Feeds:
Posts
Comments

That title sounds more like a news item than a blog post about liaison trends but I’ll try to make this interesting. This concerns the professional development needs of librarians involved with entrepreneurship and economic development, as well as what 21st century librarians might want to get out of conferences.

Background

I wrote last time:

One of [my summer] projects is an offer to BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) to take over the Entrepreneurial Librarians Conference. Its organizers told us that their original vision of the conference has “run its course” and it’s time for another group to consider a revised vision of the event. BLINC is discussing the offer and will decide soon, and I may write here about our discussions and plans.

This conference (“ELC”) was founded and organized by librarians from UNC Greensboro and Wake Forest University. Mary Scanlon, the previous business librarian at WFU and a past BLINC chair, was one of the organizers. They seemed to define “entrepreneurial” as “innovative” or “creating a new program or service” in a library. Pretty broad definition.

So while some entrepreneurship liaisons have presented there (including Ash Faulkner, Kassie Ettefagh, & John Raynor last time) and the UNCG entrepreneurship program coordinator Dr. Dianne Welsh once gave a keynote, the ELC seemed to be a pretty general conference in terms of programming. (Proceedings are available.)

Opportunity

In late spring, Mike Crumpton from UNCG asked me as the current BLINC chair if BLINC might be interested in taking the conference over. After a short discussion at the end of our spring workshop, a few small group discussions, some emails through our Google Group, and an online discussion last month, BLINC decided that yes, we would like to try organizing the next ELC and that there are enough volunteers to plan the thing. But we did have some discussion questions to work through.

Discussion Questions

Here are the most interested issues we discussed. Some of our discussions will continue as we begin to make firm planning decisions.

1. Can we agree on a scope for this conference?

In other words, do we agree on the big picture of what the next ELC would be? Maybe via a subtitle that show how the conference will have more of a focus this time?

Without much debate we agreed on something like:

“….a conference about how librarians support entrepreneurship, economic development, social entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship education”

But we also discussed our need to emphasize “outreach” and “community” (as in community engagement). We also want to emphasize that the ELC is for all librarians, including ones new to these topics as well as more experienced folks. “For any librarian involved with…” is language someone suggested.

A bit much for one sentence. We will try to work all that into the promotional content after more wordsmithing.

Hmm maybe we should change the name to “Entrepreneurship & Libraries Conference“. It would still be the ELC.

2. What is our target audience?

We would love to attract a mix of public, special, and academic librarians. Too often business librarian gatherings are dominated by academic librarians. We also would like to have attendance and speakers from ecosystem partners like SCORE, the Small Business Technology and Development Center, city and county and NGO economic development officers, nonprofit leaders, etc.

BLINC includes public and academic librarians as well as a few special librarians, and Carolinas SLA will also be involved in the planning. That diversity will help us try to attract a diverse mix of attendees. Perhaps we could have co-chairs that include 2 or even 3 types of librarians; that situation would have both practical and promotional value.

Of course, we would also like to have a diverse demographic mix of attendees. One strategy could be to invite specific librarians of color etc. to submit proposals. Another is to select a diverse group of keynote speakers (assuming we do keynotes, see below).

3. What types of conference programming?

We decided it was too soon to make decisions on this, but we desire a good mix, including networking and social times. BLINC folks consistently rate networking as the most important value of the group and its workshops, followed by learning practical skills.

In the mix for consideration:

  • Socials (including some vendor-sponsored happy hours and meals, hopefully)
  • Networking (like socials but in a calmer environment, so easier to circulate and talk)
  • Panel discussions
  • Lightning rounds
  • Keynote
  • Pitch competition (see below)
  • Pre-conference (maybe in a computer classroom)

A small group of entrepreneurship librarians had an online meeting yesterday to discuss possible program submissions to USASBE 2020. That conference has interesting formats, for example, its three teaching tracks. Maybe we could learn something from them. The Charleston Conference has been innovative in conference programming too. It started running pitch competitions for libraries a few years ago, for example.

A related question is the desired mix of theoretical programming versus research findings versus practical content. BLINC skews toward the practical side but some business librarians are into theory and research but may not have much of a venue to present research, for example.

4. How long of a conference?

The ELC was originally 1.5 days, then dropped down to 1 day. How long should the BLINC version run? This was an interesting discussion.

A related question was “what do newer librarians want in a conference?” You could also phrase that question as “what do librarians in the 21st century want in a conference?” Someone suggested we create a survey. Or we could interview the significant number of newer public and academic librarians who have joined BLINC or CABAL recently.

Thoughts expressed:

  • Maybe one day to start, see how it goes
  • For anyone travelling to get to this conference, more than one day is better. Otherwise it’s not really worth the time and effort to get there.
  • One day + preconference and night-before dinner or happy hour event
  • Two days, since there are many topics to talk about and many possible types of conference programming.

So no decision yet.

5. Ebsco pitch competition for public libraries?

Duncan Smith is the Chief Strategist for Public Libraries for Ebsco. He has already proposed funding a pitch competition for public libraries at the ELC. The topic would be how a public library can support its local entrepreneurs and (perhaps) local economic development. The ELC planners think this is an interesting idea and will talk to Duncan about details.

6. Cost?

We all want to keep the conference as cheap as possible for attendees.

Two libraries in North Carolina have offered to host the ELC already, one a large academic library and one a new large downtown public library that opens in early 2020. Either option would help keep costs down since we wouldn’t have to pay for event space.

We would try to recruit vendor partners to help fund coffee breaks, meals, perhaps a happy hour at a local brewery or a travel scholarship, etc. We would provide the vendor with thanks and publicity in exchange.

7. ELC impact on regular BLINC programming?

BLINC’s free quarterly workshops have been a defining aspect of our group. There was some concern that taking on the ELC would detract from BLINC’s core value-added offerings. We decided that it would be ok for us to skip one quarterly workshop in whatever season the ELC takes place.

Wrap-up for now

That’s it for now. We will ramp up the discussions and preliminary planning by late summer and will eventually start promoting this new version of the ELC and ask for program proposals.

Advertisements

Happy summer, everyone.

Catching up

summer scene

summer scene at Magdalen

Carol and I are back from vacation and I’m getting into the summer projects mode. One of those projects is an offer to BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) to take over the Entrepreneurial Librarians Conference. Its organizers told us that their original vision of the conference has “run its course” and it’s time for another group to consider a new vision. BLINC is discussing the offer and will decide soon, and I may write here about our discussions and plans.

BLINC colleagues Angel Truesdale (UNC Charlotte), Summer Krstevska (Wake Forest University), and Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) just started a blog called BizLibratory. They will “cover topics perspective of being new to the world of academic business librarianship: instruction, research strategies and resources, conferences and professional development, outreach, entrepreneurship, collections, and more.” These are smart librarians, so I recommend following their writing.

New to me is the blog of the Library Association of Singapore, Singapore Librarians Bulletin. While not focused on business librarianship, there is content here useful to liaisons. The most recent posts concern professional development.

Today’s topic

Last month Min Tong (U. Central Florida), Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (Penn), and I were brainstorming program ideas for the 2019 Charleston Conference. We ended up submitting a program on how liaisons who don’t have final spending authority for big ticket items (like databases) can influence both the budget decision makers and the vendors. We hope that this program would be useful to any subject liaison at Charleston as well as vendors, who also attend programs there.

One idea we decided not to pursue for Charleston is:

“No commercial use”: academic licensing in the era of community engagement, experiential learning, and campus entrepreneurship.

An alternative title:

What does “educational use only” licensing mean on a campus full of community engagement, experiential learning, and entrepreneurship?

We also liked this topic but thought it might be a little to business librarianship-centered for Charleston. So I’m going to try turning it into a blog post instead. I’m not speaking for Min or Cynthia – they are innocent of anything crazy below.

Part 1. Definitions

We would have needed to define some phrases for the benefit of non-business librarians and vendors in the audience. Some of these phrases can represent a wide variety of things but here is an attempt to write short definitions based on my experience at UNC Greensboro. There are certainly other definitions out there.

Community engagement: students working with people and groups beyond campus. “Groups” can include companies, nonprofits, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations/NGOs. (Community-engaged scholarship is related but focuses on research, usually by faculty and graduate students.)

Experiential learning: classes that apply classroom learning and research to real projects, resulting in students having to make recommendations or decisions based on data. Hmm maybe that’s a little sloppy. Wikipedia emphasizes “learning through reflection on doing” and notes that hands-on learning and service learning are subsets. Experiential learning is increasingly emphasized by AACSB, I’ve heard (although I need a better source for that claim).

Entrepreneurship: creating a self-employment opportunity. Ok, that’s the short Coleman Foundation definition. “Creating an organization (for- or non-profit) that employs people” is another.

Social entrepreneurship: creating something that helps address or solve a community problem. Could be for-profit or non-profit.

Campus incubator: a campus-funded space or organization that supports (and subsidizes) the development of start-ups by students. There are lots of discussions at USASBE and GCEC each year about whether campus incubators are good things to or not. (UNCG doesn’t have one of these – lack of funding, and most of our students have to work real jobs to support themselves and pay for school and so can’t put long hours each week into developing an idea at an incubator. Campuses of privilege are much more likely to have incubators.)

2. Licensing

For most vendors of business intelligence and data, the corporate market is their primary market. The academic market is much smaller. (Some vendors don’t serve the public library market at all due to the potential loss of sales to corporate users.) The vendors will point out that their margins are usually much higher for the corporate clients than the academic clients.

This is quite different from other subject areas, for which the academic market is their bread and butter. Think MLA for its bibliography, APA for PsycInfo, and ACS for its chemistry journals.

Likewise the default licensing terms for business content address corporate needs, not the academic needs for large data downloads, campus-wide IP authentication, etc. Bobray Bordelon of Princeton reminds us of this in BRASS discussions. However some libraries have negotiated very favorable licensing terms to serve their needs. Christina Kim of the MaRS Discovery District gave an interesting example at GCEC two years ago of licensing she helped negotiate that serves their complex patron base across Ontario.

A major problem for some vendors has been students at the elite business schools who get summer internships at Wall Street firms and then use their campus business databases to support their employers’ needs. Because, you know, JP Morgan can’t afford to fund its own research subscriptions or something. Some schools known to be pipelines for Wall Street have to accept 9-month database subscriptions so that there is no summer access at all.

3. Licensing terms for each situation: ok or not?

So how does “educational-use only” or “not for commercial use” licensing language impact community engagement, experiential learning, and campus entrepreneurship?

Some librarians report that their campus lawyers or whoever in the library signs the contracts are extremely conservative (or skittish) concerning campus entrepreneurship. I tend to swing the other way.

My takes on database usages by situation:

Community engaged experiential learning: this is 100% educational work. So yes, databases can and should be used by the students. However, the students should not share reports and raw spreadsheets from databases with the community partners. The students should summarize (quote or paraphrase) content from databases. The librarian (or professor) working with these students should emphasize this as part of their instruction on research skills and info literacy.

Entrepreneurship / social entrepreneurship: for class projects (like a student team developing a business model, feasibility analysis, or business plan), yes. Same as above. Likewise if the community engaged experiential learning involves working with a local entrepreneur. No difference for for-profit or non-profit entrepreneurship.

Campus incubator: hmm trickier. Are the students using the incubator as part of a class project? Then using databases should be fine. Are they working on their own business idea, independent of any class? Then no, I don’t think “educational use” applies. Being a student is not enough if the class credit is missing. Yes, that student is learning something in the process but so is a community member who walks into the library for a research consultation. Certainly debatable, I realize.

4. Conclusion

This topic came up in the Q/A time of our “Who’s Counting? Measuring Usage of Untraditional Databases Subscriptions” program last year at Charleston. I was moderating the Q/A. Panelists Cynthia and our vendor friends from S&P, Data Planet, and PrivCo re-directed the question back to me. I provided my “experiential learning class projects is educational use” answer and got a sudden round of applause in response. Librarians do really care about this issue and some are willing to stand up for this point of view.

Wrapping up the semester

Exams at UNC Greensboro end today (Thursday) but my semester wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with the final presentations in MKT 426: International Marketing, the Export Odyssey class. The event took three hours and included three visitors: our SBTDC partner Owen George and two of the company representatives. I hosted the reps while Professor Bahadir was busy up-front grading and managing the team transitions. Half of the students were graduating, and for many this presentation was the final work of their UNCG career.

Unlike last semester, there were no presentation flops this time – all the teams did at least a good job presenting their research and recommending a detailed export market strategy based on that analysis. A couple of teams struggled to articulate their recommendation for the nature of the channel of distribution (i.e. “place” in the 4 P’s such as “indirect sales to a wholesaler” or “direct sales to major hotel chains”) based on their industry and customer identification research. But we asked them to discuss it more and eventually they got it right. This was an example of trying to make decisions based on research, perhaps the main goal of business research instruction. (This comes up later in this post.)

One student team’s company was AEG International, which exports the Firefly product: a solar-powered battery to run lights and power mobile phones. Firefly was developed in West Africa to support rural communities with no electricity. (Note the pictures on that page.) The students proposed having an NGO that serves rural areas in Senegal to distribute the product to its potential users. Professor Bahadir and I hope to have teams work with AEG on their additional products in the future, maybe their water purification product.

While walking back to the library after the final presentation, I bumped into a student who recognized me. His name is Vincent, finance major about to graduate. He reported he had three exams to go and looked tired already but stopped to thank me for the research workshop I led in his FIN 442: Investments class last fall. He said his team didn’t know what they were doing with their research project on Tesla until my workshop, and they ended up with a decent grade on that project because of me. I don’t do that much for the finance program, so this comment warmed my heart. Vincent has a summer job in Research Triangle Park (where BLINC met last time) and hopes to land a full time job in RTP after that. I wished him well.

On return to the library, our LIS intern Ashlea was working the Information Desk. She told me this was her last desk shift as she too was graduating. We exchanged a hug and I asked her to stay in touch as she begins her professional career as a librarian. And on these happy notes my school year ended.

Today’s topic

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

A few academic librarians in BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) have a tradition of gathering at the end of the spring semester for a 3-hour discussion of trends too narrow in scope for a general quarterly BLINC workshop. Mary Abernathy, our BLINC member from Salem College, hosted this event on Wednesday. Salem is the oldest, continually operated educational institution for women in the United States. The Moravians who settled Salem (nucleus for what became Winston-Salem) founded this institution before the American Revolution as a girls’ school. There is also a high school for women next to the college. (Old Salem is a neighbor; my pictures here are actually Old Salem pictures although the college is very pretty too.)

This year six friends were able to meet. Four of them were new members of BLINC and early-career business librarians, bringing energy and fresh ideas to our discussions. Before drafting our agenda, we asked Angel Truesdale from UNC Charlotte for an update on how she and her colleagues were doing after the shooting there last week. She reported that emotions remained high but that they were moving forward. Angel was not on campus the day of the shooting but was helping staff the library the next day.

We agreed to this discussion agenda:

  1. Measuring faculty research impact
  2. Programming for business students in the library
  3.  Instruction:
    • Classroom engagement and workshop design
    • Use of instructional tech
    • Assessment of business research instruction
  4. Summer projects: what do you focus on?

Any confusion in this summary of our discussions is my fault.

Measuring faculty research impact

Betty Garrison of Elon University introduced this topic. She and her colleagues are doing a lot of work in this area. Betty helped create a library guide on “Measuring Your Research Impact.”

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

We discussed marketing strategies for reaching professors on this topic. Summer Krstevska of Wake Forest University suggested than an informal and personal strategy can be more effective than mass emails. Focus on building relationships, meeting in person outside of the library, etc.

We discussed our faculty status (or not) on campus and how that status can help or hinder us. The status of librarians at UNC Charlotte is complex, Angel reported, but at least her dean is a member of the faculty council and is able to advocate for librarian expertise and services.

Angel also affirmed Summer’s focus on the personal touch. Angel uses a mail merge to email her faculty, so that the faculty member’s name is included in her opening line. She does get more responses that way, it seems. She also advocates for making friends with business school staff persons. Those folks are often key gatekeepers and holders of key information.

Several of us email the new faculty hires and new PhD students each August with personalized greeting and offers of teaching and research support. And attending scheduled research presentations in the b-school helps to get noticed (and to better understand the research the faculty are doing).

Angel created a visual graphic describing her services to faculty, as opposed to just using text.

Google Scholar now provides alerts for new publications with specific keywords, such as the name of your campus or the business school.

Business schools tend to highly rank journals from the big for-profit publishers like Elsevier. This could become an issue as more libraries and faculty senates reconsider supporting big subscription packages from those publishers. Stay tuned…

Programming for business students in the library

We discussed hosting special events in the library targeting business students. Ideas mentioned in our discussion:

  • Partner with the b-school on a co-branded program. (I mentioned the library-funded social entrepreneurship business model competition I need to work on this summer.)
  • Work with career services (also to provide research instruction to non-business students as they prepare for interviews).
  • Betty reminded us that the First Research industry reports (which NC LIVE provides via ProQuest) include sections on “conversation starters” and “call prep questions” – great for interviews, not just sales.
  • Partner with student clubs like CEO.
  • Nancy Lovas from UNC Chapel Hill discussed the Live Action CLUE game that her library system puts on each semester. (She played Professor Plum last time!)
  • Young business alumni can be interesting to current students (some alums could perhaps talk about the value of working with the business librarian and using databases too).
  • Consider livestreaming events for online students and satellite campuses.

Instruction

Given that four of us are newish business librarians, we talked a lot about making inroads intro classes for instruction time. Angel discussed her work with an accounting/ pre-business major class in which she provided drop-in lab support and research consultations. We talked about time efficiencies a bit here.

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene (flag represents the construction date of the building)

Nancy discussed the mere five minutes of class time she was allowed in a 400-student introduction to entrepreneurship class. There was some sentiment that short visits to large classes sometimes is a good strategy to get started creating productive engagements with students.

We talked about the sometimes tricky need to help professors create better assignments and research projects. This led to a really good discussion about the nature of teaching business research skills and information literacy. Summer lamented when students fail to apply research to making a decision. Or as students have put it:

  • “What do I do with this industry report or market data?”
  • “How do I apply this to my project?”
  • Or “What do I do next?”

We mentioned Ilana Stonebraker’s work at this point. Sometimes it helps to give students specific prompts:

  • Based on this demographic (and/or psychographic) research, who is your best customer?
  • Based on this industry analysis, how would you describe the long-term health of this industry?
  • Based on this financial benchmarking, what is a likely profit margin for your start-up?

Nancy discussed how she asks students to brainstorm their own research questions: “What do you need to know about this market or industry or company or business idea?” If looking at articles, “what are you looking for in the article?” Have them share their questions in a Google Document.

Don’t ask “Does anyone have a question” but rather “What questions do you have?”

Angel recommending looking at some of the products in Project Cora, which covers business research topics and specific business databases.

(In our spirited discussion of business research instruction, there was no mention of the frameworks, even though all of us are familiar with them.)

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

We discussed how we prepare for a workshop. While many of us usually have teams focus on their assigned or chosen topic (an industry, market, product, public company, local small business or nonprofit, etc.), Summer sometimes has all the students work on a product that is harder to classify than their officially assigned product for the class. She discussed how her example provides a deeper learning experience than researching the simpler, official product.

One of us likes to use mind-mapping tools, in which students develop a list of subtopics and/or research options for their assigned topic. Students still like Kahoot. Padlet can be a visually attractive alternative to a shared Google Document. Are tech tools like these effective or merely flashy? Well, students do respond well to the visual elements that these tools provide.

Nancy described an assessment research project she is working on. It will involve student use of a LibGuide with a test and control class. She is working on the IRB submission.

That was it for assessment, sorry. We were starting to get hungry but wanted to discuss one more topic before lunch.

What do you do in the summer?

For some of us, this will be the first summer as an academic librarian. What do you prioritize? How do you handle the sometimes very different workflow compared to the fall and spring when we are busy with instruction and consultations? (Of course this isn’t the situation with everyone. I just got off the phone with my fellow BLINC officer Sara Thynne of Alamance Community College, and Sara is no less busy in the summer.)

Some answers:

  • Betty’s library has weekly workshops for librarians and library staff. Departments take turns coming up with the topics.
  • Library faculty retreats and unconferences.
  • Updating web sites, LibGuides, videos, etc. Betty’s library devotes two full days for everyone to work on standardizing, updating, and improving LibGuides.
  • Mapping out a personal research agenda and writing articles.
  • Working through a “summer to-do” list used each summer. It covers updating LibGuides and videos, cleaning out email folders, desktop files, heavy-use folders, and paperwork in the office; updating social media professional profiles; adding possible conferences as well as fall semester embedded classes to the calendar, etc.
  • Updates to make, cleaning out my email folders, cleaning up my desktop and networked folders, etc.
  • Catching up on professional readings (articles and blog posts) saved up since the fall semester began.
  • Submitting proposals to fall and spring conferences (we briefly discussed our different travel funding policies).
  • Getting name and contact info for new incoming professors, PhD students, etc.

Then we walked up to Willow’s Bistro for lunch with a bit more work-related discussion but mostly socializing before bidding adieu.

Nancy Lovas is the entrepreneurship librarian at UNC Chapel Hill, where she does all things business research. Instruction features heavily in her professional interests, as well as learning the ins-and-outs of business information and databases. Nancy’s best days include a walk outside, a strong cup of tea, and anything related to teaching. She holds a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Summer Krstevska is the business, economics & data access librarian at Wake Forest University, where she supports biz u-grads as well as entrepreneurship minors, and the economics programs. She is currently exploring her curiosities surrounding data visualization and developing her first for-credit business research course for entrepreneurs. She holds a M.L.I.S in Library and Information Science from Simmons University.

Athens GA street scene

Athens GA street scene. From Alan Sandercock, http://tinyurl.com/y2d4hqc7

Spring had come to Athens, Georgia when around 30 intrepid business librarians convened for the first-ever Southern Academic Business Librarians Conference (SOUCABL, pronounced “sociable”) on the last weekend in March. We braved pollen, a hilly UGA campus, and some friendly March Madness rivalry for a day of great conversations, connections, and development of business reference skills.

SOUCABL is the brainchild of Sheila Devaney at the University of Georgia, Rahn Huber of Vanderbilt, and Trip Wyckoff at Florida State. Intended to be “an affordable opportunity for librarians to discuss business librarianship and to network with other librarians in the region,” it is the opinion of this author (Nancy) that the conference accomplished its purpose.

Pre-Conference

We both attended the great pre-conference workshop on Friday afternoon with Celia Ross, author of the book Making Sense of Business Reference (new edition coming out this year!). It was a condensed version of her popular RUSA course. I (Nancy) enjoyed how Celia asked us to rate ourselves: “how ‘spicy’ can you handle bizref? (Mild, Medium, Hot, or On Fire)” Given the naturally humble natures of librarians, most of us labeled ourselves a variation on medium. However, after several hours together working through some tough ‘bizref stumpers’, I suspect we underrated ourselves. Also of interest was the opportunity to play around in a lot of databases.

The Conference

After the pre-conference, the conference officially opened with a reception sponsored by RKMA Publishers. Downtown Athens is hopping on a Friday night, and the librarians were no exception. Afterwards, a few of us found a place to watch the UNC vs. Auburn game.

It was a jam-packed Saturday.

The conference had a great start with the keynote presentation by Susan Klopper, the Executive Director of Goizueta Business Library at Emory University. She went over the qualities and competencies she looks for when hiring business librarians. Though we both have somewhat recently just made it out of the hunger games of the librarian job search, this keynote’s content was still useful.

Klopper cut straight to the point about what makes business librarians unique and how one can continue to grow these competencies, whether new in your position or more seasoned (sticking with Celia’s spicy metaphor here). Her suggestion to consider yourself as a business was key to her main point of ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ of a true business librarian. In this sense, Klopper stated that a business librarian should:

  • consider their competitors and customers,
  • differentiate their services,
  • negotiate their time strategically,
  • and build clients for life.

Klopper highlighted the importance of knowing your value proposition, as well as figuring out what you love and then putting yourself out there. Kopper challenged us: “what kind of librarian do you want to be?” Her talk emphasized that we all can develop, define, and refine who we are today and grow into who we want to be tomorrow.

With Klopper’s motivation, it was easy for the group to transition into a competency brainstorming session after the keynote. During this session, we partnered up and discussed what competencies we were already strong with and of those competencies, which one would we want to develop. We then considered how we would develop that competency.

This realistic approach to improving our strengths was practical and felt achievable. I (Summer) felt like I could go back to my office immediately and get to work! The encouragement from Trip Wyckoff to actually pursue our development plan by keeping our partner accountable with the end goal of presenting together next year at SOUCABL was priceless. His suggestion helped collaborators move past just temporarily collaboration and instead paved the way to building lasting partnerships with each other.

After a delicious lunch from Statista, it was time for poster sessions. The poster sessions touched on topics of flipping the entrepreneurial classroom, building partnerships with career services, what students think of discipline specific information literacy, and OER usage of accounting faculty. All of these posters were relevant, intriguing and (in my/Summer’s opinion) would make amazing full presentation sessions in their own right. I hope to hear more from the presenters next year.

When it came time for the full presentations, the presentations covered topics such as the challenges of engaging business students early on in First-Year Seminar & First-Year Experience courses, entrepreneurship-related events hosted by the library, and the growing popularity of fintech and its impact on biz ref, just to name a few. I (Nancy) liked the structure of presentation time. Presenters were allotted twenty minutes, which allowed for more depth than a lightning talk yet was a good length for our dwindling attention spans.

We took a few minutes at the end of the day to share our “roses, thorns, and crowns” (what we liked, didn’t like, what should stay the same). Everyone agreed the conference should happen again!

The day ended with lively chat and laughter on a sunny rooftop bar in downtown Athens courtesy of PrivCo.

Conclusion

Summer

Overall the conference was a great experience for me. The content really hit the spot and networking-wise it could not have been a better, more enjoyable group of people to get on with. Aside from BLINC workshops, I’ve never attended a full conference where every session felt so directly related to my work. I left SOUCABL feeling inspired and satisfied. This conference was more than worth its price tag and was only a short distance from North Carolina. I look forward to going back and hopefully presenting with librarians I made connections with this past year.

Nancy

I am so glad I went to SOUCABL. I echo Summer’s comment about meeting great people and benefiting from the excellent content. I also appreciated how many vendors were in attendance. As an early-career business librarian, the whole collections-thing can be rather daunting. Susan Klopper specifically mentioned the vendor community in her keynote and working with vendors is often brought up at BLINC workshops. This conference was a low-key opportunity to meet vendors for many of the databases and products I currently manage and start building relationships with those vendors.

Thank you, Sheila, Rahn, and Trip, for your hard work in organizing, and to the vendors who generously sponsored the conference.

Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) met for its spring workshop last week Friday. You can’t tell from this lunch-time picture, but the flowering trees are now blooming over here in the NC Piedmont, and the daffodils are up and looking pretty. Well, the lack of coats on these business librarians enjoying lunch and networking outdoors is a sign of spring!

We met at the Frontier, a shared-work space, in Research Triangle Park, just south of Durham. It had been a while since we met in RTP. It’s pretty famous for being one of the most successful research parks in the country. It reflects the early, 1950’s, suburban model of research parks; only recently has the park become concerned with mixed-used development and more sustainable transportation options. In contrast, the newish Winston-Salem Innovation Quarter, where BLINC has met before, is largely built from downtown former RJ Reynolds tobacco factories. The Quarter is high-density and has lots of housing a short walk away. (However, we are still waiting for our downtown, full-sized grocery store.)

Around 20 business librarians, public and academic, attended the workshop. We had more public librarians than academic librarians this time, a nice change of pace. Four folks were first-timers at a BLINC workshop. We gave our new friends a special welcome.

Workshop description: “Social entrepreneurship has gone mainstream, but libraries have been helping people trying to solve problems in their communities for a long time. At this workshop, we will share and discuss library services and resources to support social entrepreneurs in both public and academic libraries.”

My notes are somewhat rough since I was also serving as the workshop coordinator, along with fellow-officer Sara Thynne of Alamance Community College. My apologies to the presenters and you readers.

Agenda:

9:30-10:00: Socializing over morning snacks and coffee
10:00-10:30: Introductions; what’s new with your work or at your library
10:30-11:30: Social entrepreneurship, part 1:
Steve Cramer (UNC Greensboro): Introduction to social entrepreneurship and how today’s topics fit together
Dan Maynard (Campbell University):  Lessons learned about working with social entrepreneurs  as a Sullivan Fellow
Betty Garrison (Elon University): IRS 990 forms for nonprofit research and financial benchmarking
11:30-12:30: Lunch at the Food Truck Rodeo
12:30-2:00: Social entrepreneurship, part 2
Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill): The UNC Makeathon — students developing prototypes that promote positive social impact
Deanna Day (Small Business and Technology Development Center): Support organizations for social entrepreneurs
Steve Cramer: Simply Analytics (NC LIVE) v. PolicyMap v. Social Explorer for community indicators data
Final discussions facilitated by Sara Thynne (Alamance Community College)
2:00-3:00: BLINC planning discussions: NCLA 2019 additional program proposals and final decisions on our socials; topics for summer workshop at App State

Introducing the topic

I used the definition from UNCG’s Seminar in Social Entrepreneurship class:

“Social entrepreneurship is a growing field that depends on market-driven practices to create social change. Social entrepreneurs leverage available economic resources and innovations, to support their passion to have a positive impact on the global and local community.”

After describing a few examples from recent magazines and newspapers, we discussed core aspects of social entrepreneurship. Many of these aspects impact our consulting work with social entrepreneurs.

  • Includes for-profit and nonproft organizations (including triple bottom line companies: people, planet, profits)
  • The need to define and measure the problem being addressed, and the people involved
  • The need to have direct experience with target populations
  • And working in partnership with members of a target community, not swooping in to fix problems for them – that’s almost never helpful or effective or indeed wanted
  • Industry analysis, competitive intelligence, financial benchmarking, and market analysis are required – the same research required by general entrepreneurship — even if you want to start a nonprofit and your heart is in the right place
  • Social entrepreneurs can’t expect grant money to come in from local governments or foundations just because it’s a significant social problem and you are passionate about your proposed solution
  • Social entrepreneurs must think seriously about possible revenue streams, and will have to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow – whether nonprofit or for-profit

Lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

Dan Maynard (Campbell University) discussed “lessons learned about working with social entrepreneurs as a Sullivan Fellow”. Dan remains the only librarian serving as a Sullivan Fellow. From that page:

Dan Maynard

Dan Maynard on lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

“The Sullivan Foundation is focused on supporting faculty who are interested in incorporating social innovation and entrepreneurship into new or existing classes and/or proposed projects that serves to deepen knowledge of students interested in the field and faculty impact in the community.”

Dan has a lot of interesting stories to tell and recommendations to share. He presented social entrepreneurship in terms of the 3 M’s:

  1. Mission (useful work)
  2. Margin (it’s profitable)
  3. Meaning (“good work”)

The Sullivan Foundation focuses on rural and micropolitan places in the U.S. south — the kinds of places that often get ignored in discussions of trendy entrepreneurship.

Lessons learned:

  • Turn outward: everyone has aspirations: find out what they are
  • Discover your niche: deal with causes, rural issues, or urban issues. Don’t try to solve all the problems at once
  • Social entrepreneurship is not social innovation, social justice, service learning, or community engagement per se. It often involves those things, though. But watch out for folks with their own agenda but less interest in sustainable solutions
  • Be prepared for push-back from some faculty for using the “e” word. For some, entrepreneurship is a dirty word, a capitalistic idea
  • Be prepared to push back against administrators, bosses, sponsors, and funding agencies with their top-down pronouncements and top-down agenda (Dan gave a few examples)

Measuring outcomes: assessment or story telling?

  • Foundations seek storytelling and branding – human aspects, humanity on display. Not a spreadsheet of numeric assessments
  • Provide storytelling that earns name recognition
  • Assessment data is a fading emphasis in the foundation community

An example Campbell U story from Sullivan (Dan shared this link with us after our workshop – the story was posted the same day.)

Success stories sell, Dan asserts. He is getting more instruction and consultation requests on his campus as a result of Sullivan Foundation storytelling,

Dan is helping social entrepreneurs grow their networks and seek funding. Slow money, micro grants, and peer lending is happening in Dan’s rural county. It’s not just Detroit Soup anymore.

From the Q&A with Dan on academic implications:

  • A business schools are not the most fertile ground for social entrepreneurship — the arts and humanities are.
  • There is much less emphasis on traditional business plan writing [more on that after lunch].

We moved the IRS 990 discussion for after lunch.

Food truck lunch

The Frontier has “Food Truck Rodeos” on Friday, so we went outside and had lunch. That was fun. Easy to network and socialize on foot, and then we munched on benches.

Nonprofit financial research and benchmarking

Betty Garrison (Elon University) caught a bug and couldn’t make it, so I jumped in to cover this topic. Most of the BLINC friends had experience with the IRS 990 financial forms required for many nonprofits.

  • 501(a) organizations.
  • Due 5 ½ months after fiscal year ends
  • If under $200K in receipts, an organization can submit a shorter version, 900-EZ
  • Private foundations of any size submit a 990-PF that usually includes a list of organizations given funds with the dollars amount

Using some examples I pulled up from http://foundationcenter.org/find-funding/990-finder, we discussed using these forms for financial benchmarking and strategic insights.

Librarian support of the UNC-Chapel Hill Makerthon

Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) described the nature of this event and her role in it as the recently-hired entrepreneurship librarian. This is a new but already big event at her campus. https://www.makeathon.unc.edu/ . It lasts a week. Ideas must have a social impact focus. Many non-business students compete.

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

Student teams present either an idea for a physical product or an app (apps are really popular). The teams use the business model canvas for their submissions and 12-minute presentations. Nancy provided research consultations for six of the teams.

Nancy has a research guide, https://guides.lib.unc.edu/lean-canvas, organized around the topic boxes of the business model canvas.

She also works with the campus’ social entrepreneurship hub, located within the Campus Y.

Nancy led a discussion on the business model canvas versus the business model versus the traditional business plan. Many of the public librarians hadn’t been exposed to these alternatives to the business plan.

Small Business and Technology Development Center & social entrepreneurship

Deanna Day (research consultant (and librarian), Small Business and Technology Development Center) discussed how the SBTDC supports social entrepreneurs. SBTDC is the “business and technology extension service of The University of North Carolina” [from that site]. So it covers the whole state through our 16 campuses.

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

Deanna provided some examples of SBTDC’s social entrepreneurship clients. SBTDC councilors also support students working on pitch competitions (I didn’t know that).

The councilors’ biggest concern when working with new social entrepreneurship clients: that the clients won’t be able to sustain their business/organization, and that their financial planning is undeveloped.

Deanna expanded on the financial challenges of creating nonprofits. From one of her slides:

  • Everyone wants to be a nonprofit
  • Because funding is difficult to obtain from traditional sources?
  • Most VCs and angels are not interested in social impact funding
  • Only 11% of big bets go to people to color
  • But other business structures can also be effective
  • SBTDC’s biggest challenge is clients who are not interested in developing a financially sound, sustainable enterprise

SBTDC now uses Liveplan, available to their clients. It works well, she reported. Banks and the SBA accept Liveplan reports when they consider making a loan.

Social data

 I talked briefly about Simply Analytics (which we all have access to via NC LIVE), PolicyMap, and Social Explorer as tools for social entrepreneurship.

Even though many of us usually turn to Simply Analytics for its deep collection of psychographic data, it has plenty of Census data too, which can easily be ranked by location as well as mapped.

PolicyMap has lots of free data and therefore is still useful without having a subscription. It has a robust collection of health indicators, not just Census data: CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the Behavioral Risk Factor Service, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Also HUD data on affordable housing. The PolicyMap blog is open access and had been very helpful to me: https://www.policymap.com/blog/

Social Explorer is very useful for time series data, since it has data back to the original, 1790 Census. Of course, the data back then was pretty limited in scope. For more recent years, it has data from County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.

Happy spring break! Well it’s that magic week at UNCG at least.

Catching up

Sorry I haven’t written here since before the spring semester began. We liaisons are busy people, right? I’ve had more night classes than usual this semester, for both one shot instruction (often graduate classes) plus two of my core embedded classes (for which I had to reduce my roles). I’ve also had some morning classes on the same day as the night classes, so a number of 12-hour days this semester. Tiring.

But perhaps also because of this trend:

UNCG business school enrollment trend

UNCG business school enrollment trend

The UNCG School of Human & Health Sciences has also grown a lot, while the Nursing, Arts & Sciences, and Education schools have been declining in enrollment. Interesting trends that will maybe someday have liaison staffing implications here if our subject assignments become partly informed by data? But I have to bear in mind business librarian friends like Ash Faulkner from Ohio State and Min Tong from U. of Central Florida who have over twice as many students in their liaison roles as me. Props to those hard-working professionals working their lean liaison programs.

Over 125 folks have filled out the survey my friend Betty Garrison from Elon University and I created on experiences with business librarian organizations. The results including the comments are very interesting and we look forward to writing them up. With Betty’s permission, I might share a few findings and comments from survey here this summer while writing about ACRL 2019 and BLINC programming. BLINC’s spring workshop in mid-March focuses on social entrepreneurship — outreach, services, instruction, and resources.

I also hope to write more about our explorations of librarian (and liaison) workload and evaluation guidelines. That task force has identified some interesting guideline examples from other libraries. Eventually our revised guidelines (if approved by our librarians) will help us better define and manage workloads plus expectations for scholarship and professional service. But on to…

Today’s topic

In outreach and teaching opportunities, I’ve been thinking about this more.

We are teachers, research consultants, and economic development partners who frequently make first contact with students, professors, deans, entrepreneurs, and/or eco dev leaders. So we need to establish strong, favorable first impressions through delivering a concise, effective sales pitch — we are selling ourselves as liaisons.

In the 2018 edition of USASBE’s Annals of Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy (sorry, no open access), the lead-off article is “What I’ve Learned about Teaching Entrepreneurship: Perspectives of Five Master Educators”. One of those five “master educators,” Luke Pittaway (Ohio University), wrote of his very mindful work in his classroom before the students show up for the first class session. Some of this mindfulness applies to introducing ourselves as liaisons.

Professor Pittaway enters the classroom quite early, turns up the heat (wow I’ve never been in a classroom in which you can control the heat! What a luxury), writes his contact info and class learning objectives on the board, powers up the projector while opening Pandora for some Latin Jazz, and reviews his printouts of the student names and pictures. Finally the students begin to trickle in.

Professor Pittaway shakes each student’s hand as they enter the room and chats with many of them about their backgrounds. He asks them to set out their name tags out on the desks (table tents — a stable of MBA education). Finally he begins class not by going through the syllabus but by asking the students about entrepreneurship and getting them to talk and share.

Of course, professors and librarians don’t always have that much time before a class begins. Yet this is a good example of trying hard to make a good first impression.

[This article is also interesting for illustrating the biggest debate in ENT education — should educators focus purely on teaching students to become entrepreneurs, or should they also help students launch ventures while still a student? Strong views on this issue with ethical and educational arguments. There’s also the too-rarely discussed issue of privilege; students who are largely paying their own way through college (as do many UNCG business students) can’t spend 20-30 hours a week outside of class working on a venture.]

Building your liaison pitch

There is much in that story we could apply to research instruction, but let’s try to apply those ideas to our first contact situations as subject and functional liaisons. We need to communicate that:

  1. We care (we want the students, professors, entrepreneurs, the center etc. to succeed)
  2. We are engaged (often illustrated in part just by showing up. Assuming we aren’t stuck at the reference desk for many hours a week, which some business librarian friends report is still the case)
  3. We provide needed expertise and resources (your functional and/or subject knowledge, and perhaps also your library’s databases and physical spaces)

Point #3 becomes our value proposition as liaisons. Instead of pitching our business model in the elevator, we need to pitch the value we bring to the table as a library liaison. Or, if you prefer, we need to have a prepared yet authentic-sounding answer to this question our patrons might be thinking: “How can you help me with my research needs, or with my class, department, or center?”

Preparing our pitch to answer that question helps us use patron-centered language, as opposed to the language used in our library goals, the ACRL framework, etc. Those documents are written for a different purpose.

Our liaison pitches can be used in:

  • A class (whether in a one shot or the first day with an embedded class)
  • A welcome video
  • Meeting a new prof, department head, student, etc.
  • Random encounters in the business school hallways, a special event you are attending (crashing or invited), or indeed in an elevator

Our pitches need to vary by target audience. In my case, the Geography grad students have very different needs compared to the evening/executive MBA students. Or the PhD students in our Consumer Apparel and Retailing Studies program, the new head of Economics, or the head of our campus entrepreneurship center. Or the Action Greensboro officers working to keep more young professionals in the city.

Some examples

For a research workshop:

“I am your business librarian, which means I am your personal business research consultant. I will help you save time, reduce stress, and probably help you get a better grade on this project.”

I use this one a lot. Yes, it’s not intellectual. But this message resonates with students. They hear I am on their side. Usually when I say this, I get both eye contact and some head nods from the students. The professor (even if sitting in the back of the room focused on grading) sometimes pipes up with a verbal “Yes!” as confirmation.

In my for-credit research class, I have told the students I want them to become “more effective and efficient researchers” and “more comfortable searching for numeric data from datasets.” But those students have already signed up for a 3-credit class on ENT and eco dev research, so they are already pretty crazy umm I mean committed.

Sometimes I talk about how employees increasingly want to hire recent graduates with skills in “big data” and “data analytics.” The professors also add a “yes” to this. Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch to use such language regarding skills using ReferenceUSA, SimplyAnalytics, or American FactFinder. But I do anyway.

An addition for a team-based experiential learning class:

“I have a list of your teams and their topics and have already done some pre-research on your industries and markets in order to learn where your research challenges will be. So if I don’t get to your topic today in our workshop, get in touch with me next week for some customized research support.”

I try to avoid telling students to see me when they need “help.” Some students perceive “needing help” as a sign of failure on their part. Instead, say something like “need some research suggestions” or “want to explore this research option [ex. mapping data] with me.”

Plugging library subscription databases:

“Through this research guide I made for your class, you can access expensive research tools that are free to you as students. They give you information and data you can’t find via Google. These are some of the same research tools that major corporations buy for their own needs.”

[Then show a pre-looked up example of industry growth projections, or mapped consumer spending data — some research need straight out of their project description, a need I remind them of.]

Sometimes after they have used some of the databases, I ask the students to guess the commercial cost of an individual IBIS or Mintel report. Usually the students underestimate the prices at first. I respond “higher, guess again!” until they get close. Then I show the actual cost using marketresearch.com (pulled up before class began). “Information has value!” sez the framework.

For PhD students:

Emphasize your skills in identifying possible datasets they could use, teaching citation management software, and conducting citation analysis to identify seminal works and the core authors.

To students in general (via a script for a short welcome video when I became the Geography liaison recently):

“[camera mode] Hello! My name is Steve Cramer and I am the Geography librarian. My focus as a librarian is on teaching research strategies and sources and providing research consultations. Each year I provide dozens of hands-on research workshops for my academic departments and provide hundreds of consultations. Each spring semester, I also teach GEO 530, (which by the way has no prerequisites.) [switch to screencast showing the GEO subject guide] I try to make myself as approachable as possible and answer questions as quickly as I can. My contact information on the right side of this guide [zoom in] …so please let me know what I can do to help you save time and improve your research. [back to video] Thank you and have a good semester!”

Hmm that pitch could have been more student-centered, which something like “When you need data or articles for your research projects, please let me know and I’ll…”

To new, untenured professors:

Here is an email template I use each summer. I haven’t looked at this since last summer. It would be more interesting if I worked in something specific about the prof, like their teaching or research focus.

“Subject: Welcome from the UNCG Business Librarian
Hello, Professor X. [Your dept head] told me you were joining the faculty this fall. As the librarian for [Dept X], I would like to welcome you to campus. If there is anything I can do to help with your research and library needs, or if you would like an orientation to the library’s digital and print resources and services, please let me know anytime. I also provide research instruction, consultations, web guides, and screencast tutorials to a number of classes each semester and would be happy to help your students, too. The library XX portal is http://uncg.libguides.com/xxx. I look forward to meeting you, and hope you have a good fall semester.”

The in-person pitch to a new prof can be more challenging since it’s more conversational. You have to remember your core points and try to work them in without sounding like you are giving a speech. Lots of new professors have never talked to or worked with an academic librarian before. Some profs come from countries in which librarians have limited roles. So try to work in that:

  • You serve as a teacher and research consultant, as well as a librarian who oversees collections (mostly electronic) in the new prof’s subject area
  • You have worked with other professors (perhaps including the department head) in that department on research and teaching
  • You might be going through (or have gone through) the tenure process yourself
  • You can provide guidance on navigating the library’s ejournals, citation management software, and other research needs
  • While budgets may be tight, you can certainly pursue acquiring datasets and other resources the new prof might need for their own research agenda.

Wrapping up

Some of these liaison pitches could certainly be improved. I hope you found the examples interesting and are thinking about your own pitches. A vendor recently told me that I would be good in sales (she may have been buttering me up). I replied that sales is part of being a liaison — we just call it outreach.

Happy New Year, everyone. Good luck with your winter months and spring semester.

I like to occasionally post on instructional design and teaching tips. Every year there seems to be more demand from business librarians for business instruction tips and strategies, but the opportunities to share on and discuss this topic remain pretty limited. Here is hopefully a worthy if tiny contribution.

Student team planning some research

Student team planning some research

Last fall, I was going to write about planning research workshops for the two sections each semester of CRS 363: Global Sourcing. This is a class in our Consumer and Retailing Studies program. The students research aspects of sourcing clothing from other countries (health of the local manufacturing industries, key companies, country macro-issues like political and business climates, labor policies, trade barriers, etc.) for a pretend corporate client. Pretty challenging research, especially for developing countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Lately in the research workshops, I assign each student team a core source (ex. a database like Euromonitor or a web site like doingbusiness.org) and give the team questions to research. Then the student teams take turns presenting their findings to all the other teams. My assigned questions include “discuss how using this source helps you make better sourcing decisions for your client”, so the students are not just providing basic database orientation. This semester I’m going to have the teams fill out a Google sheet linked from the libguide as a strategy to share team findings beyond the verbal summaries.

But then in October, the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship published “Taking care of business (before class): Information literacy in a flipped classroom” by Natalia Tingle (William M. White Business Library, University of Colorado at Boulder). The classroom activity discussed by Natalia is similar to what I summarized above for CRS 363, but her detailed and thoughtful article is much more useful than what I would have accomplished in a blog post. So go take a look if you have access to JBFL.

Instead I’ll write about instruction for X-Culture

My hardest one-shot teaching situation lately has been the X-Culture sections. X-Culture is an international business experiential learning project in which students work in global teams. A UNCG student might be in a team with students from Finland, China, and India.

UNCG Management Professor Vas Taras created X-Culture around ten years ago or so. He wasn’t happy with his syllabus for the undergraduate Introduction to International Business class (MGT 301). Through the Academy of International Business, he asked if other management profs were interested in the idea of global student teams trying to solve international business problems. Many profs said yes.

X-Culture now has over 5,000 students each year from over 40 countries. There are some summary videos about the project at the above link (they are out of date regarding the number of students involved). Professor Taras recruits projects from U.S. and international companies and nonprofits. Student teams select one of the projects and create a report suggesting solutions for their client’s need. Teams with the same client compete with each other. Each semester, the best teams around the world are identified. Some clients have provided incentives (including intern or job offers) for the best teams.

Once or twice a year, many of the X-Culture professors and students gather for an international X-Culture global symposium. I made some short research videos (center column, under my intro video) by request for last summer’s symposium in Italy. (I would love to attend this symposium sometime, but you know, funding limitations.)

The large scope of X-Culture allows the professors to collect data, conduct research, and publish on international virtual teams, experiential learning, and crowdsourcing.

Example of client projects

The project descriptions live behind a password since they contain some strategic details about each client. So I’ll just summarize here.

  • A U.S.-based cross-cultural management consultancy hosts a summit that only attracts a local crowd. The company wants to attract attendees from around the world.
  • A tea manufacturer in Colombia wants to expand into new export markets.
  • A plagiarism detection company in the Ukraine wants to develop a business model based on personal subscriptions.
  • The chamber of commerce in a large city wants to attract more foreign direct investment to its area. What are good countries and industries to target, and what is an effective sales pitch given the nature of this city and its business conditions?
  • An Indian designer of 5D gaming machines wants to expand to new markets.
  • A Spanish company makes software for NGOs and wants to expand into new markets.
  • A U.S. supplier of organic alpaca poop wants to expand into additional B2B markets such as large commercial nurseries.

There were 13 clients total in Fall 2018.

Why is X-Culture challenging for research instruction?

Well, let’s make a list!

  1. As you hopefully noticed, the client projects are diverse: companies and nonprofits/NGOs in various countries, with B2B or B2C markets (sometimes both), with needs involving industry trends, market and customer identification, competitive intelligence, financial benchmarking, best practices in logistics or operations management, trade barrier analysis, etc. So a wide variety of research strategies and resources are needed each semester.
  2. I only have contact with 1/4 of the student team, namely, the single UNCG team member.
  3. Given licensing terms for subscription databases, UNCG students are not allowed to share database content with their teammates and their clients. Another topic to address in class.
  4. Many of the MGT 301 students haven’t had any significant business research projects yet in their curriculum.
  5. Each semester, there are several hundred of these UNCG students between the on-campus and online sections.

My responses to these challenges

One-shot instruction here requires sort of a triage model. First, distill the client project topics down to the commonalities for all teams. Typically:

  • The client’s industry identification
  • State of that industry (U.S. industry and/or global)
  • Competitors (U.S. and/or global)

Second, ask the students to identify if their client is focusing on B2B or B2C. I ask the B2C teams to research a foreign consumer market and the B2B teams research the business dynamics of a target country. Euromonitor works well for both of these topics, so at least the students are in the same resource.

Below as an appendix are the research questions from my worksheet. The questions could be given to the students on paper or via Google Drive linked from the libguide.

(At the request of the UNCG X-Culture instructors, Prof. Taras and Karen Lynden, I designed the libguide to have value for non-UNCG students as well as UNCG students. Hence the inclusion of “free authoritative sources”. Vas and Karen share that libguide with the other X-Culture instructors around the world. Good for my usage stats.)

Third, in terms of classroom management: I can’t have the students sit together in their teams of course (as I do for almost all of my other instruction sessions). Instead, I ask the students to sit based on their clients (even though the students are competing with each other). That way they can discuss their research findings and learn from each other. And I can visit each client-group by the end of the session. As always, contacting me or seeing me outside of class is emphasized by me and the instructor.

Finally, I do emphasize appropriate use of licensed subscription content in a global project like this. I also try to work in a few words about plagiarism. By request, I made a short presentation for the online sections on this topic. One of the videos made for the annual summit covers this too, since plagiarism might be more of a problem in some other cultures. (Judging from the number of views, the global X-Culture faculty are not showing this video to their students. Of course, it’s only provided in English.)

It also was by Karen’s request that I created a visual guide to “How to cite figures, tables, graphs, and maps in APA”, which I now provide on all my libguides through my master APA page (see upper left).

Assessment is challenging for a global teams research project in which the research needs vary widely. When I check in with each ad hoc client team during my visit, I can get a quick sense of whether the students understand the nature of the research required for their client, and if they understand how to apply the database content to solving some of the problems involved.

I have not used the final reports as a type of authentic assessment, due to the global team aspect and frankly a lack of time on my part. My embedded classes (and my own class, when I am teaching it) are already time-consuming during final presentation and final report season, plus there is the final surge of consultations from other classes. If my library had two business librarians, we could do better with this. (See my recent post on the lean liaison model.)

That’s it. Hope that was useful!

–sc

Appendix: my worksheet questions

1. B2B or B2C?

Is your client primarily B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer)?

2. State of the U.S. industry

Use the IBIS database to identify your client’s industry:

Summarize its industry outlook:

Summarize the key success factors (look in the “Competitive Landscape” chapter):

Summarize industry globalization (same chapter):

3a. for B2C clients: a foreign consumer market

Search the Euromonitor Passport database for your consumer product or service category in any country (ex. “France tea” or “Brazil baby”). Name the report you found:

Summarize the market forecast:

List the top three brands or companies:

Note the related reports.

3b. for B2B clients: business dynamics

Search Euromonitor Passport database for its “business dynamics” report for a foreign country (ex. “Egypt business dynamics”). Name the country:

Summarize its regulatory market:

Summarize its operating risk:

Use the “More Related Items” list near the top left to find one more Euromonitor report that would be useful for your client:

4a. U.S. competitors

Search ReferenceUSA for your U.S.-based competitors, ranked by sales descending.

Note you can download the list, generate a heat map, etc.

You can also use this to identify B2B customers in the U.S.

4b. Global competitors

Use the Company Dossier search in NexisUni to identify, rank, and download international competitors and potential B2B customers.