As usual, not long after a long post summarizing summer readings, I learn about one other interesting article or presentation. This topic is too rarely covered in more general information literary/teaching librarian conferences. I mixed in a few observations of my own, but hopefully not too much.

Being ‘In The Room Where It Happens:’ Supporting Information Needs of Students in Experiential Learning Programs
By Angela Horne (UCLA) and Corey Seeman (Michigan)
Leaders of Experiential Project-Based Education Conference 2016 (June 22)


  1. Introductions
  2. Information Needs of Business Students (Case Method vs. Experiential Learning Method)
  3. Library Support for Experiential Learning
  4. Working with teams (for librarians)
  5. Administrative Issues (for the library)
  6. Collection Issues
  7. Closing Thoughts

Angela and Corey provided mini-cases to the participants in order “to frame the discussion and get people thinking about information needs.” Interesting approach! — especially since this program compared students’ research needs for case study pedagogy versus experiential learning projects.

A case usually provides all the information a student team needs, and provide a controlled situation with an official “answer”.

In contrast to the passive information environment of cases, experiential learning requires active information gathering, the needs for which often evolve as the project develops. Both primary and secondary research is usually necessary. The complex research needs of these student teams can be challenging for business librarians to handle, especially for solo business librarians (like me).

Angela and Corey discussed how the librarians at their libraries consulted and communicated with their experiential learning student teams. Some observations:

  • “Information ambiguity is a common issue in most experiential learning projects we support”. [Also sometimes unanswerable questions!]
  • Since the research needs of teams in the same class can be very different, a one-shot instruction session isn’t really useful. Instead, librarians should provide an introduction session and then later have consultations with teams on their specific needs [my interpretation of slides 30-31].
  • In some classes [at Michigan, I think], the librarians get 30 minutes with each team at the beginning of the project. [This is a neat, very specific form of embeddedness, different from my co-teaching roles in which I’m in class most days but have to try to schedule team meetings outside of class, schedules permitting. Sometimes a team ends up with a “Cramer liaison” who becomes my official, solo in-person communication channel to a team].

Angela and Corey next provide interesting examples of research questions from teams. When a project needs to change direction is where the close connection with the librarian really pays off. Then the student teams really benefit from having the librarian “in the room where it happens.” Both UCLA and Michigan have surveyed student teams at the end of the semester and received student testimonials on the value of their librarian team member.

There’s a slide about potential licensing issues of using subscription databases on experiential projects.

And there is a short discussion about workloads and balancing time devoted to these experiential learning students versus those with more general, academic needs. This gets at the common and important topic of the sustainability of types of embedded work and also the value of that work. Corey notes:

“At Michigan, we have 440 students in MAP [Multidisciplinary Action Projects] (out of around 3000), but they take up the majority of time.”

Likewise, I spend much time with ENT 300 and MKT 426, both centered on experiential learning and required with their majors. That work leaves me with less time to be available in the library for random, walk-in questions from other classes. But I have always argued that the high value of my heavy involvement in those research-intensive classes justifies the time commitment, and my local library leaders have agreed. There have been a number of positive spin-offs and publicity resulting from that work (recent example).

Angela and Corey conclude that

“librarians always want to figure out how their work connects with students. This is the room where it happens – and is the best way to demonstrate and provide value to the enterprise.”

One of the PDF file provided at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/120937 includes a short list of additional readings, including an upcoming book about experiential learning.

Although officially a lone business librarian based in a general library, I have been privileged to have a business librarian partner for the last four years. This is thanks to the UNCG Diversity Resident Librarian program and residents Nataly Blas and Orolando Duffus. Nataly was my partner from 2012-14, and Orolando from 2014-16 (until last week actually). Both Nataly and Orolando have written about their work embedding into research-intensive business classes as co-teachers and research consultants.

Nataly Blas and Orolando Duffus at ACRL 2015 in Portland, OR

Nataly Blas & Orolando Duffus at ACRL 2015 in Portland.

After her residency*, Nataly became the business librarian at Loyola Marymount University. She is building a reputation for herself as an expert in information literacy and presented at ALA in Orlando on curriculum mapping strategies.

Orolando begins work next week as a business librarian at the University of Houston, working with fellow business librarian Lisa Martin. He has presented posters at several conferences already, with a poster at IFLA coming up next month. Good luck to Orolando!

I really enjoyed collaborating with both librarians on research instruction workshops, outreach opportunities, and interesting research questions. While the liaisons here at UNCG are a friendly and collaborative bunch, it was special to me to have a fellow business librarian to talk to about our specialized world. I haven’t enjoyed that situation at work since my first job at Davenport College of Business. Business librarians who work in business school libraries with multiple staff might enjoy that camaraderie all the time.

We have hired our 2016-18 resident. She wants to focus on public services and instruction, but at this point is very interested in international studies I think. So the streak of UNCG hiring diversity resident business librarians is probably over, sigh.

At least BLINC and BRASS are still here to provide networking opportunities for us soloists, and BUSLIB-L remains a supportive and friendly forum too. It’s really important for liaisons old and new not to feel isolated. Networking and mentoring (or peer-mentoring) are vital to liaison success and well-being, in my opinion.


* Nataly actually landed the LMU position early and moved out to L.A. in the spring!

A summer goal continues to be getting caught up on professional readings since last winter break. Blogging about readings helps me not rush through them. Hopefully these summaries and occasional responses are useful for other folks too. Topics relate to liaison work and business librarianship.


Connect, build, develop: Forming effective liaison strategies through peer mentoring and partnership.
Cayce Van Horn. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 89-94

From the new business librarian at Auburn University. But the article is very useful for any subject liaison new to the job.

Cayce “became the business and economics liaison at Auburn University during the summer of 2015. It was an unexpected change in focus [business is not her background], and my initial reaction was a feeling of fear.” But she benefited from having a mentor:

“Bridget Farrell, the current marketing liaison and previous business and economics librarian at Auburn University, has served as a peer mentor as I make the transition from instructor to liaison, and together we developed a plan to help me connect with faculty and students in my subject area, build effectual and productive relationships with them, and develop my own skills and knowledge in this new role.”

(In 2013 Farrell wrote “New Kid on the Block: The Troubles and Triumphs of Being a New Business Librarian” — see https://liaisonlife.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/reading/).

Cayce discusses planning (“the importance of reaching out to subject-area faculty was immediately noted as a top priority”), collection development (book ordering & weeding), and subject training. Cayce and Bridget drafted a learning plan for Cayce that included taking Celia Ross’s Business Reference 101 class, reading Ross’s Making Sense of Business Reference, attending webinars, and getting involved in BRASS.

Through the mentoring relationship, Cayce gained much confidence in her skills. Lessons learned:

  • Non-business research and teaching skills can be applied to business liaisoning.
  • It is ok for business librarians to need some time to explore and research a difficult research request, and get back to the patron later.
  • Yes, some questions are unanswerable.

Once the fall semester began, Cayce and Bridget implemented an effective outreach campaign to faculty. They began with an associate dean of the business college, which led to attending an executive meeting of the college (deans and department heads), which led to meetings with departments and department heads. By the end of this series of meetings, Cayce was entertaining faculty research questions and requests for instruction workshops for classes. She also targeted new faculty via email and had many fruitful responses.

Cayce concludes:

“As a result of this peer-mentoring experience, I have learned to draw upon my own strengths while benefitting from the expertise of others, a process that embodies the true spirit of collaboration and support while fostering an environment of successful and engaging librarianship”


Business librarians and new academic program review
Kerry Wu & Heidi Senior. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 114-134.

This article is also useful for any subject liaison. It provides excellent suggestions for outreach and relationship building for any liaison initiative.

These Portland-based librarians have been busy supporting new program reviews and surveyed the profession on such involvement. From the abstract:

“Although more than 60% of the respondents thought that librarians should play a part in the proposal process, more than 65% of them indicated that they were never involved….The authors held in depth interviews with [nine] survey participants reporting higher-than average involvement to find out about their strategies for success.”

They identify a challenging (but common?) situation:

“The implied expectation is for the librarian to provide an affirmative statement that ‘library resources are adequate.’ Sometimes librarians are caught in an awkward position when the expected statement is not true.”

The article provides a literature review, survey methodology, and findings. There is discussion of library funding limitations and having to “make-do” with existing resources to support the new subject area.

Based on the nine interviews, the authors provide a list of success factors for getting very involved with new program applications. Examples: being held in high regard by the business faculty; and having strong existing relationships with the faculty. The “strategies to improve librarian participation” focus on building trust and relationships with faculty and certainly apply to any kind of liaison work, ex. teaching, consulting, and scholarly communication advocacy.

One interviewee emphasized proactive engagement, as the authors summarized:

 “Insert yourself wherever possible,” one participant advised, “I was pretty good in terms of pushing the envelope…. I always try and make the library sticky.” He was willing to negotiate and the following summed up his philosophy:

But often it is very definitely [sic] you cannot wait for them to come to you, you have to go to them and be willing to be “insertive” and make some suggestions going, “You know, I think the library can help you or we could help you with this, let’s talk about it…”

Ah, some new synonyms for embedded librarianship?

  • Sticky librarian
  • Insertive librarian

Hmm wouldn’t recommend an unfiltered web search for those phrases! Haha

Another good suggestion from an interview: “gave [faculty] a talk on ‘these are things that you can use me for’”.


Using rubrics for assessing information literacy in the finance classroom: a collaboration
Elizabeth M. Mezick & Lorene Hiris. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 95-113.

This article presents rubrics to assess ACRL info lit standards (not the frameworks) through a company and industry information assignment that uses a handful of popular business databases. The full assignment is provided.

Transition to the great ACRL controversy of summer 2016…


Framework or Standards? It doesn’t matter
Blog post by Lane Wilkinson

A calm discussion about the current frameworks v. standards brouhaha. Refreshing.

Another thoughtful response but in a different tone: http://betterlibraryleaders.com/2016/06/30/reframing-our-standards-initial-thoughts-on-information-literacy-in-a-post-standards-framework/


Why the “Research Paper” Isn’t Working
Blog post by Barbara Fister

Yes, this post is old, but I reread it in May after returning from LOEX. I get tired of hearing librarians only discussing the “research paper” as an outcome of student research work.

From near the end:

“If you want students to learn about a topic and be able to synthesize information effectively, fine – but don’t call it research. Turn it into a presentation, an informational brochure, or a Wikipedia article. If you want students to make an argument, start from something they know and care about, something that matters to them and about which they can hold an informed opinion. If you want them to read and understand scholarly material, focus on close reading and have the class jointly prepare an annotated edition. If you want them to write academic prose, wait until they know enough about the discipline to know what they’re talking about and how to ask a meaningful question about it.”

We could add a sentence like “If you want your students gain experience working in teams, as so many grownups have to do in their professional and volunteer work, structure the project to be done within teams.”


Small changes in teaching: the minutes before class: 3 simple ways you can set up the day’s learning before the metaphorical bell rings
James M. Lang, Nov. 15 2015. Chronicle of Higher Education

Excellent suggestions! Yes, it’s easy to spend all your time before class begins getting the libguide and Canvas on screen, and writing notes on the whiteboard. The “create wonder” suggestion is certainly one I should be using more often, like a new Statista infographic, or interesting results from a SimplyMap map.


Don’t get married to the results: managing library change in the age of metrics (presentation)
Corey Seeman, from the ABLD-EBSLG-APBSLG Joint Meeting 2016 in Singapore

Corey is the head of the University of Michigan business school Library (Kresge Library). His library has gone through a major physical change, which had impact on the nature of metrics collected by the library. He makes an important point about our complex customer base:

“Library challenge [with assessment] is that we have multiple stakeholders and they have different needs:

  • Faculty needs –scholarly journals, articles, books , datasets
  • Student needs –articles, company & industry information, market reports
  • Community –Mostly similar to student needs”

He warns that “Numbers have no intrinsic value –they can show just about anything you want.” Also: “And while your indicators might be fine –it might not reveal the threats that are all about you.”

There’s more about library change, and telling your story (be proactive, talk to your stakeholders, and rewrite your mission as needed.)


A Response to “Embedded Librarianship: A Critical Perspective”
Blog post by Robert Farrell

A thoughtful rebuttal of a polemic piece about the limits of embedding as a co-teaching librarian. Robert notes that the proposed alternative is clearly another type of embedded librarianship – proactive involvement with the curriculum, utilizing strong relationships with faculty. A bit ironic.


Rejection burnout–a guest post
by Kaitlin Springmier

A guest post from a resident librarian at the University of Chicago. (I’m a little concerned about why a resident librarian fresh out of library school would be writing on this topic). She presents “5 tips I’ve learned that can greatly reduce the rejection of new ideas or the burnout you feel after hearing ‘no.’” Interestingly, tip #4 goes against recommendations made in other posts at this blog, ex. maintaining work-life balance and enjoying “me time”.


Some interesting articles in the journal Against the Grain: Linking Publishers, Vendors, & Librarians from the Dec 2015-Jan 2016 & February 2016 issues

Negotiation Skills 101: Where Is That Course Given?

Since no one gets a chance to take a negotiation skills class in library school, consultant Michael Gruenberg lays out a 4-point preparation plan involving objectives, timetable, team, and strategy. Gruenberg authored the 2014 book Buying and Selling Information: A Guide for Information Professionals and Salespeople to Build Mutual Success (Information Today).

Cooperation is Key:  How Publishers and Libraries are Working Together to Achieve Common Goals

Michael Arthur (University of Alabama) and Stacy Sieck (Taylor & Francis) discuss their two organizations working together to provide workshops on open access and how to get published. Favorite quote:

“More recently, however, there’s been a gradual shift away from publishers being seen as adversarial to libraries, and there’s now a stronger sense that improving these relationships is important, if not imperative, to the success of both parties…But developing these relationships doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that starts with building trust and creating open and honest lines of communication.”

Give the People What They Want — or What They Need?

The often provocative and always interesting Rick Anderson (University of Utah) wrote on this old debate. He contrasts using data to learn what users actually want (which he calls “science”) versus what our patrons should want according to us librarians (“religion”). Providing what they want is our old service model, while advocating for what they should want is our education model. He asserts that

“the first option kind of grates on us as professionals; the second is fraught with frustration (since changing people is notoriously difficult) and political peril (since the people we’re trying to change are also people whose support is essential for our professional survival).”

The education route also risks “alienating our stakeholders”.

I don’t usually get into philosophical writing on librarian issues, but I was thinking about how these ideas might apply to a business librarian working with business faculty and students. Maybe a future post…


Dread data no more: crash course in data visualization for librarians (presentation)
Liz Johns. LOEX 2016.

Liz is the Librarian for Education at Johns Hopkins University. This presentation is a good introduction to the topic. It includes polls in which the audience is asked to pick the better representation of the data, which we readers can also participate in by reviewing the slides. Nice interactive touch.


BusinessDecision: demographic and expenditure data for small business owners [product review]
Trevor L. Winn & Steven Assarian. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, (2016, May) 21:2, 175-181.

A detailed, expert review of this database by two business librarians in Michigan. The Michigan State Library provides both DemographicsNow and BusinessDecision to libraries in the state. This review well illustrates two really important aspects of database reviews: talking about the source data, and comparing the product to competing products. It usually frustrates me when a shorter review in a publication like Library Journal makes no mention of competitors. That really reduces the value of the review to me, since due to our flat budgets (in a good year), we only get new subscriptions by cancelling existing ones.

But be careful making the comparisons:

“With its extensive consumer data, business and people directory, and mapping features, DemographicsNow is the prime competitor to BusinessDecision when considering the needs of small business owners. Although SimplyMap most closely resembles BusinessDecision’s scope and map-centric interface, DemographicsNow offers more data points relevant to entrepreneurs.”

No, SimplyMap offers data points just as relevant to entrepreneurs as DemographicsNow, and even much more so if you subscribe to SimplyMap modules like MRI and SimmonsLocal. That’s in part why NC LIVE has provided SimplyMap to this state for 8 years now (although not the SimmonsLocal module). My new 3-minute SimplyMap video uses entrepreneurship examples.

13 (last one):

Transitioning to 100% Business E-Books: The Case of a Large University Business Collection
Wahib Nasrallah. Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 1:2 (2016)

Wahib is the Senior Business Librarian at the University of Cincinnati. I’m not sure if I’ve read an ebook study before that focused on business ebooks. He writes of his library’s successful transition to mostly ebook purchasing. Regarding why the business school was happy with this change, he writes:

“In many ways, we forget that we are in the knowledge business, clinging to old formats while the world around us requires adaptation and change….Book publishing is a slow process, and the transporting of a physical book to a patron isn’t always feasible…The practice of housing print books in mammoth structures with very little circulation statistics to show for is neither efficient nor effective and has not served the goals of business research.”

The library worked with YBP to create notifications of new e-books only. He notes that some publishers have crazy ebook pricing strategies, and presents data on the number of ebooks on business topics published by core business publishers (see the table on p. 3).

Wahib asserts that “Librarians have always shown a preference for selecting books rather than leasing collections from aggregators (Vasileiou, 2012)” but I don’t think that’s true. We like the Safari package for updating its collections of tech books every year, keeping the collection fresh and relevant.

Their library began using DDA in 2012. There has been an increase in titles triggered for purchase and total spending since then. But the library is not using DDA-only:

“The DDA plan is supplemented by minimal print book purchases from those publishers who resist e-publishing. It is also supplemented by a few e-book purchases for books not available on the DDA platform. We are also retaining our publisher-based e-book collections…In 2013/2014, the e-book collection totaled 1,710 DDA titles and 2,937 titles from other sources.. In the same year, we purchased [only!] 89 print books from publishers who do not supply electronic copies for libraries.

Wahib concludes that their “transformation has received much praise and little to no complaints.” A useful case study.

On Monday, six academic business librarians gathered at the Salem College Library in Winston-Salem, NC for a morning-long discussion of professional writing and speaking opportunities.

Salem College is oldest women’s college in the United States (13th oldest overall), having been founded by Moravians in colonial times. The campus is adjacent to Old Salem and near our condo, so I walked over to meet with friends for our chat. After our discussion we strolled over to what used to be the Winston-Salem Southbound Railway building for a bistro lunch.

Discussion at Salem College

Discussion at Salem College

A few of us have faculty status and so are required to write and speak; one of us is deep into a PhD program and very involved with research and publishing; and others are interested in doing more writing and speaking.

After sharing our summer news and vacation recaps, we decided on this simple agenda:

  1. How to identify topics that are publishable;
  2. Where to publish;
  3. The same but for speaking

I didn’t keep complete notes on my iPad, and some of our talk should be kept private, but here are some points that are hopefully interesting and useful. Sorry if these notes seem too brief. Maybe another general point to make here is the importance of building and using your professional network to explore opportunities.

1. How to identify topics that are publishable

Question: do you start pursuing a writing idea with the topic or the publishing venue? We discussed that it could be both, too. Sometimes we get solicitations or encouragement to write something from a publisher or editor. It can certainly by harder for a newer librarian to benefit like that from a professional network, but partnering with another librarian to write something can help.

There are a few blogs about library writing which often list opportunities:

As for topics? The first question in response is — what are you passionate about? What are you most interested in? Start from those topics. Don’t force yourself to write about something you find boring. If you get rejections on a topic you have passion for, you may need to tweak the main idea but don’t give up on it too quickly.

However, having a unique angle on your topic is pretty important, or having unique or better data of some sort. Look for gaps in the literature (like PhD students are encouraged to do when they are considering a dissertation topic).

Go with your comfort writing, which may be quantitative or qualitative. Consider partnering with a friend who has a writing strength you don’t have.

Offer to write a column (email a column editor about an idea you have) or consider writing a position piece (“Librarians need to start doing….”). It doesn’t have to be a research article every time.

Got a preliminary idea? Write a blog post about it (lots of them accept guest-writing). See if you find the writing interesting and would be interested to write more. You might get some useful preliminary feedback, too. (Just don’t publish your complete manuscript as a blog post – save some writing and ideas for the more traditional publication.)

Regarding rejections from editors, one librarian told of getting an article harshly rejected from a mid-quality journal, getting a no-feedback rejection from a low-quality journal, but later being told by editors of a high-quality journal that it was among the best papers they have ever received. So don’t give up.

We discussed that some editors are supportive and helpful (even when rejecting an article outright) while others are well, less so. The editors for ACRL’s College and Research Libraries have a reputation for being harsh, but they do receive a large number of mediocre submissions that don’t even try to follow its “instructions for authors.”

We discussed institutional review boards a bit. It’s good to make a friend on the board who can provide advice. Sometimes you will submit a proposal to the board and it will declare the research to be exempt from IRB requirements. So don’t fear the IRB. You can usually check with the IRB before running a survey, etc. to get feedback.

2. Where to publish

We talked about good and bad experiences with editors. One of us co-edited a book but received almost no support from the publisher. Two of us wrote a Q/A article but didn’t have our names listed as co-authors until six weeks after publication. Bogus!

I reported on writing a book chapter for an ABC-CLIO book edited by two librarians in Alabama and having an excellent experience.

And one of us wrote a book chapter for IGI and had to use their format, which really didn’t fit the content of the chapter, but otherwise had a good experience with IGI and would write for them again.

We emphasized the importance of researching what kind of articles (editorials, practical pieces, reviews, or research) a journal publishes, and of course what topics it tends to publish. So look at recent articles and table of contents, and read the journal’s scope/author instructions very carefully.

Except for occasional special issues in various journals, the main venues for business librarianship have been the Taylor & Francis Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship and the new Ticker open-access journal, created by some of the ABLD directors.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a short practical article for publications like College & Research Library News or Academic BRASS.

3. On speaking

There was a pretty free-wheeling discussion, since we all had stories to tell from various conferences. We considered ourselves lucky to have lots of high-quality small, annual conferences within a short drive of our homes.

We discussed ACRL a bit too. Alas it has no business section but many business librarians do attend and speak (and party) there. Key aspects when designing a panel proposal to ACRL: uniqueness, applicability to other libraries, and connection to hot trends.

You can submit an excellent proposal for an ACRL contributed paper and not be accepted if there aren’t other related submissions than can be combined with your own to form an hour-long series of papers.

Some conferences invite speakers to contribute to a conference proceedings, which is an easy way to get a peer-review article published as well as credit for your talk. LOEX, the Charleston Conference, and ACRL are examples. Your proceedings could be just a narrative write-up of your slides, or could provide deeper analysis or additional case studies.

Some international conferences can be less expensive than you might think (one of us recently spoke in Dublin). Two of us are now attending and speaking at business professor conferences, which our administrators really like. So don’t limit yourself.

We can’t say with certainty, but we assume that a proposed panel of librarians from different libraries is often more interesting to a conference programming committee than a panel of librarians from the same library. ACRL bears this out we think.

Yesterday I finished writing another external review letter for a business librarian up for tenure. While reviewing the accomplishments of such a candidate, I usually experience one of these two emotional responses, or frequently both:

1. Hey, that’s a pretty good achievement, not quite the level of engagement I currently enjoy or the quantity I accomplish but still not bad good for you.


2. Wow what a great idea why haven’t I ever thought of that or tried that, am I slacking off??

So either mild condescension or a bit of awe.

More seriously, given the amount of documentation provided to the external reviewer, it is always very interesting to examine such a thorough overview of a librarian’s work. The reviewer gets to read the candidate’s philosophy, goals, accomplishments, usage and assessment data (sometimes), scholarly communication, and testimonials from students, faculty, and other librarians.

Bloggers like the Hedgehog Librarian are writing about their experiences (and sometimes their concerns, frustrations, and pain) writing and assembling these large tenure applications over the course of a year. The Promotion and Tenure Committees and external reviewers do look very carefully at all the documentation. (I spent most of Monday reviewing the materials.) So these big portfolios do matter.

Often when experiencing emotional response #2, I come away with a list of new ideas and things to try here at UNCG. That happened yesterday too.

Orolando Duffus is the 2014-2016 Diversity Resident Librarian at the UNCG Libraries. In July he joins the University of Houston Libraries as a business librarian.

Orolando Duffus

Orolando Duffus

For the purpose of this article, an embedded librarian is defined as a librarian who has a semester-long integrated instruction presence in an online, on-site or hybrid course. Some of the activities include delivering research instruction, creating LibGuides, tutorials, and providing in-depth research assistance to students and faculty.

Over the last two semesters, I have been exploring my new role as an embedded librarian for an MBA capstone course at UNC Greensboro. The course is entitled MBA 719: Strategic Management in Action and it is taken predominately by final semester MBA students. The course is very research intensive — mainly because students engage in professional consulting projects with local organizations. As a result, students often have to research and analyze their respective company’s industry, target market, and competitors, among other things.


I think it is important to note that students in the evening session of MBA 719 waited about 8.9 years prior to undergrad to pursue their degree while the daytime students averaged less than a year between both degrees. My experience working with those sessions have contradicted the idea that going to grad school earlier would make the transition easier and that going later would dull students’ study habits. For the remainder of this post, I will share my experience embedded with both evening and daytime MBA classes, and I will highlight some of my observations relating to students’ research skills, demand for research consultations, quality of class discussion, direction and focus, collaboration and confidence.

Research Skills

From an assessment of both sections, I learned that about 97% of students have received some type of research instruction from a business librarian. Therefore, they were very familiar with many of the specific tools, services and resources provided by the library for business students. However, the research skill sets were a bit difference for the two sets of students. The evening students were generally less knowledgeable about the contents of various databases but they tend to do extremely well on their own once you point them in the right direction. The daytime students on the other hand generally needed more hand holding. They often contacted me within days after an instruction session seeking step-by-step direction on how to navigate databases in search of specific content.

Demand for Research Consultation

The evening students needed few consultations to supplement my in-class research instruction. In fact, I received over ten times more consultation requests (office visits) and emails from daytime students than I received from evening students. The daytime students generally needed help finding articles and data sets, resolving teammate conflicts, developing statements of work (SoW), and retrieving almost impossible to find proprietary data.

Quality of Class Discussion

The evening students brought a lot of experience into the classroom. As a result, they engaged in more fruitful discussions and shared valuable experiences with each other. Those perspectives were very insightful for the students as they came up with recommendations for their client/sponsoring firm. The daytime students struggled a bit with crafting and articulating their final recommendations. As consultants, they were sometimes tasked with telling their clients that he/she was heading in the wrong direction or that he/she had a bad idea all together. That aspect of their engagement was very challenging for the daytime students. I suspect that maturity and lack of work experience played a role.

Direction, Focus & Collaboration

In addition to have a fulltime job, most of the evening students had a family. They often had a strict schedule and had to balance multiple tasks simultaneously. Initially, I thought those elements would adversely affect their focus and availability. But I became impressed by how well they worked together to coordinate their schedules. They were very self-directed and needed very little interference from the professor. Ironically, it was the daytime students who had the biggest issues scheduling time for group meetings and consultations. Once I had to play the role of a mediator in a consultation session after a student stated that she felt alienated by her team because of her gender. She further lamented that it was unreasonable that she was peered to work with two male students who were best friends. I brought the issue to the professor’s attention; he wasn’t aware of the conflict nor did he know that the guys were best friends when he assigned the teams.


This was somewhat of a challenging area for the daytime students. In comparison to the evening students, the daytime students had less impressive presentation skills. Their final recommendations or deliverables lacked some teeth. For instance, one group’s client wanted to create a go-to-market strategy that relied heavily on QR codes. Choosing avoidance, the group ignored the body of literature pointing to the declining usage of QR codes. In other words, the group was not confident enough to inform their client that the use of QR codes is not viable. Instead, they created a plan that would work well only if people actually used QR codes.


Overall the students were easy to work with although their projects were very challenging at times. Their projects were extremely different and covered a plethora of disciplines. The students worked with and advised companies that have dealings with insurance, healthcare, retail, computer software engineering, real estate, food processing, wineries, and more.

The diverse nature and scope of the students’ research projects prompted me to collaborate and consult with numerous subject specialist both internal and externally. On several occasions I’ve had to consult with Steve Cramer (fellow Business Librarian), Science & Health Science Librarian, and other librarians at UNC Greensboro. On one occasion I ventured beyond the confines of UNCG to consult with Michael Knee, Nanoscale Science & Engineering Librarian at the University at Albany. The University at Albany has been doing a lot of semiconductor research so naturally Michael’s insight into the Semiconductor Intellectual Property (SIP) industry was invaluable. I believe that collaboration and teamwork are some of the most essential elements needed to effectively support students enrolled in a MBA capstone course.

Short followup from last time. Our slides — including ideas from the participants — are now available at the LOEX web site.  (Very soon all the submitted slides and files from the conference will be available there.)

Mentoring Teaching Librarians: A Discussion of Possibilities, Pitfalls, and Best Practices in Supporting New Instruction Colleagues in Your Library (PPTX)

Title slide of our program

Title slide of our program

Lisa and I also contributed an article for the conference proceedings, which should be freely available after one year. The article focused much more on our case studies than the above program did. We also wrote a bit about the problems of definitions (covered at a summary level in the program): for example, how to distinguish between mentoring, coaching, and peer-learning (such as peer-observation).  Lisa came up with this excellent summary:

“In trying to explain how these terms relate to one another, we’ve devised the following:”

  • A mentor says “I’ve been there, so I can guide you.”
  • A coach says “I know this thing, so I can help you do this better.”
  • A peer says “I’m here with you, so let’s explore together.”

Our article ends with lessons learned and recommendations, plus two pages of citations. I’ll post a link to that article once the year-long embargo ends.

I hope everyone is enjoying summer.


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