Early morning sun over the Charleston peninsula

Early morning sun over the Charleston harbor

Main point: vendors should stay for more than the showcase.

Carol and I returned home from the Charleston Conference Friday night, after stopping by the nephews’ house on the way home for a short play date. Charleston continues to be a high-quality conference for learning, networking, and socializing. It’s increasingly useful for business librarians and vendors as we work together to grow the business information programming. However I would like to write a short word to the growing number of business vendors and publishers who attend the Tuesday Vendor Showcase.

The Charleston Conference focuses on publishing, scholarly communication, and library collections and acquisitions. For most attendees, the conference begins on Tuesday with the Vendor Showcase in the roomy Gaillard Center. (The Francis Marion hotel got too small for this event as demand for tables kept increasing.) Unlike most major library conferences, this is the only day of exhibiting at the conference.

Why? On Wednesday and Thursday — the main programming days of the conference –vendors, publishers, and librarians are encouraged to network, socialize, share, and (most importantly) learn together. This communication happens formally in the plenary and concurrent sessions as well as informally through coffee breaks, meals, and happy hours.

From right: Dan Gingert (PrivCo), John Quealy (S&P), Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (U. Penn), and Richard Landry (Data Planet/Sage) discussing the challenges of usage statistics for untraditional databases

From right: Dan Gingert (PrivCo), John Quealy (S&P), Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (U. Penn), and Richard Landry (Data Planet/Sage) discussing the challenges of usage statistics for untraditional databases

So for most of the conference, vendors are not banished to the exhibit hall while the librarians are out and about talking about acquiring, promoting, and teaching vendor resources for their patrons. Instead, vendors are in the middle of the discussions. That interaction is considered one of the strengths of the Charleston Conference and we business librarians who attend love this. The vendors end up with increased influence on librarians, learn more about our needs, and perhaps gain ideas for new or improved products and services.

Some vendors have apparently not figured this out yet. On Tuesday, I talked to three or four vendors who were returning home first thing Wednesday morning. I told them they were missing a wonderful opportunity. (I know this is often the boss’ decision, not that of the rep who made the trip.) The airfare and expensive table space are sunk costs; the additional hotel night (or two) and conference registration fees will cost less in comparison.

In contrast, InfoUSA, S&P, PrivCo, Bureau Van Dijk, ProQuest, Gale, Sage, and Ebsco are regular attendees beyond the showcase. Those vendor reps even chat with each other at the socials and happy hours. Sometimes some of those reps speak alongside librarians on a topic of mutual interest.

As we continue to grow the business information programming at Charleston, there may be increased opportunities for vendor/librarian programming as well as socializing and networking. Vendors don’t get this opportunity for high-impact engagement at any other conference. Please consider attending past the Tuesday showcase if you haven’t before.


GCEC met in Chicago last week. Librarians Carey Toney, Christina Kim, and I attended and spoken at GCEC last year in Halifax, Nova Scotia (longer review at Ticker) but it looked like I was the only librarian this year. That’s not a big deal, since USASBE is probably more useful for business librarians to attend (2017 and 2018 reviews).

But first, one last Coleman summit

West Loop view from my hotel room

West Loop view from my hotel room

Since the Coleman Foundation is based in Chicago, and many of the Coleman campus directors would attend GCEC, the foundation hosted a final Coleman Fellows summit a day before GCEC began. The UNC Greensboro Entrepreneur-in-Residence (my buddy Noah Reynolds) and I (as associate UNCG Coleman Fellow director) flew up Wednesday morning, joining our director Dianne Welsh in representing UNCG. Nine campuses total were represented, about 40 folks total; we mostly knew each other.

After over ten years of funding the growth of cross-campus entrepreneurship across the U.S., the Coleman board of directors has decided to focus future funding on supporting the local Chicago entrepreneurial ecosystem. We knew this strategic change was coming. So this summit was also a celebration of what each campus has accomplished through its Coleman Fellows program.

We met in a Chicago West Loop hotel for lunch, two breakout sessions, cocktails, and a recognition dinner. In the breakouts, the directors discussed post-Coleman transition plans and met with an ethnographer leading a focus group discussion. Noah and I and others met with representatives from Chicago NGOs to discuss connecting campus experiences with community entrepreneurship organization. This event was a bridge between the past and future Coleman strategies.

Dinner was fun, with fancy certificates given to all the fellows present, and short (often funny) speeches. Dr. Welsh referred several times to the “old Coleman gong” (used at past summits to signal agenda transitions) but we all keep hearing “the Coleman bong.” Hilarity ensued. Poor Dianne.

Dr. Welsh with Coleman Foundation's Clark McCain

Dr. Welsh with Coleman Foundation’s Clark McCain

I owe a lot to Dianne (and the Coleman Foundation) for recruiting me to become a fellow and a year later the UNCG associate director. All of the entrepreneurship education conferences I’ve attended (and blogged about) — USASBE, GCEC, SBI, GW October, and CEO — were funded out of our Coleman grant, plus a few library conferences too. My friend and sometimes co-speaker Diane Campbell from Rider University has attended and spoke at SBI and USASBE for many years. I enjoyed following in her footsteps in promoting entrepreneurship librarians and the use of library business databases to the professors and entrepreneurship center directors at these conferences.  My official library travel budget isn’t big enough to cover attending one of these expensive conferences, so we will see if I can swing another visit to USASBE someday.

Also, I wouldn’t have created my ENT/GEO/LIS/MKT 530 class without the Coleman program, and made friends across UNCG’s campus with fellows in the arts, social sciences, etc. We still get together at the campus bar several times a semester.

Moving day

Look, you can see Navy Pier from my Hilton room! (if you lean over and look hard)

Look, you can see Navy Pier from my Hilton room! (if you leaned over and looked hard)

After breakfast with Noah on Thursday morning, I checked out of the West Loop hotel and walked 1.8 miles east and a little south to the huge and historic Hilton on Michigan Avenue, the official GCEC hotel. The conference didn’t begin until an evening dinner reception at a DePaul University building, so I had a free afternoon. I spent it at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of my favorite museums since I was a teenager living across the lake in West Michigan. The last time Carol and I were here, we focused on the European galleries (a few of you know that I was a Medieval Studies major) so this time I focused on everything else. Such a great collection.

GCEC begins

Last year, I wrote about the unusual nature of this conference:

  • Your campus must be an institutional member for you to attend;
  • A different campus (or campuses) hosts it each year, and takes on all the planning responsibility;
  • Those hosts take on financial risk but can turn a profit on the conference if they recruit enough sponsors and vendors while controlling costs.

This year, DePaul and the Illinois Institute of Technology hosted GCEC. Keynotes, lunches, and the concurrent sessions were held at ITT. Fans of modern architecture know that ITT is closely associated with Mies van der Rohe, who led its architecture program and designed many buildings on campus. (We spent the most time in Hermann Hall, a Skidmore Owings & Merrill building.) I enjoyed the architecture and took lots of pictures. A change of pace from historical styles that dominate U.S. campuses.

Attendees visited one of three downtown innovation centers/accelerators/incubators on Friday evening (1871, mHUB, or Blue1647). I skipped this event — I was getting over a cold and was tired. The Saturday evening reception and conference wrap-up party were at the Shedd Aquarium. It was lovely to be there at night. (Yes, I was feeling better.)

There was ample time for networking and librarian advocacy. Around 600 folks from 250 campuses attended, more than in Halifax, not surprising given the more central location compared to Halifax last year. Next year GCEC will be in Stockholm.

Friday morning

Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall, the IIT architecture school

Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall, the IIT architecture school, with a class in session

As part of the opening session, Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel discussed the rise of innovation and entrepreneurship in the city. He said Chicago has the most diversified industrial base of all big cities in the country. (That would be interesting to research and prove using Census Business Patterns data.) City policies provide strong support of first-generation college students. High school grads with a “B” average or higher get to attend local community college for free. Those students are disproportionately Hispanic, and also include a large number of Dreamers.

Across the two days of the congress, we heard keynotes from four local entrepreneurs, three of whom are women:

I note the gender emphasis given the opening discussion at GCEC last year. But race and income were also common themes this year. These were all good speakers, telling us their stories, lessons learned, their ideas about the future. But the audience had to think about how the speakers’ words applied to running and growing entrepreneurship centers on their own. So a little bit of a disconnect in my opinion.

GCEC lunch in the Hermann Hall (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

GCEC lunch in Hermann Hall (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Our two lunches were buffets. Among the tables were facilitated theme tables. Topics included “Entrepreneurship in General Education and Liberal Arts Education,” “Knowledge Entrepreneurship and the Research Student,” and “Towns with gowns: the roles played by university entrepreneurship initiatives in community and economic development.” I attended the table with that first topic on Friday, but arrived at lunch after a morning talk too late on Saturday to get a seat at a special table that day (I hoped to sit at the second topic listed above.) Lots of good networking at both themed and un-themed tables, however. A friendly bunch of people at GCEC.

Conference tracks for concurrent programs included:

  • Entrepreneurship beyond the business school
  • Social impact and entrepreneurship
  • The center: how, what, where, why?
  • Engaging the community
  • Global entrepreneurship
  • among a few others.

Friday afternoon

Entrepreneurship and the Creative / Engaging the Community Through Performance Learning” 

Amy E. Rogers, North Central College
Brian Hanlon, North Central College
Julie Shields, Millikin University
Thomas Cavenagh, North Central College
Jessa Wilcoxen, Millikin University

This was a well-attended, two-topic program in an hour-long slot. My friend Julie Shields, Coleman Fellows Director for Millikin University, was one of the speakers. Part one focused on arts entrepreneurship (a big thing here at UNCG). According to the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), graduates of arts programs rate “financial and business management skills” and “entrepreneurial skills” as very important, but rarely studied in college, despite artists bring 4 times more likely than the population as a whole to be self-employed or start a business. One presenter summarized that arts students have the ideas but no execution skills while the business students have no ideas but know how to execute!

Millikan has an 8-session certificate program for entrepreneurship as well as its full curriculum. It also has a number of arts-based student-run ventures with faculty mentors. Students get course credit for working with a venture. But the student owners assume the financial risk — “authentic risk and authentic reward.”

Part two focused on design thinking, a hot topic in entrepreneurship education. We were asked to identify an existing course, project, or venture that has interdisciplinary potential and then discuss our hopes, our fears, and the risk factors with neighbors.

“10 Years After: The Coleman Entrepreneurship Infusion Model”

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

Coleman campus directors Dianne Welsh (UNCG), Julie Shields (Millikin University), Gina Betti (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and I discussed our Coleman Fellows program, in which non-business faculty incorporate entrepreneurship topics and student learning outcomes into existing classes. The goal is to foster cross-campus entrepreneurship education. Each of us provided three best practices, three lessons learned, and three suggestions for further implementation.

Not surprisingly, one of my best practices was “Invite your entrepreneurship/business librarian to into your core class to provide research consultations and hands-on workshops.” I also advocated for “establishing desired student research competencies (ex. “identify, segment, and measure a consumer or B2B market”) and determine where in the curriculum your students will develop those competencies”.

Saturday morning:

I rode the bus from the hotel to ITT with an entrepreneurship coordinator from Denmark.

My favorite takeaway from the morning keynotes: entrepreneurship is moving past convenience into substance. So not just another app or service to speed up an existing business model, but new models of thinking, business, and community engagement. We’ll see.

“Has the lean startup failed us? If not, how not? If so, what are we doing about it? / Capturing the attention of the first-year student”

David Touve, University of Virginia (the lean startup discussion)
James Zebrowski, The University of Tampa
Wendy Plant, Florida State University
Mindy Walls, Waynesburg University

David, an energetic discussion leader, asked the full room “has the lean startup failed us?” He argued that there is no data indicating that the lean startup model is more successful than other models. Design thinking and effectuation (a UVA thing) are other models.

Why has the lean startup been popular?

  • Provides focus on customer.
  • Provides a grounding for an approach and common language
  • A business plan is not always accurate anyway (when, then you need to raise expectations for research, I would argue)

Solving a problem versus starting a business = two different approaches and things. (Identifying and describing a problem before beginning to develop a business or nonprofit idea came up a lot this weekend.)

Engineering students love the lean startup model; it matches their tech training mindset, someone asserted.

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

We worked in small groups (it was really hard to hear each other — a downside of a glass-walled modernist classroom) discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the lean startup, reasons for using it, etc. I was paired with the Yale professor who last year in Halifax unexpectedly joined what had been an all-male panel discussing the state of entrepreneurship education in the opening plenary session.

Part two: Capturing the attention of the first-year student. I was able to take better notes here.

Waynesburg University, a small liberal arts college in rural Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh, has a strong focus on service learning. Mindy, a new hire, is working to help incorporate an entrepreneurial mindset into that service tradition.

ENT mindset  —> creative problem solving –> forming a venture

She uses the Who Owns the Ice House book as a mindset tool. She has to avoid the b-word (business) and the e-word (entrepreneurship) since those words are unpopular among their liberal arts students. But they need an entrepreneurial mindset to succeed in 21st century, Mindy asserts.

FSU just started a new living-learning community of 36 entrepreneurship students. Wendy’s campus also hosts high school day camps in the summer. Her campus has a new ENT school that is independent of the b-school, thanks to a major donor. Students enroll in the school in their junior year.

James is a leader in CEO. He discussed encouraging campus clubs. Our EIR Noah Reynolds (see above) runs our CEO club and takes the officers to the national conference.

Question: why are some frosh not interesting in E?

  • Parental concerns (“you need to work at a real company!”)
  • Young students just don’t know yet what they want
  • Limited availability of curriculum sometimes (have to wait till their junior year?)

Saturday lunch discussion

Train tracks over the McCormick Tribune Campus Center

Train tracks over the McCormick Tribune Campus Center

I sat at a random table with several GCEC old timers. They noted the growth of the conference. They also noted that the same topics are being discussed this year as 20 years ago. A standard problem for growing conferences (like some focused library conferences?)

Saturday afternoon

“Surviving and Thriving in Academia: A Guide for New (and not so new) Non-Academics”

Steven Phelan, Fayetteville State University
Sara Cochran, University of Missouri System
II Luscri, Washington University in St. Louis
Gurpreet Jagpal, University of the West of England, Bristol

The panels discussed the motivations of professors, deans, chancellors, and the system president, and suggested strategies for working with those people.

The majority of the audience for this one was campus entrepreneurs-in-residence or entrepreneurship center directors — folks from “industry” mostly. PhDs and other folks with faculty status were in the minority. Attendance and the energy level were high.

This would have also have been an excellent program for a new academic liaison librarian! Maybe I will steal from it for a blog post sometime, ha.

Professor level:

Like a medieval craft guild:

  • 3 categories: master apprentice system (PhD students); journeyman (tenure track); masters (tenured), which requires a masterpiece
  • Self-governance (shared faculty governance)
  • Charter of rights (faculty governance and documentation; right to control process; representation on decision-making bodies)
brand new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (John Ronan)

Brand-new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (John Ronan)

Professor motivations: 40% teaching (impact measured by student evaluations of scheduled teaching), 40% research (impact measured by citations), 20% service

Q and A about changing positions and/or campuses after getting tenured: Would you retain that rank? What about non-PhDs with faculty rank? (I piped up here.) With whom do you negotiate with in these situations? Lots of questions from the non-academics.

It’s tough to finish a PhD, get hired, and then get tenured. There is about a 50% drop at each of those three stages.

There are now more non-faculty than faculty teaching classes at most schools. There is a subtrend toward hiring more “professors of practice” (typically non-tenure).

Professors don’t have much time for service, but have lots of options to meet service requirements (some do want to do practical service).

Trying to recruit faculty to work with your center? Start with a few willing volunteers and build from there.

Dean level:

Deans are typically academics. On U.S. campuses, fundraising is now their primary function. Turf wars and academic silos are common. For example, deans often don’t like sharing credit hours with other campus units, which can be problematic for cross-campus entrepreneurship programs (true at UNCG).

Things deans list in their annual reports:

  • Rankings
  • Awards
  • Accreditation renewals
  • New programs

Deans on the same campus will have different priorities: new buildings, more scholarships, more centers, etc.

Chancellor level (from a more UK perspective):

  • Income diversification.
  • Student recruitment.
  • Reputation and rankings
  • Awards

Strategies to influence deans and chancellors:

  • Help them climb the ladder;
  • Have a strategy that will make them look good;
  • Donors are easier to find for ENT (but then there is the silo problem);
  • New student demand;
  • Potential for licensing/commercialization income;
  • Metrics
Something with curves for a change

Something with curves for a change of pace (see below for context)

Audience comment: there is a lack of useful metrics for ENT centers. Also lack of consistency. [How to measure the success of ENT education and programs is a big topic at these conferences.]

Build allies in every academic department and unit. There will be meetings of academics on campus where you are discussed but you won’t be there. (True of librarians too!)

System president level:

Nature of:

  • Politicized environment
  • Boards of often political appointees
  • Change of government leads to different priorities
  • Patronage issues


  • Keep key legislators and the board happy
  • The need to balance the interests of multiple campuses and their resource allocation
  • Protect the brand of the system (PR issues)


  • Encourage system-wide collaboration [so much easier said than done!]
  • Link to economic development
  • Appeal to the residents of the state

Question: what about when alumni affairs targets the same funding sources as the center? Replies: can first just invite them to talk to your ENT students. Get to know the alumni affairs folks, help them connect to new potential donors, they love that. Keep alumni affairs informed.

“Designing and diversity and inclusion: why it matters and what to do about it”

Ji Mi Choi, Arizona State University
Rebecca Corbin, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
Ian Grant, University of New Hampshire
Isabelle Monlouis, Georgia State University

This event had the youngest crowd I’ve any I attended at GCEC this year. It was also majority female. Folks were passionate about these topics and stayed late (after this session was the final keynote and awards, see below).

The speakers provided some goals of their programs and best practice ideas for diversity and inclusion. Similar to discussions of diversity and inclusion in libraries.

Another IIT scene

Another IIT scene

Stereotypical VC-funded glamorous entrepreneurship is hard when a student has to work 20+ hours a week to support themselves, on top of classes and pursuing an entrepreneurial idea. Entrepreneurship incubators on campus usually assume economic privilege.

NACCE = National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, with 300-member colleges across the U.S.

The UNH center works hard to attract students from across campus. We are the “Switzerland of campus”, Ian joked.

Other best practices and examples:

  • Importance of role modeling
  • Providing peer and near-peer mentors
  • T-shirts given to students: “Entrepreneurs are everywhere, and I am one of them”
  • Recruit minority and female entrepreneurs to promote the program, and speak to younger and future students.
  • Partner with and design with underprivileged communities, as opposed to doing things for them or to them. (My church calls this a missional attitude.)
  • Importance of going to people, not waiting for them to come to you. For example, go to diversity centers and clubs.

“Entrepreneurship” as a term can turn some people off. Is there a good alternative word? Not really.

An entrepreneurial mindset is a “success mindset.”

Equality (treating everyone the same) versus equity (supporting under-represented or under-privileged groups).

Conference wrap-up

Wrigley Building & Tribune Tower

Wrigley Building & Tribune Tower

I stayed through the bitter end this year. A lot of folks did. One more talk by an entrepreneur. Thank yous to the sponsoring schools. Top nominations and then the winners of seven annual GCEC awards, plus a special legacy award for lifetime achievement in research and service, with pictures taken of each. The legacy award winner gave a speech, but it wasn’t very long. The managing director of NASDAQ announced the “NASDAQ Center Award for Entrepreneurship Excellence,” the top annual award.

I’ve learned from these entrepreneurship education conferences that giving awards is a common and major function of the sponsoring association. Awards seem to be more important to the professors and their departments than they are to librarians and libraries. Is this an aspect of our service (or servant) tradition? However, there are far more academic associations and conferences than we librarians have, providing more opportunities to win awards.

Finally, we had a few words from the University of Stockholm, next year’s hosts of GCEC. It’s only an 8-hour direct flight from Chicago, he said! The Swede told a number of short, bad jokes about Sweden and its culture. A fun way to end the afternoon.

Weedy Seadragons

Weedy Seadragons

The conference wrapped up with the Shedd Aquarium all to ourselves in the evening, sponsored by the Coleman Foundation. It was fun being there after dark.

WFU building in the Winston-Salem Innovation Quarter

WFU building in the Winston-Salem Innovation Quarter after an evening storm (Bailey Park in foreground)

The Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians was back in downtown Winston-Salem last Friday and I enjoyed being able to walk over to it from home. The one-day conference met in new Wake Forest University space in the Innovation Quarter, built from RJ Reynolds tobacco factories. BLINC had a workshop over here in 2015 hosted by the Forsyth Technical Community College’s Business & Industry Services. It’s exciting to see these sturdy, tall-ceiling, big-window spaces converted to new uses and bringing more employees back downtown. (There are also lots of new residential spaces nearby, although affordability and gentrification are becoming more of a problem.)

The latest hurricane moved through North Carolina Thursday afternoon. I had a fun 9:30am research workshop for an investments class (and most of the 48 students were there!) but we learned then that classes would be cancelled at 2pm. Three big trees were down on the highway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem on my way home in mid-afternoon. Our region had localized flooding and power outages, but no deaths. Several speakers at the conference were unable to get to Winston-Salem (including the morning keynote, who had to provide his talk online).

As mentioned here in 2014 and 2016, this is not a conference about entrepreneurship librarianship, although a few business librarians usually attend each year. “Entrepreneurial” in the conference’s name is defined as “innovation”, so the topics of the speakers and discussions are broad. As an attendee, I focused on supporting as many of the business librarian speakers as I could. One of those business librarians was Ash Faulkner, whom Carol and I joined for dinner downtown Thursday night. The sun came out an hour before sunset.

“Retiring in 2055: Evolution and Education a Long Library Career”
Ash Faulkner
(Ohio State University Libraries)

Ash Faulkner

Ash Faulkner

Abstract: “As a librarian at the beginning of her career, the presenter has devoted considerable time to considering the future of libraries and librarianship. In this presentation she will discuss her views on the evolving roles of librarians and how she has prepared for these changing needs. Discussion will include the utility of basic business knowledge (gleaned from an MBA), the importance of understanding data and the growing need to understand statistical analysis and software, how to utilize professional organizations and personal networks to address learning gaps, and best bet resources for individual learning pursuits. The presenter will discuss her views of current and future librarianship, as well as those found in the literature and through conversations with other early-career librarians.”

A financial planner told Ash that she could expect to retire in 2055. In this discussion-oriented program, Ash explored trends in librarianship and the workforce in general to guess what the nature of her career might look like up to its end.

She used Mentimeter to display her slides and enable instant feedback from the participants. We discussed ideas like digital nomads and the gig economy applied to librarianship. Ash speculated on the future of librarians:

  • “Yup, data” (increasingly important)
  • Boutique service (emphasis on specialized services)
  • Increasing collaboration…to integration
  • Fewer professional librarians
  • Self-service (less interaction with librarians)

She also speculated on gap areas in our skills and education:

  • Deeper subject expertise
  • Finding data
  • Data management
  • Statistics
  • Basic business knowledge

Some of the discussion was on near-future trends but it was interesting speculating on the long term possibilities.

 “An Entrepreneurial Approach to Helping Entrepreneurs”
Kassie Ettefagh, & John Raynor (High Point Public Library)

John Raynor and Kassie Ettefagh

John Raynor and Kassie Ettefagh

Abstract: “The High Point Public Library was tasked with finding a way to help support the city’s strategic plan to increase population, create new housing and employment, and create a vibrant downtown. Focusing efforts on entrepreneurs, job-seekers, and current small-business owners, HPPL designed a plan to provide personalized research sessions, one-on-one training with databases, social media usage advice, and space for job-related programming. Three Business Librarians work with Chamber of Commerce, small business expos, city council, and more. By changing its methods of providing information and trying to be more proactive, HPPL has evolved to better serve entrepreneurs, job-seekers and small-business owners.”

Kassie and John are BLINC friends whose outreach and consulting work at the High Point Public Library have always been impressive. They discussed their library’s proactive engagement with the local business and nonprofit community, inspired by the embedded librarian model of reference service.

The business librarians promote the development of ongoing, productive relationships between the library and its customers. Getting out of the library to build relationships with clients is key. “We need to leave the library and show the community what a powerful tool we are,” John advocates.

This embedded work is the library’s response to the city’s strategic plan, which promotes entrepreneurship city-wide but with emphasis on downtown. The library also created a dedicated business center in the library for training and hosting local organizations. The library has partnered with many local organizations supporting entrepreneurship, economic development, and nonprofits. The librarians now help steer entrepreneurship to relevant support groups.

The library had a preliminary goal of 12 client consultations a year, but now averages around 150 per year. The librarians use NC LIVE databases (such as ReferenceUSA and SimplyAnalytics) and High Point GIS data, but also provide some tech training, such as basics of using social media. Some clients want to learn how to use the databases themselves, so the librarians are trainers as well as research consultants.

Kassie and John provided several happy customer testimonials and some examples of research projects. One example: when the city tore up Main Street for a long, comprehensive utilities rebuild, the library organized downtown businesses to collect feedback and complaints about the road closure, and to help those businesses promote that they were still open for business. Now another chunk of downtown will be ripped up to build a new minor league baseball park. The city asked the library to repeat those coordinating services for that neighborhood. State legislators are also hearing about the library’s business and nonprofit outreach.

Really good stuff – high impact and progressive. Kudos to Kassie and John (and their former colleague Vicki Johnson) for their excellent work, but also to library leadership for funding these positions and the business center.

“The ROI of ROI Outreach”
Amy Harris-Houk & Maggie Murphy (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

Abstract: “Liaison librarians in the Reference, Outreach, and Instruction (ROI) department of UNC Greensboro’s University Libraries have collaborated on educational programming with regional high schools, the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, a nearby retirement community, and a grassroots political advocacy group in Greensboro. Through these collaborations, our information literacy programs have reached a range of audiences, from middle-schoolers to retirees. However, while these opportunities have raised the library’s profile in the community, they are not without downsides. This session will discuss our collaborations, how these partnerships began, the lessons we have learned, and balancing the time commitment associated with community outreach with other duties to maximize return on investment.”

My colleagues Amy and Maggie discussed their recent outreach and programming to groups outside of the university. With implications for liaison work (and workloads), they discussed how to prioritize such outreach, and balance “departmental work with our core constituents with community outreach”. They also presented a SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) analysis for evaluating the impact of the work.

“Growing and Evolving Education: Librarians Developing and Implementing Community Health Literacy Workshops”
Sam Harlow (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

Abstract: “In order to align with the University Libraries strategic plan to increase both general information literacy and health literacy efforts in the community, UNCG Health Science librarians developed a series of workshops on “Finding Health Information on the Internet.” In these workshops, librarians covered website evaluation, database recommendation, search strategies, and created a LibGuide for community members interested in finding health information. This presentation will cover outreach and marketing strategies when reaching out to community partners (such as churches, local hospitals, and university staff); successes and failures of presenting to community patrons; future plans for health literacy workshop expansion; and ways to further engage your community in information literacy workshops and conversations.”

My colleague Sam followed up with a description of a community engagement project she implemented along with Lea Leininger, the UNCG Health Sciences Librarian. They have provided 5 workshops so far. Challenges include communicating the medical terminology, dealing with different levels of technology, assessing the workshops, and participation.

Other conference notes

 The opening keynote speaker was Patrick Sweeney, Political Director for EveryLibrary, the only PAC for supporting libraries. I didn’t know anything about this organization. He challenged our traditions of feel-good marketing (all those ALA posters) and instead asserted that the goal of advocacy is driving public library supports to action – doing something (donating money, fundraising, or voting). He asserted that libraries need to use data analytics on its financial and voting supporters and make decisions based on that data. Libraries need to understand their communities – demographics, lifestyles, and attitudes/politics [there’s the business librarianship connection] – and craft their messages to match, not just speak from a librarian echo chamber.

Timothy Owen, Assistant Librarian for the State of North Carolina, discussed telling stories. He also provided examples of problems in data visualization and asked us to figure out what was going on.

lunch outdoors at the conference

lunch outdoors at the conference (opposite direction from the first picture above)

Half the value of a good conference is networking, and this conference enabled that in the breakfast social and lunchtime. Several new and veteran BLINC members, plus other friends from the area, attended and updated each other on what was new in their lives. (The newest downtown brewery is one block from our conference location, in the old power plant for the RJR factories – I was surprised there was no night-before or right-after social planned there.)


I had to miss this session due to an overlapping event:

“Reaching Campus and Community with Entrepreneurship Research Workshops”
Meghann Kuhlmann & Sara Butts (Wichita State University)

Abstract: “Wichita State University (WSU) has positioned itself as an “innovation university” with strong emphasis on invention, small business incubation, and economic development across the region. WSU Libraries launched the Entrepreneurship Research Series (ERS) of workshops in Fall 2016. Each semester since then we have offered 6-11 workshops on intellectual property and market research topics relevant to inventors and prospective business owners. Workshops are open to students and the community. Successful outreach, with marketing beyond our traditional patron base, has led to increasing our visibility as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) and partner in innovation support and promoting use of our business and intellectual property resources. We’ll discuss the opportunities and challenges of creating an entrepreneurship education initiative aimed at both campus and community members including alignment of the library initiative to university goals, community outreach, partnership creation, and managing multiple priorities in an academic setting.”

These librarians were unable to fly in due to the storm:

 “How to Never Underestimate Librarians as New Commercialization Partners”
Yvonne Dooley & Steven Tudor (University of North Texas)

Abstract: “As higher education evolves and re-imagines information exchange with industry, an increasing number of universities are creating and expanding Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) to commercialize faculty created intellectual property. This exchange fosters technology-based economic development and entrepreneurial success. Conference attendees will learn about the successful alliance between UNT Libraries and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, where the library moved outside its normal sphere to help create a patent internship program. Presenters will explain how this collaborative partnership works and provides win-win situations for all parties involved. Attendees will also learn new ways librarians can advance innovative community initiatives, position themselves as trusted partners, and create professional experiences to prepare students for valuable career opportunities.”

I also missed this interesting talk about managing liaison workload. App State is a UNC campus, so I should reach out to Jennifer about sometime. Sounds like her idea for engagement plans might be relevant to my last post about the lean liaison model. (I learned that Ask Faulkner covers 8,000 or 9,000+ students on her own, another example that dwarfs my situation.)

Enterprising Liaisons: Evolving Engagement
Jennifer Natale—Appalachian State University

Abstract: “Liaisons have responsibility for multiple academic departments and/or student populations and are pulled in too many directions in the middle of the semester, leaving themselves unable to accomplish all the liaison activities. Enterprising librarians can stay ahead of the curve by building a profile of the academic departments or student populations they serve and developing an engagement plan for the year. In this workshop I will outline key concepts within a profile identifying ways liaisons can intersect with their departments or student populations. The profiles will then provide the foundation for generating an annual engagement plan and allow you to balance your workload throughout the year. Engagement plans, and some technology tools, can be implemented in part or in whole and as an individual or liaison team.”

Hurricane Florence from NOAA

Hurricane Florence from NOAA

UNC Greensboro is now closed for Hurricane Florence. It’s getting a little breezy this morning but the storm is still far from this part of the state. We are of course concerned about the students and staff down at the coast. (UNC Wilmington has been closed all week.) Several business vendors have emailed me today asking how we are doing – very nice of them.

I’m covering chat reference this morning with a few colleagues and should be working on a couple of articles, but instead am trying to get this blog post up before walking over to the local retro arcade in the afternoon for some R&R. The post begins with tracking down the origin of an interesting phrase.

What is the “Lean Liaison Model”?

I first learned this phrase through the below article, which I briefly reviewed in July:

Mapping information literacy using the Business Research Competencies
Heather Howard, Nora Wood, and Ilana Stonebraker
Reference Services Review, (2018) (no vol or issue #?)

Nora Wood was writing about her business liaison work at the University of South Florida. (She is now at Emory.) Quoting myself quoting Nora in that previous blog post:

The article’s discussion section includes a paragraph on liaison workload issues. Nora writes “At the University of South Florida, providing comprehensive support across all departments in the business school is not feasible owing to the size and structure of the existing library liaison program.” My situation too (although Nora covers around 5,500 business students, about 1,400 more than me, but that’s still way too much). “This lean [liaison] model results in inconsistent coverage of the whole business curriculum and limits the number of new projects that can be pursued.” Therefore partnerships across the business school are essential to support school-wide business research skills.

“Lean liaison model” is an interesting way to describe a liaison role involving many thousands of students and the associated large number of faculty.

I searched Library Lit and Google Scholar for other uses of that phrase. Nora and Melanie Griffin used it in a Charleston Conference program, written up in an open access conference proceedings: “Liaison Librarians in the Know: Methods for Discovering Faculty Research and Teaching Needs”.

Melanie also used the phrase in a 2017 College & Undergraduate Libraries article, “Shifting expectations: Revisiting core concepts of academic librarianship in undergraduate classes with a digital humanities focus”.

I asked Nora if she came up with the phrase, but she said she didn’t think so. I then asked Melanie (Special Collections Librarian at USF). Melanie isn’t sure who came up with the phrase either. So let’s just credit both of them. Thank you, Melanie and Nora, for giving me a green light to focus on this phrase in a blog post.

My lean liaison situation

Melanie and Nora’s writing made me think about my own liaison situation. I began at UNCG in 2001, serving three of the four departments in the business school plus the Consumer Apparel and Retailing Studies department, which was in a different school back then.

In 2001, total number of students I was responsible for: about 1,700.

In Fall 2017 (most recent department-level enrollment data): 4,116.

That’s the total number of students in the six departments now comprising the business school, plus the Geography department. I’m not counting the cross-campus Entrepreneurship minors nor the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program, but those students contribute to my work load too.

In Fall 2017, UNCG had 19,922 students. So I’m responsible for a little over 20% of the campus.

In 2017, the business school had 112 faculty (full time plus part time). Geography had 14 (a lot compared to the small number of students it serves; GEO has a PhD program but so do three of the six business school departments).

We have 12 subject liaisons in the UNCG University Libraries. If we all had the same number of students, we would each serve 1,660 students. However, to be fair, some of our subject liaisons also have major functional roles (first year instruction, online education, e-resources, data, etc.) and others are also department heads.

Library faculty positions at UNCG have been increasing – our collections budget is smaller than that of many of our peers, but we have more staffing than most – yet the emphasis on new liaison positions here has been on functional roles. For example, we hope to hire three new functional liaisons this school year: GIS, Scholarly Communication, and Student Success. I’ve spoken and written a bit about subject v. functional liaison roles.

Meanwhile, we are hiring a replacement science librarian this fall, but have no plans (as far as I know) to create any new subject liaison positions in response to big campus growth.

Not alone?

Yes, this post might now sound whiny. I do really like my job and the opportunities it provides, plus the friends I have made in the library, business school, and across campus. I have chosen not to pursue other openings, including a recent one that would have resulted in a much shorter commute. But still, 4,000+ students? Come on.

There are a bunch of colleges and a few universities in North Carolina that have total enrollments less than the size of the UNCG business school. And the libraries at those schools have more than one subject liaison.

Many flagship campuses that don’t have a separate business school library also have business librarians responsible for many thousands of students and many faculty. Sometimes those librarians are also assigned other social science departments. Crazy, but some of those libraries don’t seem to have a liaison model that focuses on teaching and consultations, our focus as UNCG subject liaisons.

[Evening update: a business librarian friend of mine (also “Engagement Librarian for international students”) told me she is responsible for 9,223 business school students at her university. Wow.]

How to handle a lean liaison model

Well, there’s a lot that could be written about working within the lean liaison model. More than I’m probably willing to address today. (The Sopranos pinball game has a siren song. Although that siren cusses up a storm — definitely don’t let your kids play that game.) Here are some main points to get started.

1. Accept that you can’t do it all. You have way too many students and faculty. It’s impossible.

2. Your time is particularly limited if you do any embedded work. Proactive and high-impact engagement is very time consuming. So is relationship building with faculty, deans, and other key stakeholders.

3. So be selective in your liaison work. Where can you have the most impact? Identify both the easy low-hanging fruit and as well as the high-impact, high-visibility classes or programs or experiential learning initiatives you could engage.

4. As with online education, well-designed LibGuides and video tutorials can help a lot, especially for lower-level classes with basic research projects. Many libraries with understaffed liaison programs have focused on tutorials to reach their students.

5. Partnering with our functional liaison colleagues can help with specialized research needs related to functional expertise, but doesn’t really help that much with the bulk of subject liaison work, especially if you do a lot of teaching and research consulting concerning your subject specialty.

6. Yes, even though we might sound whiny, we need to make sure our department heads and deans know we have far too many students and faculty to provide the full suite of liaison services equally to all departments.

7. If our library leaders expect us to provide full services to all our departments, then the leaders need to fund enough subject liaison positions to provide that coverage. Funding subject liaisons is a strategic decision. Yes, libraries have to juggle and prioritize many goals. Leaders, make your decisions (hopefully with feedback from your staff) but then accept the consequences if subject liaisonship isn’t a priority.

8. Over-worked subject liaisons, if at all possible, try not to stress out. Prioritize, set boundaries, and collect and share your success stories. Engage in helpful venting with other subject liaisons when you can. If the situation becomes unworkable, and you have the freedom and flexibility in your life, consider working elsewhere. Above all, take care of yourself. Have a life outside of work. Play some pinball.


Summer ends early when you work at UNC Greensboro. We are already two weeks of classes into the fall semester.

This fall, all three of my embedded classes feature significant changes. Perhaps the biggest change is with ENT 300, a feasibility analysis (pre-business plan) class required of all Entrepreneurship majors and minors and all Arts Administration majors. This is a team-based, research-intensive class in which the students create a major report to decide if a business or nonprofit idea should move forward to the business plan phase.

This semester ENT 300 is asynchronous online for the first time. A gutsy experiment? My workload for this class could be much less or much higher, I don’t know yet. We shall see. (The spring section will continue as an on-campus night class.)

MBA 741, the capstone course Orolando Duffus wrote about a few years ago, has a new professor, Dr. Beitler. But after two evening classes so far, the nature of this class is very similar and my role (based on Orolando’s successful embedded work) is unchanged.

Today’s topic

The third class is MKT 426: International Marketing, the oldest ongoing story at this blog. The class is dominated by Export Odyssey, an exports promotion and experiential learning project in which the student teams try to make a sale to a new country market for a North Carolina manufacture.

From the BizEd photoshoot

From the BizEd photoshoot

Working closely with this class was my first embedded librarian role. The class helped me gain teaching experience that I couldn’t get from one-shot instruction and also helped me get involved in the local economic development ecosystem. And it was a lot of fun although also at times challenging and always time consuming. Collaborating with Professor Williamson gave me confidence to pursue other embedded opportunities, such as getting involved with cross-campus entrepreneurship.

The rest of this post updates the story of this embedded role. I’ll also touch on workload and sustainability – issues always behind the scenes in embedded work.

New professor, same project

Last year, I wrote about Professor Williamson wrapping up his phased retirement, and the hiring of the new international marketing professor, Dr. Bahadir. We made the adjustment of working together as co-teachers. We also like each other. But it is a different relationship than I had with Professor Williamson. It would have to be because the professors are different people.

Professor Bahadir teaches more Export Odyssey research methodology than Professor Williamson did. So I’m not formally teaching as much as I used to in class. I miss that a little. But he is the professor of record on the syllabus, and he feels responsible to know all the Export Odyssey material. He learned all that very quickly.

BizEd photoshoot

BizEd photoshoot

I continue to attend most class sessions but decided to skip a few sessions early in the semester when class content focuses on core concepts, not the Export Odyssey project. Those sessions don’t involve the students learning research strategies and so I think my time is now better spent elsewhere on those days. (Sometimes, like both class days this week, I have one-shot instruction for other classes when MKT 426 meets.)

I used to put so much time into this class (including research consultations, team counseling, and consoling upset students). So being able to adjust my role and the workload in this project has been nice.

This fall there are now two 75-minute sections with a 15-minute break in between. So an almost 3-hour time commitment to this class each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. For past ten years or so, there was only one section.

Utilizing my professional network

Professor Bahadir recognized how time consuming it is for the student teams to recruit their own manufacturers. We give them four weeks to do that at the beginning of the semester, limiting the time the teams have to develop their export marketing strategies. So Professor Bahadir asked if we could pre-recruit manufacturers to assign to student teams.

Through partnering with Professor Williamson, I had met officials from several export promotion agencies. I began inviting those folks to have lunch or coffee with Professor Bahadir and me to see if their agencies could help recruit interested manufacturers. We ended up talking to representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce (the local office), Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC, a UNC system organization), the Triad Regional Export Initiative (a grant-funded local organization on whose advisory board I serve) and some folks from state government. I enjoyed introducing everyone at those lunches.

We did end up with four student teams out of ten working with companies recruited from the SBTDC. The SBTDC became part of the support network of those teams, and attended class a few times. We hope to have more pre-selected companies in the future. Professor Bahadir is coordinating this work now that he had met everyone.

(Earlier this month, I wrote an external review for a tenure candidate in a rural part of Ohio. She is doing amazing work supporting her regional entrepreneurship eco-system and received really strong reference letters from economic development officers. I hope she writes an article about that important and interesting embedded work. )

A real Export Odyssey textbook

Cover of Export Odyssey textbook

Cover of Export Odyssey textbook

This summer, Kendall Hunt published the Export Odyssey textbook. Professor Williamson and I used to create a home-made project textbook for the students that the UNCG bookstore printed and packaged like a course pack. Through some other professors in the business school, Professor Williamson learned that Kendall Hunt was interested in new content. We pitched the idea to KH’s local rep and they agreed. We spent nine months updating and improving it.

We had to rewrite the book to accommodate non-UNCG audiences. I cut out most of the references to commercial databases in favor of free sources (mostly .gov sources like export.gov) with the exception of ReferenceUSA. We also greatly improved (IMO) coverage of the 4 P’s in the context of export marketing and provided updated case studies.

The plan was to sell the book as an e-textbook for $50. I liked the cheap price. Alas, the price has gone up already. So much for affordability as a selling point.

The MKT 426 students are using the new textbook this fall. A few professors from other campuses are apparently peer-reviewing it. We will see if any other international marketing classes pick it up. And then see what the feedback is.

BizEd article & photoshoot (in the library!)

Final story today. In May, the communications department of the UNCG business school was finishing up an invited article about Export Odyssey for BizEd, the magazine of AACSB International (accrediting body for business schools). The magazine wanted to include a picture of the instructors and some students. So we invited some students from the teams that worked with SBTDC-recruited companies. We also wanted an attractive location for the photoshoot, so instead of the business school, we ended up…in the library’s Special Collections reading room, ha.

The campus photographer took a zillion pictures, as they tend to do at photoshoots. You can see the one that BizEd decided to run at the article, but above are two rejects I liked (although I look kind of inebriated in the group portrait?) The diversity of those students is pretty typical for UNCG – we are almost a majority-minority campus.

Most of the students were about to graduate, so they were a little giddy that afternoon. Professor Bahadir and I enjoyed that symbolic wrapup of the project. It was the end of our first year working together on Export Odyssey and it went pretty well.


Blame Vanessa for this post

Yesterday my work friend Vanessa Apple, a coder in our tech department, drove over to Winston-Salem for a visit. At one of the downtown breweries (a dog-friendly one, as Vanessa is into dogs), I was telling her about my crazy Friday with its ups and downs. She replied “you should write about that on your blog! You could title it ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’.”

Eh, why not? It’s been a while since I wrote anything personal about liaison work. And then I can procrastinate on some other projects I’m not in the mood for yet…

Vanessa, thank you for the suggestion. Sorry I used a different title, though.

Last Friday


Didn’t sleep well, so a lame start to the day. Sunny and hot already. Put on new dress shoes to start breaking them in for the fall semester. Traffic not bad.


Learned that a Charleston Conference proposal I submitted with Orolando Duffus (U. of Houston) and Rosalind Tedford (Wake Forest U.) was accepted. Yay. It will be a “lively discussion” (one of this conference’s program formats) on liaison trends. Should be fun.

Walked over to the student union next door to deposit the royalties check for the 2017-18 version of the Export Odyssey project textbook Professor Williamson and I co-wrote. (That version was printed by the campus bookstore. The next edition will be an ebook published by Kendall Hunt. More on significant changes to this, my originally embedded role, in a blog post next month hopefully.)

Right heel starting to hurt.


Prepared a bit for next week’s BLINC workshop at Elon University. Got caught up on emails. Reviewed my notes from Thursday’s liaison teams retreat.

Scheduled a chat with Kelsey Molseed, a former intern and mentee, for late afternoon today in downtown Winston-Salem, where she also lives. Kelsey has just finished her MLS and had been interviewing.


Drove from campus to our downtown Nursing school building (easy parking), then walked a half mile to a downtown Mediterranean restaurant to have lunch with the new business librarian at the Greensboro Public Library, Morgan Ritchie-Baum. Morgan is also a new member of BLINC. I ordered a new-to-me wrap that included strips of dried beef. Ended up with some of it stuck in my throat and had to retire to the bathroom to cough it out. Very embarrassing. But Morgan was super-polite. She is already getting involved with the local entrepreneurial and nonprofit ecosystems.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks south and I gave Morgan a quick tour of HQ Greensboro (an incubator space — UNCG is an institutional member).

On the sidewalk, we bumped into a former reference intern, Melanie Knier, who also took my old business information class. She opened a vintage apparel shop in the neighborhood.

Foot hurts more.


Back in the office. Took off shoes. Oh look, I had a blister which popped and then bled through my dress sock. Yuck. Applied Neosporin and band-aids.


Went home early.


Switched to my hiking shoes with thick short socks. Heel feels much better in them.

Considered changing shirts for the 4pm chat with Kelsey. Notice the new knit shirt I’ve been wearing today had a tear along the seam in the armpit area. Lovely.


Decided to change shirts.


Met Kelsey in a coffee shop and we had a nice chat. She just received two job offers (from a small school and a big school) and had to make a tough decision. We talked about that and other things for a while. She moves away next month. Hopefully we’ll meet again at a conference sometime soon.


Read a book in a brewery (not the one Vanessa I visited yesterday), then played some pinball in the retro arcade. Chatted with barkeep Cheyanne before heading home to see my wonderful wife Carol and ask her how her day went.

Made dinner together and talked about looking forward to playing with the little nephews on Saturday at a family pool party. Slept much better that night.

More summaries (and sometimes feedback) of articles I finally had time to read this summer. There’s also a couple of recommended blogs for helping improve one’s research skills. Unlike last time, most of these articles are behind paywalls.

Hometown summer beach scene

Hometown summer beach scene


Distinctive roles: Engagement, innovation, and the liaison model
Jennifer Church-Duran
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17:2 (2017)

Jennifer is the head of user services for the University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This is a useful summary of trends and published case studies. From the abstract:

“Bent on improving the teaching and learning experience, enhancing the productivity of researchers, and increasing the visibility of research outputs, libraries are redistributing staff, reallocating resources, and reorganizing internal structures, all to better partner campus-wide. Nowhere is the impact of this push for service innovation and user engagement greater than on the workload, direction, and even future of liaison librarian programs.”

Jennifer begins with a summary of the focus shift in research libraries from collections to engagement. Liaisons may be the librarians most impacted by this shift. The 2009 ARL white paper “A Framework for Articulating New Library Roles,” based on work at the University of Minnesota Libraries, led to other updated definitions of liaisons at Duke and other libraries (see links from a 2015 post of mine; table 1 in this article provides a concise comparison).

Core roles circa 2015 include outreach, research services, resources, teaching, and scholarly communication, but in the last 6-8 years, a bunch of new roles have been added: digital humanities, data management, bibliometrics, etc.

This “explosion of additional service areas” leads to a need to establish desired skill sets and (less often, alas) training sufficient to help liaisons acquire those needed skills. One 2012 study identified “32 skills or areas of knowledge” liaisons will need. [How liaisons are organized and managed — and partnerships with subject liaisons and functional liaisons – could be additional responses to help liaisons.]

So yes – this “explosion” of liaison roles can lead to issues of workload and resources stretched too thin:

“…librarians will work as liaison officers between the library and researchers in their domains, as knowledgeable consultants who understand the unique information cycles of faculty in their disciplines, as entrepreneurs able to identify opportunities and offer innovative solutions, and as trainers to improve users’ skills and understanding.” [emphasis mine]

[And also as teachers, a role sometimes ignored by the research libraries, sadly.]

Jennifer then quotes from UNCG’s own 2012 liaison reorganization task force regarding the unreasonable expectation that each liaison should be skilled in every liaison role and apply those roles equally to all academic departments, regardless of the nature of those departments. Later studies echo concerns about “sustainability and scalability”.

How liaisons are organized and managed can be part of the problem, with liaisons at many libraries working solo. (Our task force actually focused on liaison organization, not liaison roles.) Jennifer next provides an update on the literature of liaison organization, but reports that

“While a growing number of publications explore librarian engagement with users as a critical part of innovation, far less is available in the professional literature to connect that engagement with strategic priorities, or to offer up the means for assessing the merit of ideas and the methods for then managing the process of innovation from idea to implementation.”

Sometimes our library structures inhibit innovation in liaison services. (Hmm is that actually a strength of the “solo liaison” approach?) A few libraries experimenting with different organizations are mentioned, including UNCG, but details aren’t provided (subject and functional teams, in our case).

Jennifer concludes with encouragement to try out new library structures that support innovation (I would add nimbleness):

“To truly create agile systems for translating engagement into ideas and, in turn, transforming those ideas into scalable, sustainable, and replicable services, libraries must work to connect the ongoing emphasis on engaged librarianship with the need for supportive organizational strategy, structure, and culture.”


Mapping information literacy using the Business Research Competencies
Heather Howard, Nora Wood, and Ilana Stonebraker
Reference Services Review, (2018) (no vol or issue #?)

From the abstract: “This paper aims to provide an overview of the current landscape of curriculum mapping across business courses at two institutions and a replicable methodology for other institutions.”

Heather (Purdue), Nora (University of South Florida), and Ilana (Purdue) used the BRASS Business Research Competencies in mapping of Purdue and USF business school curriculums. They sought to answer these questions:

  1. “Do the Competencies serve as a good framework for understanding business information literacy and its effects on an undergraduate curriculum and graduate level curriculum?”
  2. “How do the Competencies inform our scaffolded instruction?”
  3. “Do the Competencies relate to the overall curriculum of the business school?”

Based on their study, the authors recommend this approach and provide examples of uncovering gaps in business research skills on their campuses based on the Competencies.

The authors provide lit reviews of the business research competencies, curriculum mapping in business education, and scaffolding.

Of the competencies, only international business research was missing from the Purdue curriculum. Since the business librarians teach a required research course, they will work to correct this oversight. The South Florida curriculum lacked emphasis on international business research and business law. There is not a simple fix for the absence of business law research in the curriculum. (IMO the “international business” competency seems to focus on foreign direct investment research strategies and databases. There are other types of international business research.)

Topics not covered in the BRASS competencies were also mapped. The authors recommend adding “ethical use of information, intellectual property and decision-making” as well a career research to the competencies.

The article’s discussion section includes a paragraph on liaison workload issues. Nora writes “At the University of South Florida, providing comprehensive support across all departments in the business school is not feasible owing to the size and structure of the existing library liaison program.” My situation too (although Nora covers around 5,500 business students, about 1,400 more than me, but that’s still way too much). “This lean [liaison] model results in inconsistent coverage of the whole business curriculum and limits the number of new projects that can be pursued.” Therefore partnerships across the business school are essential to support school-wide business research skills.

Given the lack of AACSB standards in information literacy, the authors advocate for more comparisons of curriculum mapping across campuses.

Appendixes cover the draft competencies, the core curriculum at the two schools, and “suggested additional research competencies”.


“Is corporate a bad word?”: The case for business information in liberal arts libraries
Danya Leebaw
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(2), April 2018, 301-314

Fun title! The first paragraph explains it through an anecdote.

From the abstract: “Are there reasons to teach [liberal arts students] to grapple critically with business information?”

Danya (social sciences and professional programs director at the University of Minnesota Libraries) uses survey results, critical information theory, and the ACRL frameworks to explore that question.

A number of us now work with cross-campus entrepreneurship programs, in which some of the students come from the liberal and performing arts. That’s not the focus here though.

Danya asserts that “business information is useful material for teaching core liberal arts learning outcomes: critical inquiry, lifelong learning, and ethical citizenship.” She also believes that the frameworks “help to situate business information comfortably in a liberal arts context.” That’s a refreshing attitude to me since I find the frameworks (like the standards) too focused on scholarly articles and books as research. Business research (especially research to make decisions in community-engaged experiential learning) requires a much, well, richer research experience with much more lifelong learning potential that traditional academic scholarship. However, I know that Charissa Jefferson, Amanda Click, and other business librarians are doing interesting work in applying the framework to biz info lit.

Maybe related to all that, Danya continues:

“This paper argues that the absence of business information from library reference and instruction programs at liberal arts colleges is out of step with both liberal arts and information literacy learning goals. Indeed, this absence risks communicating to students that business sources are unworthy of critical study, thus inadvertently reinforcing biases and missing a variety of pedagogical opportunities.”

She surveyed reference librarians in the Oberlin Group, a “consortium of 80 highly selective, top-ranked liberal arts college libraries.” Most of those campuses provide business classes but few offer regular business instruction. Few of the surveyed librarians reported confidence in teaching business research.

Danya discusses that negative connotations of “business” and “corporate” seem to be factors limiting business info lit on many of these campuses. Not too surprising — “corporate” is not one of my favorite words either. But I wonder what the reactions of the liberal arts librarians would be to “entrepreneurship”, “self-employment”, or “social entrepreneurship”.

Danya next applies critical pedagogy literature. Since (in the U.S. at least) our students live in a capitalistic society in which large corporations wield much influence and power, the students need to understand that business information “can be understood as a discourse with its own guiding practices, worthy of sophisticated study and understanding.”

She next gets into the framework, devoting a few paragraphs to each frame. This topic forms the largest section of this interesting article. For each frame, Danya provides

“examples of business sources and learning scenarios that deepen students’ and librarians’ understanding of these threshold concepts, in ways authentic—rather than external—to the core missions and values of small liberal arts colleges.”

Frame 1 focuses on business news and trade journals, formats (particularly the latter) unfamiliar to most students, not just liberal arts students. Articles from those publications are usually more understandable to undergraduates, who typically don’t have the research methodology background or disciplinary knowledge to get very much out of peer-reviewed research articles.

Frame 2: Focuses on quantitative information. Statistical literacy! And also the creation process for advertising, which can mirror that of academic research.

Frame 3: The existence of expensive proprietary business research, much of which is not available on a liberal arts campus. This becomes a teachable moment (or conversation) with the students. (Using marketresearch.com, I often show student teams the cost of specific reports from IBIS and Mintel they have just used via the library’s subscription. The students usually have a strong reaction when learning that a report their team used to start making decisions costs over $4K to corporate buyers.)

Frame 4: Since liberal arts students have to do more creative research when the expensive reports are not available, they “must be prepared to turn to unexpected or unfamiliar sources, with curiosity and an open mind about where to look, what one might find, and where that might lead.” Danya’s students often have to get beyond core library tools like the catalog and article databases and instead do some primary research, make some phone calls, dig into the hidden web, etc. The students get much deeper research experience and learn some lifelong-learning research skills too.

Frame 5: Business researchers have conversations too but use their own language and communication practices.

Frame 6: Danya discusses using commodity chain research to explore “searching as strategic exploration.” Students learn that “there no clear, objectively correct path for their research. Instead, they must pursue a series of questions, explorations, redirections, decisions, and restarts.”

A useful article for both liberal arts librarians and business librarians.


Toward core competencies for entrepreneurship librarians
Carey Toane & Rachel Figueiredo
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 23:1 (2018)

Carey is the Entrepreneurship Librarian at the University of Toronto (with whom I presented at GCEC in Halifax last fall), and Rachel is the Engineering and Entrepreneurship Librarian at University of Waterloo (Waterloo is the Silicon Valley of eastern North America). They surveyed North American entrepreneurship librarians “to identify the job responsibilities and tasks, skills and experience they employ, and the impact of campus context on engagement with this community.”

The article begins with a detailed lit review on the rise of campus entrepreneurship and the evolution of definitions of librarian core competencies. The authors utilized BRASS and SLA documents to design their survey as well as the Ohio State University Libraries Framework for the Engaged Librarian.

88 librarians filled out the survey. While a narrow majority of those folks had been librarians for 8-25 years, 56.82% had served as entrepreneurship librarians for four years or fewer. So an emerging field. 63.64% reported entrepreneurship being a “central area or focus of their work” but only 24% were able to spend over 30% of their time on entrepreneurship.

The next section of this article summarizes the types of entrepreneurship classes, programs, and activities on the campuses. Level of library support is mixed. Some libraries have multiple librarians engaged, but others lack library support outside the solo entrepreneurship librarian. Research services and consultations were the most common service (especially market research), followed by teaching and then outreach. These services/activities drive the rankings of the competencies reported in this article, with collections and scholarly communications coming in last.

Detailed analysis of each of these five competencies follows, complete with heat maps  by level of importance and frequency, and illustrative quotes from the survey.

For subject expertise, market and industry research took the top two spots, followed by company research. Financial research was #7 of 12, which surprised me – thought that would be higher.

The top “enabling competency” (language from the SLA document) was “Initiative, adaptability, flexibility, creativity, innovation, and problem solving.” My two favorite survey quotes from this section:

“Researching new ideas—new markets and technologies—requires a high level of creativity and “out of the box thinking”—you’re not looking for straightforward, easy-to-find information.”

“People don’t come to me with easy questions. They answer those on their own. So by the time a question gets to me, creative thinking is required”

The essential need to develop relationships (I would call that proactive engagement leading to an embedded relationship) is also discussed.

While cross-campus entrepreneurship seems to be increasingly emphasized, most of the entrepreneurship librarians are also serving as general business librarians. But cross-campus services and physical spaces offered by campus libraries seem to be on the rise.

The authors refer to Kauffman’s limited support of cross-campus education (which they stopped doing a while ago), but not to the work of the Coleman Foundation, which at one point had a larger cross-campus Entrepreneurship Fellows program than Kauffman had. But Coleman is changing the nature of its entrepreneurship support too (blog post about that coming this fall, after the last Coleman Fellows summit in Chicago in October).

Apparently, the survey didn’t cover social entrepreneurship.

This is really good analysis of the state of entrepreneurship librarians and library support of entrepreneurship.


Entrepreneurship resources in U.S. public libraries: Website analysis
Ashley E. Faulkner
Reference Services Review, 46:1 (2018), 69-90

Ashley studied the websites of the largest 46 U.S. public libraries to learn how they support entrepreneurs. She first conducted a qualitative evaluation of the websites, limited to 15 minutes each. Then Ashley conducted a thorough analysis using the “Checklist for Entrepreneurship Resources in US Public Libraries” document (see her appendix).

She did not include web site content listed under the label “business” or “small business”, an interesting decision she write about. Most of the libraries did not use the word “entrepreneurship” in any way to label databases by subject — “business” was the core and common keyword. A few more sites had research guides using the E-word. Few business or entrepreneurship librarians are identified at all on the public library web sites (which is also true of most N.C. public libraries, which makes it harder to recruit BLINC members from public libraries!)

Similar results regarding the words used to describe relevant programming.

Most of the libraries mentioned partner with community partners like the SCORE, SBA, SBDC, etc.

Ashley recommends that more public library web sites provide a site search engine. (Librarians like to browse; patrons like to find?). Slightly less than half of the libraries have a business or entrepreneurship center or space. It was usually unclear if an entrepreneur could use library meeting spaces for free. There is more potential for collaboration with local support organizations. Finally, listing a public services librarian who can work with entrepreneurs would be a boon to the local entrepreneurship community.


Buying the haystack: New roles for academic business libraries
Meg Trauner
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 2:2 (2017)

Meg is the director of the Ford Library at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. She writes about how usage of traditional subscription datasets like WRDS modules and Capital IQ at her school have dropped dramatically. Meanwhile, requests for purchasing one-off datasets from untraditional sources are on the rise. These are

“stand-alone data sets that are not widely available to the library market and not available through WRDS. The seller often withholds university-wide use, and in many cases is not set up to offer it.”

The new library role is figuring out how to license, fund, and host or access these datasets, in cooperation with the data provider (who may never have sold data to a library before) and the faculty.

Meg provides reasons for the library remaining involved in this data market. Meg asks for other libraries dealing with this shift in data demand to share their stories with her for a follow-up article in Ticker.


A day in the life: Interviews with three PE/VC librarians
Doug Southard
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 22:3-4 (2017)

Doug interviews Laura Young and April Kessler (co-partners at Bizologie, a research consultancy) and Laura Berdish (Ross School of Business, University of Michigan). Interesting stuff, but my favorite section provides the responses to Doug’s question “What specialized skills or expertise are helpful in this area?”

LY: “I think you have to be willing to learn something new all the time…”

LB: “My first one would be flexibility. You have to be fast. You get all kinds of questions from different teams, you have to be quick, you have to be persistent…”

LY: “You mentioned having confidence in what you are doing. If you are not used to being in a business setting, it helps to have confidence in general. Business  librarianship can be intimidating to new librarians…”


If we built it, would they come? Creating instruction videos with promotion in mind
Leticia Camacho
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 23:1 (2018)

In this short article, Letica discusses creating a series of short videos to help make teaching 1,800 students per year in a required business writing class manageable. She explains the process of creating the videos, and summarizes her formal assessment of their effectiveness. Not highlighted in her article title – but equally interesting and significant I think – is her partnership with the faculty to help design, narrate, and promote the videos.


A business librarian’s review of the AACSB International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM)
Annette Buckley
Academic BRASS,  Vol 12 (2), Fall 2017

Annette is the Research Librarian for Business at UC Irvine. She attended this Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business conference instead of ALA due to a schedule conflict. Always good to read about librarians attending business faculty conferences and promoting the value of librarians (she provides an example of doing that). Throughout this short review, Annette compares this conference to ALA (not a fair comparison, but entertaining).

Annette details how this is a 1.5-day conference with a registration fee of $1,295. Whew, more than USASBE! She summarizes networking opportunities and programming slots.

Her “key take-aways” are direct and refreshing. She suggests strategies to learn from a conference like this without actually attending it (for example, you can review the published agenda and read the white papers).

10 & 11.

Two educational and interesting blogs:

 PolicyMap’s mapchats blog: Insights into GIS, data and mapping

If you work with numeric data and mapping, this blog is very useful, regardless of subscribing to PolicyMap or not. Each posts explains the nature of the data on that topic, discusses the issues with mapping that data, and may also discuss data visualization best practices. I learn a lot from it and am going to assign some of the posts to my entrepreneurship/economic development research students for in-class discussion.


Byline: “A blog about search, search skills, teaching search, learning how to search, learning how to use Google effectively, learning how to do research. It also covers a good deal of sensemaking and information foraging.”

Blogger Dan Russell is a “search research scientist at Google”. Sometimes he does work in libraries and proprietary content (databases) when appropriate. His research challenges are fun!