Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference 2015 logo

Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference 2015

This was the first time I attended the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference, which took place last Saturday. I should have gone before.

Around 275 people attended. That number included many students who got scholarships to attend for a mere 5 bucks (and also enjoyed the free breakfast, potato bar lunch, and evening reception with adult drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet – quite a deal!) The Coleman Foundation helped fund the scholarships. About half of the students in my small research class attended; one of them was a panelist (see below).

The conference schedule included lots of time for networking. Big sheets of paper were hung up all over for doodling and other conference-inspired artwork and musings.  The Twitter tag was #seac2015. The pictures below are from our entrepreneurship center’s twitter feed.

The opening, lunchtime, and concluding keynotes are listed first on the speakers’ page. The opening speaker, Stephen Levitin aka Apple Juice Kid, discussed his work creating the Beat Making Lab for PBS Digital Studios as an international social entrepreneurship project.

My first attempt to recruit Bill

My first attempt to recruit Bill (check-in)

Next up was a discussion with Intellectual Property lawyer David Sar on types of legal incorporation, patents, and copyright (we ran out of time for trademarks, given the many questions asked by the audience). Certainly vital concerns for artists. I contributed something regarding copyright v. licensing, as the token librarian in the room (and at the conference).

The lunch speaker was Heather Allen, Raleigh-based author on arts entrepreneurship and motivational speaker. Heather asserted that artists always have value to offer and just need to plug that value into a business model that can generates revenue. (Her phrasing and uses of dramatic pauses were excellent. I had to leave lunch early to set up my 1pm program and regretted having to do so).


My program was “Business Models for Artists”. Originally this was going to be another installment of the “Dianne & Steve” show, as Professor Dianne Welsh puts it when we present together. (Dianne is the founder of this conference – she brought it up to Greensboro from Florida when she moved here – and is co-chair this year.) However, a few days before the conference, Dianne’s daughter up in Minnesota was about to make Dianne a grandmother for the first time. So Dianne was up north and I was on my own.

Opening self-reflection

Opening self-reflection

Except that my buddy and fellow Coleman Fellow Bill Johnson, the UNCG “Dream Dean,” was attending the conference and without too much arm-twisting joined me at the last minute in leading the discussion. We began with a Bill-led discussion of identifying our purpose, and then how to turn that purpose into value creation that could anchor a business model.

I introduced the idea of the business model (using some of Dianne’s slides) in contrast to  the feasibility analysis and business plan; we then discussed typical sections of a detailed, 3-page business model (which some of our lower-level entrepreneurs classes use), and looked at several one-page versions like from the popular Business Model Generation book. I tried to come up with artsy metaphors for business models:

Some of the participants comparing notes

Some of the participants comparing notes

To conclude the workshop, we had the participants identify some of their own business model elements on post-it notes and place the notes strategically on the walls of the room. It was fun and folks who approached us afterwards said that it was a useful and interesting experience. Big props to Bill for helping me out there. The program would have been much less interesting without him. We never got into the research needs of business plans – not enough time. Not a big deal, though. Many of the participants were still in the idea formation stage.

One of my ENT 530 students, Lisa Frank, spoke on the student entrepreneur panel in the next program slot. Lisa is a graphic designer who has designed posters for our 100%-student-run store the Spartan Trader. She is also working on an interesting entrepreneurial idea that I can’t divulge.

The final keynote featured motivational speaker and artist Monique Johnson. (She also has a law degree from Elon University.) Powerful words and some funny stories too.

It was fun sampling some Natty Greene’s with students at the closing reception and joking around with them. The event had sort of a graduation feel to it.

Now there’s a click-bait title for you. But Mary Scanlon from WFU and I have lamented the dearth of opportunities to exchange ideas on teaching business research credit classes. So I thought I should share some notes.

This post got as long as some from In the Library with a Lead Pipe (there aren’t any citations at the end, though). I would love to hear what other folks do with these topics.


My ENT/GEO/LIS/MKT 530 class is about the same size as last year (10 students), but is mostly undergraduates this time, with a wider mix of majors including Geography, Marketing, and Design. The overall business knowledge in the class is deeper, which makes discussions easier to get going.

Homework examples are included below; some are fill-in-the-blank while others are open-ended and give students a choice on what industry or business idea to research. All the graded assignments are paperless. Students have to download their data as a PDF table or spreadsheet and attach those downloads in their emailed submission of the completed assignment.

I will make no obnoxious claims that these are the best way to teach these topics and sources! But if you teach some of this stuff too, hopefully you’ll find these examples of interest.

The class begins with industry analysis and then slides into competitive intelligence (CI) and financial benchmarking.

Introduction to Census data for industries

We begin at the whiteboard. I ask a student to write the name of an industry in the center. Then other students have to identify broader and narrower industries. Sometimes the first student names a broad sector or a narrow industry and so you have to modify the discussion a bit.

The next step is to take one of the industries on the board and have the students flesh out its supply chain, ex. how does this product get made or how does it get to consumers? If there isn’t a good industry name on board for this discussion, add “shoe” to the board and ask the students to identify all the industries involved with shoes:

  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesaling/distribution (the sector students are least familiar with)
  • Retail
  • Repair or shoe-shining (services)

This semester one student mentioned “textiles” as a supplier industry of footwear manufacturing.

In the process, we introduce important concepts:

  • Industrial sectors (like a 2-3 digit NAICS)
  • Detailed industry (like a 6-digit code)
  • Supply chains
  • That industry codes are applied to industries and companies
  • That nonprofits and governments are industries too

They also begin to learn that you have to be precise in your description of industries. “Shoe industry” isn’t meaningful, for example. Add a reminder to any LIS students about the importance of reference interviewing before helping a patron dive into industry data.

After the board work and discussion, the students go to their computers to look at the NAICS homepage. A quick review of the browsing and search options brings us to a simple search for “shoe” as validation for our previous discussion. Look at any 6-digit code to see how the NAICS record is organized:

  • Note the cross-references – often useful;
  • Make sure they understand the purpose of the “Corresponding Index Entries” – to facilitate searching and help understand the industry definition;
  • Why do you have the three columns (2002, 2007, 2012) with the same number usually listed under each? Look at the “Restaurants and Other Eating Places” industries for recent changes. The Census lists other examples.

After the overview, the students work in pairs to determine the best codes for a few of the industries written on the whiteboard, and for the industries related to the students’ entrepreneurial or career interests. Have them identify a sector as well as 6-digit examples.

That’s usually it for the first day of industries (75 minutes). In addition to keeping up with their textbook readings, I ask the students to review some of the Census help videos and documents for NAICS and industry data, as well as my colleague Orolando Duffus’ new video on IBISWorld. The Uses of Census Data examples are useful too.

Day 2 of industry data focuses on County Business Patterns, Nonemployer Statistics, IBIS, and the related concepts.

We begin class by looking at a research question a student once emailed me. She was working on MKT 429, Advanced Marketing Management, a community-engaged, experiential learning class in which the student teams work on a project for a local company or nonprofit. The question was:

 I am working on the Marketing Plan for an ACE Hardware [franchise] in Greensboro, and I’m stumped. I think there’s a database that will help me research this topic, but I’m not sure where to get this information. Can you please help. I’m thinking the consumer or industrial market may be: plumbers, electricians, contractors, etc. But then how do I find out the size and potential of the market. What consumer or industrial market(s) does the organization serve and what is the size and potential of that market?   What are the bases for segmentation in that market?

 I tell the students they will be answering those questions today.

[Another option to facilitate exploration is to begin class: ask the students to guess the industrial sectors with the most increase and decline in employment in your county, or a nearby rural and urban county, since 2002. Also: what are the biggest industries for self-employment in your county? Write those guesses on the board. Then look up the data.]

We begin to tackle the ACE Hardware question with County Business Patterns. Questions for exploration:

  • What types of geographies are covered? (Much more than counties.)
  • What does the “Detail” button do?
  • What about “Compare”?
  • How do you think an “establishment” differs from a “company” or “firm”?
  • How do we factor in the units ($1,000) for the payroll columns?

Then the students are (hopefully) ready to analyze the ACE question in terms of industries to measure in Guilford County, NC. I like classrooms in which you can raise the screen and project the computer display directly on the whiteboard, and then annotate the projected ACE question with markers. Example: Which NAICS industries are these? What aspects of the question have we yet to answer? (A: prospects and consumer segmentation)

A discussion question regarding the writing of business plans: how is the payroll data useful? (Financial benchmarking for wages.) We review where County Business Patterns data comes from. This year one student asked about the “Noise Flag”. My guess as to what that means was pretty close; after class I emailed the students details on that from the methodology page. No one asked – thankfully! — a follow-up question after that. I am no statistician.

Next up is Nonemployer Statistics. Is the number of nonemployer contractors significant? And what does nonemployer mean? The notes at the top of that page (as well as a quick look at Statistics about Business Size) help.

It’s important to remind the students that nonemployers are excluded from almost all Census industry datasets. Students can discuss what types of industries are likely to have many nonemployers. Look up your favorite county and skim the sectors to see for sure.

Then a quick look at the hardware stores report in IBIS, including the “Outlook” and “Products & Markets” chapters. I share with the students the assumption that IBIS uses Census data heavily for its statistics and projections, even though (unlike BizMiner) no sources are named. The students compare the NAICS industries module to the “US Specialized Industry Reports” modules. (One student this year was excited to see that app development is covered in the specialized collection. Also smoothies, the focus of another student’s current business.)

We conclude day two with a very quick look at how you can map CBP data (at a 4-digit NAICS level) in SimplyMap. That is really just a “show and tell” because I don’t want to have to spend serious time teaching how to use SimplyMap right now. In late February Steven Swartz from Geographic Solutions will be visiting class to train us in using the product for marketing research.

Day three focuses on the Economic Census and introduces American FactFinder. Some students later return to AFF to use County Business Patterns and Nonemployers, which I find interesting since I prefer the native CBP and Non-E interfaces.

I have Jennifer Boettcher and Leonard Gaines’ 2004 book Industry Research Using the Economic Census: How to Find It, How to Use It on reserve and have the students read the still very useful first three chapters. The Uses of Census Data examples help me decide what to focus on in class. Students also (hopefully) look at the videos.

We have to begin with a discussion of the Economic Census roll-out calendar. Last year we just had the completed 2007 Census to work with (pre-recession and so especially out of date for 2014 applications). This semester we have a partial rollout of national-level data but still have to use 2007 for state-level data or the really detailed reports. So right there is an upfront complication for teaching the Eco Census in Spring 2015. That helps students understand why there is demand for value-added subscription products like IBIS and BizMiner.

After reviewing the release schedule, we review how the Economics Census is conducted, look at one of the industry-specific Census forms, and get into FactFinder. I recommend the students use the Advanced Search to first select Topics –> Dataset –> 2012 Economic Census, and then use the Industry Codes selection tool to add their NAICS code. The product codes show up too, so you have to mention that those exist and promise to use them in a search later. Now we can see what 2012 reports have been published so far. (Of course, they are many other ways to configure an Eco Census search in AFF).

We begin with any industry’s “summary statistics” report in order to ask the question “What data do you see here that we did not see in County Business Patterns?” (A: sales data)

Then we look at a few more detailed examples of Economic Census data for quick discussions about how the data is useful:

  • Semiconductor manufacturing: Materials consumed 2012: What stuff do such factories have to buy to make semiconductors? What kind of suppliers do they need? And therefore what manufacturing (and mining) industries does this industry support?
  • Industries consuming the product semiconductors 2012: Which industries buy semiconductors; who buys the most? So who are the best customers? Or should you specialize in making conductors for one narrow segment of customers?
  • Sporting goods stores: Product lines 2012: (One of the marketing students understood the value of this table immediately): What products sell the most? What supplies are most important to stock? What opportunities might there be to specialize your product line? Are there regional variations in product line sales to be aware of and take advantage of?
  • Wineries: Detailed statistics 2007: How can this long list of expenses (better viewed by transposing the table) help you plan your income statement? Can you compare your own winery to industry averages by converting to ratios? (I speculate to the students that this is the key data for BizMiner’s financial report analysis.)

Day four – the final one for industry data – begins with Occupational Employment Statistics. I blogged last summer that the OES was my favorite tool I learned from class last year. Check out that post for a suggested lesson plan. The current students also enjoyed looking up their proposed or current occupation, and enjoyed guessing the occupations with high location quotients in New York City.

We then look at the state and MSA industry data in BizMiner, providing more current and more local data than the Economic Census provides.

Class ends with a quick review of the….

The industry research assignment:

Scenario: Your friend is considering opening an animal hospital in Mecklenburg County, NC (which includes Charlotte) and asked for your help to measure the local industry size as well as projected industry growth.

  1. Identify the best 6-digit NAICS code for this industry: # ______________
  2. In 2012, how many employer establishments for this NAICS code exist in Mecklenburg County, and what was the annual payroll? (Note the units for the payroll data.)
    # of employer establishments: ___________
    annual payroll: $___________
  1. In 2012, how many nonemployer establishments for this NAICS code exist in Mecklenburg County, and what were the annual receipts? (Note the units for the receipts data.)
    # of nonemployer establishments: ___________
    annual receipts: $___________
  1. In the BizMiner database, identify the best 10-digit NAICS code for your friend’s proposed business. Then identify the annual market volume for 2014q2 (use all sales classes) for the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC urban area.
    10-digit NAICS code: ___________
    Annual market volume: $___________
  1. What is the state of this industry’s life cycle, and the industry revenue outlook (national-level) from 2016 to 2021? (Note the units.) [the students should know by now to use IBIS for projections]
    state of the industry life cycle: ___________
    2015 projected industry revenue: $___________
    2020 projected industry revenue: $___________

The Economic Census assignment (due a week later):

Use the 2012 Economic Census for 1-3:

 1. What were the total sales for employer Offices of Certified Public Accountants? (Be careful with the units for all these questions.)

$ __________________________

2. What three services offered by Offices of Certified Public Accountants brought in the most sales for that industry? (Hint: “Preliminary Product Lines” will be in the title of the table.)

1 __________________________
2 __________________________
3 __________________________

3. In dollars, how much high fructose corn syrup was consumed by ice cream manufactures?


Use the 2007 Economic Census for 4-5 (state-level data like this is not yet available for 2012):

4. In North Carolina, how many full-service restaurant establishments had an average cost per meal of $30 or more? And what were the average annual sales for those expensive N.C. restaurants (i.e. per establishment)? (Hint: if you have trouble finding the NAICS code, remember that the codes sometimes change over time.)

# of establishments: _______________

Average annual sales per establishment: $_____________

5. In North Carolina, do full-service restaurant establishments featuring a principal menu of Italian, Mexican, or Chinese cuisine have the highest per-establishment annual sales?

Cuisine type with the highest per-establishment annual sales: ________________

Their per-establishment annual sales: $_________________

Teaching competitive intelligence

To begin discussing competitive intelligence, the students gather around the big whiteboard with markers in hand to discuss the question “what do you need to know about your competitors?” We create our own big CI analysis grid. The students have seen an example grid from one of our textbooks; some have already created such grids for their Feasibility Analysis or Business Plan class. Then I ask the students to note research sources for each category, like “annual sales” and “product mix with prices”. Primary v. secondary research comes up. We compare direct competitors to indirect to substitutes, and soon we run out of space on the wall. I remind the students that we will discuss social networks and trade literature as research options after spring break.

After that lengthy discussion, we use the computers to explore creating competitor lists in ReferenceUSA. One saved question I use for practice:

Steve, my name is Donna and I am taking the ENT 600 class this term. Our project involves completing a feasibility analysis and business plan for a museum/video art gallery. Do you know how we could get a list of all of the museums and art galleries in a 25 mile radius?  Your help is much appreciated.

Another one gives the students a taste of the customized 6-digit SIC codes in ReferenceUSA:

My name is Chris. I’m interested in finding out the location and date of establishment of every hookah bar in the United States (it’s estimated there is about 300-400). Do you know of a website that could be used to find this information? Would the website be different for each state? Thanks for your help,

We conclude the first CI day by watching InfoGroup’s video on how it gets its data and a short follow-up discussion.

On day two of CI, I mention Duns/Hoovers/Mergent Intellect as a competitor to InfoGroup, and add that we just switched (without going into all the details). We briefly discuss how a company database can also be considered a marketing tool in the context of business-to-business, as in identifying customers that are companies.

I decided we should also discuss public companies a bit. We looked at some corporate annual reports (passing out paper copies), and the students discussed the value of the promotional/glossary opening section and the less visually-appealing accounting section. I also mentioned 10-Ks (and their Item 7, Management Discussion) as an example of SEC filings. But I didn’t provide time to learn about finding those documents.

Afterwards I wondered if this short segment on public companies was really worthwhile – it might have been too short to be meaningful and memorable to the students. I should probably have either added some active learning exercises tied to CI and financial benchmarking, or just not bothered at all. A lesson for next year.

David Turner, the NC LIVE InfoGroup sales representative, spoke to class yesterday (and did a great job – thanks, Dave) and provided additional training in ReferenceUSA. He had some very interesting things to tell us about how InfoGroup gets its data on companies and consumers; the nature of its contracts with the big search engines like Google; and the very limited use they allow of their cell phone number database.

Competitive intelligence assignment

Just a couple of searches in ReferenceUSA and a little thought exercise.

1. Dance Schools.

  • How many dance schools are there in North Carolina (according to ReferenceUSA)? _________
  • What is the most common employee size of those schools? ________
  • Indicate which industry code you used: SIC #_____________

2. Manufacturing consultant scenario

Scenario [fictitious this time]: An expert in industrial management wants to go into the consulting business, with a focus on North Carolina Triangle-area (not the Triad), small ($2.5 million or less in annual sales), privately-held manufacturers. He doesn’t want to deal with subsidiaries or branches, since companies with subsidiaries or branches are big firms that often have their own experts for such work. You have been hired to provide a list of such manufacturers for the expert. The expert will work through the list as potential clients.

How many companies meet this criteria? _____________

Add to this document screen-capture(s) of the review criteria (you might need several shots to cover all your selections). [These screenshots are much more important to me than the number of companies the students report.]

3. Thinking about indirect competitors

Identify three types of indirect competitors for a performance theater (the kind of theater in which you watch a play):

1 _______________
2 _______________
3 _______________

Teaching financial benchmarking

Earlier in the semester I brought to class an armful of thick feasibility plans from ENT 300 for the students to skim through, including the “Price & Profitability” financial section. I also show the students the complex and detailed spreadsheet created by SCORE that the students now use in that class.

Now, I have to confess that entrepreneurial finance is not exactly in my comfort zone as a business librarian. But I am getting more confident. I remind the students that this class is about finding secondary research that supports creating a business plan. Therefore understanding all aspects of the financials is not necessary.

But we do discuss how the finances are usually the hardest part of a business plan (and feasibility analysis) to write, and do define basic concepts like the balance sheet, income statement, and profit ratios. Then we review how to find benchmark data that can help an entrepreneur make reasonable assumptions about his or her numbers.

The students have some financial notes in Blackboard and I ask them to watch my longish benchmarking video.

We review sources for benchmarking:

  • County Business Patterns (payroll data)
  • Economic Census
  • BizMiner
  • RMA eStatement Studies (newly introduced)
  • ReferenceUSA/company directories (for typical local company size by sales and number of employees).

Tomorrow the focus will be a case study on local restaurant company Village Tavern. The students examine a recent newspaper article on this company for financial clues and then use the above sources to analyze its likely financial situation. I provide suggestions as needed but otherwise let the students play financial detectives. This case study should be good practice for the…

Financial Benchmarking assignment:

You are considering opening either

  • A fitness club in Forsyth County, NC, or:
  • Your own business idea in your target county [identify the idea and place right here:] (This could be a student’s capstone topic.)

You need to begin developing the financial sections of your business plan. In preparation for this work, you need to benchmark financial data and profitability for the industry. Assume your proposed business will have paid employees.

Use BizMiner, RMA eStatement Studies, ReferenceUSA, Census.gov, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect the most relevant data you can find. Download the data, provide a short description below of what you downloaded and why it’s useful, and be sure to attach all your data in your email to Steve.

  1. BizMiner: what I found and why it’s useful:
  2. RMA eStatement Studies: what I found and why it’s useful:
  3. ReferenceUSA: what I found and why it’s useful:
  4. Census: what I found and why it’s useful:
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics: what else I found and why it’s useful:

Grading note:

  • Remember that you are benchmarking for a start-up business, not an ongoing business with large annual sales. Bear that in mind regarding “the most relevant data.”
  • Likewise, is there a more specific industry code in BizMiner or ReferenceUSA that you should be using instead of a 4-digit SIC or 6-digit NAICS?



Next week begins two weeks on consumer marketing with a focus on demographics, consumer spending, and psychographic data, and then one week of review and practice before spring break. That final week also serves as potential make-up time in case the North Carolina Piedmont gets a half inch of snow and campus shuts down for two days. (Well, I’m teasing as a Michigander here, but Carolina ice storms can be quite nasty.)

If you have your suggestions or ideas for teaching these topics, I would love to hear them.

If you read all the way down here to the bottom of this long post, thank you!

BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) got 2015 off to a fruitful start with a quarterly workshop on Monday, January 5.

We met at the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem – big old RJR Reynolds factories being converted to research, education, and entrepreneurship support spaces. We were kindly hosted by the Forsyth Technical Community College’s Business & Industry Services in the 525 @ Vine building [photos]. Across the courtyard is Flywheel co-working innovation space, which we toured later. The next building over is being gutted to become the new home of the WFU School of Medicine.

Reynolds Tower

Reynolds tower (background) as seen from 4th Street, Winston-Salem, NC. (Creative Commons)

I walked to the workshop from our downtown condo. It’s exciting to see the continued revival of and reinvestment in downtowns across the country. I passed the Reynolds Tower (the little Empire State Building, designed by the same architect before its younger, taller brother was built in Manhattan), where workers were busy converting it to a boutique hotel that will retain the stunning art deco lobby. The historic county courthouse, a block away, was busy with workers converting it to apartments. The place we live was a 1900 textiles mill (women’s underwear) a few blocks from Old Salem, where some German-speaking Moravians settled in the 1750’s. Lots of history restored or reclaimed leading to economic development growth, tourism, and innovation.

Forsyth Tech’s Business & Industry Services includes the local Small Business Center. Every community college in North Carolina has one of these to support entrepreneurs and small business owners. BLINC colleagues Kathleen Wheeless and Jody Lohman of the Forsyth County Public Library regularly spend time here to provide training and do outreach. Kathleen serves on the SBC advisory board.

Mary Scanlon of WFU, our excellent BLINC chair, welcomed us and introduced Allan Younger, the SBC director. Allan, Kathleen, and Jody led us in a long and interesting discussion about supporting entrepreneurs and small business and nonprofit owners, making connections locally and state-wide, library marketing, and how academic and public libraries collaborate on this stuff.

My favorite quote from Allan, regarding the significant research needs of nonprofits: “A nonprofit is still a business, just with a different legal structure”.

I’m still struck by how few public library systems allow their business specialists to use the title “Business Librarian”. Maybe I’m being narrow-minded here (given the job title my department heads have allowed me to choose), but having a customer-centered job title seemed like an easy way to facilitate outreach and marketing efforts.

Nancy Tucker and Sharon Stack from the Kings Mountain Public library drove in from beyond Charlotte for the workshop. Like Natasha Francois of Wayne County Public Library (see a previous BLINC workshop post), Nancy’s focus is going door to door visiting businesses in King’s Mountain to provide business research support and promote library services. I hope Nancy and Sharon (perhaps with Natasha?) will write an article about their work or provide a conference presentation.

Later in the workshop we talked about new tools and apps, began discussing BLINC programming for the 2015 NCLA conference in October, and spent an hour evaluating the specialized reports provided by ABI-INFORM, now available statewide via NCLIVE. (BLINC members, look for Mary’s summary in Wiggio soon).

We ended with a tour of the SBC spaces as well as the neighboring Flywheel. I really liked its half-sized basketball court (cement floor) with its hung-from-the-ceiling projector (risky?), ample white boards, portable stackable chairs, and wooden raisers with cushions.

We ran out of time for Nina Exner (NC A&T) and Kathleen to discuss grant support for academics and nonprofits, respectively. Next time, Mary promises. Props to Nina for taking notes and taking care of our lunch orders.

I picked up some milk and OJ on the walk home at the little downtown grocery store.


This is about recent and ongoing business database changes at UNCG and by extension, NC LIVE. The post will not contain database reviews, nor complaints about vendor behavior. Instead I will focus on aspects of collection planning, budget issues, and user considerations. Hope this is still interesting to some of you!

Database logosBackground

I’m a business librarian based in a general library. We use one pot of money for database subscriptions, as opposed to allocating a percentage of funds to be spent for each subject area. (We have had a few specialized budgets, like the Distance Education budget, that have also been used to fund databases). So in a sense, liaisons compete for funding for “their” databases based on content needs, perceived importance, and cost-per-use.

Also consider interdisciplinary content, database packages, consortial deals, multi-year deals to lock in prices, one-time spending on purchased e-content, and NC LIVE — and the process of database collection development can get very complicated.

Under our liaison reorganization, our collections team seems to be functioning well:  considering input from liaisons (as well as using data), recognizing the special needs of certain subject areas (ex. the need for expensive market tools that will always have a higher than average cost-per-use), requiring that all subject areas contribute to making cuts (that didn’t always happen before), and making decisions with transparency. I trust that group. Good leadership there.

Budget Cutting at UNCG and NC LIVE

Next year UNCG will have its 6th year in a row of budget cuts (or so – I may have lost count). The percentage cut will be smaller than past years, but we will need to pay routine price increases too.

The budget cuts are result of the Great Recession and reduced funding of public education (at all levels) from North Carolina legislators. You might have heard about NC politics in the national news, particularly with last month’s senate race here. Stress over budgets is high across all UNC campuses.

The library budgets for serials, databases, and books have all been cut heavily. We cancelled one “big deal” package (one that had the least favorable pricing – no, it wasn’t Elsevier). We were early adopters of PDA ebooks, and now have PDA streaming videos too. We’ve done some major house cleaning: identifying individual subscriptions, standing orders and continuations, and print “legacy” spending that few if any users will miss. Databases have been cut a lot. As I’ve written, I’ve had to prioritize business databases, identifying those that are now our only source of essential content for core business-related topics and those that might be optional.

Some vendors have been very supportive concerning inflationary price increases. Euromonitor and Mergent are two examples.

As we have cut spending, NC LIVE has become increasingly important to UNCG. We now rely on it heavily for business content. UNC business students and faculty are fortunate that one of NC LIVE’s three goals is to support economic development [see the mission statement, not the strategic goals]. Our increased dependence on NC LIVE makes us increasingly sensitive to NC LIVE database changes (“welcome aboard” say most NC public librarians and many smaller academic libraries to that statement).

NC LIVE has had a flat budget since 2003 or so. So for every three-year subscription cycle, the NC LIVE staff had to deal with inflationary price increases as well as expectations to provide a wider array of content, like streaming video. So guess what strategy NC LIVE has to use to maintain a core set of content with a flat budget?

Yes, negotiating for the best deals with competing vendors. More on that below when I get to specifics.

In preparation for each three year database cycle, NC LIVE spends a year gathering feedback from member libraries, uses BLINC as its business content advisors, and does some serious usage data crunching. [They have learned that UNCG is the number one user of SimplyMap in the state. Go us!]

Impact on database collection development

At UNCG cost is now as important as content and functionality when considering database subscriptions. I’m not willing to spend significant time considering a new product or module until I know generally what the price would be. And really, the key question would be “Is this new thing a cheaper competing product to our existing X subscription?

In other words: since we’ve cut our business databases down to the essential core, it’s not really worth the time to consider a new database if it couldn’t replace a more expensive direct competitor we already subscribe to. This is why database reviews that compare competing products are the most helpful to me.

What about a new database covering a new content area? PrivCo is an example. It doesn’t really compete with the big establishment-level directories like Hoover’s/Duns/Mergent Intellect or ReferenceUSA or any other subscription we currently have. So I really can’t consider funding PrivCo by cancelling an existing subscription. We have to wait until we get new subscription money — assuming we had enough new money to pay for inflationary price increases first.

OK, I suppose that someday a new business content area might be deemed more important than an old one. Then we could perhaps swap an apple for an orange.

Database changes for 2015:

Aggregators: Ebsco & ProQuest

After many years of providing a large Ebsco package, NC LIVE is switching to a large ProQuest package. NC LIVE received a low bid from that company. We speculate that PQ wants to regain market share in the state and perhaps make some higher-profit sales from upgrades and additional subscriptions to individual NC libraries.

So NC LIVE is switching from Business Source Complete to ABI-INFORM Complete on January 1. Some other PQ business-related databases will come available, just as we had some other Ebsco databases besides BSC.

Many libraries in the state were (are still?) very concerned about the switch from Ebsco and Proquest. Certainly there is labor involved in updating electronic holdings and link resolvers, updating tutorials, etc. And there is also the basic fear of change after using Ebsco for years.

Proquest gave NC LIVE libraries early access to the new databases. I’ve enjoyed comparing ABI to BSC and LexisNexis Academic. The “Dateline” newswire and international content in ABI compares very favorably to the international news in LNA, I decided, and so had the Export Odyssey students switch from LNA to ABI for their international competitors and customers research. The students appreciated the better interface and not having to do the extra work of changing the default search silos in LNA before entering keywords.

Not long after NC LIVE announced the upcoming switch from Ebsco to Proquest, our collections team decided to pick up an Ebsco Complete package of databases, including Business Source. We had money from other cancellations and some cost-savings from our own PQ subscriptions covered by the upcoming NC LIVE package. The decision to buy the Ebsco package ourselves was based on the amount of unique full text provided. We already had a lot of Ebsco subscriptions not covered by NC LIVE (ex. PsycInfo), so there was a vendor discount involved too.

So despite 6 years of budget cuts, UNCG’s support of business articles actually got stronger – and more duplicative, given the big overlap between BSC and ABI. It would be a shame if we end up cutting more unique business-related content due to budget cuts while enjoying more overlapping article databases through package deals.

Company Directories: Hoover’s/Mergent & ReferenceUSA

Here is another big switch and a reversal of sorts. After its 2009-2011 subscription package, NC LIVE switched from ReferenceUSA to Hoover’s for 2012-14. Like the upcoming switch to ProQuest, the reason back then was a cheap bid from Hoover’s. Again, since NC LIVE’s budget has been flat, it can’t afford to pay inflationary price increases without scaling back the variety of content it provides and therefore scaling back its goals. So it has to shop for deals.

We learned the Hoover’s corporate database was not designed to handle the needs of a state-wide collection of public and academic libraries. In early 2012, NC LIVE told BLINC that Hoover’s was contracting with Mergent to provide Hoover’s/Duns content to the academic and public library market. Mergent is based outside Charlotte and so it was pretty convenient for NC LIVE, BLINC, and Mergent to talk (in various combinations) about Hoover’s and provide feedback on the a Mergent database based on the Hoover’s/Duns company records. Those were very interesting discussions (much of which was off the record, sorry).

Long ago UNCG subscribed to Duns Million Dollar Database and Key Business Ratios Online. We eventually switched to other products as other options emerged. Given the important content Hoover’s/Duns provides, it was good to hear that Hoover’s hired Mergent – an established player in the academic and public library markets – to provide its content to those markets and improve the products.

The new database, Mergent Intellect, went live in 2013. Given ongoing technical issues with providing the Hoover’s corporate database through NC LIVE, NC LIVE switched from Hoover’s to Mergent Intellect in January 2014 while remaining on the 3-year Hoover’s contract.

For 2015-17, NC LIVE is going back to ReferenceUSA. OneSource will be included. Some public librarians in BLINC are very happy about this. But I did get a phone call two months ago from a public library in an adjacent county asking if UNCG was going to pick up Intellect on its own; that library had a patron who hated the thought of losing Intellect and would have been happy to drive over here to use it.

UNCG once subscribed to OneSource as its international company directory, but dropped it when NC LIVE picked up Hoover’s in 2011. (Once again, a budget decision – we didn’t have money for duplicate content.)

So in a two year period, we are going from Hoover’s to Mergent Intellect to ReferenceUSA/OneSource.

(Thankfully, NC LIVE was able to renew its subscriptions to SimplyMap and the Morningstar Investment Research Center. UNCG is the top user of SimplyMap in the state according to NC LIVE data. We were early subscribers, and then NC LIVE picked it up. We have the MRI data, but not the Simmons. So I was happy to see the Simmons data show up in DemographicsNow.)

Other types of databases (briefly)

Web of Science wanted a big price increase and wouldn’t negotiate, so we switched to Scopus. That saved a lot of money, but we decided to pay Thomson a lot to keep EndNote Web/Online one more year. We are trying to get all our EndNote Web users to export their citations by June. After some discussion and trials, my library has adopted Zotero as our supported citation management tool. We continue to use EndNote Desktop thanks to campus IT spending.

It had been six years since I reviewed our Checkpoint (RIA) and IntelliConnect (CCH) packages. We had been getting primarily tax content from one and accounting and auditing content from the other. AICPA and FASB were asking for a big price increase for those modules in Checkpoint, so we repacked our Checkpoint subscription with helpful guidance from the vendor rep and saved some money there. The professors were using free sources for AICPA and FASB content anyway.

Impact on users from all this change?

Certainly name recognition suffers.

This is not a new problem. We once switched from Mergent Online to BvD Osiris and back to Mergent Online a few years later due to pricing. The finance profs understood the need to be discerning consumers but also hoped for more stability if possible. (Last month one of the entrepreneurship profs told her class to use ReferenceUSA to identify local competitors. So that mistake won’t be a mistake in January!)

Including alternative database names and “see….” references in database lists and on libguides can help, but is no panacea. Emails to faculty and a “What’s New” box listed across all business libguides may help too.

Some libraries list all the business-related databases in alphabetical order. Others break up the list into more useful sub-lists like “public companies” and “market data”. If you have libguide box for just “private company databases”, for example, link placement can help. List the most important database first. In a few weeks I’ll swap Intellect for ReferenceUSA at the top of that box.

Embedded and co-teaching work can take care of some research classes – push the change in class, on the libguides, and through your e-learning platform.


The need for a variety of content and the existence of competing databases are two defining aspects of business librarianship. We don’t have a dominating, monopolistic database (with often monopolistic pricing) like many other subjects do. Yes, I’m looking at you, modern languages, psychology, and chemistry. So in many libraries serving the research needs of business faculty and students, database swapping will continue as long as budgets are weak.


Professor Welsh’s slides for her 2014 Entrepreneurial Librarians conference keynote address are now online: Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship: Opportunities for Librarians in the 21st Century.

Catching up:

Classes ended on Monday. Yesterday the students cuddled therapy dogs, cats, and bunnies in the library’s`reading room. Today exams began. ENT 300 ended the semester with strong presentations (though too many student teams forgot to add citations to their slides even though they had some good ones – I had reviewed their reference lists). The MKT 426 “Export Odyssey” class wrapped up several weeks ago but Professor Williamson and I hope the student teams continue to work on contacting potential international customers. One of the international students in that class stopped by this afternoon to ask if she could get a letter of reference for her work in the class; she said that only “pass” or “fail” marks get reported back to her Danish campus, and so having a letter on file describing the “Export Odyssey” experience and her performance would be very useful.

And this semester I’ve enjoyed getting to know and collaborate with our newest Diversity Resident Librarian, Orolando Duffus, who like our previous resident Nataly Blas is very interested in business librarianship.

Today’s topic:

Nataly is now in her first year of serving as the business librarian at Loyola Marymount University. In January she wrote a guest post about her experience as co-teacher of an UNCG management capstone class. We chatted a few times since she moved to L.A., and I’m looking forward to seeing Nataly again next March at ACRL.

Orolando is the fourth UNCG resident librarian. Our resident program has had some internship trappings, such as forcing the librarian in his/her first year to change library departments every four months as the MLS student interns at the EPA Library in Research Triangle Park do. Only in their second year were our previous residents able to focus on an area of career interest. However, Orolando doesn’t have to rotate around his first year; instead he is splitting his time between ROI and another library department not relevant to his career goals. But that’s an overall improvement to our program in my opinion: unlike Natalie, Orolando doesn’t have to wait for his second year to pursue his interest in business librarianship.

Orolando is already making a positive impact on UNCG business students. In addition to team-teaching a few business classes, he solo-taught a research workshop for a Business Communications section (I was leading a workshop in an entrepreneurship class at the same time). Orolando received a follow-up question from one of the students and is now serving as a mentor for the student, including attending meetings led by the student (a campus leader) and helping evaluate one of his papers. Orolando has other duties and accomplishments in his first semester at UNCG, but those stand out to me in the context of business librarianship.

In April I wrote briefly about a LIS student and reference intern interested in doing a practicum on liaison work. It actually was an independent study, sorry (the student has maxed out the number of practicums she is allowed to take). She has read a lot on liaison work and trends, created a nonprofits libguide, and worked on research email questions from graduate students. Like Orolando, she has taught with me with a few times this semester, and also led a workshop for another Business Communications section on her own. She has participated in our liaison workshops and subject team meetings, and explored significant some modern collection strategies, like PDA ebooks and PDA steaming videos. She plans on doing one more independent study next semester on something like “advanced library liaisoning”.

I’ve enjoyed working with her and also appreciate the contributions she’s made to business students this semester. This student may not choose to specialize in business librarians after finishing her MLS degree (although she is very interested in entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship programs). But I think she would make a fine business librarian.

Recommendations for Mentors:

I tried to make a list of recommendations for mentoring a new or future business librarian one works with. (Mary Scanlon from WFU and I once wrote an Academic BRASS article about mentoring or peer-mentoring business librarians across different campuses). These could also be considered goals for the mentee:

  1. Help the new librarian build relationships with business school faculty, vendor representatives, and other business librarians (from your local connections, BRASS, or the “new business librarians group” that Ilana Barnes from Purdue has formed).
  2. Provide opportunities for the new librarian to attend classes: either to observe, consult with teams on class work days, or teach and co-teach research workshops.
  3. Share interesting research questions. The new librarian can suggest responses or just practice answering the question.
  4. Invite the new librarian to create or improve libguides, instructional videos, or other online learning objects. In additional to supporting business students, creating such tools helps the new librarian build his or her skills and helps show off those skills (and subject knowledge) to a future employer.
  5. Provide encouragement and boost the confidence of the new librarian entering the specialized and challenging world of business librarianship. For example, introduce him or her to students and faculty as a fellow business librarian and colleague, not as an intern or in-training business librarian.

Last week I posted on the business librarians discussion at the Charleston Conference. Here are my notes and lessons from the conference sessions.

Charleston, King Street

Charleston, SC, King Street (by Henry de Saussure Copeland, Creative Commons): https://www.flickr.com/photos/hdescopeland/2928874180

Building Capacity in Your Library for Research Data Management Support (Or What We Learned from Offering to Review DMPs)

William Cross and Hilary Davis discussed how the NCSU Libraries created a “data management plan review service.” There is no data specialist on staff, so the subject liaisons are implementing the service with leadership from Hilary. The annual goals for the liaisons now include learning opportunities for data management plans (DMPs). (Yes, yet another role for already over-extended liaisons to learn and carry out.) One liaison workshop featured practice with a pretend DMP – neat idea. Hilary said there is a learning curve, but that it didn’t take too much training for the curve to plateau. The liaisons recruited partners and expertise across campus, like from IT, research office staff, and statisticians. They also found fruitful collaboration with the librarians at NC A&T. NSCU found graduate students to be the most effective target audience; those students tend to drive the development of the data plans.

Deploying Mendeley to Support Research Collaboration

Since UNCG will be losing access to EndNote Online/Web next summer (part of a story for an upcoming post), a small group of liaisons last summer reviewed if we should subscribe to another citation management system. We decided to officially support Zotero, but in the process got to know some of the other products better. One of my favorite instructors at UNCG recently began a PhD program at NCSU and told me that many in her cohort are using Mendeley. So I decided to get more familiar with Mendeley and played with the online and desktop versions earlier this semester.

At this panel, an Elsevier representative introduced Helen Josephine, Head of the Terman Engineering Library, Stanford University and Indira Yerramareddy, Information and Knowledge Management Specialist of the International Food Policy Research Institute (Washington, D.C.). There was a mild sales-pitch vibe in this program, which savvy Charleston Conference attendees would have expected, but the program also provided useful case studies of the use of the product at Stanford and the NGO. Most of the attendees at this event were not Mendeley users.

Helen Josephine is the self-proclaimed “Stanford University Library ‘champion’ for the campus-wide adoption of Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE).” In 2011, before the library subscribed to the Institutional Edition, Helen reported that there were 1,800 free accounts used on campus and just 23 premium accounts. (Premium account users get more online storage space as well as access to “team plans” for group storage and communication). The library provided Institutional Edition access in 2012; that edition includes the premium services plus analytics tools. Now there are 1,250 students utilizing the Institutional Edition and 2,250 students still using the basic, free account (even though the Institutional Edition is free to them through the library). Most of the Mendeley users at Stanford are engineering and science students. Helen discussed the workshops and promotional materials provided for Mendeley users, although word of mouth marketing is probably the most effective method of promotion.

Indira Yerramareddy discussed how her researchers use Mendeley to connect internationally around publication groups. The groups help disseminate the organization’s publications.

Networking Interlude

Up next in my conference notepad are notes from when Jill Morris, soon to be the interim-director of NC LIVE, and I went out to Market Street for a glass of wine. We brainstormed a NC LIVE ambassadors program that will hopefully be trialed using business librarians from BLINC. Probably more about that in a future post.

[At this point in the conference I stopped taking paper notes and focused on live-tweeting programs (#chs14). So to write the reminder of this blog post, I’m cutting and pasting my tweets into Word and then turning the tweets into paragraphs. We’ll see how readable this becomes.]

Hyde Park Debate & What Faculty Want Librarians to Know

One of the cool things about the Charleston Conference (besides the location) is that the programming formats are creative and vary through the day. Also, the conference directors periodically revise the conference schedule. I wish more conferences were open to shaking up their traditions.

One example of interesting programming is the Hyde Park Debate held early Friday morning. The goal of the debaters is not to win a majority of votes, but to change the most minds. This year the debate topic was “Resolved: Wherever possible, library collections should be shaped by patrons, instead of by librarians” and the debaters were Rick Anderson, Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources and Collections, University of Utah, and David Magier, Associate University Librarian for Collection Development, Princeton University. There were lots of tweets about the debate and the Q/A time that followed, but what really made the debate most interesting for me – in retrospect — was the next event: short lectures from three professors regarding “What Faculty Want Librarians to Know”. (Previously this program slot concerned “what provosts want librarians to know,” another example of the conference directors keeping the programming fresh). The profs represented three disciplines:

  • Theoretical physics
  • Classical Studies
  • Securities Studies (South Asian studies/social sciences)

While the two debaters had to generalize the behavior and needs of researchers, here were three researchers discussing in great detail their very active pursuits of data, journal articles, and primary sources. The professor of securities studies has even created her own print library due to the limitations of collections in her very specialized field. While I don’t want to make superficial conclusions about the complex issues at play in this year’s Hyde Park debate, the comments of the three professors made it clear that they do not (and can not?) passively wait for the library to collect or link to content they need. I tweeted that how those three profs identify research tools and sources seems to support Rick Anderson’s side of the debate. We also got reminders (it took me a while in my career to accept this) that professors are pretty frequently fallible humans who don’t always understand the nature and economics of their own scholarly communication, and sometimes make false assumptions about research sources and strategies. An important lesson for liaisons.

How Users’ Perceptions of E-Books Have Changed – or Not: Comparing Parallel Survey Responses

In 2009, librarians from the University of Florida conducted a survey of user perceptions of ebooks, covering 28 institutions with 550 polls completed. They re-conducted the survey this year on a similar scale. The results are interesting if confusing. For example, the percentage of students who reported using ebooks decreased, even though usage of ebooks increased dramatically. Several times in this discussion-filled program (thanks to the UF librarians for letting us ask questions throughout the talk), we discussed how users often don’t know if the online content they are viewing is an ebook,  article, or something else. (And really, does that lack of knowledge matter as long as the users are finding information they need?) Look for another journal article about this re-survey soon.

Successful Library Curriculum Integration

“With the additional demands of imminent new ACRL information literacy standards, we would like to take the opportunity to discuss deeper opportunities for collaboration among librarians, faculty, instructional designers, and students.” [from the panel description]

Gale/Cengage facilitated this panel, but the focus was squarely on public service. Georgetown University English librarian Elizabeth Van Vuuren discussed being both visible and responsive to faculty and students’ requests. She later noted the importance of managing ones time carefully (as embedded librarians learn). Elizabeth recommended targeting gateway courses, new graduate students, capstone courses, and research-intensive classes.

Sean Wernert is a faculty member of First Year of Studies, one of the colleges at Notre Dame. He is a freshmen adviser and teacher of an introduction to research class. He discussed his collaboration with librarian Leslie Morgan, a First Year Librarian who was able to design her own position. Leslie discussed getting students past their library anxiety despite being an introverted librarian herself. She talked about how liaisons should create a “brand identity” for themselves via outreach and proactive engagement. We ended with an interesting discussion of how to get libraries to focus on teaching and outreach despite sometimes old-fashioned organizational cultures.

The Punishment for Dreamers: Big Data, Retention, and Academic Libraries

Adam Murray, Dean & Associate Professor of the Murray State University Libraries, described their “big data” assessment of specific library users (students) and retention. They tracked individual students logging in to library computers, accessing e-resources via the proxy server, and participating in library and research instruction (through sign-in sheets or class roles – I’m not sure which), and then worked in those students’ retention status. Adam has provided a link to his slides from the program page.

He describes this big and complex study as direct measures of retention, as opposed to lamer indirect measures like looking at student learning outcomes. General conclusion: “library users are twice as likely to be retained as non-users” (slide 20). The most impactful activities involve library instruction (slide 24). Adam said it took two years to get this data, yikes, but hopefully other libraries will run their own studies to see if similar results are found.

Are E-Book Big Deals Still Valuable?

Jennifer Bazeley, Interim Head of Technical Services and Aaron Shrimplin, Associate Dean, at the Miami University Libraries analyzed usage of several big deal packages of ebooks (Wiley, Oxford, and Springer) purchased through OhioLINK. They provided data on the Wiley ebooks, which have no DRM restrictions.

19% of their Wiley titles had at least once use, similar to usage from other packages. 25% of the used Wiley titles accounting for 80% of downloads. 17% of all downloads came from 3 titles, all textbooks. (Can you tell where this analysis is going?) It was hard to do much subject-level analysis given the different number of ebooks by subject and the different number of students per major.

Miami’s conclusion? The cost of the package wasn’t worthwhile. Given some budget issues at the university, the library will be considering alternative strategies for buying ebooks. There was an interesting discussion about the role of indexing and discovery tools in driving ebook use.

That’s it for this year in Charleston.

I’m continuing my pattern of attending the Charleston Conference in even-numbered years. I provided a short description of the conference two years ago. My wife Carol, a collection development head at another library, goes every year but we especially enjoy the years when we attend together. (Next spring we will enjoy attending ACRL in Portland together. We are both presenting* on the same day…at the same time…in adjacent convention center rooms – a real Kramer v. Kramer.)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/savannah_sam/12252310605, courtesey of Savannah Sam Photography, Creative Commons attribution

Five business librarians at the Charleston Conference rendezvoused for an informal discussion. One of the librarians had a scheduling conflict but wanted to stop by to say hello, so four of us found an empty conference room and chatted for an hour. I forgot to ask permission to identify the librarians, sorry. We represented two business school libraries and two general academic libraries with business school liaisons.

We discussed if Charleston Conference could support a business information-related program each year. One idea for a program: the sometimes quirky licensing terms used by the business vendors that sell to corporations as well as academia. We know that acquisitions librarians sometimes struggle to deal with those licenses. A panel that includes one of the business vendors who frequent Charleston (ex. S&P or Mergent), a business librarian, and an acquisition librarian might have significant appeal.

We also chatted about:

  • Organizational culture challenges as our libraries deal with major change initiatives.
  • Our job titles: using an official or organizational-structure based title v. a more user-centered title like “business librarian”. I mentioned a BRASS tweet (from Chad Boeninger paraphrasing a Penn State Librarian?) that switching to the title “Business Research Consultant” seemed to result in many more consultations than using “Business Librarian”. Another librarian suggested keeping your title(s) flexible and consider using different titles for different audiences.
  • We discussed the continued importance of physical spaces and print collections for business students. (This came from the two librarians based in business school libraries.) One librarian asked if the rest of us still bought textbooks. Her library did, at the cost of big bucks each year. Yet having that collection is popular.
  • One librarian asked if anyone was working on financial literacy programming for college students. Another thought that equally needed was “protecting your privacy” programming.
  • We discussed our experiences with requests to do data mining (ex. with Wall Street Journal articles via Factiva or ProQuest). We wished that vendors would be more flexible regarding this option, but also discussed the need for vendors to protect their intellectual property from mass downloads. One librarian described how a vendor blocked access to his entire university because of one user abusing access to the database and hoped that vendor would work with the library on a more nuanced response the next time that happens.
  • We joked about and lamented student requests for market or industry research on super-niche products or markets, such as umbrella handles or rugby cleats. We also sympathized with each other for students who expect data to always be current, like the student who assumed that complicated financial data for all countries through 2013 would be available by early 2014.
  • Similarly, we discussed students requesting expensive market research reports they discovered through Google searches, or IBIS reports that don’t exist but are listed as potential future new reports on the IBIS public web site. Least you think we were complaining too much, we also discussed how helpful vendors can be, like providing a free report that isn’t part of our official academic subscription just because we asked about it. Strong relations with vendor reps can be very useful for both sides.

That last bullet points captures the over-all tone of our hour discussion pretty well. We enjoyed sharing a few frustrations specific to business librarianship with an understanding and sympathetic audience, but never abandoned a positive attitude about working with students and faculty, other librarians, and vendors. We’ll see if we can work together to make business librarianship a more regular topic at the Charleston Conference.


*(My ACRL program will be on liaison reorganization and will include my colleague Amy Harris and liaison leaders from Johns Hopkins and Villanova. Carol will be speaking on weeding along with librarians from Minnesota.)



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