Mary Scanlon of Wake Forest University hosted yesterday’s quarterly BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) workshop in the new WFU business school building. Mary’s office moved from the WFU main library to the b-school building, making her physically embedded in the building where both undergraduate and graduate business students now go to class and study. (Before the new building, there were separate schools and buildings for the two groups of students.)
Mary reports that her consultations have increased dramatically and that she has formed stronger relationships with the students. She does miss the daily camaraderie of her library peers in the main library, though, and she has had reduced contact with the Economics Department, now physically more distant. (There is one other WFU business librarian. He was assigned to the graduate students before the merger of the schools and buildings.) We enjoyed learning about Mary’s transition and encouraged her to write up her experiences in an article.
Anyway, 21 librarians meet at WFU for this BLINC workshop. A majority were public librarians – a nice change of pace for our group, which lately had been skewed a bit to the academic side in terms of participation. The sharing of ideas and experiences between public and academic business librarians has been one of the wonderful aspects of BLINC over its 12 years.
After introductions and updates on our professional lives (personal life updates happened over lunch – such a friendly group!), Natasha Francois of Wayne County Public Library took the floor to discuss her library’s new outreach project: public librarians visiting small businesses one-on-one for short discussions. Natasha met Dan Maynard of Campbell University (and a BLINC officer with Mary) at a training session he provided southeast of Raleigh, and Dan invited Natasha to talk to BLINC about her plans for business outreach in her rural county.
The Wayne County Public Library strategic plan includes building partnerships with businesses as well as nonprofits and other community players. The library already works with the local Small Business Center to provide monthly workshops on entrepreneurship and small business themes.
The goal of the outreach initiative is to provide 5- to 15-minute one-on-one sessions with business owners. In this short time, the librarians would promote library services to the owner, but also ask for input on the services the business would like – making the visit more than a library sales pitch. Smart. The library hopes that some of the visits will result in future research consultations.
The library plans to spend two Wednesdays a month making these visits, hopefully visiting 10 businesses within 3 hours. The library will make some appointments but also try unscheduled drop-ins. They will begin the visits in August and hope to have visited 100 establishments by the end of the year. At that point the program will be reevaluated.
In preparation for the visits, Natasha used Mergent Intellect to identify businesses in Wayne County by industry sector, and Google Maps to map routes. Natasha has created an evaluation plan involving surveys and statistics on reference statistics, database usage, and her business research web site hits.
The BLINC folks thought this was a very interesting project. From the public librarians, there were suggestions to collect success stories as well as statistics. Another note was how important it is to revisit the targeted businesses; it’s often at the second or third contact that the working relationship between a business and the library really begins. We asked Natasha if she could provide an update for us next year.
After lunch and informal networking, we had a presentation and discussion with Barry Ryan of the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship in the NC Rural Economic Development Center. He profiled the various programs the institute provides (one of them, the Small Business Credit initiative, covers all NC 100 counties, not just the 85 classified as rural.) As usual whenever BLINC meets with an economic development official, we advocated for involving with the local libraries, since the libraries are already providing services and content (like NC LIVE business databases) that the institute’s clients are asking for.
We ended the workshop with Nina Exner from NC A&T providing an example of how she introduces SimplyMap to non-business students. Nina has a lot of fun with her ice cream case study and so did we. The librarians got into a discussion about the data needs of social scientists versus business researchers in the context of extrapolated survey data (like consumer expenditure data at the block group level). Lynda Kellam, you would have been proud of us.
This workshop recap doesn’t capture the fun BLINC friends have at the quarterly workshops, nor the satisfaction we get from the unplanned learning and sharing that goes on between (and during) the scheduled events. Kudos also to Betty Garrison of Elon University, the other current BLINC officer, for her leadership and hard work too.