Chair on the lake

Chair on the lake

No, I don’t have any juicy stories of bad behavior to tell (hey, we are professionals over here!) but I do have some behind-the-scene information and advice based on chairing many searches. Jump down to “Today’s topic” if you are in a hurry.

Catching up

Exams ended at UNCG on Wednesday, with graduation ceremonies taking place yesterday. Today [when I began writing this] is quiet but the unexpected 70 degree December temps make it harder to stay in the office and be productive.

On Wednesday, we had around 20 librarians from around the state here in Jackson Library for BLINC’s (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) winter workshop. Mary Scanlon (Wake Forest University) and Anna Dulin Milholland (Salem College) talked about some innovations in teaching and assessment; Heather Greer Klein (NC LIVE) updated us on what is new with that organization under its new director; we networked, reviewed ABI-INFORM Complete’s three sub-databases, and reviewed our work at the NCLA conference last October. New BLINC officers Lydia Towery (Charlotte/Mecklenburg Public), John Raynor (High Point Public), and Lauren Poteat (Charles Aris Inc) provided strong leadership. Lots of warm fuzzies from this active group.

Mary, Diane Campbell (Rider University), and I learned this week that our program submission to the 2016 Small Business Institute conference in New Orleans in February has been accepted: “Teaching entrepreneurship research skills to students: best practices from three entrepreneurship librarians”. This is a business professors’ conference, so we are excited to make a pitch for the value of librarians to faculty from across the country. Diane has spoken at SBI many times already.

Last week my colleague Orolando Duffus and I submitted a proposal to create a RUSA interest group on entrepreneurship. The idea came out of the most recent BRASS online discussion. Ray Cruitt (Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center, New Jersey), Sal DiVincenzo (Miller Business Resource Center, Centereach, NY), and other BRASS folks helped us write that proposal. Orolando and I wrote about the increasing number of public libraries without official business librarians being asked to assist entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and local economic development. Hopefully this interest group would support such libraries.

I’m converting my entrepreneurship research class from Blackboard to Canvas for the spring semester.

And I’ve also been busy with another search committee.

Today’s topic

On this blog, I usually avoid trendy topics or well-covered topics like job hunting tips for early-career librarians. (I did write about my department’s previous search, but that was in the context of making our first liaison hire after our liaison reorganization.) For example, Joe Hardenbrook has collected lots of helpful interview information at his blog. At NCLA 2015 two months ago, early career librarians Sarah Crissinger (Davidson College) and Madison Sullivan (NCSU) presented on “Getting Your First LIS Job: Tips, Tricks, and Reflections from Recent LIS Grads” — useful, concise slides and recommendations. Look at their slide notes, too.

But I’m chairing a search again and have some ideas to share based on previous searches. And maybe a few readers aren’t familiar with how search committees tend to function in (U.S.) academic libraries.

Nature of our search committees

The position description usually gets written before the search committee is formed.

Our search committees have five members, including one paraprofessional/staff member. Several library departments are always represented by the committee membership. Folks get asked by Library Administration to serve, starting with the chair, who gives feedback on the others to be asked to serve. Usually the department head does not serve on the committee; nor does the supervisor (if different) of the open position.

Committee members spend a lot of time reviewing applications. They will also spend about an hour conducting each phone interview. Plus usually four meetings:

  • Overview of procedures and a discussion of what characteristics or accomplishments to look for when reviewing the applications;
  • Selection of phone interview candidates, based on the review of applications;
  • Selection of proposed on-campus interview candidates, based on the phone interviews;
  • Summarizing the performance of on-campus interviewees

The searches I’ve chaired used phone interviews, not Skype interviews. There’s less chance of technical problems, and reduced risk of subconscious bias being a factor. The provost requires all faculty search committee members to go through an anti-bias tutorial.

But reviewing applications is the big work. We usually get 40-60 applications, but had 81 for our 2010-12 Diversity Resident Librarian search. Some libraries get a lot more. So the workload is front-loaded for the search team. The chair has additional work.

Role of the search committee chair

The main role of the chair is communication and planning. The chair sets deadlines for the various steps of the search, based on a master timeline established by the provost’s office, UNCG HR, and Library Administration. The chair leads the meetings and updates the department head, supervisor (if a different person), and administrators on the process of the search. The chair emails candidates about phone interviews and later the on-campus interviews. The chair also works with our administrative staff to make sure that travel planning and funding (including the hotel rooms, dinner reservations, and airport pickups) are taken care of. The chair develops the on-campus interview schedule (often a pain to coordinate), and also writes up the topic of candidates’ big presentation or mock teaching scenario to which everyone in the library and other campus stakeholders are invited.

The provost’s office will fund two on-campus interviews. The University Libraries will fund a third interview if one candidate lives close enough to Greensboro to not need a flight. We still offer a local candidate a nice dinner and a night at a local fancy hotel. However, campus interviews are so time-intensive (planning and conducting) that as chair I usually just push to bring in two candidates. Last time I chaired a search, though, we had three top candidates, each with different backgrounds, some of whom lived in the state already. So we brought all three to campus.

And based on feedback from the search committee, the chair writes up summaries of the candidates’ performance and evaluations for the dean to consider.

But who makes the big decisions?

Our dean makes the decision about who to bring in to campus and who (if anyone) gets the job offer. That’s normal in academic libraries.

Seven confessions

  1. We don’t like our time wasted.

Yes, Virginia, cover letters are the most important part of the application. If a cover letter isn’t customized to the position in question, we might not even look at the resume. That lack of customization tells us enough about the candidate.

Joe Hardenbrook (see above) links to lots of good advice about writing cover letters. My quick tips:

  • Give us examples/details/stories of accomplishments and successes – content a resume usually can’t provide.
  • Never include a bulleted list on your cover – that’s for resumes.
  • Keep it serious – no jokes or creative writing.
  • A good cover letter runs a very full page to two pages long. The best are two pages long.

Two pages aren’t hard to write. We have had several strong cover letters from current LIS students that are two pages long: those students had (unlike me) made the most of their library school opportunities (jobs, internships, and volunteering in libraries and other organizations) and had many interesting and relevant experiences to write about.

Here is a suggested outline for a cover letter:

1st  paragraph: first sentence introduction with reference to the position and library, then why you are interested in this particular position as this particular library, followed by a short executive summary of your qualifications

2nd: discuss your experience regarding the primary role of the position description

3rd:  the same concerning the second role of the position

4th: the same with any additional roles

5th: write about your enthusiasm and ability to handle a tenure-track position (provide evidence you could be successful with faculty service, writing, and presenting)

Final paragraph: wrap up

  1. We think we are research-worthy.

The search committee certainly hopes you interested enough in our library and campus to research us. This applies to the cover letter, phone interview, and on-campus interview.

In addition to carefully studying the position description, examine the web site of that library department. Learn about the department head and other folks connected to the position. What are their backgrounds? Can you find any presentations, articles or blogs they have created? Do your current colleagues or LIS professors know any of those folks? And finally, can you find any strategic planning documents? For our science librarian search a few years ago, several candidates had learned about our very recent liaison reorganization and surprised us with excellent questions concerning it. That impressed us.

Then research the greater campus. If you are applying for a business librarian position, for example, what is special about the local business school? What are the biggest programs or initiatives? Any research, community engagement, or economic development projects in the news? What graduate programs exist? Working such details in a relevant manner into a cover letter or interview gets the search committee’s attention.

Try to figure out who the search committee chair is, and address your cover to the chair and the search committee. It doesn’t hurt to include the department head’s name too. Can’t figure out who the search committee chair is? Call the library and ask. If word of your phone call makes it to the chair and the committee, your stock has just gone up as a candidate.

  1. We are vain.

We love when you ask us questions, and we enjoy talking about ourselves. So come prepared with questions based on your research, concerns, and curiosity. Show us you care and are interested. Yes, it’s supposed to be a two-way interview.

  1. We like getting “thank you” notes.

After each interview stage, send a quick “thank you” via email. Then send a “thank you” card through snail mail. We keep those — they become a physical reminder of your good manners and enthusiasm.

  1. We also get frustrated with the slow process.

That’s life in big organizations.

  1. And we also get stressed.

The stakes are high for presenting the dean with good choices — especially at UNCG, where folks tend to stick around despite having to go through tenure. So the reputation of the committee (particularly the chair’s) is kind of on the line. Plus there are all those details and communications to manage. And dealing with differences of opinion in the evaluations.  Yikes.

  1. But we find it exciting.

We like meeting new people. We enjoy discussing the possibilities of our open position, and how you could contribute to the goals of the library and campus. We like offering a nice person the job. And what I learn from chairing a search improves my mentoring skills, keeps me grounded, and even inspires me to keep growing and learning as a mid-career professional librarian.

Happy holidays and New Year, everyone!

I’m catching up on my professional reading after the fall semester. Here are summaries and thoughts on some of the readings with my usual focus on liaison work and business librarianship. Good luck to everyone as your semester and year wind down.


It’s Your Business: Evaluating the Business Curriculum to Target Information Literacy in the Discipline [pdf]
by Nataly Blas (Loyola Marymount University)
Academic BRASS, Vol 10 (1), Spring 2015

Nataly provides a step-by-step plan to create a curriculum map of a business info lit program. She writes about what kind of documents to use and look for (ex. syllabi, accreditation standards, library goals, etc.) and provides the example of a business law class. At the end of the short article, she provides a link to map of the Finance curriculum, and also provides a Word template for our mapping efforts. Nataly attended ACRL Immersion this year, so hopefully she will continue to share her thoughtful work with us.


Framework-ized Information Competency Skills for Business Students
by Amanda Howell (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater) after Nancy A. Cunningham (Director, Academic Services University of South Florida)
Google Drive document

Amanda updated Nancy’s information literacy guidelines for the ACRL frameworks idea. The instruction leaders in my library have begun to schedule workshops for liaisons to work on frameworks for our areas, so I’m grateful for Amanda for sharing this recently in a BRASS online discussion. As I’ve heard business librarians lament more than once, the old standards seemed overly focused on students using articles, books, and web sites to write research papers – old-fashioned outputs of student work. So it’s great to see statistical data, market research, company financials, etc. covered on a frameworks guide, and “authorship” defined as more than individuals writing a book or article.


Both Sides Now: Vendors and Librarians: Can You Give Me a “Ballpark” Price of What This Will Cost?
by Michael Gruenberg (President, Gruenberg Consulting, LLC)
Against The Grain, June 2015

ATG is the companion publication to the Charleston Conference. (A small group of business librarians rendezvoused in Charleston last month, Cynthia Cronin-Kardon from the Wharton School reported. Maybe for the 2016 conference we will submit a panel proposal or organize a business librarians & publishers dinner?) Both the publication and the conference are great for facilitating dialogues between librarians and vendors, and for better understanding each other’s practices and needs. In this article, Michael discusses the salesperson’s challenge of responding to early requests for a price, and the information professional’s need to not provide budget details too early. Michael also provides suggestions to both parties on how to handle the negotiation dance.


Two presentations from NCLA 2015

If You Build It, Will They Come? Designing a More Engaged Liaison Program
by Teresa LePors and Betty Garrison (Elon University)

I missed this one due to a class commitment, but really wanted to go. Betty is the Business Librarian and a BLINC-buddy. Teresa became the library dean in summer 2012 and worked with the librarians and staff on some strategic planning and reinvisioning. In 2014 the Elon librarians created a Library Research and Scholarly Services department, with monthly meetings of liaisons. Increased outreach and stronger relationships with faculty is one goal of the new group.

Email was chosen as a target communication tool, and so the liaisons did a study of email interactions with profs by time of day, day of the week, department, who initiated the email, etc. Most of the slides are devoted to this. There are some graphs and pie charts, plus a study of topic/word mapping with quotes for each topic, ex. instruction.

Best practices according to the Elon liaisons:

  • Be visible
  • Show interest
  • Experiment
  • Build relationships
  • Respond promptly
  • Support colleagues

There is also a useful timeline of outreach responsibilities over one year (slide 40).

North Carolina Librarian on Main Street
Nancy Tucker (Business Librarian, Mauney Memorial Library, Kings Mountain, NC), Sharon Stack (Library Director), and Jan Harris (Director, Kings Mountain Main Street Program, City of Kings Mountain). Heather Sanford is the other business librarian involved with this project.

Another program from a BLINC member I regret having to miss. Nancy discusses her library’s proactive engagement of downtown businesses – she and Heather went door-to-door (yes, literally) to offer the library’s support of small businesses:

In this presentation, participants will learn how a small library in Kings Mountain partnered with its city’s Main Street™ organization and Planning and Economic Development department to help small businesses be successful in the 21st century marketplace and in return, the program has benefited downtown revitalization efforts.  This program is a powerful example of how the library has facilitated, through partnerships, a transformation downtown and triggered small business success and economic growth.

The library’s involvement is a vital part of the city’s “Four Point Approach” to revitalize downtown:

  • Organization
  • Promotion
  • Design
  • Economic restructuring

The library offered to help the downtown businesses with business plans, market research, website development, online marketing, print marketing, logo design, branding, technology assistance, mission statement writing, and secret shopping (!) A wonderful example of effective, proactive engagement.


Making All the Right Moves for Liaison Engagement: A Strategy for Relating to Faculty
by John G. Bales
C&RL News, November 2015

A short opinion piece encouraging liaisons to create an action plan for faculty outreach, and then track progress using a spreadsheet that covers all the faculty. Other liaisons have proposed using customer relationship management (CRM) software to enable a group of librarians to track faculty connections. Creepy or really useful?


Where Have All the Books Gone? Exploring “Virtual Libraries” at Cornell University’s Engineering and Physical Science Libraries
by Jill Wilson, Jeremy Cusker, & Dianne Dietrich (Cornell University)
Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 5(2):23-31, 2015

Some of you business librarians may have heard Corey Seeman talk about what happened with the library space at the University of Michigan business school. These stories from Cornell are similar. The most interesting parts to me where the outreach efforts that had to be ramped up big time to compensate for the built-in promotional value of the physical space:

New undergraduate and graduate students may hear from peers that “there was once a library and now there is not” and believe—erroneously—that the library is no longer relevant to their development as future researchers. It is crucial then, in the virtual model, that librarians continually develop partnerships with faculty members and remain visible to students.

Interesting perspective for those of us who have always worked out of a general library.


First issue of Ticker

The first issue of Ticker: the Academic Business Librarianship Review came out last summer. The aforementioned Corey wrote a summary of the “Action Learning Conference” held at Michigan Ross. Representatives of several MBA programs discussed their active learning programs or capstones. Michigan business librarians have written about their embedded work in such classes.

In another Ticker article, Jessica Lange of McGill University described a team competition she created for MBA orientation (“MBA Versus MBA Challenge: Developing an Engaging Library Orientation for Incoming Students”). In the first challenge, teams competed to find certain database content the fastest. In the second, the students did a battledecks competition. Slides in the presentation were from Jessica’s short introduction to library services that began the library workshop. Interesting idea!

The research article in Ticker’s first issue is “Our Year of Assessment at Columbia University’s Business and Economics Library” by Kathleen Dreyer and Nisa Bakkalbasi of Columbia University. They adopted

a multi-method assessment approach combining quantitative and qualitative statistics through a survey, exit polls, and direct observations to inform improvement planning of library services and spaces.

Their assessment was partially in response to concerns from MBA students about sharing the library with undergraduates from other campus units. Services fared well in the assessment, but the Columbia librarians reported less satisfaction with technology (for which the library has limited control) and physical spaces. The library has addressed some of those concerns, but still faces the challenge of balancing the needs for group study and social space versus quiet study space.


More from the RSR special issue on entrepreneurship

As noted here recently, Reference Services Review published a special issue on entrepreneurship. Lots of interesting articles from that issue, more than I will summarize here.

Engaging with Entrepreneurs in Academic and Public Libraries
by Jared Hoppenfeld (Texas A&M) and Elizabeth Malafi (Miller Business Resource Center, Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY), both leaders in BRASS.

A good introduction to the special issue. I like the focus on both types of libraries. After a long lit review, Jared and Elizabeth summarize the kinds of services they provide to entrepreneurs in their libraries

  • Networking (librarians networking with entrepreneurs, and providing space for entrepreneurs to network with each other)
  • Outreach (ex. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities at Texas A&M).
  • Business incubator support
  • Supporting entrepreneurs’ intellectual property research needs
  • Educating entrepreneurs at the library

Many short case studies are briefly summarized.

Jared and Elizabeth conclude with recommendations. The main points:

  • Back to the basics: perform a reference interview
  • Learn about licensed data and entrepreneurs (for the academic subscriptions) [Posie Aagaard and Natasha Z. Arguello from UT San Antonio have an article about this in the same issue]
  • Use your support network (ex. SCORE, SBA, BUSLIB-L)
  • Networking: don’t do it alone; be persistent; try new approaches sometimes
  • Become familiar with intellectual property
  • Take advantage of entrepreneurs’ experiential learning preferences (do hands-on teaching, and get involved with pitch competitions)
  • Keep aware for the next opportunity

In Entrepreneur Assistance & Economic Development in Florida Libraries, Janet Elaine Franks (Saint Leo University) and Carol Johns (Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, Tampa) provide survey results from entrepreneurs and analyze public library services provided to entrepreneurs. A good read after the Hoppenfeld and Malafi survey article.

Academic Libraries as Community Resource Partners for Entrepreneurs by Patrick Griffis (UNLV) focuses on his library’s “strategy of collaborating with community agencies in assisting community entrepreneurs,” especially the local Small Business Development Center and the UNLV law school.

The Business Model Canvas as a Platform for Business Information Literacy Instruction by Terence William O’Neill of Michigan State. Great topic for an article, given how common the one-page business model has become. I remember when even a freshman entrepreneurship class assigned a “business plan” to the student teams, which in hindsight was a foolish choice. Business models are a much better choice for lower-level or introductory courses in entrepreneurship, or for cross-campus classes (ex. Dance or Chemistry) “infused” (as the Coleman Fellows program puts it) with an entrepreneurship module lasting three weeks or so.

In this article, Terence discusses how the MSU business librarians use the business model to organize a research workshop, assigning the students databases like IBIS for the boxes on the model that require industry research. First the librarians have the students spend five minutes fleshing out their business idea. Then the students look at IBIS and reconsider what they have decided so far about the model. Terence notes that IBIS’s topics and subtopics for each industry match pretty easily to the business model topics/boxes. Terence continues:

This in-class exercise immediately encourages the students to think of their business model, and the resultant canvas, as flexible and changeable with new information. The exercise encourages them to check their assumptions while also filling in details for some aspects of the business they might not have had a strong sense of previously.

Nice. Noting that IBIS doesn’t cover all the business model topics, the librarians present an image of the business model with the logos of relevant database in the relevant boxes. For example, RMA eStatement Studies and BizMiner are in the “Revenue Streams” box – a great idea!

My second thought on first seeing that image (the first being that it was a great idea) was that more resources should be listed, ex. Census.gov, SimplyMap, and DemographicsNow for “Customer Segments”. But Terence later writes that in their experience, students are less likely to use databases if too many are listed. An interesting note of caution.


Latest from JBFL

Finally, some good stuff since the spring in the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, including reviews of CCH  Accounting Research Manager, PrivCo, the now-free IMF portal, and the OECD e-library. (The ARM review by Susan Klopper of Emery includes a memorable section header: “Accounting Content: Not The Sexiest”. I always appreciate good help like this with accounting resources.)

In a short opinion piece (“What’s in a Name? Rebranding Librarianship for Professional Students”), J. P. Huffman of Penn State University reviews the old “librarian” image problem and discusses the business librarians’ efforts to rebrand themselves as “research consultants”. That language emphasizes their role as coworkers and partners instead of information gatekeepers. She also notes that “consultants” are common in the business world and therefore seeking out the help of a business consultant doesn’t carry a stigma that asking a librarian for help might include. Instead “the library as an institution takes a backseat to our skill set and interactions with students…our identity should come from our actions, not our titles.”

And Ilana Stonebraker wrote up her very interesting flipped classroom experience I first heard her talk about at LOEX last year (“Flipping the Business Information Literacy Classroom: Redesign, Implementation, and Assessment of a Case Study”).  There are a couple of other interesting info lit articles from this issue too.

I could go on, but I just thought of a good title for a post I want to write concerning a search committee I’m chairing this winter.

Happy holidays, all!

A short follow-up to a previous post that left some questions unanswered. Nothing very new or profound here, but since our review of assignments connects to our liaison reorganization goals, I thought I should provide a short update.

Written on November 4:

Back in May I wrote about our planned holistic review of social science liaison assignments being postponed. The posting of our First Year Instruction position (which will include a small number of social science liaison assignments) was also delayed due to a late budget coming out of our state legislature. Recently our Provost gave us the green light to post that position.

Since Nancy our senior colleague is retiring at the end of the semester, she would like to be able to inform her 10 departments who their liaison will be (or least their interim liaison). So the Social Science Team meet on October 30 to (finally) work on a holistic review of assignments.

The team wrote on a whiteboard all the social science departments and programs for which we have liaison assignments. We did generally apply the strategies listed in my May post:

  • considering our existing relationships with faculty in those departments
  • considering our current skill sets and subject knowledge
  • grouping related academic programs
  • etc.

We identified a few departments — Gerontology, Human Development & Family Studies, Social Work — for which we don’t really have liaisons with relevant backgrounds, frankly. Will our new colleague? There is a lot of health science research done in those departments, but our Health Sciences Librarian is already very busy serving the needs of many programs, including growing PhD programs. So I’m curious to see what we will do with those three departments.

It was an interesting discussion and we all felt kind of proud with ourselves for having it I think.

The next step is to give all the liaisons a chance to weigh in on the team’s recommendations. It’s not essential for everyone to be there, but we should at least have representation from the Humanities and Science Teams. Some of the proposed changes might affect them, and the process may help us better handle when a senior colleague with a large number of mostly humanities departments retires someday.

Written today, November 20:

On Wednesday, Mary our liaison leader led an all-liaison meeting to discuss the Social Science team’s plan from October 30. The SocSci folks reviewed what we thought should factor into a holistic discussion and shared our ideas for temporary coverage of Nancy’s areas until we hire our new colleague.

I wasn’t there – had to help evaluate final presentations in the feasibility analysis class – but friends in our Humanities and Sciences team told me the discussion was without controversy. They liked the holistic approach. Someone suggested it should be done every few years even if we don’t have new liaisons on board. They also reaffirmed having liaisons collaborate on the more interdisciplinary departments, like Geography, as needed.

This is a short follow-up to an October post that provided our recent NCLA presentation slides. I posted the slides quickly to share with other conference goers, but would like to add a few notes from the discussion that ended the program.

We (Richard Moniz, Marla Means, and I) learned while developing the program that it is actually pretty hard to cleanly separate subject liaison work from functional liaison work, despite the program title we chose. Many liaisons have to provide both subject and functional services. Maybe a better framework for comparison is balancing subject and functional skill sets, not roles.

The session’s final agenda item was discussing best practices in balancing subject versus functional liaison roles. Here is the summary:

  • Use liaison teams (if your library has enough liaisons to make teams work). Each major functional role could have a team (as is the case at UNCG, along with our three subject teams). Then teams can work together as needed. For example, the science team can work with the scholarly communication team on training and outreach.
  • Or at least pair up a subject liaison with functional expert as needed. For example, the psychology librarian could take the data services librarian to a Psychology Departmental meeting to discuss data management services.
  • Provide lots of training
  • But also have an authority figure in your library establish that it’s ok to ask questions and admit to not being an expert in a functional area
  • Finally (related to above), establish core competencies for functional roles. Expect all subject liaisons to have some base knowledge about scholarly communication options and strategies, for example.

That last idea is appealing to me. This would actually help protect subject liaisons — they would operate under a clearly defined set of expectations. Otherwise they wouldn’t know how much they are expected to know, nor when the functional expert should be called in for support. The uncertainty of not knowing would be stressful.

After drafting those core competencies as a group, then make sure that workshops and personal learning time are provided before the competencies go into effect. Update the competencies as needed.

Tuesday was my last busy day of one-shot instruction this semester, and I’m looking forward to the Kauffman Foundation webinar for entrepreneurship librarians coming up in an hour. We use the Kauffman “FastTrac” workbook at UNCG for the feasibility analysis and business plan classes required of all our ENT majors and minor. So the webinar will hopefully be interesting. I’m trying to write this short post before then.

Emerald’s Reference Services Review recently published a special issue based on the June 2014 BRASS preconference “How Business Librarians Support Entrepreneurs”.  Sarah Barbara Watstein (UNC Wilmington) and Eleanor Mitchell (Dickinson College) edited the issue.

There are some very interesting articles in there. In December after classes end, I’ll post a “readings roundup” and discuss some of them.

Our article:

Sarah Barbara Watstein, Mary G. Scanlon, & Steve Cramer. (2015). “Q/A on teaching credit classes for entrepreneurship research”. Reference Services Review, 43 (3): 480-490. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/RSR-06-2015-0030

The questions Mary and I covered include:

  1. Describe the targeted for-credit instruction courses that you provide at your respective institutions. Specifics pertaining to pedagogy, design, outcome and assessment would be of interest to our readers. At the same time, help our readers out with some background – what was the context for your decision(s) to proceed in this fashion?
  2. What factors influenced your decision to proceed on the for-credit class track?
  3. What feedback or support has business school faculty or administrators provided for the classes?
  4. Have the classes changed since first offered, and if so, how and why?
  5. Reflecting on your experience in and out of the classroom – what are the most common information, reference and research needs of today’s entrepreneurs?
  6. In terms of best practices, how might you advise “newbies” (new academic business librarians, new subject liaisons, etc.) to design instructional services, to meet the needs of today’s student, faculty, community and veteran entrepreneurs?
  7. How is teaching entrepreneurship research different from teaching other kinds of research/business research?
  8. Do you use different resources when teaching in our entrepreneurship programs, or do you use the same resources we use with business majors differently?
  9. Given your experience in the classroom – how are entrepreneurship majors/students different from other types of students?
  10. What is your perspective on the evolving role of the academic business librarian?
  11. On entrepreneurship liaison work?
  12. On business librarianship and entrepreneurial outreach?
  13. What do you perceive as the challenges of stepping out into this space?

Sarah asked Mary and me to keep the tone informal. We even had a bit of faux-dialogue despite communicating through email. Mary is a buddy though, so we have actually discussed some of these things in person. Her experience and insights are very interesting. Mary just rotated off of chairing BLINC for the last four years. We gave her a hearty cheer last week at a fancy BLINC dinner sponsored by SimplyMap during our state library conference.

Sorry, since this is behind the Emerald paywall, I can’t post the article here, but I’ve blogged about my 530 class a lot already.

Happy Halloween to everyone.

Marla, Richard, & Steve presenting at NCLA 2015

Marla, Richard, & Steve presenting at NCLA 2015

Marla Means, Richard Moniz, and I presented at NCLA 2015 today on “The Expanding Role of the Academic Liaison: Balancing Subject Versus Functional Skills” (PDF).

[Summary of the final discussion with the audience]

Marla introduced the topic and provided definitions. Richard discussed the Johnson & Wales University Library in Charlotte, NC as a small library case study. I summarized the interesting experiment at the University of Arizona of having only functional liaisons, and briefly presented UNCG’s team model of subject v. functional teams.

Good comments, ideas, and questions from the audience. Thanks for everyone who came.

There are some cites and links at the end of the PDF.


“For liaison services, subject knowledge used to be enough. Now functional skills are increasingly important — academic libraries are expanding their outreach and advocacy efforts into data curation, scholarly communication, information literacy, distance education services, etc. How should libraries balance these two types of liaison roles? Should libraries hire functional specialists to partner with the subject liaisons, or somehow train subject liaisons to pick up the needed functional expertise? And how should these functional and subject specialists be organized and managed? Two librarians representing a small and large library and a LIS student doing an independent study on liaison trends will lead a discussion on these questions. With help from the participants, we will conclude with suggested best practices.”

Catching up:

Fall break has begun (no classes next Monday and Tuesday) and I look forward to some time to get caught up on work besides teaching and consulting. UNCG LIS student Marla Means continues to impress me as she works on her independent study on academic liaison trends. She blogs on her readings and learnings at http://academicliaisonrolesandtrends.weebly.com/ . Marla’s October 6 post includes an authorized summary of her interview with library liaison Kathy Shields from High Point University, through which Marla gained perspectives on liaison work in small academic libraries. Marla graduates in December and has begun to apply for positions.

Orolando Duffus teaching a section of BUS105 in our new library classroom

Orolando Duffus teaching a section of BUS105 in our new library classroom

Meanwhile, my fellow UNCG business librarian and our current Diversity Resident Librarian Orolando Duffus has already been interviewed by phone for one business librarian position, even though his residency runs through next summer. He might also leave us early like Nataly Blas did, a reflection of what a strong early-career librarian he is. But sad for me too since I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with him. Orolando continues to be embedded with our MBA capstone course, in which the student teams serve as consultants for local companies, and continues to co-teach one-shot instruction with me.

Three months late, our state legislators finally finished the budget. Yesterday the Provost gave us the green light to post our open position that combines first-year instruction with liaisoning to one or maybe two social science departments, depending on the successful candidate’s background. I like this combo because the librarian will get a wider mix of work than a position that focuses exclusively on first-year teaching. (We have a small team that covers all first-year instruction.) I will be chairing this search and while as many of you know search committees are a lot of work, I find it a very interesting process.

Finally, our state library conference, NCLA, comes up in two weeks. Marla (see above), Richard Moniz (head of Charlotte’s Johnson & Wales University Library and author of library science books), and I are almost ready for our program “The Expanding Role of the Academic Liaison: Balancing Subject Versus Functional Skills.” I’m focusing on some organizational models. My main topic is the different organizations that the University of Arizona Library has used through their past teams approach and their current organizational model. The head of their liaison unit kindly gave me 30 minutes of his time on the phone to provide some context that doesn’t show up in the published articles, and to update me on their situation. I’ll compare their model to our current mix of subject teams and functional teams spanning the boundaries of an otherwise traditional departmental structure. Look for a post on that later this semester. Other NCLA friends are presenting about liaison services and business librarianship topics, so I will try to summarize key points of those too.

Today’s topic:

One morning a few years ago, I walked over to the Graham Building to do a workshop for 90 students in the “Introduction to Consumer Retailing” class, a large freshmen/sophomore class in the CARS department. I got there early to get the computer set up and prepare for the active learning work. At the clock approached 9am, I was surprised that there weren’t more students in the room, and that the ratio of female to male students was 40-50%. Then a youngish professorial type walks in, politely introduced himself, and indicates surprise to see me all prepared to teach his students. Turns out this class was “Abnormal Psychology”. I was in the right room but showed up an hour early!

The professor joked that the students might prefer my subject matter to his. So sheepishly I returned to the library, confirmed the time of the consumer retailing class, and returned to Graham an hour later to teach (where this time the male-female ratio was the expected 90% or so).

My wife finds this tale hilarious and sometimes tells it to linguistics students at Wake Forest University when she visits a class to guest-teach.

Last month I provided one-shot research instruction to two classes for the first time — an MBA class on international business, and a 500-level Economics capstone course – and had very different experiences. I came away lessons learned from each.

The MBA class was taught by a prof who (as when I’ve visited her other classes) didn’t introduce me or link my research workshop to the class research project. I introduced myself of course, but didn’t do much of a job in selling the value of the workshop. First mistake. I should have asked the prof to open the class, instead of assuming she would.

Before having the students work in teams to explore important tools for “doing business in country X” research, I wanted to demonstrate and discuss searching for international company “corporate trees” using OneSource (Infogroup). I had practiced earlier in the week (example, the largest Swedish companies HQed in Sweden, and largest international companies operating in Sweden). But I hadn’t bothered to note my search parameters. Mistake #2, since there are different ways to set up the foreign firms search. The OneSource advanced search is moderately complicated, as it needs to be to handle the complex nature of international business, various types of ownership, etc. So I screwed up the quick demo search based on our discussion.

The assigning of student teams to explore a key resource (ex. the World Bank guides) and summarize its value to the other students was a sound idea, but without having reviewed the nature of the research project, the students didn’t take it as seriously as they should have. (And Euromonitor was really slow that hour, which didn’t help.)

So I ended up a bit bummed about that class. It reminded me not to get overconfident and not to forget some basic best practices of teaching research instruction.

The Economics class was taught by a senior prof who has done a lot of historical research on U.S. public policy using old government documents and other historical sources. So I (and our government document librarians and our ILL staff) know him well. He’s a nice guy but also very intellectual. Like other Econ profs, I have found him a little intimidating to work with (which is not his fault).

For this capstone course on economics aspects of public policy, he told me that the students don’t go beyond Google enough and therefore asked for the first time if I could provide a research workshop. He emailed me about two pages worth of background notes on the nature of the assignment, their information needs and past info seeking behavior, and his desired research competencies for the students to learn. He also told me that he was listing more learning goals than I would have time to cover in one class period.

I spent a lot of time prepping for this class. But I enjoyed having a good reason to explore the ProQuest Congressional database, and enjoyed exploring the six student’s proposed policies, which the prof gave me ahead of time. Examples include the creation of Amtrak and restructuring of the electric utility industry. I could tell that some of the proposed policies were not yet well-defined (ex. “interstate banking”) and would need some work to refine and focus.

Two of the students were already in the computer classroom when I arrived to set up, and immediately told they had already found the LibGuide useful (they had a link to it in Canvas). Being a small class, I was able to shake everyone’s hand before class and pretty much had learned their names by the end of class.

I could tell that students were on the verge of being overwhelmed with research options by the end of the 75 minutes, but the prof told me after class this was exactly what the students needed and he was very thankful.

So unlike after the MBA class, I was feeling very good after this Econ class. But I had spent so much time preparing for it that I was now behind on preparing for my next round of classes. Sigh. So thank goodness for fall break.


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