Catching up

This is the final week for my entrepreneurship research class. The students present their capstone research today and Thursday, and then create their written versions that incorporate my suggestions. I’ve really enjoyed working with this small group of students, and think they will miss each other too. Based on this semester’s experience, I may tweak the topics covered and for how long. I’ll post something on those decisions if they seem interesting enough.

Richard Moniz from Johnson & Wales University alerted me to the short article “Organizing the Liaison Role: A Concept Map” [PDF] by Judith E. Pasek in the latest issue of College & Research Library News. Pasek focuses on building relationships with faculty and students. Check out her concept map “of librarian liaison activities and relationships, emphasizing outreach approaches.”

(That issue also includes “Large-Scale, Live-Action Gaming Events in Academic Libraries” by WFU friends Hubert Womack, Susan Smith, and Mary Beth Lock. Many more pictures are available from the ZSR Library Flickr site.)

Finally, my colleague Nancy Ryckman, who has ably served as a UNCG Social Science Librarian for over 35 years, has decided to fully retire this December. She began phased retirement about a year ago. Nancy’s shoes will be difficult to fill: she is responsible for 10 academic departments, and also contributes much to collection development, the management of the Reference Room, and governance of the library faculty.

We hope to advertise the open position this summer and have the new colleague on board in January. The liaison team leaders have meet for a preliminary discussion about what this position should focus on, and the Social Science team will meet next week to discuss a holistic review of our social science liaison coverage. Being holistic about the departmental assignments was a goal of our liaison reorganization — now we will give that a try. I’ll post about how that is going in May.

Today’s topic

Our enterprising Dean of the Libraries, Rosann Bazirjian, shared our new liaison roles document with our new provost, who was interested enough to put the topic on the agenda of last week’s Deans’ Council meeting. This group consists of the provost (also serving as our acting chancellor), the deans, and some of the vice chancellors. Rosann asked colleague Jenny Dale and me to provide a 15-minute overview of the contributions liaisons are now making across campus, and also how our liaison reorganization supports that work. Jenny is our hard-working First Year Instruction Librarian and also the liaison to English, Communication Studies, and Kinesiology.

Rosann introduced us (she was chairing the meeting since the provost was attending a funeral). Jenny and I told everyone that we wanted to begin the short discussion by with a…

True/False quiz on UNCG Library Liaisons

  1. True / False: At the request of the Director of the Doctoral Nursing Program, the Nursing Liaison reviewed each Nursing PhD candidate’s literature review before the students could move forward with their writing.
  2. True / False: The Music Liaison was awarded a research stipend to work on her book using primary sources stored in Paris.
  3. True / False: The Meteorology Liaison goes skydiving with the master’s students each semester.
  4. True / False: The Honors College Liaison reviewed the Honors College’s artists-in-residence applications.
  5. True / False: The First Year Instruction Librarian chaired the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee last year.
  6. True / False: The Political Science Liaison teaches in PSC as an adjunct lecturer (most recently, PSC 300: The Politics of Genocide).
  7. True / False: The Culinary Arts Liaison holds research consultations at the Old Town Bar & Grill every Friday afternoon.
  8. True / False: The liaison department head presented at a conference in Abu Dhabi last month.
  9. True / False: The Business Liaison teaches a 500-level class listed across four departments representing three schools.
  10. True / False: The new Nanoscience Liaison traveled to the Joint School to meet the faculty, learn about the school, and to offer teaching and research support.
  11. True / False: Many liaisons teach graduate classes in the LIS department.
  12. True / False: Liaisons are helping other faculty create and publish open-access journals like Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement.
  13. True / False: The Parapsychology Liaison supports research in the astral plane.
  14. True / False: The Data Services Librarian advises faculty and graduate students on data management plans, ex. for NIH-funded research.

Jenny and I decided to begin our short talk with this quiz for a few reasons:

  • Having fun;
  • Providing many examples of liaison work;
  • Making sure we provided examples from each school;
  • Providing a physical reminder of our discussion.

We passed out the quiz to everyone and after a couple of minutes reviewed the answers. Most of the deans figured out that there were three “Falses”. Two of them are pretty obvious. #7 is also false: we don’t have a Culinary Arts department, but maybe we should have liaison consultation hours at the campus bar.

After laughs for #13, I mentioned that Duke University used to have such a research center. Folks would call the reference desk in Perkins Library asking for its location. We would have to tell the caller that it’s now an independent organization called the Rhine Institute. One of the deans joked “you should have just replied to those callers, ‘shouldn’t you know the answer already?’”)

After the quiz recap, Jenny and I said a few words about aligning liaison work with the campus’ high impact factors. We also emphasized that the “Liaison Roles” document does not indicate a sudden new direction for our services, but instead reflects our current practices. The document codifies the evolution of our work and priorities over last 10 years or so.

Dr. Terri Shelton, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development spoke briefly about the positive outcomes of the librarians working with her committees on research, scholarly communication, and data management.

I missed the quarterly BLINC workshop to do this with Jenny (and to help grade the first round of final presentations in the feasibility analysis class, ENT 300, that afternoon). But Rosann later told Jenny and me that the deans enjoyed the quiz and that many were taking notes. That’s good because they didn’t ask many questions at the end; Jenny and I were a little worried about that.

Portland street scene


Carol (librarian at WFU) and I traveled together to ACRL. This was our second visit to Portland. Across the four days, we only had one evening of rainy weather. All attendees received public transportation passes for the duration of the conference, which made it so easy to get around to hotels and parties. All the programs were in the convention center. I enjoyed seeing several ex-interns, who looked all professional and confident as early career librarians.

Business Librarians & Vendors

Most of the core business vendors exhibited. Geographic Solutions sponsored a dinner at a Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood Mexican restaurant where we sang “Happy Birthday” to Charles. En route to the dinner I enjoyed getting caught up with LMU Business Librarian Nataly Blas, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, as well as chatting with other business librarians as we strolled through the most interesting residential neighborhood we had seen in Portland. Other business vendors organized get-togethers too.

The business librarians’ party at the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company on Friday evening was fun. There were around 30 of us there. The place was crowded, so we ended up in several smaller groups in different corners of the pub. Not ideal for mixing, but the best we could do given how busy the place was. Mallory and Dave from InfoGroup took good care of us. A friend from S&P joined the party (paying for his own drink), and I enjoyed getting caught up with him. A bunch of us further bonded by walking through the rain from the pub to the science museum for the all-conference reception.

Despite strong presence of the business vendors and significant attendance by academic business librarians, there was no official ACRL event involving business librarianship, nor for other subject specialists. I wonder if that was a missed opportunity for ACRL. A program on data literacy was as close as the conference got to specialized content.

Too much information literacy?

In contrast, the conference was dominated by information literacy topics. Courtney McDonald mentioned this already in her conference summary. She encouraged folks with other interests to submit more often. However, my wife wondered if ACRL’s uber-complicated submission form contributed to the lack of topic diversity. Among many other requirements, the form required submitters to identify learning outcomes – a natural perhaps for information literacy librarians, but not a common way of thinking for other types of librarians. So maybe the submission requirements helped weed out non-info lit topics.

Many of the program slides and handouts are online.

Upskilling liaisons

I joined several roundtable discussions – a nice alternative to the panels in big rooms. One was called “Upskilling Liaison Librarians: Code, Community, and Change.” Librarians from Temple University — Jenifer Baldwin, Jackie Sipes, and Caitlin Shanley — discussed the creation of their informal “Code Rascals” group. Thankfully they didn’t advocate for the click-bait mantra of “all librarians should be coders,” but instead explained the need for liaisons in their library to be more proactively involved with local information technology services. The discussion expanded to include learning opportunities and workload issues for liaisons expanding their functional skills, ex. data curation. (This has been a topic of interest in our liaison reorganization process.) We also talked about how to make liaisons accepting of imperfect knowledge when expanding roles – not always an easy or comfortable thing to do, especially when the expectations of functional skill levels are not officially defined by management. The Code Rascals formed on their own and are charting their own course. Their library also has an informal data literacy group.

Teaching outside your comfort zone

Two librarians from the University of Minnesota—Duluth, Kim Pittman and Jodi Grebinoski, led a roundtable on “Confronting the Unfamiliar: Teaching Outside Your Comfort Zone”. Comfort zones could be defined as subjects (business research came up twice) or formats (ex. large lecture or synchronous online). We discussed strategies and resources to expand our zones:

  • Asking a librarian friend to review your lesson plan;
  • Getting the students’ topics ahead of time and pre-researching each one;
  • Reviewing or assigning videos;
  • Emphasizing that students should learn from their research mistakes, as well as the teaching librarian’s mistakes (ex. “How can we fix this failed search?”)
  • Using ALA, ACRL, or RUSA subject guides or those of other libraries;
  • Attending faculty and graduate student talks in order to learn the core concepts and lingo.

Someone added that fear can be liberating and energizing, too.

Instruction interns

Ariel Orlov and Ning Zou of Dominican University facilitated a discussion on “Instruction Interns in Academic Libraries: Keeping Everyone Happy”. They provide intensive training in library instruction for interns in the fall semester; in the spring, the interns teach solo. This helps the library meet the demand for library instruction in the spring. Some of the library students already have teaching experience but have no experience with online classes. We discussed creating sustainability info lit programs, the ROI of teaching interns to teach, and how to set up the teaching-to-teach program. The UNCG reference interns primarily work at our information desk, but some each semester do practicums on teaching; I try to offer teaching opportunities to my liaison librarianship independent study students. The Dominican example is a more ambitious approach.

Facilitating inquiry

Veronica Douglas (St. Mary’s College of Maryland), April Aultman Becker (Research Medical Library, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center), and Abraham Korah (Lone Star College-CyFair) presented “When the Question Means More than the Answer: Facilitating Inquiry to Improve Research.” [Google presentation – note the very sharp design] [Handout with questions for audience participation]

This smart panel presented three frameworks for getting students to think thoughtfully about the research process, and the decisions they make en route. Very interesting and thought-provoking. The panel even covered some limitations of the frameworks (we appreciated their frankness). Download their presentation and take a good look at it. April is a medical librarian – one of the few special librarians to attend ACRL? – and I really appreciated her observations. We can often learn a lot from medical librarians.

Real life-long learning?

At a program on life-long learning, a CSU business librarian (sorry, I forgot his name or from which campus) questioned the panelists’ focus on scholarly research. What percentage of college graduates need to use scholarly research in their jobs and post-college life? Are librarians really thinking about life-long learning needs? A really good question! Financial literacy, political literacy, health and healthcare literacy – those seem much more relevant to real life-long learning. (Someone else asked if citation styles like APA are relevant to life-long learning – another good question.)

Data literacy lesson plans

Adam Beauchamp (Tulane University) and Christine Murray (Bates College) presented “Promoting Data Literacy at the Grassroots: Teaching & Learning with Data in the Undergraduate Curriculum” [PowerPoint]. This was maybe the most practical program I attended (which means I liked it a lot), even though the output of the students’ research was assumed to be the dreaded research paper (as opposed to experiential learning and/or community-engaged projects business student teams increasingly develop). Check out the lesson plans described in the slides. Early on the panel noted that data curation is way beyond most undergraduates – the students first need to know how to find and then utilize data (a good reminder when our administrators get carried away pushing us liaisons into new advocacy roles). The speakers also noted the need to teach undergrads that using other people’s data is not plagiarism. And they taught me a new word, operationalize: thinking about how a research topic can be quantified and measured. The example was measuring hipster gentrification – how can you measure hipsterness? ReferenceUSA, Nielsen, and Experian came up as possible data sources. Some of the social science librarians expressed suspicions of market research data – no surprise there!

Liaison reorganization

Attendees coming in to the Liaison Reorganization panel

Attendees coming in to the Liaison Reorganization panel

Our program seemed to go well: New Models for New Roles: Creating Liaison Organizational Structures that Support Modern Priorities. [PowerPoint] Jutta Seibert from Villanova and I had dinner together at LOEX last May, but I hadn’t met Margaret Burri from Johns Hopkins before this ACRL (we had just talked on the phone when UNCG benchmarked innovative liaison organizations like JHU’s). My sharp colleague Lynda Kellam covered UNCG’s experience. All three main speakers did well and took different approaches to the topic. We responded to questions until we ran out of time.

Questions and comments in person and through Twitter:

  • As we add new liaison roles, what work can we give up?
  • Team structures that get too complicated can hinder getting your work done.
  • Several folks like Johns Hopkins’ example of hiring a “student engagement librarian” who provides outreach external to classrooms. (Hu Womack at WFU does similar work.)
  • Agreement that liaisons should not be spending much time at the reference desk anymore (at larger libraries, at least, where there’s more staffing options).
  • The assessment email discussion list recently had a discussion on assessing liaison work.
  • Are there other models for assigning subjects to a newly-hired liaison besides assigning whatever subjects are left over?
  • The predominance of cross-functional teams in all three examples.
  • Balancing (or not?) hiring for function v. hiring for subject skills.
The speakers on liaison reorganization at ACRL 2015

The speakers on liaison reorganization at ACRL 2015

One interesting Tweet question: “Besides improving workflow and culture, have there been measurable changes for users?” Hmm that might be hard to measure. Advocating new goals like data curation, open access, and textbook affordability might be examples – it’s easier to pursue such work in a team environment and without a heavy emphasis on tradition collections and reference work.

Carol on weeding

Meanwhile, in the next room, my wife Carol gave her presentation on weeding, which apparently went well too. [PowerPoint]

After our programs was the final keynote, and then ACRL 2015 was over.

Catching up:

This is spring break for the UNC system, and spring-like temperatures have finally arrived. Flowers are budding and pretty birds are foraging the new growth. The library is quiet as expected but there are still some business faculty, graduate students, and one Export Odyssey student team working on their research. It’s been a nice break before some extra teaching next week, and then ACRL the week after that.

Our ACRL program will be “New Models for New Roles: Creating Liaison Organizational Structures that Support Modern Priorities” (#ACRL2015liaisons). I will be introducing the topic and then our three main speakers:

  • Jutta Seibert (Coordinator for Academic Integration and History Liaison Librarian, Villanova University)
  • Margaret Burri (Associate Director for Academic Liaison and Librarian for History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University)
  • Lynda Kellam (Data Services & Government Information Librarian and Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science, UNC Greensboro)

The event is Saturday, March 28 at 9:45 AM in Portland Ballroom 253 of the Convention Center.  UNCG looked at the Villanova and Johns Hopkins models of centralized liaison organization as benchmarks for our own liaison shake-up. Jutta and I met at LOEX last year but Margaret and I have only chatted on the phone. So it will be fun to all meet up in person. We plan on leaving plenty of time for discussions with the libraries who attend. (Look here for a recap by April).

My wife Carol from Wake Forest University is speaking at the same day and time — in the adjacent room! (If we yell maybe we could hear each other through the ballroom’s movable wall.) Her program is “Weed it and Reap: Successful Strategies for Re-shaping Collections“; she is working with librarians from St. Olaf College and Macalester College.

I didn’t read this new article in time to include it in my last post: “Teaching students what we do: A collection management course” by Tony Horava, in the March 2015 issue of College & Research Libraries News. Tony describes a LIS collections class firmly grounded in the modern realities of library collection management. He also describes some very interesting active learning assignments for the students.

I took advantage of today’s quiet to finish work on…

Today’s topic:

Sort of an epilogue to our recent liaison reorganization. Our AD of Public Services, Kathy Crowe (also a liaison) asked us to define our liaisons roles as a tool for planning, evaluation, assessment, and recruitment. Creating our liaison roles document proved to be quick and easy compared to our long reorg process.

Now this is not innovative work on our part – other libraries have worked on and published very thoughtful strategic planning documents on liaison roles. The main theme seems to be liaison work moving from a focus on collections to a focus on engagement. The published history of this theme was discussed in the RUSA Quarterly article “Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons” by Isabel D. Silver (see last post, item 3).


Three of us –colleagues Mark Schumacher, Jenny Dale, and me – volunteered to start the process of creating this document. We reviewed the Minnesota, Duke, and Washington documents. We really liked Duke’s use of best practices. Washington provided similar examples if you click through to the “More information at…” pages.

Within an hour, we came up with five roles:

  • Outreach & Engagement
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Research Services
  • Collections
  • Scholarly Communications

We decided our document would include defining aspects of each role as well as best practice examples.

A few weeks later we met with most of the liaisons at one of our monthly, hour-long liaison workshops, where all subject and functional team members are invited to a discussion on prearranged topics. Folks knew we were gathering to draft our roles document. Afterwards Mark, Jenny, and I would clean it up and email it out for further suggestions and edits.

We divided the assembled folks into five groups and gave each group a sheet with one of the five roles on top. The sheet had two sections: one labeled “define this role”, the other “best practices for this role”.

Each group spent 15 minutes working on their definition. Then we shared. The most interesting idea came from the “Outreach and Engagement” team, who said they struggled to define that topic independently of the other four. (Jenny, Mark, and I had discussed that problem earlier.) That group proposed we remove “outreach” as a role and instead cover that topic in the introduction of our proposed document.

Then we had the five groups pass their sheet to the next group clockwise, and work on some best practices for the role listed on their new sheet.

We concluded with a discussion of some of the best practices. The workshop went well: lots of energy and collaboration and no philosophical objections. (I thought we would have some word-smithing discussions about the roles, like “teaching & learning”.)

Then Mark, Jenny, and I typed up the ideas on the five sheets, standardized the verb tenses, and wrote an introduction. You can see below how we handled “outreach & engagement”. We received a few suggestions after emailing out the first draft. Today I emailed the second draft to library administration for final approval. I’m guessing the admins won’t ask for significant changes.

Liaison Roles
UNCG University Libraries
March 2015


The roles of library liaisons (subject specialists assigned to academic disciplines) continue to evolve. This document describes both ongoing and new roles in order to assist with planning, evaluation, assessment, and recruitment. Best practices for each role are included to provide concrete examples of effective work.

Four functional roles of liaisons

Liaison Roles Matrix

Central nature of outreach & engagement

The ethos of liaison work is a mindset of outreach to and proactive engagement with UNCG students, faculty, staff and administrators. Liaisons might also work with alumni, other researchers, and community members. This outreach mindset permeates all four functional liaison roles described below.

General responsibilities of liaison work

  • Develop strong working relationships with faculty
  • Seek opportunities to collaborate and establish partnerships in research, teaching, advocacy, etc.
  • Monitor trends in teaching and scholarship in assigned disciplines
  • Promote library services and resources
  • Assess both user needs and liaison services
  • Engage in continual education in librarianship and assigned academic disciplines

1. Teaching and Learning

  • Provide information literacy and research instruction to distance and residential classes via guest instruction, teaching or co-teaching credit-classes, online learning objects, etc.
  • Work with instructors to integrate information literacy and research skills into the curriculum
  • Create and maintain effective library guides, subject portals, tutorials, videos, and other learning objects
  • Design graded and ungraded research assignments in collaboration with instructors that incorporate information literacy goals
  • Assess student learning of information literacy concepts using the University Libraries’ “Student Learning Outcomes” and via multiple assessment methods
  • Identify core classes and curricula that would benefit from research instruction and/or learning objects, and contact the teachers involved

Best practices

  • Developing teaching and assessment skills through conferences, workshops, team-teaching, observing others teach, etc.
  • Discussing teaching experiences and ideas with other librarians
  • Reading new and revised syllabi
  • Reading students’ research projects or observing final presentations for assessment
  • Examining other libraries’ research guides, tutorials, videos, etc. for fresh approaches and new ideas

2. Research Services

  • Provide customized reference and research services through email, phone, chat, and individual and group consultations
  • Help staff the Information Desk and AskUs online service
  • Make referrals to other librarians, SCUA, campus units, etc. as appropriate
  • Seek opportunities to extend services through embedded work
  • Understand database interfaces, citation management tools, and other research tools used on campus
  • Support the Reference Intern program through training and mentoring
  • Understand the research process of students and faculty

Best practices:

  • Monitoring information desk and liaison queues in LibraryH3lp
  • Applying reference interviewing strategies to research services
  • Following up with users after the initial research session
  • Investigating the research interests of faculty and graduate students in preparation for providing future research service
  • Learning new interfaces and tools through training, webinars, and self-directed learning
  • Analyzing LibStats, web logs, and other methods of data tracking to better understand user behavior and to make recommendations on how to improve our services or interfaces

3. Collections

  • Communicate with users regarding collection and research needs
  • Develop and maintain print and electronic collections for assigned subject areas
  • Manage collection funds effectively and efficiently
  • Monitor research and publishing trends in assigned subject areas
  • Contribute to accreditation reports and “new program” applications
  • Remain knowledgeable about SCUA collections and collaborate with SCUA as needed
  • Support donor connections as relevant to liaison subject areas

Best practices:

  • Discussing collection, budget, and licensing issues with faculty, administrators, and graduate students in meetings and one-on-one conversations
  • Examining UNCG-authored papers for research interests, trends, and use of research sources
  • Promoting use of Gobi alerts
  • Investigating and offering trials to new or cheaper databases
  • Supporting NC LIVE and the Carolina Consortium

4. Scholarly Communications

  • Keep current with general trends in scholarly communications, and monitor subject-specific trends
  • Educate and inform faculty, graduate students, and campus administrators about scholarly communication issues, copyright, author rights, etc.
  • Investigate and promote new avenues of scholarly communication such as open access publishing, institutional repositories, journal hosting, etc.
  • Encourage and support the writing of data management plans
  • Discover and recruit UNCG scholarly output for inclusion in the open access digital initiatives

 Best practices:

  • Encouraging faculty to submit their work to NC DOCKS
  • Attending workshops, webinars and forums sponsored by the Scholarly Communication Team, ACRL, etc.
  • Encouraging faculty to attend such workshops, webinars, and forums
  • Referring users to the Scholarly Communications Officer when appropriate

Happy March!


Robert Berkman has created a new blog about business research: http://www.bestbizweb.com/thinking-out-loud . The most recent post identifies his favorite deep news archives; that post also provides an example of date-limited Google searching. Looks like a useful blog to follow.


Also, Reference Head and Business Librarian Chad Boeninger from Ohio University has resumed blogging: http://libraryvoice.com/


Some articles from the latest issue of the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship:

“Information Literacy in Business Education: Experiential Learning Programs” by Patrick J. Griffis (University of Nevada–Las Vegas)

Patrick provides an introduction to the subject and then provides three examples of a business librarian embedded into “university field-based consulting initiatives” as a research instructor and consultant:

  • First-year students exploring the nature of being a business student through a Domino’s Pizza challenge competition;
  • MBA students working with engineering seniors to create business plans for a design competition;
  • Student interns working with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s ExporTech service and local manufacturers to increase exports, with significant research support to the students and companies from the business librarian.

Other experiential learning programs are profiled, each demonstrating leadership from the librarian in building research instruction and consulting into the process, and through collaboration with business professors. Impressive work!


“Database review: DemographicsNow Library Edition: Customized Local Market Research” by Kate Pittsley (Eastern Michigan University)

Even if you don’t subscribe to this database, this review is quite useful for explaining how certain kinds of data are collected (ex. psychographic data like Simmons or Experian’s Mosaic Market Segmentation). The review also provides a useful content comparison chart covering DemographicsNow, SimplyMap, and Business Analyst Online, including which use EASI, Experian, Mediamark/MRI, etc.

(Also from that issue of the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship is an article from two former BLINC members, Kelly Evans & Jeanie Welch, on historical international economic data sources.)


From the Winter 2014 issue of RUSA Quarterly:

“Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons” by Isabel D. Silver (University of Florida)

This article beings with a review of how liaison work is now largely defined as engagement work, not collections work. The remainder of the article is an analysis of survey results from 28 liaison librarians. Isabel defines three phases of liaison outreach:

  • Phase I: Introductory Communications
  • Phase II: Take Action
  • Advanced Phase: Academic Collaboration And Program Evaluation

The three phases correspond to “three role phases”:

  1. For the benefit of beginning liaisons building core outreach services;
  2. For liaisons with basic experience and ready to progress to more unique and specialized services to meet the clientele needs; and
  3. For veteran liaisons who would like to develop closer partnerships with faculty and possibly involving collaborative teaching and research.

There are lots of bulleted, specific examples of outreach activity for each phase. This article provides a useful checklist to help assess the state of a liaison program.


You might have seen an announcement for Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, a new open-access journal published by the Academic Business Library Directors:

Ticker is a forum for the exchange of the research, best practices, and innovative thinking in business librarianship and business library management. The journal welcomes research articles, opinion pieces, member profiles, case studies, and conference reports reflecting all aspects of business librarianship.

The research articles will be peer reviewed, but not the opinion pieces, conference reports, and case studies. According to the site,

Reviewers are from the Academic Business Library Directors member institutions. Research manuscripts will be read by at least two reviewers within approximately six weeks of submission.

Authors retain copyright, but articles are published under the standard Creative Commons Attribution License that allows commercial republishing with only attribution given in return. (I would prefer a non-commercial CC license.)

Hopefully in a few months we will begin getting some interesting articles from this journal.


Praeger has a useful book series called “Entrepreneur’s Guide”. One of the books is The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Market Research (2012) by Anne M. Wenzel. I’ve been re-reading much of it for my ENT 530 class this semester (it’s one of the two assigned books). The book is really useful for explaining strategies for local business research (example: Ch. 7, “Estimating the Size and Growth of the Market.”) Wenzel’s book does discuss sources (emphasizing free ones, but listing pay-sources too) but her focus is much more on strategies. I would rather the students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills using strategic applications of market data. This book really helps with that goal.


A new book in this series, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Statements by David Worrell, came out in 2014. The book is organized into 5 sections:

  1. Income Statement
  2. Balance Sheet
  3. Cash Flow Statement
  4. Ratios & Analysis
  5. Managing by the Numbers [dashboards, forecasts, etc.]

Given that I don’t feel especially comfortable with financials, I look forward to reading this.


Finally, also on my to-read pile are these two new books, which serve as a (self-promotional) conclusion to this post.

Dianne Welsh’s new book Creative Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship: A Practical Guide for a Campus-Wide Program came out in December. Dianne’s book provides a theoretical introduction to cross-campus entrepreneurship programs, but also serves as a practical handbook for starting such programs. In that regard she discusses the vital role of business librarians. There’s also a detailed summary of my ENT/GEO/LIS (and now MKT) 530 research class on page 53 (really).

The new 2nd edition of Case Studies in Global Entrepreneurship includes a chapter on “Exporting for Entrepreneurs” by  Nicholas Williamson and me. In it you’ll find a description of the curious job title my friend Nick likes to use for people like us: the “Electronic Business Reference Librarian” (p.108). This case comes out of our Export Odyssey class as well as an entrepreneurship venture we have been working on.

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.


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