A prologue to a budget cutting post coming soon.
Getting more opinionated…
Once or twice a year an aspiring author of a Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship article on trends in business librarianship sends a survey to BUSLIB-L or BRASS members. Common questions include:
- Do you have an undergraduate degree in a business-related major?
- Do you have a MBA, or Masters of Accounting, etc.?
- Do you work as a solo librarian, work in a business library, or work in a general library?
My answers would be no (Medieval Studies, actually), no, and “general library.” (There is only one business library in my adopted state: the Ford Library at Duke’s Fuqua School. Nice librarians there.)
There are some perks & perils of being a business specialist in a general library:
- Many reference librarians (or most?) aren’t very comfortable with business research, especially its jargon, specialized sources, and emphasis on numeric data. I’ve even heard tales of mild panic attacks until the business specialist returned from lunch to take over a question. So the business librarian becomes very popular with his/her colleagues when the interesting marketing or entrepreneurship or finance questions come in to the reference desk. (Yes, there are also reference librarians who don’t shy away from the business questions – props to those folks!)
- There’s usually significant demand from business schools for research instruction and from business students for research consultations. The neighborhood business librarian can collect impressive usage stats.
- They have more toys to play with. Specialized databases and data sources, I mean. But that can be a peril too (see below).
- Overall, business school faculty seem well-adjusted and reasonable. There aren’t many prima donnas. And the faculty understand the market aspects of business information and know that the libraries have to make tough cost/benefit decisions on subscriptions sometimes.
- Sometime our co-workers don’t understand why a diversity of databases is needed to provide basic coverage of business research. Many academic subjects don’t require much: they need their official abstracting & indexing service (ex. MLA or PsycInfo) and perhaps a specialized encyclopedia or biographical source. No so with business research! We need to cover private companies, public company financials, U.S. and international market reports and data, industry reports and ratios and financial benchmarks, accounting standards, tax standards, economic indicators, trade data (U.S. v. U.S. states v. Comtrade), and yes, articles/A&I. So when budget cuts arrive, it’s easy for some librarians to declare “since we have so many business databases, we should start cutting there.”
- Business research can be hard, and business librarians have to know a lot. Accounting remains my Achilles’ heel. (It’s wonderful to be able to share questions with BLINC or BUSLIB-L, or with my library’s smart Data Services Librarian for Census-related research.)
- Likewise, business research instruction can be tricking. Making data interesting ain’t always easy!
Does anyone have other pros and cons?