Catching up

Morgan Ritchie-Baum opened up registrations to the ELC 2020 last Thursday afternoon. We began promoting sign-ups, and about 22 hours later, all 250 seats were claimed. Now the pressure is on to finish the planning and make sure this is a worthy event, yikes. (There are still 90 “videos only” slots left.)

Sunset summer thunderstorm cloud

Sunset summer thunderstorm cloud

A bit more on library instruction in the pandemic: on Thursday, I led two research workshops, both for traditional, on-campus classes except that I was here at home connecting with the classes via Zoom. Both sessions went fine it seemed, but I really missed the visual and audio feedback that comes naturally in a physical classroom. In the first workshop, I had to rely on the professor for all my student feedback since only he was in Zoom, broadcasting me on the classroom’s big screen.

The second class was with the evening executive MBA capstone class, in which I’m embedded. After a short Slido warm-up, I had the teams use a Google Doc to add their research findings. Since I had access to the team rosters via Canvas, I created breakout rooms for two of the three teams to use for their research teamwork time. The third team moved to an empty classroom during that time.

When I asked the teams to report back (all now back in the official classroom), the class utilized the overhead microphone with all the student machines muted (preventing feedback). But using the class microphone made it hard to figure out who was speaking. There was no yellow box around the speaker’s video. I had to look at each of the teammates for evidence of jaw muscles moving behind their facemasks. That was awkward and a bit frustrating for me. Hard to say “Thank you, Alecia” or “Interesting, could you expand on that idea, Nathaniel?” when you aren’t sure who talked. Of course, what was it like for the masked, safe-distanced students in the classroom that Thursday night? And this after a full day of work before class. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.

Today’s topic

I wrote three external reviews for business librarian tenure candidates since summer, and have written six total in the last four years. As many of you know, writing an external review requires reviewing the candidate’s submission portfolio (narrative summary, CV, publications, slide decks, letters of support) and then writing a 2-3 page evaluation based on that library’s criteria for promotion and tenure. After writing my most recent review a few weeks ago, I wondered what insights might coalesce from all that reading and writing…


I’m not all that. It’s a humbling experience reading about the amazing accomplishments of these librarians.


You’ll not all that too. (Haha.)


The official, written expectations for promotion and tenure do indeed vary widely library to library. Most libraries are vague about quantity and quality specifications for scholarship. This vagueness usually results in guesswork and angst in untenured librarians regarding their scholarship output. Compared to my library, most libraries seem to require (or expect) more scholarship to achieve tenure. Yes, some librarians really like to research and write, and so end up publishing frequently. I do wonder how much time some librarians are spending (or think they have to spend) researching and writing at night and on weekends.


Publishing in open access journals seems to be looked upon favorably by the review committees, but so does publishing in prestigious journals, which continue to be journals from commercial publishers it seems.


Many business librarians are publishing on topics outside of business librarianship: library leadership, general collection development, data literacy, digital badges, etc. Given the multi-functional nature of subject liaisoning, this diversity of topics is to be expected and encouraged. Business librarians shouldn’t be shy about publishing outside of JBFL and Ticker.


Serving on BRASS, ACRL, and SLA committees still meets many of the expectations of professional service. Yet many business librarians are creating organizations to meet new or unmet or regional professional needs. I love reading about those entrepreneurial accomplishments and hope the review committees do too.


The candidates work very hard to measure their “librarianship” accomplishments with performance metrics, usage data, and assessment data. The librarians are showing off some impressive data analytics skills. The performance numbers are not always high — if you have struggled to get involved with classes and consultations in your business school, you are not alone — but usually increase over the six years or so of the review period. Some of the candidates had to build library connections within the business school and entrepreneurship programs from scratch. I always enjoy reading about those librarians’ outreach efforts and accomplishments, and how the candidates document and measure these efforts.


Many of the candidates are faced with making hard decisions about collections, particularly business databases. Some business librarians have inherited a set of subscriptions that have not been evaluated or compared to the needs of the curriculum for many years. For example, some libraries have been providing duplicative financial and public company databases while providing little for their fast-growing data analytics or entrepreneurship programs. Candidates often write about their complex efforts to evaluate the collection, examine usage data, map the curriculum, get feedback from faculty, and then explain proposed changes to the faculty. And then here’s budget cutting decisions that had to be made too, ugh.

This is a follow-up to a discussion Nancy Lovas and I posted at the beginning of the month.

Classes began last week at UNC Greensboro. Our COVID-19 counts remain low, so UNCG has not ended on-campus classes yet, unlike UNC-CH, NSCU, and ECU largely have. UNC Charlotte is opening with all online classes but might allow physical classrooms later this fall. Those are the four UNC campuses larger that UNCG.

Two of my embedded classes are meeting synchronously online and so I’ve interacted with those students already. One section of our MBA capstone course is meeting in-person on Thursday nights, so I won’t see them until I Zoom in for a research workshop next month; in normal times, I would make frequent visits to that classroom.

Tomorrow I drop in on two on-campus classes for short research discussions. Yesterday I had my first hybrid class in which I was among the online participants. That was a new experience for me. I’ve only taught hybrids from within distance education classrooms on campus. In this post, I’ll focus on this new experience, covering the nature of the class, my lesson plan, and what actually happened.

The class

the lecture hall

The students in the physical room, with me on the big screen

Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) 231: Introduction to Apparel and Related Industries: From Concept to Consumer. This is a large intro course with mostly 1st and 2nd year students. This semester, there are 59 students split between concurrent on-campus and online sections. Each class period, they swap locations (section A is in the physical classroom on Tuesdays, section B on Thursdays.) So far, some of the online students have been watching the Panopto videos in Canvas on their own time, but all the online students were asked to log into Zoom for my workshop. 44 students attended yesterday. The others will have to watch my Zoom video. The instructor is a PhD student I know well; she is teaching for the first time (yikes, what a way to begin teaching).

Student teams are required to find and share two articles with the class each week based on that week’s textbook chapter. One article must be from a trade journal, the other from an academic. That was my suggestion a few months ago when the instructor checked in with me regarding wanting her students to learn how to find articles. Article searching was my focus for the workshop yesterday. I don’t do workshops on keyword formation and article searching very often, but that was my focus last spring for this class too.

By the end of the semester, the student teams will create a career profile that includes some secondary research, and also turn in a fairly complicated (in my opinion) fashion brand case study. I encouraged the students to reach out to me for help on those projects as needed, and the library guide covers those topics.

My lesson plan

In the past for this class, I focused on hands-on active learning with students working in small teams. I tried the same thing yesterday using a similar worksheet, but online this time.

Slido question 1: what year of student are you?

Slido question 1: what year of student are you?

The learning goals focus on turning topics into keyword searching, finding articles from a library database, and trade versus academic journal articles.

After introductions and housekeeping, we will use Slido for three icebreakers (see the screen captures).

Next, section two on the worksheet, I facilitate a group discussion of turning a topic into keywords, using assigned topics corresponding to their textbook chapters. Students contribute ideas verbally, via Zoom chat, and by adding to the worksheet. We color-code synonyms. We do one topic together and then I ask the students to pair up (in class or via Zoom breakout rooms with randomized pairs) and do another topic, reporting back on their suggested searches.

Section three: exploring Business Source Complete and finding one good trade article and one good academic article. We share notes and I ask the students to explain those listed aspects of BSC, such as where to find citations.

Section four: after asking students to define the two types of articles in question today, I use Zoom chat to give them a series of persistent URLs for BSC articles, asking “which kind is this one?” A few might be hard to determine.

Slido 3: what is your favorite designer or fashion retailer?

Slido 2: what is your favorite designer or fashion retailer?

I end class with a brief sales pitch on the value of a small number of company, industry, and market databases for their fashion brand analysis due in November. This will be my first use of our new WGSN database in a class. The learning goal here is just “the library pays for other fashion and retailing industry research tools that might be useful to you later.”

I use the student responses and the worksheet as my assessment. I’ll check in with the instructor later regarding if students are sharing relevant articles each week.

What actually happened

The online students were in Zoom right away. The camera in the classroom focused on the current speaker, which was usually the instructor. So I couldn’t see the students in the classroom at first.

I had to remind the instructor to ask the physical classroom students to log into Zoom. Most of them logged in quickly. Then I could see a few more heads. I never asked the students to turn on their video in Zoom, but I felt a need to be able to see the classroom students. Maybe more of an emotional need than a practical one? I became aware of the lack of visible body language and head nodding when I was facilitating the discussion.

Slido question 1: what is your energy level?

Slido question 3: what is your energy level?

Polling worked well. Almost all the students used it. You’ve seen the anonymous results already.

The students readily took to mass-editing the Google Document. For their second attempt to turn a topic into a keyword search, I gave them a much harder phrase from their list of assigned topics (“Missions, objectives, and competitive strategies of fashion businesses”) and asked them to work in groups.

This led to the biggest challenge of the workshop: I couldn’t distinguish the classroom students from the remote students. I had planned on the in-class students to pair up (6 feet apart) and the online students to use breakout rooms. Failed to think that through! After a very brief discussion with the instructor, I decided just to have random groups of 3 from all the of the students.

I made a silly error: thinking, “ok, three students per breakout room,” I set the number to “3” and launched the rooms. Oops! Crap. Not three breakout rooms, three students per room! I had to quickly call everyone back and then use the breakout options properly to get the 12 rooms or so needed. That was embarrassing. Need to slow down sometimes.

This time, after three minutes, I closed the breakout rooms and asked the students to post their ideas in the Google Doc. I now regret using that second topic– it was too hard – but some teams came up with good searches nonetheless.

Another mistake: I forgot to make the instructor a co-host early on, which would have kept her from ending up in a breakout room with two students.

A small number of students elected to answer and discuss verbally. Most used chat. Some typed out responses in the Google Doc and then deleted their responses after I verbally recognized and responded to what they had written. That was unexpected but worked well.

We discussed sections three and four using Zoom chat and some verbal responses. I ended the class with review questions. As with any class, if you can get at least a handful of students to often contribute responses and answers, the class will have the energy it needs to flow and other students will eventually jump in too. That happened in this class.

I did not have time to do the sales pitch on industry and market databases, but that quick show ‘n tell epilogue was totally disposable. No guilt about that. The students have links and my videos on that subject in the library guide.

Instructor feedback:

“I think it went great!  You were able to overcome the digital divide to have students participating and engaging in real time with what some might consider a dull topic. You make me hopeful that distance learning can truly happen! The only thing we (the in-person class) struggled with was the break out rooms. I don’t think students, and myself for that matter, knew how to use those. But overall, very impressive workshop!”

Tomorrow’s workshops will be simpler: all the students will be in the physical classroom. My main concern is, will I be able to hear them through the classroom microphone and through their masks.

Morgan Ritchie-Baum is the Business & Nonprofit Librarian at Greensboro Public Library in Greensboro, NC. She loves discovering and experimenting with new ideas for outreach in librarianship and enjoys collaborating with librarians near and far. She is an active member and Director at Large of the Business Librarianship in North Carolina (BLINC) section of the North Carolina Library Association (NCLA).  

Sara Thynne is the Reference and Instruction Librarian at Alamance Community College, where she coordinates the library’s information literacy program, teaches within the program, and works closely with faculty on instructional design, assessment, and collection development.  Her previous role was a business librarian in a busy public library, where she became a member of BLINC. Sara has been a devoted BLINC member for over 13 years, serving in both Secretary/ Treasurer and Vice-Chair roles.

Steve Cramer is the Business Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. More about Steve over here.

Update on the ELC

As hopefully many of you know, the Entrepreneurship & Libraries Conference will now be a free online event on November 12-13. We thank EBSCO, PrivCo, and SimplyAnalytics for their support. The ELC’s programming committee, led by Gillian Robbins (Free Library of Philadelphia) and Carey Toane (University of Toronto), ended up with 49 submissions (for probably 12 slots) and is now reviewing them.

ELC 2020 logo

ELC 2020 logo

Meanwhile, Nataly Blas (Loyola Marymount University) and Orolando Duffus (University of Houston) are leading our pitch competition team. In that competition, libraries will make a pitch to local economic stakeholders on why their library is or could be a vital player in economic development and job creation. Winning libraries will get a substantial cash price. Duncan Smith of EBSCO (and creator of NoveList) suggested this pitch competition, and EBSCO is providing the money. Launch Greensboro plans on providing expert advice on pitching to all submitters, and will be providing one-on-one consultations for our top five submitters. Nataly and Orolando will solicit for pitch submissions soon. 

We will open the free registration in September. “We” here refers to the ELC co-chairs: Morgan Ritchie-Baum, Sara Thynne, and Steve Cramer. In June 2019, Steve wrote about the origins of the ELC and covered the full planning group’s planning discussions in December. The planning group continues to be an excellent group to work with and we are so fortunate to have them on board. We talk more about that below.

Planning (and leading) the ELC 2020 has been very interesting and we thought we would try writing up our personal reflections before the summer ends. Part one below features some longer reflections from each of us. Part two is a lightly-edited transcript of a conversation we had via WebEx.

Part one

In which we each reflect on these questions:

  • Why did you get involved?
  • What do you hope this conference will accomplish? 
  • How has conference planning contributed to your own professional development?


As I headed into my second year as a new business librarian, I was considering how I could expand my own skills and abilities to better serve our customers as well as create something meaningful and useful for the community of information professionals serving small businesses and entrepreneurs in their own community. Enter Steve Cramer. Steve was the first phone call I made when I discovered I had gotten the job as the Business & Nonprofit Librarian with Greensboro Public Library and he has been my mentor ever since. The great thing about being Steve’s mentee is he has the magical way of pushing (maybe highly encouraging is a better phrase) you to do things you never thought you had the skills or abilities to take on. He takes this gentle art of persuasion a step further by laying out all the ways you are capable of taking on new opportunities, helping to instill within you that first bud of belief that you really can do this

When Steve approached me about helping to co-chair the ELC I was hesitant- a whole conference!? Are you crazy!? I’ve been to, like, four conferences in my entire short professional library career. What could I contribute? But, one thing we discuss a lot in our little business-focused-slice of Library-Land, is the much needed inclusion of the voices of public business librarians. So many of the specialized conferences, journals, blogs, articles, and more have a distinctive academic flavour. And, while public business librarians can and do benefit from many of the above professional development opportunities- being a public business librarian is unique and has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities to be entrepreneurially minded when it comes to solving those challenges. These perspectives are important to share and, if having a public librarian on the team helping to steer the organization and execution of this conference, helped encourage other public librarians to contribute and share the incredible work being done in our public libraries to support and encourage entrepreneurship, then I felt it was important to be involved. 

Another reason I felt being involved in the ELC was important was the opportunity to grow the community of business librarians across the country and perhaps even the world. As a member of the Business Librarianship in North Carolina section of NCLA, I’ve had the great fortune to experience first-hand the impact of feeling connected to a community of professionals who have been where you are and are willing to check any and all egos at the door to inspire, uplift, and encourage your own unique journey. BLINC is something special and I’m not sure entirely replicable as it has as much to do with the individuals involved as the mission and organization but, if we could instill within this conference just a sprinkling of the camaraderie and inspired networking we experiencing within BLINC, then I believe we have accomplished something truly special. Of course, the necessary adjustments we’ve made to the conference format due to the COVID-19 Pandemic will change many of the targeted networking opportunities originally planned, but we are working to ensure the focus is on the sharing of ideas and providing digital ways to connect, question, and grow both our own individual networks as well as our idea of what is possible within our speciality. 

I’m also very passionate and excited about the potential for diversity of perspective shared at the conference. We’ve worked hard to ensure that our language and stated purpose would appeal to and encourage the attendance of a wide-ranging section of professionals passionate about the power of information and equitable access to that information, encouraging and promoting entrepreneurship within our communities. I’m hopeful we will have in addition to academic librarians, public, special, and corporate librarians as well as representatives from economic development support organizations such as local officials and chambers of commerce. 

Since graduate school, I’ve been influenced by the principles of service design thinking and the promises held within for equitable and inspired reimagining of library service. A major component of service design thinking is looking for inspiration and revolutionary service design from outside your own experience- both individual and professional. My hope is we will witness the cross-pollination of great ideas and service delivery that will continue to evolve and bear fruit in communities across the globe- all from the seeds planted and connections made at the ELC. 

As stated previously, one reason for agreeing to co-chair this conference was to expand (and in some cases test) my professional abilities as a business librarian. So far, the experience has lived up to that hope, and more! Logistically, wrapping my mind around all of the details, necessities, and possibilities required to make this conference a reality required what I’m sure was some neural rewiring. Add in a global pandemic and you’ve got yourself a truly awe-inspiring amount of mental gymnastics to reimagine what is already a remiagned conference. 

But, the great thing about being a co-chair is just that, you have other highly qualified and capable colleagues that can help make a way when none seems possible. My experience as co-chair has provided me the opportunity to learn to work closely with a team of diverse professionals, almost exclusively virtually, to manage change (again virtually), and make executive decisions — which I appreciate is a skill, especially to do so with grace, equanimity, and informed authority. 

Additionally, I took on chairing the website team precisely because I felt the need to grow my skills in website development and content creation- not realizing how the Pandemic would make this skill all the more crucial for librarians working to reach their communities in a socially-distanced manner.

Finally, although it continues to be one of my hopes and aspirations for individuals attending the conference, I have had the great fortune to work with a wonderful group of highly capable and diverse information professionals — growing my own network and expanding my own thoughts as to what is achievable within our profession. I’m sure not all conference planning is engaging and, dare I say it, fun — but I’ve had such a positive experience working with Steve, Sara, and the rest of our community to create something I know will be beneficial to our profession (and beyond!) that I look forward to the opportunity to replicate this type of team-driven work in other endeavors.


As a BLINC member for many years, I have enjoyed the collaboration, networking, education, and leadership opportunities that make this such a special group of people whom I call friends and colleagues.  So, when BLINC was approached about taking over the ELC, it seemed like an opportunity, but a challenge all the same, and I was excited about the prospect. At the time I was close to ending my tenure as Vice Chair of BLINC when this opportunity presented itself. I had already served in a variety of leadership roles in BLINC and was ready to tackle something new, but could I actually help plan a conference?  Even though I was uncertain if I could do this at the time, I knew this opportunity would challenge me to get out of my comfort zone.  Plus, it was really exciting to redefine the ELC to focus on business entrepreneurship, and rework the conference to scale it for business/entrepreneurship librarians and partners. I’m definitely not a novice when it comes to program planning, and I’ve helped organize large-scale programs in previous jobs, but planning a conference was completely new to me.

Steve approached me about being a co-chair and after some consideration, I felt this would be a good fit for me.  I could contribute to a cool and very meaningful project. And candidly, it’s a professional endeavor that I wanted to add to my CV. (We’re always searching for our next big project, right?!)  In all seriousness, this opportunity was daunting at first, but my co-chairs, Steve and Morgan, have been (and still are) so wonderful to work with, and I knew that we would support each other through this process, and learn from each other along the way.

Also, with Steve’s connections to colleagues outside of NC, this would be an opportunity to forge new relationships with other colleagues I may never have met otherwise.  And, it would provide me with a unique leadership opportunity to foster teamwork and collaboration among our larger planning group. It didn’t take me long to commit to this project. I knew that working with Steve, a very seasoned, well-connected business librarian, as well as with Morgan, a newish business librarian who is innovative and smart, we would make a solid team to lead an even better larger team.  I’ve really enjoyed my involvement with the ELC thus far, and I continue to learn so much.  It’s true that sometimes it’s not about the destination but about the journey.

My hope is that the ELC will be a conference about making connections and how those connections can build partnerships within their campuses and communities. I think it’s imperative for librarians to showcase their expert knowledge, and how their knowledge can be utilized to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  This version of the ELC is new and fresh, with a very different mission and audience. There’s not a conference out there to compare it to, so the co-chairs and planning team hope that this conference will continue as an annual or bi-annual event. The conference should have a good mix of programs for all library types, and we’re encouraging diverse presenters who can bring a plethora of experiences and perspectives – diversity is key for us as we’ve had many conversations about this being an important aspect of the conference.

When COVID hit us like a tsunami, we had to shift gears to plan for this change. This was a challenge to say the least, and at times it was quite stressful, but I feel that the online version will have benefits that the in-person experience wouldn’t have provided.  The virtual ELC will (hopefully) give more librarians and entrepreneurship partners a chance to participate since travel time and budgets are no longer a concern.  And it’s FREE — so no one can argue with it not being a good value for money!

Furthermore, I hope we get more participation from public librarians who historically have very limited or non-existent travel budgets and staffing constraints but want to present and/or attend the conference. Since this is our first attempt at planning the ELC, the overarching goal is that the ELC will bring folks together to engage in all things entrepreneurship, forge new connections, and give attendees practical and innovative ideas to take back to their libraries. I am very hopeful that the ELC will make its mark among the many professional conferences out there.

Having the opportunity to be an ELC co-chair has taught me a lot about leadership and communication, and how both are critical to the success of any team trying to accomplish something. Steve, through his expansive professional network, was able to secure a top-notch planning team, spanning the US and even reaching to Toronto, Canada!  The folks in our larger planning team have a myriad of professional expertise far beyond mine. (Yes, I am very self-critical.)  But, I knew my role as an ELC chair didn’t require me to be an expert in entrepreneurship — it required me to lead, along with my co-chairs. We three have provided direction to the larger team in order for them to be successful in the development and execution of the entire team’s planning goals.  Sure, I manage professional librarians on my staff and student workers, but this experience was different and it did challenge me in a different way. Since our team is scattered all over North America, virtual meetings were a must.  Candidly, I was uncomfortable leading a large team meeting in a virtual environment, and the first time I did it, I didn’t think it went well, but after a little practice, the second time went much better. It was acts like this that forced me to develop my “soft skills” and it has paid off. Overall, the ELC has challenged me professionally in a number of ways and I’m all the better for it!


Almost all types of libraries are now involved with entrepreneurship: supporting local entrepreneurs, economic development, community problem solving, and/or K-12 and cross-campus entrepreneurship education. But our professional development organizations have been a little slow to provide public, special, school, and academic librarians opportunities to share and learn about our emerging work as entrepreneurship librarians. So that’s why I’m excited to be working with Sara and Morgan and the other excellent librarians in our planning group to create the ELC 2020. We hope to have a diverse group of attendees. 

Well, that’s a nice official reason I got involved. 

Other reason: co-leading a conference was new to me too. At this point in my career, having been a librarian for 25 years now (gosh) and most of those years at the same place, I need a few new projects and opportunities each year to keep things fresh. Guest teaching in new classes or for new faculty members helps, as does having a new mix of students each spring in my for-credit class, and writing projects. But I certainly hadn’t done anything like the ELC 2020 before. Planning a 5-hour BLINC quarterly workshop, which I’ve done many times,  isn’t the same thing.

Co-chairing the ELC has also been an opportunity to leverage a growing professional network. I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with such smart and enthusiastic librarians I’ve met through BLINC and BRASS and conferences. (For example, I met Carey Toane from the University of Toronto at GCEC in Halifax NS; Carey is the ELC co-team leader for programming submissions). Other ELC planning group members recruited for the ELC using their own networks. We worked on inviting early career librarians and librarians of color, some of whom become our team-leaders. While BLINC has a relationship with SLA Carolinas, led by Susie Corbett (who is contributing to our programming and pitch competition teams), I’ve made additional SLA contacts through co-chairing the ELC 2020. 

In general, the planning group has become a little community, as Morgan emphasized above. We are all making new friends and learning from each other, and ELC 2020 hasn’t even happened yet. Many members have gained resume-worthy experiences and are utilizing or expanding their leadership skills.

Our networks include vendor friends too. Their involvement in the ELC 2020 reminds us that vendors can be partners in professional development and the promotion of libraries as well as companies that sell us stuff.

I probably need to repeat from the “origins of ELC” post that we have this ELC 2020 opportunity thanks to the former Entrepreneurial Libraries Conference. Its leaders have included Michael Crumpton, Mary Beth Lock, Kathy Crowe, and Mary Scanlon (twice a BLINC chair), among others. The previous ELC left us some seed money, its web site, and most importantly, the challenge of seeing what we could do with the rebranding.

A new emphasis, though, was supposed to be on networking opportunities — including vendor-sponsored parties on a hotel rooftop and at a brewery. We had vendor support for those events but then we had to make ELC an online thing. So we are trying to incorporate Zoom-based networking events into the conference schedule. We’ll see how effective those events end up being.

In general, while planning the ELC 2020, I’ve been thinking about the professional conferences that tend to feature innovative and diverse activities. Conferences like Charleston, SOUCABL, USASBE, and GCEC but also BLINC workshops. BRASS is now getting more interesting with its both formal and informal online meetings too. Applying what I’ve witnessed and benefited from in innovative conferences has been interesting and rewarding. We lost some of those opportunities when we switched to the online format, sadly. Maybe next time.

Part two

In which we discussed these question in real-time:

  • What has been most interesting so far in this process?
  • The least interesting? 
  • What have been the biggest surprises, benefits, or headaches? 
  • What would you do differently next time? 
  • Advice for others who try something like this?
Steve, Sara, Morgan (left to right)

Steve, Sara, Morgan (left to right)

Steve: Ok, Sara, what’s been the most interesting thing to you?

Sara: It’s just been taking an idea and seeing it come to fruition. I really like how we’ve worked with the planning teams to build a consensus. With our tracks, we tried to be diverse and inclusive. So the conversations and the engagement that we’ve had with our planning group, that has really been very interesting to me. I have learned so much from working with other people, including outside of North Carolina. Getting different perspectives and developing a vision for the conference has been pretty cool.

Morgan: Not having been to many conferences, and having never planned a conference, this whole process has been challenging the entire way, but in a good way. I can feel my brain expanding! I think about how to connect with people virtually. I never imagined we could get as much done as we have with people quite literally all over North America. So that’s really exciting.

Steve: What I think was most interesting was our discussion and debates about how to organize this thing. There are so many conferences out there but they tend to focus on plenary speakers and breakout sessions. That’s about it. And so in a physical conference format, could we create more interaction, more variety, maybe innovation too? Plus social events: happy hours on a hotel rooftop or a party at a brewery. Having to switch to an online format limited what we could do kind of, but we will still try to create a strong networking vibe. I really enjoyed our creative discussions about planning the ELC.

Morgan: Yeah, that resonated with me too, Steve, the creativity aspect of it. You can really see the magic start to happen when you have a group of dedicated, capable individuals, who get together and seem to buy into the idea. And became very passionate about it, which I think led to some really healthy discussions. We’re still unsure of how this is all gonna work out. But I think a lot of us are tapping into our creative minds to make sure that this is a worthwhile experience for everybody.

Sara: I agree. Just the collaboration from everyone on the team has just been fantastic and we’ve really been able to define something that I think is unique — there’s not another conference out there like this. This is a real opportunity for us to showcase our collective expert knowledge as librarians in a different way. Even though we preferred to be in-person, the virtual conference is sort of a soft opening to a much larger conference down the road.

Steve: That’s interesting Sara, this being the first entrepreneurship conference for librarians. I mean, there was the previous version of the Entrepreneurial Librarians Conference that we are a successor to, and owe a lot to. But this ELC has its clear focus on entrepreneurship. Appropriately, maybe, that it took a startup conference to address these topics since the bigger and older librarian organizations were not focusing on this. I was very happy with how easy it was to recruit people to our planning group; then other members recruited other people as well. And I think with one exception out of twenty people, every planning group member has engaged and contributed. No whip-cracking needed! Haha. Ok, well, what’s not been so exciting about this process?

Sara: Well, I’m not big on budgets or the finance piece — that’s not something that is thrilling to me. Yes it’s key, but the money aspect is just, well, boring. So I’m glad we’re free, that we can offer a free conference.

Morgan: For me, it’s dealing with people who are emailing us to sell their services to the conference. Really more of a hassle. Emails that are like, oh, I’ve got a great speaker for you, or, do you need digital media production services? But Sara, yeah, librarians want things to be as accessible as possible but then sometimes you need some money to make things happen. So the money thing, and debating if we needed to move the conference online, were the two most stress-inducing aspects of the planning. The vendor process too. That was one thing I’ve learned, reframing vendors as partners as opposed to a necessary evil, which I sometimes think they get branded as. So are they gonna be able to sponsor things so we can make this more accessible?

Steve: Yes, it helps when you know sales reps as persons, it humanizes your relationship and maybe you can think about more than we buy their stuff and they make a profit on us. Maybe you can work together on something and you both come out ahead. I chatted with Dan Gingert from PrivCo at SOUCABL, right before the shutdown, and we talked about the ELC a little down there in Athens…..anything else on this question?

Steve, Sara, Morgan (left to right)

Steve, Sara, Morgan (left to right)

Morgan: I just really felt for Sara for the hotel thing. [We had hotel blocks reserved in Durham and one hotel wouldn’t let us get out of the agreement after the pandemic hit; Sara had to contact the state attorney general’s office.] I’m so happy that it turns out well, I was on tenterhooks for you that entire time.

Sara: Well, I appreciate that, and that’s definitely going into the headache section today! [much laughter.] It’s worth knowing for people who haven’t planned a conference before, read the fine print and make sure, you know, all the details about working with your venues.

Morgan: Headaches…I love that we have a large diverse group of librarians present, but communication can always be a bit of a headache. I feel that as co-chairs, we didn’t want to pester people. Everybody has their own unique challenges, their own things going on, especially with COVID, different life situations happening and we wanted to be cognizant of that. But at the same time, sometimes you just need a response. We always had to navigate that balance. Especially for somebody never doing this before, I was like, is this really necessary? Can I just go ahead and do this without input? Or do I need you to be, I need input from everybody. So that required some mental gymnastics.

Sara: That’s a great point. I think with a team as large as our planning team, communication will always be a challenge. And working within individual teams can also be hard — there’s one person, maybe two people who are taking on a bit more work and need to make decisions too. Before and after the pandemic, communication is key. We tried to do as well as we could. Like with my staff here in my library.

Morgan: And I wanted to say, I’m two years out of library school and when I talk to my former classmates, and we’re like, what was your favorite thing about grad school? What was your least favorite thing? Everybody’s least favorite thing is… team projects, and teamwork! But now I understand. One of the best skills I left school with, especially being in an online program, is how to apply those skills. Because libraries are really collaborative, whether we want to be or not. So, yeah, it’s always a struggle, but it’s important. But to your point, Sara, in one way COVID was a blessing because it reminded all of us about being flexible, and having empathy, through this whole process.

Sara: Yes, the pandemic was a surprise but we do have a very strong planning team who have been very flexible. I was super impressed with how quickly everyone got on board with going virtual. There was discussion about postponing the conference to 2021, but we had folks on our team that really wanted to adhere to the original dates. Now I’m glad that we’re able to do that. So it was a bit of a surprise actually, to have everyone just so quickly change gears. Okay, we’re gonna put our heads down and make this happen. And that was pretty impressive.

Morgan: For me, personally, I felt like that was the biggest moment of tension. The whole group was debating if we’re gonna move it online or not — there were some strong opinions about that. And then do we keep the date the same? It’s been a pleasurable learning experience to accept that sometimes you have to make an executive decision. There’s a reason there are co-chairs. When you sign onto a team, you try to be as democratic and open as we possibly can, but sometimes decisions just have to be made. And then everybody just really coalesces around that decision, you put your ego aside and just dig into the work.

Steve: There are planning group members who told me in private, thank you and to the other co-chairs, for moving us forward after getting our feedback in our online meetings or via the Google Group. Regarding the debate about timing, one argument about keeping the event in November 2020 was that people need this conference now more than ever. Our communities and our students need our support as much if not more now than before the pandemic began. I think one of the challenges – and we knew this going in — has been getting as many public libraries involved as academic librarians. And we don’t have that, we have more academics than publics involved. But hopefully we have a sufficient number of public librarians involved and maybe Morgan can say yes or no if that’s true. Academic librarians often have more travel privileges, and a lot of public librarians who do this work wear many hats. So this will continue to be an ongoing effort where we put energy, making sure that public librarians are well represented in the planning. And hopefully, in the programming as well, but that’s something that I was worried about, yeah.

Morgan: For some time, I was not optimistic that we would get a ton of public library submissions, but I was really pleased to see what we did get. I mean, I’m eternally optimistic for better or worse, haha, but I am optimistic about attendance. I’m hoping with the inclusion of not just academic libraries, but we’ve got everything from entrepreneurs themselves who have submitted programming, support organizations, public libraries and academic librarians—

Steve: And special libraries! I should have mentioned that group already, they are in the planning group too.

Morgan: Yeah, and special library because that’s a struggle too, right? I think Steve, I’ve had this conversation before with you, sometimes public librarians and special librarians have a hard time thinking of themselves as business information professionals, or entrepreneurial information professionals because they don’t realize that they’re doing that already. Among municipalities and counties, I think there’s going to be such a focus now on supporting the entrepreneurial community and supporting job growth. We should get a nice diversity of people who sign up for the conference.

Steve: Time for our last discussion questions? What would we do it differently next time, or what advice do we have for others who try to do something like this? Sara, do you want to go first?

Sara: Honestly, what I would do differently next time, I would definitely have much more conversations with the hotels about their attrition policy. You just need to make sure that, in case the worst-case scenario, like a conference cancellation, you can get out of the hotel rooms. If there is money involved in your planning, think about worst case scenarios and plan for those and make sure you have the resources to cover them. Something else that has challenged us during the course of planning is recording decisions. Write those things down! Take really good notes. So the next time you plan the conference, you know what the challenges were. I’m trying to do better at that, even when we do programming here at the college.

Morgan: I think taking better notes, yes. Take advantage of how the pandemic has opened us up to new types of technology, maybe we should have explored using a Slack channel, or using Microsoft teams to record our conversations in a place where we can find the comments easily. One thing I’ve realized, especially when you move to a totally virtual environment for work and any sort of professional development, it can be hard to make sure you’re capturing everything. And be flexible. Have a team that you can really trust. I think in the future if I’m ever given the opportunity to work on another conference planning committee, one thing I will do and think about closely is who are these people? I’m going to make sure I really trust them.

Steve: My answer to that question? Don’t be afraid to try something new. It might be easier to pull off than you think. Yes, we took a few risks, but also mitigated some risks, like having a free physical location in the new Durham Public Library before going online. A lot of good stuff happens from brand new organizations. And there’s a lot of new library groups popping up because they tried something new.

Sara: It’s amazing to kind of look back and reflect on what we have done. And we still have much more to do, which is still a little bit daunting, but it’ll all come together. It will because we have a great planning team.

Morgan: Yeah, I guess I would just go back to what I’ve already said, be cognizant of who your team is, and be flexible. I can’t believe how much we’ve already accomplished. We’ve a long way to go though!

Steve: Frankly, I really needed this project, particularly since March. To have something new to create, something that we can control, well, for the most part! Especially in our current pandemic environment in which there is so little we can control. Emotionally, this project has been important to me. And, connecting with you two, and the others in the planning groups, because we are friends already or become friends by working together to create this thing. I hope other people involved feel the same way.

Morgan: I agree.

Sara: There are librarians I probably would never have met otherwise. So, it’s been fun to make those connections, including with librarians out of North Carolina. Different perspectives and they bring a lot to the table. So it’s been really good.

Nancy Lovas is the entrepreneurship and business librarian at UNC Chapel Hill. She is one of the bloggers at Biz Libratory, where this post also appears.
Nancy’s best days include a walk outside and a strong cup of tea. Find her on Twitter

Steve Cramer is the business and entrepreneurship librarian at UNC Greensboro. On his best days, he listens to jazz, enjoys dark chocolate with hazelnuts, and takes an evening stroll with his wife. See “About” for more.

What types of instruction will you be doing this fall?

As a library, we are only offering online remote instruction. I’m getting a variety of instruction requests for synchronous and asynchronous online instruction, and a combination of the two. I’ll do a short synchronous library orientation for my campus’s 400 seat intro to entrepreneurship class as well as embed my Market Research Basics module into the class’s CMS page. I’m in the planning process with a faculty member for multi-week embedded instruction for upper level entrepreneurship minor classes. This will probably be a mixture of asynchronous (module, video tutorial) and synchronous workshops via video call.

Yes, my department is only providing online instruction too. Our liaisons will only be working from home. The instruction requests I’ve gotten so far already cover all the types: traditional in-person, online synchronous, online asynchronous, and hybrid. I work with the first three types each year anyway. Only a couple of times have I guest-taught for a hybrid class before, and all those times I was on campus teaching from a distance education classroom. So teaching a hybrid class from home will be a new experience! An illustrative request I just got: “My class has about 90 students in it, but half are meeting in the class on Mondays, and the other half on Wednesdays. If possible, I’d love it if you could come on two days so the students can be in person to follow along with you and ask questions. We meet at 8 am in Stone 142. (yikes–so early!!!)”

In terms of level of engagement, the invited scenarios include one-shot instruction, multi-session instruction, co-teaching, and embedded consulting. Our research-intensive, team-based, community-engaged experiential learning classes have all been traditional in-person until the emergency switchover last March. We will see how those classes go if the campus does go online-only at some point this fall. The student team aspect has been — and will be — the most challenging part of those classes. But still not as challenging as with X-Culture since at least the students are usually in the same country and time zone.

Course Models At-a-Glance Infographic Text Description

Course Models at a Glance, Courtesy of Jenae Cohn, Ph.D via CC BY-NC-ND license.

Courtesy of Jenae Cohn, Ph.D via CC BYNC-ND license.

What are you communicating and negotiating with faculty?

I’ve included details about my library’s reopening plan and services for the fall semester in outreach emails to my liaison departments and programs. The library’s plan is “digital first”, which means that if I encountered resistance to online remote instruction, I would be able to point to library policy. So far this hasn’t been an issue as I’ve not received any in-person requests; it helps that most courses I work with are larger than my campus’s size limits on in-person classes. Our Instruction Community of Practice has developed a crowd-sourced document of questions to ask faculty when setting up an online instruction session.

If it’s synchronous, things to ask:

  • Are all students required to attend the session?
  • Will students have their video on? 
    • If not, can they add a photo to their Zoom profile?
  • Will I be a co-host? 
  • Will I be able to share my screen?
    • If not, can you share your screen and following along with what I’m sharing with the class?
  • Will the session be recorded?
  • How long will students have already been in class? (useful if you know students have 3-hour long classes)
  • Are students working on a group assignment or have individual assignments related to this session? (group–try breakout rooms; individual perhaps have individual practice time)

If it’s asynchronous, things to ask:

  • What are the key skills or knowledge you would like students to learn about? Ex: What library resources are helpful for their class/assignment? How to know if an article is peer reviewed? Etc.
  • Would you like students to complete an extension activity to practice what they learned from the video/module? Will that activity be assessed? 

Hmm I guess I have been pretty passive so far, merely responding to requests. Probably not a good example to other liaisons! This passive approach might reflect that I’ve been at UNCG a long time now and have some strong connections with faculty. So far, no faculty member has expressed issues with me working from home. My future negotiating might be focused on how soon I will upload the requested custom videos and maybe how detailed they will be. If I want to roll back my embedded workload, I’ll have to be proactive in my communication about that.

What teaching philosophies and strategies will you be using?

My teaching philosophy is the same: aiming for inclusive teaching practices and ‘less is more’. For shorter sessions, my strategy is the same as in-person. I want students to see my face, learn my name, know how to contact me, and what types of questions they can ask. For longer sessions, what tech tools exist and how can I use them for active learning?

So my biggest teaching strategy to think about and experiment with in online synchronous teaching is team-based active learning. “Use the breakout rooms!” is too simple of an answer but might be part of a strategy. As I illustrated recently, we often want (and need) to address individual teams while leading a discussion for the whole class. That’s still easy to do in Zoom but it’s much harder for the team to respond to me unless it’s a hybrid class and they are sitting together (well, six feet apart) and can easily communicate with each other before sharing their thoughts or ideas with me and the other teams.

My colleagues and I have talked about the drawbacks of breakout rooms & synchronous Zoom discussion, and that polling or shared documents can be used to make space for students’ responses/participation. Tools like Zoom’s polling feature or PollEverywhere polls embedded into slide decks are helpful for opening icebreakers, quick comprehension checks, a chance to ask questions, etc. I’ve also seen a few Twitter threads about making liberal use of chat during synchronous classes. One of my colleagues created a really neat activity about topic concept-mapping that used Zoom breakout rooms, Google Docs, Sheets, and a Padlet. I’ve used Google Forms for an evaluating information activity in an economics class. But, I agree that the team-based workshops common to entrepreneurship instruction are hard to do on Zoom.

Oh those are good ideas and reminders, Nancy. Designating sections for each team on a single shared Google Document is something I’ve done only a few times, but that’s a strategy I should use much more often this fall. I started using Slido in July as an ice-breaker and pre-assessment for a PhD orientation and the BLINC/CABAL workshop (after seeing my colleague Amy Harris use it for a NCLA talk). I’ve never been a big consumer of Shiny New Things in instruction so we’ll see if I keep using that tool. I usually use team check-ins as the icebreaker and warm-up. 

What about sustainability or efficiency of labor?

Doing synchronous online instruction well takes a lot of front-end prep work. Classes on my campus start in a week, and instruction sessions are quickly getting scheduled for soon after. Tech-wise, I don’t have an external microphone. Unlike you, Steve, I have less legacy material to reuse (something to fix in the long term, perhaps). I’ll need to be careful how much time I commit to any one class; in addition to workload and sheer numbers of students in my liaison areas, my department is stretched even thinner than normal. Short-term coping: create Minimum Viable Products to just get something out there that meets a minimum standard; have the mantra “Done is better than perfect.” I won’t use these coping mechanisms as excuses to avoid long-term planning improvement, but it will help me prioritize my time and hopefully keep from being overwhelmed.

Video production is where this concern comes up with me. I use Camtasia in my library office, where the software is installed on my PC (it’s not available through our network). I really like Camtasia for its modular assembly of videos. That makes updates easy to quickly post — just replace the out-of-date segment (maybe one minute out of three or four total) and re-upload. So now I need to come up with a new system. Maybe Zoom recordings. Like many liaisons, I usually upload videos to YouTube and then embed the video in my master LibGuide (for general topics, like an introduction to a database), the source of most of the LibGuide content. Or if it’s a more specific topic, the video lives on only one class guide. Students usually have a link from Canvas. I will most likely be creating more class-specific videos, so I’ll need an efficient method. Chad Boeninger from the Ohio University has championed this approach — I’ll need to review his latest recommendations. UNCG also has Canvas Studio and Panopto but I’m not sure how efficient and effective those tools will be for me being Canvas-centered. I work with a lot of multi-section, multi-instructor classes. 


Steve: So it should be an interesting semester! 

Nancy: For sure! I hope it goes well. Good luck!

Steve: To you too! I’ll look forward to reading your update.

Nancy: Readers, what are your plans for fall research instruction? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

one more summer flower

one more summer flower

Final post on summer readings for 2020. It’s time to accept that classes start in just a couple of weeks!

Today’s selections:

  1. Towards data literacy competencies: Business students, workforce needs, and the role of the librarian
  2. Why is my heart beating so fast? Librarian experiences with teaching anxiety
  3. Real talk: Librarian perceptions of the professional conversation on information literacy assessment
  4. BKLYN fashion academy: a case study of a public library program supporting fashion entrepreneurs
  5. It’s time for a remodel! Collecting usage data to design a library for a new generation of students

Here we go.


Towards data literacy competencies: Business students, workforce needs, and the role of the librarian
Wendy Girven Pothier and Patricia B. Condon
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, (2019 October)

From the abstract:

“This article establishes a conversation about data literacy in business education, discusses the role of the librarian in this work, and proposes a set of data literacy competencies that librarians could help incorporate into business school education, as has been similarly seen in other disciplines.”

Employers need data-literate workers. How well are business school curriculums doing with data literacy? These two librarians from the University of New Hampshire propose a “baseline set of data literacy competencies for all business students”.

The article first establishes the data needs of companies and the lack of data-savvy talent. The authors use a mix of trade literature, academic research, reports from think tanks, and other sources. A refreshing mix. I like how JBFL allows authors to organize their articles in different ways. In many other journals, all the articles have the same structure.

Seems that MBA and undergraduate business programs are playing catch-up in providing in-demand data skills.

Data literacy as a concept is not yet standardized. A detailed summary of the literature follows (see table 1, page 9, for a comparison).  To begin a discussion, the authors suggest seven competencies (page 12):

  1. Data organization and storage
  2. Understanding data used in business contexts
  3. Evaluating the quality of data sources
  4. Interpreting data
  5. Data-driven decision making
  6. Communicating and presenting effectively with data
  7. Data ethics and security

They then discuss each one in detail. Regarding #5:

“Data-driven. Surrounded with the buzz of big data, we hear the term data-driven everywhere: data-driven initiatives, data-driven innovations, data-driven society, data-driven economy…This can be for both large- and small-scale decisions within an organization, as well as helping those who gather and present the data to understand its organizational impact.”

#6 concerns data visualization in part.

What can the business librarian do here? Well, “this role cannot be accomplished by a single position”. Business and data librarians and business school faculty need to collaborate. One challenge is finding or making time in the syllabi and curricula. Building or leveraging strong relationships between the library and b-school is key. A few examples of classroom engagement are provided (Macy and Coates 2016; Mendez-Carbajo, Jefferson, and Stierholz 2019). Digital badges could be useful too.


Why is my heart beating so fast? Librarian experiences with teaching anxiety
Britt Fagerheim & Kacy Lundstrom (Utah State University Libraries)
LOEX 2020

My colleagues have talked more about anxiety in the last few years, not just teaching anxiety. I wrote about this a bit in May. Does subject knowledge anxiety as a subject liaison compound anxiety from teaching?

The speakers inform us that “Library instruction was creating anxiety among some of the subject librarians, contributing to fraught discussions”. So they explored three questions:

  1. “What are librarian attitudes towards their teaching role, especially if their teaching role is a minor part of their position?
  2. How do librarians experience teaching anxiety?
  3. How does teaching anxiety relate to attitudes towards teaching?”

Their survey received 1,035 usable responses. One interesting quote:

“I used to worry that teaching anxiety may mean I wasn’t meant to teach but I’ve figured out it’s just my personality and that sometimes teaching will work out and sometimes it won’t, and when it doesn’t I reflect and figure out how to do better next time…I doubt it’ll ever change for me.”

Yes, sometimes teaching goes well and sometimes it doesn’t! In mid-July, I had an hour of orientation in Zoom with our new batch of online PhD students in Business Administration, and I don’t think the session went that great. Like the survey respondent, I reflected on it and made notes for next time.

65% of respondents reported experience with teaching anxiety. 74% of those reported “self-diagnosed or formally diagnosed” anxiety in general. Library roles and time working as a librarian didn’t matter. However, preparedness to teach helped. The more experience in library school about teaching, the better. (But there’s also teaching mentors, team-teaching, etc. that can help once on the job.)

Sad quote about a coping mechanism: “I end up working a lot of overtime because it takes me so long to prepare for instruction”. The survey results show that spending a lot of time preparing for a session is the most popular mechanism, followed by talking with colleagues. Do create programming and mentoring programs on teaching, the speakers suggest, but focus on providing positive support and growth instead of evaluation.

Yes, there it is, “lack of familiarity or discomfort with disciplinary content” comes up as a cause of teaching anxiety in librarians.

One method to support stronger mental health: consider limiting how many classes your librarians teach in a day or through a week.

There are some other interesting quotes in here too.


Real talk: Librarian perceptions of the professional conversation on information literacy assessment
Amber Willenborg, Robert Detmering, Samantha McClellan
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 20(3), July 2020, 533-551

The authors hail from the University of Louisville and California State University in Sacramento. Another survey article but qualitative this time. From the abstract:

“Findings from phenomenological interviews indicate that librarians view the conversation as valuable and inspiring, but also divisive and inapplicable to many libraries. While they find value in sharing ideas and engaging in a community of practice, they may face such barriers as feelings of inadequacy and insufficient resources.”

In the introduction, the authors note the importance of info lit assessment, its bountiful coverage in library conferences and literature and social networking, and the lack of formal training many librarians have in it.

The three research questions:

  1. “How do librarians characterize the professional conversation surrounding information literacy assessment?
  2. What do they learn or gain through participation in the professional conversation about information literacy assessment?
  3. What factors might impede or hinder librarians’ participation in the professional conversation regarding information literacy assessment?”

The lit review focuses on “professional conversation” rather than info lit assessment, resulting in a blissfully concise review section. Professional conversation is a subset of professional development, related to communities of practice. This connection comes up again in the recommendations.

The authors interviewed (in person and on the phone) twenty-six info lit librarians. The interviews were semi-structured (see the appendix). Many interviewers characterized the conversation as “overwhelming, frustrating, confused, and hopeful.” Yet many of the info lib librarians were nuanced in their answers, expressing both positive and negative aspects of the conversation.

The article provides many interesting quotes from the interviews. It’s hard to summarize succinctly here. Several librarians noted that many librarians have much to say and write about assessment while many others are apparently tuned out. Librarians who personally identify with assessment are more likely to get more into the discussions, sometimes with passion, maybe sometimes with too much passion.

On the other hand, some find the lack of interest frustrating. Some discussions don’t move forward enough to new ground, resulting in circular discussions that annoy more expert folks. Perhaps assessment is over-emphasized, hindering if not blocking discussions of other vital issues in librarianship and info lit.

On a more positive note, the push for assessment mirrors trends in academia, and better connects librarians with institutional goals.

Regarding info lit assessment discussions as a community of practice, the librarians appreciated the sharing of practical ideas and the fostering of “inspiration and encouragement”.

Barriers of participation centered on two things. First, “personal barriers related to feelings of inadequacy” (especially regarding ardent and fast-paced social media conversations) – there’s an imposter syndrome manifestation. The second barrier: limitations of the nature of their positions and organizations (such as a lack of time to pursue professional development, and a lack of relevance of suggested practices to the reality of their own libraries and college – for example, not every info lit librarian works with a big staff in an ARL library).

Some of the authors’ recommendations don’t jibe with me too well, such as “keep up with the literature of librarianship” (despite folks not having time to do so, or colleagues to share with). Another recommendation: ask your library administrators for more time and money for professional development (I think most librarians have thought of that request already).

The authors make the standard caveats about the lack of diversity in their participants, including the over representation of librarians from campuses with graduate programs. I would be curious to see results from such interviews with teaching librarians who are not info lit librarians, such as subject and functional liaisons. At many campuses, liaisons are encouraged or expected to gather assessment data too. How prepared are they to create an assessment program? Do they have the training and time on top of their other needed skill sets? Could be interesting.

Can the findings from these interviews be applied to other aspects of librarianship? For example, if you replaced “information literacy librarians” talking about “assessment” with “business librarians” discussing “business librarianship”, would the results be very different? I don’t think so, and the recommendations would largely apply too. (Betty Garrison, business librarian from Elon University, and I have an article in phase 2 of peer-review that addresses some of the recommendations on professional development.)


BKLYN fashion academy: a case study of a public library program supporting fashion entrepreneurs
Tim Tully
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, (2019 September)

“In 2018, the librarians and staff of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)’s Business & Career Center (B&CC) created an entrepreneurial assistance program designed to support the needs of aspiring fashion designers called the BKLYN Fashion Academy.” (Tilly now works at San Diego State University.) As part of offering courses and a fashion show, participants gained access to library resources and ecosystem partners to help participants “produce their products and market their brand”.

The detailed lit review covers various aspects of entrepreneurship support in public libraries.

The Queens library had already done a program for food entrepreneurs, so the BPL considered a different industry to support. The library took a long-term view toward this commitment: “In order to form a continuing relationship with entrepreneurs in this industry, it was still important to have programs, collections, and services geared toward this group that would continue even if the program was no longer financed”.

The library chose fashion designing and created the BKLYN Fashion Academy: “a free, 12-week intensive program that provided aspiring women’s wear designers with the tools necessary to create a viable fashion line from sketch to runway”. Fifteen designers participated, concluding with a fashion show in the Central Library. The academy was funded from external and internal sources.

The library recruited partners from the fashion industry. These industry experts helped plan the academy and provided mentoring. Tully writes about how discussions of industry practices with these partners helped the librarians better teach industry-specific marketing research strategies to the participants. See https://bklynlibrary.libguides.com/fashion for example sources and strategies.

Details on marketing efforts and material and space needs come next. 45% of the information session attendees heard about the program through word of mouth; an equal number learned of it though library communications.

Tully provides many details about the concluding fashion show. Additional partners got involved. The editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan served as MC. A brewery and wine store donated several cases of goodies. The public was invited (rare for New York fashion shows) and over 500 folks attended.

The article ends with discussions of potential improvements and quite reasonable suggestions for other libraries to pursue their own projects.


It’s time for a remodel! Collecting usage data to design a library for a new generation of students
Kimberly Bloedel
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 4:1 (2019)

Open access.

Illustrated with data visualizations and before and after pictures, Bloedel’s article describes how her library used data to redesign a floor. The library is within the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. New services were also brought in. Additional pictures are available at the library’s news posts: here, here2, here3, and there.

The usage data shared with the architects covered “seating preferences, technology needs, and space use”. Seating data was broken down by activity (example, quiet study versus group study) and types of furniture (example, types of tables).

Physical barriers were minimized or removed. Stairs to the quiet study area and the computer lab were opened up as much as possible to make the stairs more visible. A large and popular commons area that was in front of the library doors was swallowed up to became part of the library.

The usage data indicated that business students still liked to use study carrels and small tables. The redesigned floor features “collaborative study seating closer to the entrances and quiet study seating toward the back” of the floor. The plan also includes two-seat alcoves and “bar-height single seating”, result in many seating choices for the students. More large-group rooms were added too.

Computer tables are now in the center of the floor. Before, the machines were hidden from view.

New services in the library include tutoring, scheduled for the quieter hours of the week in the library (illustrating another application of their usage data). The library also hosts business writing assistance and a café.

Usage has increased since the floor reopened.

Catching up:

(WordPress tells me this is post 200! Beginning year 9 of steady blogging.)

I’ve visited my library only twice since it closed in mid-March, both visits mainly to get stuff: my webcam, office chair, networked-based computer files, and escapist reading including plus some heavy coffee-table architecture books. My department (subject and function liaisons and reference services staff) will not be providing any services (teaching, consulting, ref desk) in person this fall. My teammates and I will continue to work from home for months to come. Nancy Lovas from UNC Chapel Hill and I are working on a blog post about teaching strategies for the fall semester.

Last week, UNC Charlotte business librarian Angel Truesdale published an interesting post at BizLibratory on “Covid-19 & New Faculty Connections”. Angel discussed collaborations with two faculty members that developed after the shutdown. She concludes with a few suggestions to liaisons.

I finished updating my business sources citation guide to APA 7. It took a couple of weeks to get through it since almost every example is new. The discussions and examples of APA 7 shared on BUSLIB-L recently were very helpful. I can’t believe I’m writing this (see my coverage of article #2 a while back) but I like APA 7 – its suggestions are very reasonable and easier to apply to weird business content. Nonetheless, we shall see how well students do citing challenging sources like aggregator statistical databases such as DataPlanet, SimplyAnalytics, and Statista.

Today’s topic:

SCORE spreadsheet

SCORE spreadsheet

Two summers ago, CABAL and BLINC held its first combined workshop. We learned a lot and had much fun networking in Richmond. “Let’s meet every two summers!” we decided. Virginia Commonwealth University was going to host us this summer but we ended up meeting via VCU Zoom instead.

I provided a 15-minute talk (with 5 minutes of Q/A) on teaching financial benchmarking. (Angel was the facilitator for this session.) Here is an expanded version.


Teaching Primary and Secondary Research Strategies for Financial Benchmarking in Entrepreneurship & Small Business


Estimating and projecting start-up costs, sales, and margins for small businesses, nonprofits, and new ventures can be challenging. Teaching how to conduct that research ain’t a walk in the park either. I will share some strategies involving databases, free content, and sneaky site visits.


This is a 30 to 60-minute workshop for a class working on pro-forma financials. My examples reflect main street entrepreneurship (as opposed to venture capital/high-growth entrepreneurship). Most for-profit and not-for-profit start-up projects at UNC Greensboro represent main street entrepreneurship.

I mainly do this workshop for ENT 300, a class I’m embedded in. The students work in teams (of course). It’s the beginning of the third month of class and I know their proposed business models, industry, and target market. Planning the financials is the hardest part of their feasibility analysis. After they finish the financials, the student teams focus on revisions until they start creating their final report and presentations.

Student learning goals:

  • Understand what financial benchmarking is and why it’s useful;
  • Distinguish between secondary and primary research;
  • Gain experience with financial benchmarking sources;
  • Apply this research to making reasonable decisions on pro forma financials.

The workshop:

Your next project is the financials section. Can someone remind us when it is due? [Answer: “Too soon!”] Haha, yes, thank you. Each semester, students report that this is the hardest section of the class. This discussion and research workshop will help make it easier for you. You will leave class with financial info specific to your business ideas that will help you save time and make better decisions.

While you will be creating your own pro forma/forward looking financials, you can do financial research to help you do the planning. We call this financial benchmarking. What does that phrase mean to you?

[If needed]: OK, well, what is benchmarking?

Now apply that concept to financial planning, and what do you get?

[Definition: Financial benchmarking is research to compare your numbers to the industry average. (Yes, the start-up costs research that comes up next isn’t about industry norms. A terminology problem here, I admit.)]

One more short discussion and then we’ll get hands-on. Today we are going to pursue both primary and secondary research for financial benchmarking. Can someone remind us of the difference between primary and secondary?

Yes, exactly, thank you! Ok, let’s talk primary first.

How much are you going to have to pay for rent?

Everyone, please Google “Greensboro commercial real estate” (or the name of your proposed location if different).

Do you recognize any of these real estate companies?

Yes, you’ve seen their ads on empty buildings. [“I work for one of these!” a student once volunteered.] Try using their properties search engine [example] to find a location that meets your need – note the commercial district, square footage, and any other features that matter to your proposed business.

[A couple of minutes later] Team A, have you found a good spot yet? What’s it like? What would be your monthly rent?

Team B, what about you?

Bookmark or download the details – you’ll need to cite this later.

For your financials, you also have to price out your start-up costs, including your equipment. Team C wants to open a vegan restaurant. Do you all remember our class discussion last month about whether Team C should buy new or used equipment? [In most any city, there is always used restaurant equipment (and properties) available given the high failure rates in this industry.]

Yes, thank you, that’s right! So let’s Google “Greensboro used restaurant equipment”. See any good ones? Ok, ha, let’s look at Steve’s Stash of Greensboro. Do they have any grills? How much? [etc.] Team C, don’t forget you’ll need to cite these pages.

Those are pretty easy examples. You might need to make phone calls regarding utility rates, network access, accounting services, etc. Make a list of your needs (based on your spreadsheet template) and assign team members as needed to make some calls.

But what about the big picture? What do balance sheets and income statements for your same-sized competitors in your industry and in your target location look like? For example, what percentage for their sales usually go toward rent? Toward labor costs? And what’s the profit margin for your industry? How much are your competitors charging for their products or services?

Let’s find out using the library’s BizMiner database. So now we are talking secondary research.

[Steps to guide through:

  1. Find the best match for your industry (up to 10-digit NAICS although the sample size might not be big enough for city and county-level data).
  2. Select “Industry Financial Profiles,” or use the “Micro Firm Profit-Loss Reports” startup option (national-level only).
  3. Select the urban area and the most relevant sales class (think small for your start-up).
  4. Notice the income statement & balance sheets are presented in $ dollars as well as % percentage. Why are both versions useful to you?
  5. Download your tables.]

OK, Team D, what percentage of revenue in your industry goes toward salary/wages? Team E, what is your profit margin? Does that surprise you?

What benchmarks are we still missing? Yup, what are your competitors charging? If you can’t find those numbers online, what is your plan B? Yes, pretend to be a potential customer and call them up. Or visit their location and grab or take a quick picture of their price sheets. Don’t be shy.

[Wrapping up] Remember that these numbers are benchmarks. They help you decide if your own numbers are reasonable. Start drafting your own financials, and then compare your drafts to these BizMiner numbers. Remember that you need to justify your financial decisions and cite your sources. You can also cite BizMiner too as a support document. Look at my APA examples.

[I usually stop at this point to give teams time to explore their own needs. Most teams are eager to have team time by now. I’ll try to visit each one to see how they are doing.]

Final thoughts



Yes, ratio tools like RMA or Duns Key Business Ratios, the industry numbers in IBIS or First Research, aggregated competitor data via ReferenceUSA or Mergent Intellect, salary data from the BLS OES (what occupations does your industry tend to have, and how much are they paid in your state or MSA?), and other secondary tools are also useful.

I don’t use the Economic Census in class – it’s too hard to use and the data is too limited by industry and location. If by chance there might be something really useful in the EcoCen for a team, maybe the specialized data for an industrial sector, I’ll download some tables and email them to the team via Canvas.

Trade magazines can be useful too. I sometimes share an example from a past semester: a team wanted to start a gym that included free child care for customers. That service required extra workers and spaces and so would be expensive. The team was waging a big debate about this service. I found an article from a trade mag that analyzed the financial aspects and showed that the number of gyms providing daycare was declining. The team decided to drop the service.

BLINC/CABAL wordcloud on being asked "What words do you associate with financial benchmarking?"

BLINC/CABAL word cloud on being asked “What words do you associate with financial benchmarking?”

Here is the financials page from my ENT 300 LibGuide. It includes a couple of short videos. (That page is a mapped page from my master guide. Most of the pages on that ENT 300 guide are mapped from the master guide. Limiting creation of unique LibGuide content is one vital strategy for lean liaisoning in my opinion.)

Cover page, “Best of the Best of the Business Web” 2nd ed. 2020

Cover page, “Best of the Best of the Business Web” 2nd ed. 2020

Robert Berkman asked if I would post a review of the June 2020 edition of his Best of the Best of the Business Web.I told Bob that I haven’t reviewed sources on this blog before, but, sure, I would be willing to try.

Berkman is well-known in the business and special librarian communities for his writing and editing of practical guides to information sources. His day job is at the River Campus Libraries of the University of Rochester. 

Last fall in Academic BRASS, Berkman described the need for free, non-scholarly business resources and discussed how he evaluates and selects the best of these free resources.

He defines the scope of “Best of the Best…” in its introduction:

“Here you will find an edited compilation of all of the “best” business research sites that I have found, contacted, analyzed and reviewed over the last five years. This guide, then, is twice as large as our first edition published in 2017 with over 200 sites included. Each source and link have been checked since it was first published, and each item’s description updated where need be.”

The guide is 205 pages long. The resources are grouped into 56 hyperlinked categories in alphabetical order, from “Advertising” to “Webinars”. Concepts like “Data Analytics” and “Fake News” are included as well as standard categories of business research like “Company Information” and “International Trade”. (You can view the full list of categories used in the 2019 edition as well as a few sample pages.) The directory sells for $59, and can be ordered from BestBizWeb

There are a few vague categories (such as “Business Research” and “Government Information”) and some that would seem to overlap a bit (examples:  “Big Data”, “Databases and Datasets”, and “Statistical Information”). But hey, you try to classify 200 diverse business sources into unique categories, it can’t be easy. Most of us have grappled with the challenge of categorization when building our LibGuides and database lists.

Berkman’s guide also includes a name index with page numbers (not hyperlinked, oddly). The guide is keyword searchable.

As you can see from the example link above, each review covers 7 aspects:

  1. Site
  2. URL
  3. Category
  4. Purpose
  5. Fee/free [some are freemium]
  6. Source check [details about the author or publisher]
  7. Our view

“Our view” is the longest aspect of each review. There Berkman provides his evaluation including the key value(s) the site provides. Each “our view” ends with a one-line summary beginning with something like “Consider this site if you need to…” or “Consider this site when you need…”

Some entries also include screenshots. 

This post took longer to write than I planned because I kept getting sidetracked by sites I hadn’t heard of. I have now added the Cottrill Research blog to my newsreader after spending ten minutes reading posts there. In Berkman’s “International Trade” section, I learned about the Atlas of Economic Complexity, which I may add to my trade data LibGuide.

I did find one broken link (in the “Social Media” section). I did not check all the links in this report but did open many others without problems. 

Berkman pitches “Best of the Best…” in part as a tool to help find free sites to replace subscription databases. As library budget cuts start to roll in due to the COVID-19 recession, we may all need help with that selection work.

More NC flowers

More NC flowers

Digging beyond the usual sources for liaison and business librarianship research as I continue to catch up on professional reading. Might post one more of these recaps before summer is over but I promise to do something different in the next post.

Today’s readings:

  1. Teaching Business: Looking at the Support Needs of Instructors
  2. What We Talk about When We Talk about Quality: A Librarian and Instructor Compare How They Assess Students’ Sources
  3. Teaming up to Teach Teamwork in an LIS Master’s Degree Program
  4. Complexities of Demonstrating Library Value: An Exploratory Study of Research Consultations
  5. Making Cents: Librarian Ca$hing in on Financial Literacy
  6. Coping with Impostor Feelings: Evidence Based Recommendations from a Mixed Methods Study


Teaching Business: Looking at the Support Needs of Instructors
Kurtis Tanaka and Danielle Cooper
Ithaka S+R, December 2019

A useful summary of trends. Much focus on case studies and data literacy; little on community-engaged experiential learning/consulting projects.

“The project was undertaken collaboratively with research teams at 14 academic libraries in the United States and we thank those institutions and their researchers for partnering with us.” One of those teams include BLINC member Danielle Colbert-Lewis from North Carolina Central University, whose study is posted here. Business librarians Natasha Arguello (UT San Antonio) and Anthony Raymond (Santa Clara University) also contributed (among perhaps additional business librarians I don’t know of, my apologies if so).

The report identifies four key challenges:

  1. Identifying appropriate course content
  2. Finding, accessing, and working with data
  3. The promise and peril of learning technologies
  4. Concerns over [about] costs

So not very different from other subject areas except maybe for the data part?

Some of the writing is a bit trite: “Hundreds and thousands of business schools mean a lot of business instructors and business students teaching, learning, and in need of support.” But it gets more useful, for example: “Business education often incorporates dynamic pedagogical approaches such as technological experimentation, partnerships with industry, and collaborations with diverse communities.”

Also significant:

“Because business schools often position themselves as the producers of the business leaders of tomorrow, business pedagogy also places a strong emphasis on developing both leadership and teamwork skills, though developing a curriculum that teaches both “hard” and “soft” skills, and in the right balance, is often a challenge.”

The long section on data (starting on page 26 of the PDF version) covers both data provision and data literacy. “Unfortunately, just because data is publicly available does not necessarily mean it is easy to find or that government websites are easy to navigate.” Very true. The frequent challenge of academic access to industry data is covered too. The section ends with a discussion of instructor needs in mastering Python, R, and Tableau.

This report would be particularly useful for aspiring business librarians preparing for their first interviews.


What We Talk about When We Talk about Quality: A Librarian and Instructor Compare How They Assess Students’ Sources
Elizabeth Pickard and Sarah Sterling
Collaborative Librarianship, 12(1), 2020

“This case study explores and compares how a librarian and an instructor evaluated the quality of bibliographies students produced for the instructor’s class.”

The authors are an anthropology librarian and anthropology instructor from Portland State University. They have worked together for a while. The study “involves an ethno-graphic analysis of librarian and instructor’s notes and dialog surrounding a review of the quality of sources in students’ bibliographies.”

The literature review covers how instructors and librarians can define information literacy differently [assuming instructors use that phrase– see the Ithaka S+R report above]. “Quality” in cited sources has also been defined in different ways. Some instructors and librarians prefer “authority” and now the ACRL Frameworks come up, since it argues that “authority is constructed.” Therefore librarians and faculty might assess student work in different ways. “If the librarian guides students to certain modes of evaluating and selecting sources and the instructor values and practices other modes, the students’ work could suffer…”

The authors examined and ranked student citations from Anthropology 350: Archaeological Method and Theory. The authors also wrote up their own evaluations and analysis of their thought processes. Finally, they recorded their conversation about the process and coded all of that data and text.

Examples of differences in assessment: “two of the most frequently applied indicators were only applied by the instructor, namely, ‘topic specificity’ and ‘style/formatting’, and another was only applied by the librarian: ‘variety among databases used’.”

So a recommendation from the authors: discuss your assessment factors before the semester begins. In their conversation, “thoroughness” emerged as a “key element” but that too can be defined differently. Many paragraphs follow on this topic as well as what each author considers when examining the text of an article a student cited.

The authors also debated the meaning of “academic” sources. The professor “thought of ‘academic’ and ‘from the library’ inter-changeably” while the librarian used ‘academic’ and ‘peer-reviewed’ inter-changeably”.


Teaming up to Teach Teamwork in an LIS Master’s Degree Program
Lauren H. Mandel, Mary H. Moen, & Valerie Karno,
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 15(2), 2020

The authors are professors at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island. “Collaboration and working in teams are key aspects of all types of librarianship, but library and information studies (LIS) students often perceive teamwork and group work negatively.” Heck yes, I remember that! And I have observed that attitude sometimes from UNCG LIS students.

Not only is teamwork essential within most libraries, librarians also partner with teaching faculty. Public and academic business librarians partner with stakeholders in community economic development. Most of our business students in research-heavy classes are working in teams. So we need to understand the team experience and environment to serve those students well.

The authors examined 39 classes with student evaluation of teaching (SET) data and also interviewed alumni concerning how their MLS education prepared them for teamwork in the workplace.

“The majority of interviewees recalled enjoying the social aspects of working in teams the most: meeting new people, forming lasting personal and professional relationships, collaborating, sharing ideas and perspectives, and appreciating others’ strengths.”

From the conclusion:

“LIS schools can follow the lead of the business management field that has specifically researched how to teach teamwork…Taking an active role in teaching skills in scheduling, time management, personal accountability, and peer evaluation may help overcome the limited way this LIS school is currently teaching teamwork.”

The authors recommend requiring peer evaluations more often. They trialed the use of team contracts.

Networking only comes up briefly. That’s a missed opportunity – I’ve talked to LIS students and early-career professionals who don’t know how to network or (worse) think networking is a dirty word, something that only icky business people do. Collaboration can be central to both networking and teamwork though.


Complexities of Demonstrating Library Value: An Exploratory Study of Research Consultations
Angie Cox, Anne Marie Gruber, and Chris Neuhaus
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 19(4), 2019, 577–590

“As academic libraries explore their connection to student success and how library staff spend their time, it is important to understand how research consultations influence academic achievement.”

The authors work at the University of Northern Iowa. In the first two paragraphs, consultations are described as “time-intensive” and “lengthy” and so I wonder if the liaisons were challenged to justify the time spent on consults.

From the 3rd paragraph:

“This investigation also aligned with perceived pressures, internal and external, to demonstrate the value of academic libraries beyond traditional inputs, such as gate count, reference transaction numbers, and collection statistics”

Lengthy consultations have rarely been studied in or with learning analytics, in contrast to more general (and shorter) reference transactions. This study focused on two questions:

“Will students who participate in library consultations have higher overall semester GPAs than students who do not? For specific courses, will students who meet with a librarian have a higher course grade than other students from the same class who do not?”

Research consultations were defined to last 20 minutes or longer. “Librarians conducted a typical reference transaction prior to recruitment.” That’s interesting to me since scheduled consults with a liaison and unscheduled student visits to a liaison (bypassing general reference services) are the norm in my library, certainly in my case.

Identification data was collected for each student in the consults following IRB protocols. A class in social work and another in family services resulted in many consults. The data analysis focused on these classes. Students who did not seek out consultations were also considered.

There were 126 total eligible participants. Lots of demographic details are provided but all the students were undergraduates. “Participants were more likely female and slightly more racially diverse than the overall student body.” And more likely to be full-time students and students who live on campus.

GPA was indeed higher for the students who had (sought out) a consultation. Within the social work and family services classes, “63.6 percent of participants [in the consultations] received a letter grade of A for the course, while only 28.6 percent of nonparticipating students earned an A.” Other analysis of grades and GPA produced similar results.


“Students who are already likely to succeed may more likely avail themselves of library consultations. Even if the explanation is simply that motivated students more likely seek help, it still underscores that meeting with a librarian is a positive academic behavior.”

The authors note with caution the small sample size and discuss other limitations of the research. But their work provides a good model for further investigations.


Making Cents: Librarian Ca$hing in on Financial Literacy
Alyson Vaaler & Jennifer Wilhelm
LOEX 2020 breakout sessions

Alyson and Jennifer are business librarians at Texas A&M. This looked like a fun and engaging talk as well as a different take on the subject compared to other financial literacy talks I’ve seen. The two embedded videos still work. Don’t overlook the slide notes. Audience feedback is still available https://padlet.com/asvaaler/finlit. Based on a recent article in Reference Services Review.

Instructors invited the librarians to do a workshop with an undergraduate money education class. The instructors were interested in “how market research relates to advertising and consumer spending.” From a list of six financial lit competencies, the librarians decided to focus on the last one, “financial decision making.”

In the workshop, the librarians demonstrate the ubiquity and wide impact of advertising on our brains. They used two Super Bowl ads to ask what can make an advertisement successful. (LOEX participants did this work too.) Next the librarians illustrate the high value (i.e. expense) of market research via the commercial price of a full Mintel report.

One big goal of market research is market segmentation. We see examples using the ESRI’s Tapestry Segmentation product as well as screen captures from one of the Super Bowl commercials. The second ad was banned in the UK, which leads to a censorship and social justice discussion with the students. The students then analyze and discuss the segmentation strategies used by a couple of print ads.

In additional to being an important topic, this looks like a fun workshop to facilitate.

(The LOEX 2020 offerings include “Building a solid structure: Blueprints and tools for a sustainable and strategic IL program” by Graham Lavender and Emily Funston. Emily is a business librarian at Seneca College. Their materials are posted at https://bit.ly/seneca-loex.)

(And there’s a program on teaching anxiety that I might reflect on later in a post. Is anxiety doubled when the teaching topic is advanced subject-specific content? Liaison implications?)


Coping with Impostor Feelings: Evidence Based Recommendations from a Mixed Methods Study
Jill Barr-Walker, Debra A. Werner, Liz Kellermeyer, and Michelle B. Bass
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 15(2), 2020

The authors are health science librarians from different campuses. They conducted a survey (with qualitative responses) of fellow health science librarians but all types of liaisons can learn something from this paper. The focus was on coping mechanisms.

Newer health science librarians had higher rates of impostor syndrome that more veteran librarians.

External coping strategies that involved other professionals – “such as education, support from colleagues, and mentorship” — proved more effective than internal strategies like reflection and mindfulness.

Since external strategies are most effective in resisting impostor syndrome, professional organizations can be very helpful in these efforts. The authors recommend that organizations expand their mentoring programs.

The authors compared the rates of impostor syndrome among the health science librarians they surveyed to that of previously surveyed academic librarians. Since many health science librarians don’t have academic degrees in the sciences, there is a hypothesis that the health science librarians would suffer more from impostor syndrome. That provided not to be the case, “suggesting that the current study’s findings around coping strategies are broadly applicable across the academic librarian community.”

The article also includes a discussion of whiteness culture in libraries as a potential cause of impostor syndrome, but then they write that their study “did not show differences in impostor scores by race or gender.” So a second surprise.

Another NC flower hopes you are having a good summer

Another NC flower hopes you are having a good summer

Today’s selections:

  1. Are my LibGuides useful? Usability testing on business LibGuides
  2. Embedded librarians as providers of knowledge services
  3. The state of academic liaison librarian burnout in ARL libraries in the United States
  4. Laying a foundation for library liaisonship: A business librarian case study
  5. Reinventing an online business research course
  6. Company research strategies for entrepreneurship: What to do when NAICS/SIC fall short

Here they are.


Are my LibGuides Useful? Usability Testing on Business LibGuides
Nataly Blas
Academic BRASS, Vol 14 (1), Spring 2019

Blas (Loyola Marymount)  conducted a usability study to “determine how useful Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) Business LibGuide is for answering basic research questions in business, specifically basic company and industry research.”

Blas recruited five students to talk through two tasks: “locate two databases for company information” and “locate two databases for industry information.” She describes her methodology as “low-cost” and “low-time” while still providing useful results.

As you can see at http://libguides.lmu.edu/business, Blas’ LibGuide includes a “Most Useful Places to Search: Business” box. Most of the students used that box to complete the two tasks. The LexisNexis (NexisUni now) Company Dossier was the most popular selection. Blas provides additional analysis and ratings from the five students.

Blas ends this short article with confirmations that, yes indeed, students scan pages, not read them. She confirms that database descriptions are used by students and so should be displayed. 


Embedded Librarians as Providers of Knowledge Services
Anna Pospelova, Rimma Tsurtsumia, and Margarita Tsibulnikova
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(4), 2018: 651–669

Here is a Russian take on the “e” word. The authors are two librarians and a professor of engineering/environmental management at Tomsk Polytechnic University in Siberia. Focusing on so-called expert librarians providing research support for faculty, this article “proposes that embedded librarians have the potential to become providers of knowledge process outsourcing for their institutions.” Outsourcing here means doing some of the research work that the professors usually do themselves. 

Favorite line from the lit review: “[Liaisons] must be knowledgeable, confident, proactive, and politically savvy.”

The Obruchev Scientific and Technical Library at Tomsk Polytechnic began its “Expert Librarian” project in 2015. It’s goal: “provide complex information support based on worldwide print and electronic resources for research groups, departments, university staff, and PhD students.” 

The project coordinator worked with the library director to compare subject librarians to “embedded expert librarians” (see the table on page 656 if you have access to this journal). The distinctions are interesting. For example, while the subject librarian supports requests from anyone on campus working within a certain field, the embedded expert librarian only works with the “supervised institute”. The subject librarian “fulfills basic library functions” while the other kind is “embedded in the scientific process of the assigned institute”. The former is passive while the other is proactive and “searches for collaborative partners”.

[So I think you can sense an effort to create a cultural shift in this library. Embedding in research teams also has been an emphasis at some UK universities, while many US-based embedded librarians seem to focus on student learning and success as well as faculty research.]

The project coordinator and library director identified 14 tasks to get engaged with the assigned research institutes. One service I hadn’t seen before: “Organize literature exhibitions based on the scientific and educational activities of the institute”.

Each embedded Interaction with researchers was tracked and then compiled quarterly by the project coordinator. The main activities of the expert librarians were “consultations (individual and group), subject searches, and journal and conference searches.” Researchers filled out a form to request the librarian run a literature search for them. 

The experts created an online competition on scholarly e-resources. One question was “What e-database got its name in honour of the hamerkop, which has excellent navigational abilities?” (answer below). 

In 2017, the university reorganized from seven institutes to ten schools. Additional expert embedded librarians joined the project to reach all the campus units.

Late in the article, the authors write that “the Expert Librarian project is now mainly noncommercial and focused on supporting research activities within the university. The next stage may be to offer outsourcing services to third parties on a commercial basis.” And in the discussion section, there is a paragraph explaining the “willingness-to-pay concept.” 

So did the library get payments for the work of the expert librarians? If so, did the librarians get some of the money? There are no details about this. Curious.

Answer: hamerkop is Scopus umbretta, a wading bird.


The State of Academic Liaison Librarian Burnout in ARL Libraries in the United States
Jennifer Nardine
College & Research Library News, 80(4) 2019

Nardine is the Teaching and Learning Librarian and Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech.

Key finding: “lack of personal agency is the primary contributor to a sense of burnout.”

Studies of burnout among liaisons have been rare. Questions she wanted to explore with this study:

  1. “How well do the values of liaison librarians correlate with the values of their profession?
  2. How pervasive is moderate to severe burnout in this population?
  3. How do self-identified primary role and level of seniority affect burnout?
  4. How does service time spent as a liaison affect burnout levels?
  5. How does service time spent at an organization affect burnout levels?
  6. Is there a gender effect on liaison librarian burnout?”

Nardine collected 176 completed surveys from liaisons at ARL libraries. She reported that much of the data defied her expectations. Among her findings: The roles of liaisons (collections, instruction, other, etc.) didn’t seem to matter much. Liaisons in middle management positions — not front-line liaisons — reported the highest level of burnout, while liaisons in senior roles reported the least. 

Burnout over time as a liaison fluctuates — not a clear pattern. Burnout seems to drop as liaisons get closer to the end of their careers.

There was no significant difference between male and female liaison burnout.

Nadine concludes:

“Based on the initial findings it appears that, while under significant workload and with a low sense of fair treatment, liaisons are well-matched with their chosen profession in terms of worklife scoring regardless of gender, service time as a liaison, service time at a specific organization, self-identified rank, or self-identified primary responsibility or role.”

However, “liaisons experience significant levels of Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization across all examined variables”. Increased emphasis on quantitative outcomes and assessment might be part of the problem. Work demands need to be better connected to “core liaison and librarian values.” 

Nadine’s findings seem to indicate that we need to resist the urge to predict patterns in liaison burnout. 

(Did you notice that according to this ACRL journal, pink is for girls and blue is for boys, leaving grey for “other” with no other choices?)


Laying a Foundation for Library Liaisonship: A Business Librarian Case Study
Stephen Fadel
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 24(3-4), 2019, 75-95

Fadel is a “newly hired business liaison Librarian” at CSU Monterey Bay. The article describes his work to learn about the campus, business school, business research tools available, and the existing library instruction program. He created a “Liaison Information Document” as a blueprint for planning and engagement, making this article useful for both new liaisons as well as any liaison beginning work at a new campus. 

It’s also useful to prepare for the common interview question, “how would you go about learning about the academic departments and programs you would be serving if you were hired here?”

In the discussion section, Fadel evaluates the resources and information-gathering strategies he used.

Fadel discovered that there was a big opportunity to expand liaison services to the  MBA program. Regarding library databases, he concluded that “Coverage of company and industry information was strong, while other subject areas were weak.” [That subject concentration seems to be common when business research needs have not been reassessed in a long time.] Meanwhile, the library offered little for the many marketing majors. 

The article ends with the template for the Liaison Information Document for possible reuse by others.


Reinventing an Online Business Research Course
Willow Fuchs
SLA Business and Finance Division: 2019 Posters

The posters from this SLA division are worth a look each summer. Fuchs (University of Iowa) participated in an “intensive 8-week faculty development program” called Design4Online to improve her existing one-credit course. Goal: create a class experience based on the “Community of Inquiry model” (a cite for that model is provided).

Fuchs wrote learning objectives based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and added associated assessment tools and learning activities. The course pages [I think in the CMS] were changed to include “clearly defined sections” and icons for user-friendly modules. 

Engagement changes included adding an “orientation module –with student icebreaker,” having shorter video lectures, adding discussions, adding “short quizzes after each video,” and scheduling reminders each week.

The changes were effective. Fuchs wrote “The added assessments have given me additional ways to evaluate how students are progressing and what changes need to be made to make the course go more smoothly in the future.”


Company Research Strategies for Entrepreneurship: What to do when NAICS/SIC Fall Short
Tim Tully
Academic BRASS, Vol 14 (1), Spring 2019

Let’s close out this post with some more Academic BRASS. Tully (San Diego State) turned this article into a roundtable discussion at SOUCABL but I was hosting a competing discussion and so missed his. 

As most of you know, NAICS and the old SIC code systems have their limits when you need to research innovative business ideas or very specific ideas. Tully provides examples from the infamous 339999. Meanwhile, many large companies offer diverse services and products that often are not fully covered in databases that only list a handful of industry codes when many more are needed.

Tully describes four alternative strategies and resources to try when the NAICS code falls short. He also provides a useful example of using each one. His suggestions:

  • Exhibitor Lists and Membership Directories
  • Advanced Article Searches – Trade Publications, Local Business News, and Buyer’s Guides
  • Specialized Directories (Both Print and Online)
  • Consumer Review Sites

I might work some of Tully’s strategies into my entrepreneurship research class next year. Good stuff.

Earning our place at the table (cover slide)

Earning our place at the table (cover slide)

Thank you to SEFLIN and Florida Libraries Online for the opportunity to talk about a favorite topic, and to the attendees for your interest, questions, and interesting ideas. I hope this session was worth your time.

Here are my slides: Earning our place at the table: What librarians need to know to support entrepreneurship and economic development

Ginny Sterpka, Community Based and Creative Placemaking Programs Manager at Creative Startups, and I coordinated a bit on our content. Ginny spoke after my talk. Julie Brophy (Baltimore County Public Library) and Wesley Wilson (Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland State Library Resource Center) concluded the conference’s economic development track. Some of the planning group members of the ELC 2020 have worked with Julie and Wesley, and I look forward to learning from them as well as Ginny this afternoon.

Below are links included in my slides.

Toane, C. & R. Figueiredo. (2018). Toward core competencies for entrepreneurship librarians. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 23:1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08963568.2018.1448675  [Longer summary of this article (scroll down to #4)]

Learning more & support list:

Research tools illustrated or mentioned: