collaborative writing via Google Drive. Two early questions we discussed were:

What makes for a good conference? What specific thing has happened at a conference that you really liked?

After that discussion, we began brainstorming how to design the ELC. As with any good discussion and brainstorming, there were differences of opinion (although mild), ideas mentioned and affirmed multiple times, and ideas only mentioned once.

In the process, we have learned a lot about what entrepreneurship librarians want in a conference plus what training and professional development they need and desire.

What does this tell us about the state of entrepreneurship librarianship? What follows is my take on that topic. These are summaries, of course – not every librarian in our planning group wants the same thing nor thinks the same way despite my use of “they” below. And the sample size for entrepreneurship librarians is small. So grain of salt.

What entrepreneurship librarians want

“Cross-pollination” – interacting, networking, and learning from a mix of special, public, and academic librarians. They don’t want to see entrepreneurship librarians getting too cliquey by type of library.

Emphasis on practical content over research and theory. They prefer practical tips and ideas most librarians could try and implement, not presentations of services that only the most well-funded and well-staffed libraries could provide. Similarly, they want feedback from other entrepreneurship librarians on their instructional techniques.

Content and training useful for all experience levels, including for librarians with no experience supporting entrepreneurship and limited to no knowledge of the core concepts. They asked each other to think of the needs of librarians and paraprofessionals who are asked to work with and support entrepreneurs but are not officially business or nonprofit librarians. But experienced entrepreneurship librarians need useful content too.

A variety of sessions through the day. “Go from a panel to a lightning talk, networking event, to poster session, to an active learning session,” one librarian wrote as a their preference.

Frequent networking opportunities, including mentor-match opportunities. They hope that conferences help build connections and relationships that last well past a conference’s last day.

They want to learn from ecosystem partners and other experts from outside libraries.

They also want to learn more about the information needs of entrepreneurs. What are the pain-points of entrepreneurs? Can the library help with those pain-points? (This was a very popular topic in our discussion.)

They believe in social equity and want to support a mix of entrepreneurs that includes minority, women, and immigrant entrepreneurs. They are interested in helping under-resourced and under-served communities and individuals tap into resources and services available in our local ecosystems.

Epilogue

The process of creating a presentation, book chapter, article, BLINC workshop, or conference can be as significant an experience as witnessing the final product, especially if you meet new people and build connections along the way. That has certainly happened with ELC 2020 planning. At the end of one of the brainstorming discussions, one team member typed:

I am so excited to work with everyone on this.  This conversation has been a highlight of my week–I love how engaged and enthusiastic everyone has been.  One of the best online meetings I’ve attended ever!

The usual business librarian gang promoting the Charleston Conference wasn’t as vocal in its promotion as in past years, but there were nonetheless even more business librarians at Charleston last week. Advocates of this conference might get annoying on occasion with their gushing praise, but much of their enthusiasm is justified – Charleston is indeed very interesting and useful and packed with learning and networking opportunities.

Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor

While some conferences seem to struggle with breaking from strongly held traditions, this conference seems to emphasize continual improvements. For example, the time devoted to plenaries continues to get rolled back. When I first attended Charleston, the plenaries (speakers, panels, satirical skits, etc.) started at 8:30 and rolled on until 12:30 or so. That was so draining! This was back when all conference activities fit inside the Francis Marion Hotel. This year on Wednesday morning (now using the performance hall at the Gaillard Center, a short walk from the hotel), there was a plenary talk by the Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle, followed by a plenary panel on scholar communication trends. Then concurrent sessions for the rest of the day. On Thursday, the only plenary was a talk by new Elsevier head Kumsal Bayazit (first female CEO of that company).

New this year was a consultation service for job hunters on Tuesday during the Vendor Showcase. Out this year was the “fast pitch” competition, in which libraries competed for money to try something new at their library. That event was interesting but maybe the donor dropped out. Charleston (and USASBE) are innovative conferences I’m looking at closely as we plan our own Entrepreneurship & Libraries 2020 conference.

My big regret this year is that I never made time (well, played hooky) to put on my walking shoes and stroll down the peninsula past the old houses, gardens, churches, synagogue, and cemeteries to the harbor front.

So here is another long conference review. My next blog post will be different, I promise. I might write about “What entrepreneurship librarians want in a conference” based on our interesting planning discussions so far for the ELC.

Tuesday

Vendor showcase

Mintel's Alison Agnew and Sarah Blaney

Mintel’s Alison Agnew and Sarah Blaney

Carol and I drove down on Tuesday and then visited the Vendor Showcase (the one-day exhibit hall). Every year more business information vendors come to Charleston. One of the first-time vendors this year was Mintel. And each year more business vendors attend the programs (and socials) on Wednesday through Friday. While visiting vendors, I promoted Entrepreneurship & Libraries 2020, since we are interested in partnering with vendors in a few different ways.

ProQuest focus group

I had to leave the showcase a little early to attend a late-afternoon “Juried Product Development Forum” with ProQuest’s Jo-Anne Hogan, who I met at a BLINC workshop two summers ago. About ten of us attended. I sat with Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (U Penn/Wharton) and Corey Seeman (U Michigan/Ross). We didn’t have to sign a nondisclosure agreement since we were not looking at a product under development. Instead, ProQuest asked us to provide context and details for different types of business research that happen each semester on our campuses. After discussing those journal maps, we next designed our own preferred homepage layout for a database that would cover all ProQuest business content. Then we compared our designs. Some of them were quite different, depending on our specific target audience (we were asked to pick one): perhaps first year students writing a short paper, or an MBA team working on its capstone consulting project. I came away from this product development forum with increased awareness of how hard it is for a business vendor to please all of its markets and users. (Jo-Anne told me a day later that she was glad the ProQuest interface expert who was also present at the forum got to hear firsthand from business librarians about our special and challenging needs.

After dinner, Ian Hertz (Winston-Salem State University) and I had a nightcap with our friend Juan Vasquez from SimplyAnalytics.

Wednesday

“Pain Points and Solutions: Bringing Data for Startups to Campus”

Kelly LaVoice (Business Information Librarian for Collections, Vanderbilt University), Daniel Hickey (Librarian for Business & Economics, New York University), and Mark Williams (Head of Collections Services, Massey Law Library, Vanderbilt University)

Kelly, Dan, and Mark provided a fast-paced, slide deck-free panel discussion. They summarized the growth of entrepreneurship and incubators on campuses. As a law librarian, Mark provided a different perspective. He teaches a for-credit class on legal aspects and resources for entrepreneurship. All three discussed the need for datasets and data feeds. Collaboration with other campus units (such as the b-school) for purchasing high end products is often necessary. Consortial efforts, too. Sometimes a resource is licensed only for the business students. Negotiations for academic access can be tricky. “Back-channel discussions” (talking to other librarians) can be a big help.

Best practices:

  • Understand the needs of your users.
  • Work closely with e-resource librarians about entrepreneurship needs.
  • De-silo-ing across campus – get other units involved, sometimes they have funding available.

Key take-aways:

  • Advocate as a team, not as an individual.
  • Build relationships outside of the library.
  • Advocate for academic-friendly licensing.
  • Partner with vendors – a more effective approach than an adversarial “us versus them” mentality.

Q/A topics:

  • Our practices [supporting cross-campus programs; dealing with unusual databases and datasets] will become more common among other subject areas — business librarianship is ahead of the curve.
  • Vendor access to a campus but not to the tech transfer office or incubator? Yes, sometimes.
  • Mintel sometimes collaborates with academic researches, sharing data and access in exchange.

“ ‘I Don’t Want to Go Among Mad People’: Adventures in Establishing Good Communication between Subject Librarians and Technical Service Departments in a Large Academic Library”

 Jennifer Mezick (Collections Strategist, University of Tennessee) and Elyssa Gould (Head, Acquisitions & Continuing Resources, University of Tennessee)

This program was a “lively discussion”, which means 70 minutes with a focus on talking to each other and minimal use of slides. (Most other Charleston slots are 40-minutes long.)

UT Knoxville recently went through a big reorganization. Through focus groups with technical services and liaisons, they learned that communication was a big issue – often inconsistent and uneven. Use of tools (like Google Drive, email, and libguides) varied widely. There was also a lack of understanding of shared goals. Some liaisons thought tech services was too beholden to standards and policies; some tech services folks thought liaisons could get too focused on boutique services, which are sometimes driven by a single patron with an unusual need or request.

Outward-facing liaisons often work with patrons with upcoming deadlines, while tech services may not be feeling that time pressure. And often those liaisons are not in the library when tech services need to talk to them – the liaisons are out teaching in classrooms, meeting with faculty or working in a research center, etc. Meanwhile liaisons are often not aware of the workflows built into tech service operations by necessity. So culturally based miscommunication.

What is working well in the UT new organization? They are working hard to build relationships between departments. Subject group meetings. Holding Acquisitions Department office hours in the main library (that department is no longer located on main campus). Share licensing agreement issues with liaisons. A liaison is serving on a search committee for an e-resources librarian and has learned much about how tech services works. Perhaps a tech services person should serve on the next liaison search committee.

“Bringing Some Stranger Things of Streaming Video up From the Upside-Down World: Research Insights from Faculty and Students”

Christine Fischer (Head of Technical Services and Associate Professor, UNC Greensboro), Michael Carmichael (Head of Visual Media, SAGE Publishing), Elizabeth Ellis (MLIS Student, LIS Instructor, UNC Greensboro), and Dina Samora (Program Chair, Organizational Leadership, Colorado State University Global)

Use of streaming video databases continues to increase in higher education according to many metrics. Key issues: rights, training, and accessibility. UNCG’s assessment team surveyed faculty and students on their use and perceptions of video as a teaching tool. Elizabeth summarized some faculty findings:

  • Video can be a partial solution to lack of literacy skills in students.
  • Gives more control of learning to students.
  • Given the large selection, it can be overwhelming to find the most useful videos in the stream video databases (sometimes the library liaison helps).
  • Lack of stability in the offerings can be frustrating and challenging.

Student findings:

  • They prefer the library databases over consumer streaming services.
  • They appreciate guidance from faculty in finding good video content.
  • They use videos on multiple devices.

Wednesday networking

Sunset view of the Francis Marion Hotel

Late afternoon view of the Francis Marion Hotel

After the streaming video session, I met up with Victoria Poole of Mergent on the roof of a new hotel (a re-developed art deco government building) overlooking the park with lovely views of the rivers and the sunset. We discussed a Carolina Consortium deal we are working on and also the ELC 2020.

Next was the ReferenceUSA happy hour for business librarians. InfoUSA’s Jeremy Groen and Jeff Jones have organized this event at the Victor Social Club for several years now. They kindly welcome other business vendors too. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture (too busy socializing).

Some of the folks left this event for the all-conference reception at the aquarium that ended the day’s activities.

Thursday

The morning keynote/defense by the new Elsevier CEO was interesting but I’m sure Library Journal and other pubs will cover her talk. She was a good speaker.

“A New Sense of Campus Privacy? Are Libraries Out of Step?”

Reverse direction from the above

Reverse direction from the above picture (from our hotel room)

This provocative program began with Darby Orcutt (Assistant Head, Collections & Research Strategy, NC State University Libraries) challenging us to reconsider some old traditions in libraryland.  He argued that libraries sacrifice improved services and usability with our “knee-jerk, holy grail” attitude toward privacy. (Yes, this was an opinionated introduction, but the two other speakers got into specifics.) Our users face much bigger issues in their lives that strict library privacy: high drop-out rates, increased tenure costs, high student loan debt, discrimination and institutional racism, etc. Can we use library data analytics to better support students? Other academic units on campus try to do that. Darby asserted that our devotion to extreme privacy represents a generational, white, privileged, and Western (individualism) mindset that has dominated libraries for too long. Interesting, I would like to hear more about that.

Doreen Bradley (Director of Learning Programs and Initiatives, University of Michigan Library) discussed how a few years ago her campus began utilizing “learning analytics in all directions” to support the students – but the UM libraries were not. The librarians were not at the table supporting this student-centered institutional goal. So they decided to get involved, using campus and IMLS grants to explore how the libraries could support learning analytics. They updated the library privacy statement, adding  “…may collect some data to improve services.” She argued that library data is indeed an institutional asset. The library analyzed the library data of HAIL Scholars (high-achieving, low-income students). After instruction session, HAIL Scholars engaged with the library at twice the rate of all students. UM students can now get their checkout history, for which they have been asking for years, according to Doreen.

Stopwatch Session 3: Faculty & Researcher Services

Thanks to my short attention span, I like lightning rounds. I presented one once and it was hard to be so concise! These folks did a good job, though. Here is one summary from this session.

“Adventures in Streamlining Research Data Services: Through the Looking Glass of an Academic Library’s Data Services Team”

Brianne Dosch (Social Sciences Data Librarian, University of Tennessee – Knoxville)

Brianne is a new librarian. She is also the Psychology liaison. To better serve data services on campus, three functional and subject librarians — Data Curation Librarian, STEM Librarian, and Brianne — recently formed a data team. The team members represent two departments in the library. The campus also has a business librarian who provides data services, but that librarian isn’t interested in joining this team yet.

Challenges in team formation: different levels of knowledge, skills, and length of tenure at UT; the different definitions of research data services; the need to learn much more about RDS needs across campus. The team is working on environmental scans (chat transcripts, reference transactions, lit review, existing UTK library assessment).

“Leading from below: Influencing vendors and collection budget decisions as a subject liaison”

Min Tong (Business Librarian, University of Central Florida), Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (Business Reference & Resource Development Librarian, Lippincott Library at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania), and me

Cynthia Cronin-Kardon and Min Tong

Cynthia Cronin-Kardon and Min Tong

We facilitated this lively discussion on one aspect of serving as liaison. The discussion had good turnout, about 30 folks including many business librarians and also vendors (not just business vendors) plus a smaller number of e-resources and collection development librarians.

Our discussion questions included:

1. What are your biggest challenges in terms of content, pricing, and licensing when pitching a new subscription ?

2a. If you are a subject/liaison librarian: What other strategies do you use when you are pitching to your decision makers?

2b. If you are a decision maker: How can your subject librarians better communicate and work with you?

2c. If you are a vendor: How can you better assist the subject librarian with making their case to the decision maker?

3. How can we influence vendors about product development, pricing, and licensing as subject librarians but not budget controllers?

4. How else can librarians and vendors work together?

from our lively discussion

from our lively discussion

Ideas and comments from the small groups:

  • Translate library language for vendors. Translate business language for other librarians.
  • Vendors: share your academic customer list. That helps liaisons show that your product and its licensing has worked for other campuses.
  • Vendors, please don’t directly contact faculty, unless it is a very specific interaction. Work through the liaison instead.
  • There can be tension between social science, humanities, and natural science liaisons. It’s useful to have collection development heads who aren’t liaisons and therefore would be more neutral.
  • The lack of standard usage statistics (like COUNTER) for specialized products can be a challenge. [Cynthia, three vendors, and I talked about this last year.]
  • Vendor webinars during a trial period help make the trial more useful.
  • It can be really challenging to be in a sales role! Sometimes librarians don’t realize that. Vendors “lead from below” in their organizations as well.
  • Sometimes looking at the licensing before negotiating access and pricing options helps.
  • It’s hard for vendors to understand the workflows and processes that go on in libraries, and who is involved.
  • Librarians need to value the expertise of vendors and be generous with feedback.
  • Make sure communication goes in both directions.
  • Some vendors have business librarian advisory boards. Those are useful.
  • Some vendors don’t have a dedicated academic sales representative. Liaisons can tell when a vendor understands the academic market.
  • If vendor recognizes a problem and reports to their boss, there may not be much impact. But if librarians complain, the impact is much greater.
  • Pricing: flexibility is vital. Total campus FTE is not the only option. Consider just the b-school population, for example.
  • Tie a resource request into campus wide initiatives and goals.
  • Seek alliance among other subject liaisons for products with broader appeal.

Stopwatch Session 5: Collection Assessment

“Of Database Assessment & Budget Increases: A New Data Management Strategy”

Anna Milholland (Business Librarian, Raymond A. Mason School of Business, William & Mary)

Anna is a former BLINC member and now a CABAL officer. I enjoyed catching up with her in Charleston. Anna is based in and employed by the business school but liaises with the main W&M library. The budget for business databases comes from the b-school and has increased. [Later I told her I was jealous.]  The school wanted a reassessment of the mix of databases available, and wanted to consider more than usage statistics. So Anna benchmarked other business schools with similar rankings. She adopted a 75% threshold for the benchmarking: if 75% of peers subscribed, then her library should also subscribe.

Anna also mapped the curriculum and considered faculty research trends, interviewing the majority of the professors. To help manage this data, she applied some marketing concepts. I’ll quote from her abstract here to ensure I represent her short talk correctly:

By applying the Marketing concepts of Points of Parity (POP) and Points of Difference (POD), benchmarking database subscriptions, mapping them to the curriculum, aligning data sets with faculty research expertise and institutional strategic strengths, and socializing decisions with key faculty and administrative stakeholders, librarians at institutions of varying sizes can confidently add new resources, feel empowered to replace underutilized and undervalued subscriptions, and effectively advocate for budget increases.

Anna, your talk would make a good article.

“Wait, I don’t just become CEO of a Fortune 500 Company? Helping Students’ Gain Foundational Skills for the Academic to Workforce Transition”

Lauren Reiter (Business Librarian, Penn State University Libraries), Corey Seeman (Director, Kresge Library Services, University of Michigan), Jason Sokoloff (Head, Foster Business Library, University of Washington), and Kristi Ward (Director, Library Editorial, SAGE Publishing)

Kristi moderated this panel and asked a series of discussion questions.

What resources and approaches are needed to support essential skills in the workplace?

  • Not just books and journals!
  • It’s not just business students using business content – example, cross-campus entrepreneurship.
  • Many students are now creating their own job, not just wanting to join a large company.
  • Soft skills are very important too.
  • Many students are aware they lose access to database after graduation. Increased demand for databases that alumni can use.

Entrepreneurship and soft skills development?

  • Students often want to create a local, small business, not just venture capital-funded enterprises with a goal of going public.
  • ENT + Engineering: much collaboration across campus.
  • Campus commercialization endeavors also contribute to library business needs.

What are current business library opportunities and challenges?

  • Students [and faculty] want everything but we don’t have unlimited budgets.
  • Library culture can be the biggest barrier to supporting our patrons — example not supporting a database that requires users to create a personal account.
  • Providing access for multi-location campuses.
  • Academic-use only licensing considerations.
  • A true entrepreneurial idea should be an innovative business model and product or service. Therefore there will be no directly relevant secondary data and reports.
  • Dealing with ambiguity and proxy data (the next best data) is an important learning outcome.

How do business librarians handle assessment and ROI, given there is much competition for business resources as well as changing student needs?

  • Evaluate overlap.
  • Trying to find a proxy for the missing data.
  • Cost per use. But usage calculation varies for less traditional databases.
  • Track research questions – often suggests a new trend.
  • Importance of learning how to deal with ambiguity in b-school curriculum.

Trends in placement?

  • Consulting continues to be big.
  • But more students are pursing non-traditional roles: small business, nonprofits — types of organizations that don’t come to campus for interviews (unlike the big consulting firms).

“The Future of Subscription Bundles: Big Deal, No Deal, or What’s the Deal?”

By this point on Thursday, I was getting tired and so my notes are brief for this one. Beth Bernhardt (Oxford University Press) read a short opening statement from Tim Bucknall of UNC Greensboro, who couldn’t make the conference. Tim lamented the increasing number of sweeping and factually incorrect statements from library deans lately. He provided some examples from within the Carolina Consortium, comparing a couple of crazy comments (no names mentioned) with the actual data. These deans seem to be out of step with the big deals their libraries are participating in. As transformational deals increase in number, accurate data and facts are vital as we explore these new deals.

Other comments from this session:

  • “Open access is free like free puppies.”
  • “Our choices not limited to “grow big deal” or “cancel it.””

Whew. Carol and I had a late afternoon break before enjoying a lovely Lebanese dinner with Kathleen Gignac from Gale Group.

Friday

Friday is a half day at Charleston. It begins at 8:30am with the “Long Arm of the Law” plenary, one that many folks really look forward to each year. We learned about the newest (or old ongoing) legal cases and trends involving copyright, fair use, and publishing. It always ends with one lawyer and the whole librarian crowd singing a legal parody pop song. Really!

Stopwatch Sessions 7: Scholarly Communications

Final set of lightning rounds. I found these two the most interesting.

Carol Cramer, WFU

Carol Cramer, WFU

Carol Cramer (Head of Collection Management, Wake Forest University) discussed “What We Can Learn from the Big Deal that Never Was.” WFU has all but one of the biggest big deals. The price increases of that missing publisher have been higher than that of the other publishers. Journals from the missing publisher dominate ILL requests and requests for individual subscriptions.

Adam Blackwell (Project Manager, ProQuest) discussed “Your IR is Not Enough: Exploring Publishing Options in Our Increasingly Fragmented Digital World”. He began with a story of faculty members in Germany who initially were interested in talking to him about a digitization project. Then those faculty learned that ProQuest is a for-profit company and they all canceled. With that context in mind, Adam discussed the value of having one’s dissertation in the big ProQuest database as well as in one’s one institutional repository. Benefits include better Google Scholar indexing, quality assurance, backups on secured servers around the world, and indexing (depending on subject) in databases like PsycInfo, MLA, etc.

NCLA 2019

NCLA, our state library association, holds its conference every two years. There is periodic discussion about holding the conference every year, like Texas and Virginia do. In conference years, the NCLA budget is strong; in the off years, the budget is weak. Some of the quieter sections of NCLA don’t provide much value to their members between conferences, so holding annual conferences would help those members get more out of their sections. Reuniting with old and new friends, seeing former interns now as happy professionals, and making new contacts are always highlights at NCLA.

BLINC (the business librarianship section) has always been quite active at the conference, on top of offering quarterly workshops in both conference- and non-conference years. This year we had four programs plus a vendor-sponsored dinner and a vendor-sponsored happy hour. This schedule reflects BLINC’s emphasis on training and also networking.

Mary Scanlon and Summer Krstevska

Mary Scanlon and Summer Krstevska, BLINC’s past and future chairs

As the outgoing chair of BLINC, I attended a program titled “There’s Space for Us All: An Introduction to NCLA” in which each chair could provide an elevator pitch about their section to the new members. Here was mine:

BLINC is a community of folks who value networking, socializing, mentoring and peer-mentoring, and frequent free workshops. Every time someone joins our Google Group, the chair welcomes that person with a message to the full group, and usually five or six other members reply with their own greetings. That behavior illustrates our organizational culture. In terms of content, we cover small business, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, nonprofits, and economic development.

As in 2017, the conference met in Winston-Salem. I live right on the edge of downtown and so enjoyed being able to walk to the convention center. Downtown W-S continues to grow and I think most of the folks at the conference (900-1,000) enjoy the easy access to many restaurants and breweries, plus the retro arcade, indy arts movie theater, ax-throwing bar, Mast General Store, nonprofit bookstore, arts district, and the newest attraction, a cat cafe (across the street and 3 doors down from the convention center). You can probably tell that I’m proud to live there and have enjoyed the changes Carol and I have witnessed since we moved there in 2001. But I better move on to summarizing what I learned at the conference…

Wednesday, Oct. 16

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Libraries’ Expanding Role as Catalysts of Community Change

Two librarians from High Point Public Library, Mary Sizemore and Mark Taylor, joined EPA Program Manager Chip Gurkin to discuss how this downtown library became a leader in the fight against food insecurity. The library partnered with local groups and the EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program to create several initiatives.

Part of the library parking lot was rebuilt into space for a weekly farmer’s market. Cooking demos and classes happen there now too. Mary, the library’s director, joked that “ I didn’t think I would be running a farmers market when I was in library school.” The library also hosts a community garden, leveraging support from several local organizations: county health department, a local food security nonprofit, the High Point University pharmacy school, the High Point Economic Development Corporation, local churches, Home Depot, and others. A local church provides free, healthy lunches for the local homeless once a week in the library.

I think I was the only academic librarian at this program, which was disappointing since this library illustrated proactive community engagement and creative library-as-place so well.

Make it Stick: Active Learning Techniques for Programming and Instruction

Mary Abernathy and Betty Garrison

Mary Abernathy and Betty Garrison

BLINC members Mary Abernathy (Salem College) and Betty Garrison (Elon University) discussed how active learning helps move learners from passive to engaged learning. After summarizing the core concepts, Betty talked about a one-shot class she taught involving family history and immigration. She asked the students to record the full names and birthdates of their parents and grandparents. One student pulled out their phone to call grandmother and ask. Betty and the professor were ok with that and quickly other students called home too. Then the students began looking up their family in HeritageQuest. At least one student called back the grandmother while in class to report the findings!

General suggestions: find what resonates with your students. Have them fill out or develop ideas using a shared page in Google Drive. Try a digital scavenger hunt. Have them look up a favorite public company in the Morningstar database. Get students to move around — use the white board, form teams, come and get supplies, what have you.

Mary and Betty asked us to share our favorite active learning strategies on poster boards spread out across our room. There was a lot of small group discussion. Betty summarized and some audience members expanded on what they noted, with the microphone being passed around. There was a strong vibe of engagement and sharing in this session.

Comics in the Academic Library: Alienated Superheroes, Feminism Dystopias, and Graphic Memoirs

Steve Kelly and Meghan Webb from Wake Forest University discussed their process for creating a graphic novel browsing collection on the main floor and then creating a comic book reading club. Steve discussed acquisition and cataloging issues. Per book, this new collection is much more popular with students than the long-established general browsing collection. The library expanded the graphic novel collection based on this data.

Slides at http://Bit.ly/ncla19comics

The book club helped the library collect feedback from both students and faculty on the collection. Discussions often expanded into broader social and cultural issues related to the stories in question. Recent titles for discussion include March, Bitch Planet, Black Hammer, and Persepolis. Most meetings attract 10-15 students. Student activities fees are used to buy the books for book club participants.

A lesson learned: synthesizing collections and programming can lead to success.

BLINC dinner

BLINC dinner

BLINC dinner at Spring House

Wednesday night was the BLINC dinner sponsored by SimplyAnalytics at a fancy downtown restaurant in what was an old mansion. Steven Swartz and Juan Vasquez were our gracious hosts. After drinks and appetizers in the former library in the mansion, we dined in a private garden-view room. A handful of BLINC retirees joined a bunch of new members and us older members for a lively time.

Thursday, Oct. 17

2020 Census: Counting on Libraries

Bob Coats is the North Carolina Governor’s Census Liaison, based in our State Data Center. Bob updated us on the Census 2020. Good attendance at this one. He is an engaging speaker and super knowledgeable — BLINC should invite him to workshop sometime.

Bob provide a quick history of census-taking, starting from Rome, pre-empire. He told us the English word comes from “censere” meaning “to estimate”.

No Bob picture so here is the BLINC dinner menu

Besides congressional reappointment, he noted the use of census data in federal funding, to understand our local communities, and as foundational data to many other surveys, models, estimates for the next decade. [We could add here use of each decennial census by the market research companies like EASI, ESRI, MediaMark, and Nielson/Simmons to provide their own demographic and psychographic data.]

MSAs will get redefined in 2023.

NC will probably gain 1 or 2 seats from population growth between 2010 and 2020. However, the urban and suburban areas are getting most of the growth. Most rural counties had small growth, no growth, or some decline in total population. Not unlike other states.

The urban/rural divide is reflected in American Community Survey data on “no home internet access”. Since the Census will no longer be using paper forms, internet access will be an issue next year. Libraries will be asked to help people fill out their online forms. There was much interest in the room in discussing community awareness and questionnaire assistance. Bob mentioned https://census.nc.gov/ and a toolkit at https://www.census.gov/partners/toolkit.pdf

Bob showed us the https://www.census.gov/roam site — “Response Outreach Area Mapper” — areas with higher percentage of no-returns. There is also the Census Engagement Navigator.

Lots of concern and energy in the room.

Finally, Bob talked about how the Census will be masking some data that we used to have access to, due to privacy concerns and ever-growing data processing power by our computers — differential privacy. A big concern for many. Maybe we will have to rely on Census data processed by the market research companies like ESRI and EASI to have access to that level of detail.

Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em: Reinvigorating, Reinventing (and Occasionally Relinquishing) Library Outreach Programs

Hu Womack and Meghan Webb of Wake Forest University discussed some of their outreach programs but also assessment and when programs needed to be revised or simply retired. The “fold ‘em” (yes, they played that song) aspect was particularly interesting since conference programming and articles tend to focus so much on successes.

Most of the innovative and creative WFU outreach programs are documented at the library’s Flickr site, so I’m going to be lazy and refer you to those pictures instead of summarizing all the programs.

Hu and Meghan are outreach librarians. Many of us do outreach as subject liaisons, a narrower scope of activity for a narrower target population. But the encouragement to always consider if a program needs to be reframed, revamped, scaled back, or shut down applies to liaison outreach too.

You’re in business: Four free & NC LIVE resources for non-business experts

John Raynor, Sara Thynne, and Nancy Lovas

John Raynor, Sara Thynne, and Nancy Lovas

Sara Thynne (Alamance Community College), Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill), and John Raynor (High Point Public Library) provided this training session for librarians who are not business information specialists. Using the frame of “What questions do you need to ask for opening a plant nursery?”, they covered ReferenceUSA, SimplyAnalytics, and ABI-INFORM (all part of our state-wide NC LIVE package).

John rivals Juan Vasquez as one of the best speakers and trainers on SimplyAnalytics. John introduces that database as a tool to “turn detailed, daunting tables of data into colorful and meaningful maps…our human brains have evolved to work better with color, shape, and pattern” rather than tabular, numeric data.

John likens filters to “a series of hurdles [as in track and field, he had a picture of this]: “Your mapped geographies need to clear each hurdle to finish the race and show up on your map.”

Nancy and Sara’s sections were equally useful. At the end, they answered questions regarding ABI v. Business Source, the industry reports within the ProQuest Business suite, and the creation of tables (not maps) in SimplyAnalytics.

BLINC Happy Hour

BLINC happy hour

BLINC happy hour at Small Batch (first wave)

Two years ago after NCLA 2017, John had suggested that BLINC host a happy hour on the Thursday before the all-conference reception. This year, we tried out that idea at the brewery across the street from the convention center with sponsorship from ProQuest (Jo-Anne Hogan and Dawn Zehner). Dawn was able to join us. We had a good time. (Jo-Anne wasn’t at this conference but will be at the Charleston Conference next month.)

Friday, Oct. 18

Developing your personal brand as a librarian

Angel Truesdale and Ingrid Hayes visiting the small groups

Angel Truesdale and Ingrid Hayes visiting the small groups

Angel Truesdale (UNC Charlotte), Ingrid Hayes (Rockingham County Public Library), De’Trice Fox (Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), and I (all BLINC members) did this program. De’Trice ended up double-booked and couldn’t make NCLA but did provide slide content.

Slides and resources.

Angel, Ingrid, and I began by providing our elevator pitches as examples of what we hoped the participants would craft for themselves in this program. Then we covered our slide materials before asking the attendees to form small groups and start drafting their own brand messages. Three brave volunteers took the mic and shared the pitches they wrote.

Raising your Library’s Profile: Making your Community Relationships Work for You

Summer Krstevska and Morgan Ritchie-Baum

Summer Krstevska and Morgan Ritchie-Baum

Morgan Ritchie-Baum (Greensboro Public Library) and Summer Krstevska (Wake Forest University), more BLINC members, profiled community engagement projects they initiated. Both librarians are fairly new at their libraries and have been building their professional networks and growing relationships with local partners.

Slides and a handout with tips and resources.

Morgan’s library has hosted meetings for the local Small Business Center, but the librarians have not really been involved. She asked if she could staff their registration table, which provided her an opportunity to meet everyone. Then Morgan got five minutes in front of everyone to pitch her services and the library business databases.

Later Morgan organized a nonprofit resources fair with the Small Business Center and 14 other partners. Over 80 people (plus local media) attended.

Morgan’s final recommendations: Research your relationship. Begin by just showing up. Promote that your library offers more than just spaces. And document everything.

Before moving to WFU, Summer was the business librarian for the National University in San Diego. This institution has 26 campuses and presence in 56 countries but just one library. That library had a goal of more programming. Summer created an entrepreneurship series: start up stories, business planning workshops, and a business plan pitch competition. The SBDC was an important partner, and Wells Fargo provided a grant. 120+ folks attended. Three student ventures won financial support.

Summer’s best practices: don’t take it personally when folks say no; don’t choose entrepreneurs at random, likewise with community partners. Have a theme, or stick to a local strength, like a local growth industry. Don’t forget to mention what’s in it for them. Be persistent. Name-drop when necessary. Choose entrepreneurs that own businesses that you personally are passionate about and have a connection to.

Friday lunch

The conference wrapped up with a big lunch at the convention center. Afterwards another BLINC member and I slipped away to a brewery to enjoy an adult beverage and conversation about work. And with that chat, our NCLA 2019 ended.

Catching up

This will be the last post here before the fall semester begins — officially begins, at least. On July 31, I had 20 incoming students from our new online PhD Business Administration program in the library for a 2-hour workshop. So the semester has really already begun for me. I had a lesson plan based on active learning (student teams presenting the pros and cons of scholarly research tools like Scopus, Google Scholar, Business Source Premier, etc.) that I use for classes with year-3 PhD students writing a prospectus, but this new cohort was so talkative and eager to ask questions that we ended up covering the planned learning outcomes through discussion and conversation instead. (We did do some computer work together.)

I hope you read Elizabeth Price’s guest post on her adventures leading business students in a semester-abroad experience in Antwerp. When I first read Elizabeth’s draft, I laughed out loud twice. She’s a good writer and shared some interesting lessons learned from her very embedded experience.

This fall I hope to make time for a couple of posts on general liaison issues. At the Charleston Conference in November, Min Tong (U. Central Florida), Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (Penn), and I will be leading a “lively discussion” (one of the formats there) on “Leading from below: Influencing vendors and collection budget decisions as a subject liaison”. I’ll try to post a summary of that discussion and other Charleston learnings.

Also, there have been some changes in our liaison organization, a once frequent topic here at this blog (example post). I can’t write that I’m particularly happy with what has happened in the last few years, but we might try some new approaches this school year. So given the past detailed coverage of our reorganization here, I should probably write an update on that this fall.

But let’s focus on business librarianship one last time before classes resume…

Today’s topic

Fred the Bear welcomes you to Belk Library

Fred the Bear welcomes you to Belk Library

Last Friday, BLINC met in Belk Library, Appalachian State University in Boone for its summer workshop. Leslie Farison, the ASU Business Librarian, was our host. A dozen friends assembled for the workshop, fewer than usual, but not an unexpected number given the location on the edge of the state and the season. Two librarians were first-time attendees and we gave them a warm welcome. Some folks came up with their families for a short mountain vacation; one of us spent Friday night camping on the Blue Ridge. The weather was lovely, ten degrees cooler than down in the Carolina Piedmont.

Our agenda consisted of recently requested topics that didn’t fit cleanly within our recent themed workshops. So sort of a grab bag or a short attention span agenda:

  1. Introductions and updates: what’s new with you and/or your library?
  2. Teaching business databases in social science classes
  3. Collection development: How are you selecting business books for the circulating collection? What business reference books are still useful? Other collections issues?
  4. Advanced SimplyAnalytics

We began the workshop in a top-floor conference room with a pretty view of campus and a few mountains. Leslie arranged food and coffee. In the introductions and updates, many BLINC friends talked about new and ongoing economic and community engagement projects. Those projects are always interesting to hear about and often inspirational too.

Teaching business databases in social science classes

Dan Maynard of Campbell University led this discussion and provided some examples from his campus. He focused on two NC LIVE (state-wide access) databases, ReferenceUSA and SimplyAnalytics, that provide geographical data.

Dan Maynard leading the discussion

Dan Maynard leading the discussion

Dan looks for classes that focus on “small places” such as rural and micropolitan areas, custom-defined geographies, or identification of specific populations and establishments. Recent examples at Campbell include identification of local food systems and food deserts, public health education work with locally owned restaurants, researching a town of 646 people, and analyzing a specific social enterprise zone in eastern North Carolina. Dan displayed course descriptions that focus on communities, social change, and engagement – those classes could be targets for outreach too (time permitting, he added).

Other applications for these databases from our discussion:

  • In a community college, an upper-level English class writes social science papers on a social issue of interest, and local data must be included;
  • Several campuses have business writing classes within the English department;
  • From a public library angle: a nonprofit focuses on local social, educational, and economic development and needed help understanding the nature of downtown neighborhoods;
  • Helping an artist become an arts entrepreneur (even she didn’t use that language).  In the example, the BLINC librarian helped an artist use SimplyAnalytics to define her market (“interest in art shows” variable) and then that data “flipped a switch in her brain” regarding how so-called “business” databases also apply to her situation.

Lunch

BLINC friends at the F.A.R.M Café

BLINC friends at the F.A.R.M Café

We walked over to Boone’s little combination college town/mountain gateway downtown street with hardly a chain restaurant to be seen [ok, there was a Jimmy John’s and a Ben & Jerry’s]. Most of us dined at the F.A.R.M Café, a nonprofit community kitchen serving healthy food where everyone is welcome (“Food Regardless of Means”). The restaurant is in an drug store space (think soda shop in the back). Social entrepreneurship! A local church started it up. It was busy for this Friday lunch; we arrived right before the noon rush.

Collection Development

After lunch, we reassembled in a computer classroom on the ground floor, near Fred the Bear (see picture above). Morgan Ritchie-Baum of the Greensboro Public Library led a discussion of collection development. BLINC talks about data and databases all the time, but it’s probably been too long since we discussed other aspects of collections such as managing print book collections.

Morgan Ritchie-Baum leading the discussion

Morgan Ritchie-Baum leading the discussion

Morgan began by telling us this was her first weeding project in her career. Her library’s business collection hadn’t been weeded 10 years and needed attention. (Greensboro Public’s emphasis has been on ebooks.) Morgan used a CREW Method 5/3/MUSTIE weeding policy (“Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding”; MUSTIE explanation – these were all new to me).

Morgan’s discussion questions:

  • How are you selecting business books for your circulating question?
  • Print or digital? What are your patrons asking for?
  • How are you selecting and deselecting titles for your business reference collection?
  • What business reference books are still useful?
  • Are print business reference books still useful?
  • How are you tracking usage of your business reference collection?
  • Is repurposed space more important than space for print reference collections?
  • How big a part of your job is collection development?

Most of us reported little to no usage of print business reference books. The ratio books, Gale Business Plan Handbooks, the NC Manufacturers Directory, and the S&P Industry Surveys were still used sometimes. (We then discussed the electronic versions of those titles.)

For circulating business books, there was still significant interest from patrons for print copies. Someone mentioned Jennifer Boettcher’s zombie list project.

Morgan shared lists of resources for collection development:

  • Library newsletters (NYPL, Grand Rapids, Free Library of Phily)
  • BRASS outstanding titles
  • Reference guides from BRASS and the Library of Congress [BLINC librarians in the room have worked on both sets]
  • Lists of core collections from the U. of Florida
  • Plus the more general publications like CHOICE, Charleston Advisor, Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, and the book review magazines

SimplyAnalytics

Our final workshop topic was advanced applications of this database and also how to make decisions from the data. I led the discussion with some preparation help from SimplyAnalytics’ Juan Vasquez. Steven Swartz contributed by increasing the number of concurrent users at ASU that day, and temporarily giving the campus access to the Simmons Local dataset, which isn’t in the NC LIVE dataset package but is used by some of us in the state. (MRI is in the NC LIVE deal.) So maybe a lesson here is that vendor reps are often happy to help with peer-training when you ask.

We voted from a menu of topics and decided to focus on:

  • Manipulating the legend;
  • Nature of psychographic data;
  • When to use tracts and block groups versus other types of geographies with variable populations (zips, counties, etc.);
  • How to determine local market size or potential;
  • Filters (we spend a lot of time building good filters and understanding their visualizations in maps and tables).

Final round of community building

Lost Province Brewing Co. of Boone

Lost Province Brewing Co. of Boone

After officially ending the workshop at 3pm, most of us had time to visit a downtown brewery for some more socializing. That was fun. There was also some discussion there and at lunch about for-credit classes some of us are teaching, and about the Entrepreneurship & Libraries Conference. Sara Thynne and I will be rotating off of BLINC leadership and will soon be focusing on co-chairing that conference along with Morgan.

So ended the BLINC summer workshop and now the fall semester is welcome to arrive.

Elizabeth Price works as the Business Librarian at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. She is always eager to embrace opportunities that involve travel and is up to 30 states and 17 countries. She’s an active member with the Special Libraries Association and the Capital Area Business Academic Libraries group (CABAL).

The Municipal Library of Prague features Matej Kren’s Idiom, a tower of books that seems infinite because of the mirrors inside - perfect for a librarian selfie.

The Municipal Library of Prague features Matej Kren’s Idiom, a tower of books that seems infinite because of the mirrors inside – perfect for a librarian selfie on our side-trip.

Embedded librarians, by definition, take their information expertise out of the library. 1 In spring 2019, I stretched the bounds of embeddedness across the Atlantic Ocean by accompanying a group of 30 business majors on a semester-long study abroad in Antwerp, Belgium.

I ended up learning so much from this experience that will affect my work as a business librarian and as a supervisor of student employees. It helped me understand much more about what students know, what they don’t, and what they most need — beyond basic help in citing sources (which they really need). While this experience might be atypical or even impossible for some business liaisons, I think there are applicable lessons to share.

First, a little background about the program. My institution, James Madison University, offers the Semester in Antwerp program three times a year. Between 30-35 students take part each term. The cohort takes four business fundamentals courses — finance, management, marketing, and operations — that are taught by faculty from the University of Antwerp or Antwerp Management School. The fifth course is a business elective, European Business Environment (COB 301), that is jointly taught by a European-based lecturer and an instructor from my home institution called the Faculty Member in Residence (FMIR). That was me. 

JMU students toward the Port of Antwerp, which is the second largest container port in Europe.

JMU students at the Port of Antwerp, the second largest container port in Europe.

All full-time faculty and administrative personnel with teaching designation can apply to serve as an FMIR. The FMIR’s role is to lead, advise and support our students living and studying in the city abroad. FMIRs handle administrative coordination between local faculty, the program coordinator in the host country, and the program directors back home. Unlike other study abroad programs, Antwerp FMIRs aren’t required to propose/teach/recruit for a course of their own design. Instead, they are responsible for grading 50% of student work in COB 301, largely projects related to our field trips and a weekly reflective journal.

That’s the role I signed up for, though it didn’t begin to describe all of the work I had to do during my 13 weeks abroad. Among the “other duties as assigned”: 

  • Carry a program phone with me at all times; answer student texts at — seemingly — all hours. (At one point, this led to a discussion of the inappropriateness of texting your FMIR at 5 a.m. with the question: “What time do I need to be up?”)
  • Attend all field trips to ensure students represent our institution appropriately and to help them connect those experiences to course content.
  • Mentor students about how to network and conduct themselves in professional settings. (Highlights of lessons imparted: Don’t write or draw immature things in swag notebooks and leave them at the firm; Don’t converge en mass on complimentary snacks like a pack of ravenous dogs; Don’t show up to morning field trips smelling like what you did last night.)
  • Lead weekly program meetings and organize weekly dinners with rotating group leaders.
  • Discipline students for unprofessional, unsafe, or academically unethical behavior.
  • Navigate student welfare issues such as homesickness, roommate feuds, dealing with a foreign healthcare system, group dynamic difficulties, alcohol misuse, and travel woes such as stolen phones (8 in total) and misplaced debit cards (4).
  • Keep financial records and program receipts; withdraw and disperse weekly stipends to 30 students; oversee two student assistants.
Antwerp Central Station is frequently ranked among the most beautiful in the world

Antwerp Central Station is frequently ranked among the most beautiful in the world

Does it sound like a ton of work? It was. But there were perks. I had the opportunity to audit the COB 301 lectures to learn the history of the European Union and how that government body impacts the business landscape. I also got a peek into a fantastic array of organizations through field trips to NATO headquarters, the European parliament and commission, a London-based asset management firm, the Antwerp diamond district, a fashion house, a major pharmaceutical company, and a family-owned chocolatier and craft brewery. (The latter had a great library-related origin story about how the founders searched through libraries and archives for a recipe thought permanently lost.) I was able to ask questions at these visits about the information skills the organizations need in new hires and how they manage their corporate research centers and/or archives. (The asset management firm had a fabulous presentation from the corporate archivist about the company’s history that really surprised the students.) 

I was able to read the students’ weekly reflective journals and witness what they were learning, even if sometimes they didn’t realize the full implications. And mentoring students — especially in the informal conversations we’d have about leadership roles, career opportunities and measuring success — was incredibly rewarding. 

Being embedded with a group of 20-year-olds for four months revealed tons about their communication patterns, technology gaps, and research skills. I struggled to get them all to utilize the program’s Facebook group — they definitely prefer information via text. They AirDrop one another constantly and memes are their common language. A few students bristled when faced with a LockDown Browser that wouldn’t let them use CTRL+F to search their lecture notes for an open-book exam (Quote: “We’ve never had to find information another way!”) 

JMU student attempts to make the signature Antwerp Chocolate Hand at a local chocolatier.

JMU student attempts to make the signature Antwerp Chocolate Hand at a local chocolatier.

Yet for being constantly connected to their phones, several had no idea they could register for classes using a mobile device instead of their laptops. Only a handful had used our institution’s library resources to do research during their college careers. I took for granted that they’d understand that “current” information meant articles published in the last two to three years. Only one group presentation among the five I observed in their marketing class did APA citations or appeared to have gathered data from scholarly journals. And the laziness of some students’ information gathering could be astonishing at times. I eventually enacted a zero tolerance policy for misspelling the name of an organization we visited in their learning journals.

But the research trend that concerned me the most? Students’ expectation that all of the information they need will be given to them. Early in the semester, they rarely conducted research before a field trip. I think of how often I perform pre-research in my work-life and wonder about how to instill its value. I know they eventually will learn that walking into a client meeting blind is a major no-no. But I think we can do more as librarians to urge students to pre-research and to encourage faculty to value it. 

Students were able to tour Bloomberg’s London headquarters thanks to a JMU alumnus who works there.

Students were able to tour Bloomberg’s London headquarters thanks to a JMU alumnus who works there.

Yet for every perceived #researchfail, I found plenty to celebrate. I began rewarding students who asked thoughtful questions on field trips and was impressed by their astuteness by semester’s end. I think assigning each student team to curate five internet sources about each field trip and share them to a Wakelet helped them become more engaged. One night, a group texted me about getting free dessert in Budapest after writing TripAdvisor reviews of the restaurant (we had done an exercise scrutinizing reviews for their usefulness before writing our own about an Antwerp museum). I urged them to use LinkedIn to research the professional guests at our etiquette lunch and arrive with at least two questions to ask. Lastly, I had the students collaborate on annotated bibliographies to prepare for their fashion district and Port of Antwerp tours and the subsequent case study presentations. Although students often groaned about these assignments, a few ultimately recognized their value. They might have only said that in hopes of a better grade, but I still plan on counting it as evidence that I taught these 30 students that Information has Value

My experience abroad was exhausting, enlightening and edifying. I gained significant insight into the corporate world through field trips and the courses I audited, learned more about the unique challenges of the Gen Z student experience in a culture that is Permanently Online, Permanently Connected (POPC), and gained empathy for people in new surroundings and the culture shock that ensues. It was tough to be away from family, in a place where I didn’t speak the primary language, and where even everyday tasks like grocery shopping or banking had a learning curve. Sometimes it was difficult to know whether the students were learning anything from me or from their academic experience. Even after being back for a few months, those doubts emerge. So I read through a few of the students’ reflection essays from the end of the trip and I always come back to my favorite one:

“My view of America changed a little because of this experience. I learned that two big arguments against American politics are that we have to pay a ton for our education, and ‘if you get cancer in American you will die if you don’t have a lot of money.’” (Belgian guy, De Prof, 2019).

The citation wasn’t perfect, and according to APA guidelines about in-person interviews, not even technically required. But the fact that the student attributed a conversation from a bar to support his point encapsulates our semester together. I truly couldn’t be prouder of how much we learned from one another.

  1.  Shumaker, D. (2012). Embedded librarian: Innovative strategies for taking knowledge where it’s needed. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com