I’m continuing my pattern of attending the Charleston Conference in even-numbered years. I provided a short description of the conference two years ago. My wife Carol, a collection development head at another library, goes every year but we especially enjoy the years when we attend together. (Next spring we will enjoy attending ACRL in Portland together. We are both presenting* on the same day…at the same time…in adjacent convention center rooms – a real Kramer v. Kramer.)
Five business librarians at the Charleston Conference rendezvoused for an informal discussion. One of the librarians had a scheduling conflict but wanted to stop by to say hello, so four of us found an empty conference room and chatted for an hour. I forgot to ask permission to identify the librarians, sorry. We represented two business school libraries and two general academic libraries with business school liaisons.
We discussed if Charleston Conference could support a business information-related program each year. One idea for a program: the sometimes quirky licensing terms used by the business vendors that sell to corporations as well as academia. We know that acquisitions librarians sometimes struggle to deal with those licenses. A panel that includes one of the business vendors who frequent Charleston (ex. S&P or Mergent), a business librarian, and an acquisition librarian might have significant appeal.
We also chatted about:
- Organizational culture challenges as our libraries deal with major change initiatives.
- Our job titles: using an official or organizational-structure based title v. a more user-centered title like “business librarian”. I mentioned a BRASS tweet (from Chad Boeninger paraphrasing a Penn State Librarian?) that switching to the title “Business Research Consultant” seemed to result in many more consultations than using “Business Librarian”. Another librarian suggested keeping your title(s) flexible and consider using different titles for different audiences.
- We discussed the continued importance of physical spaces and print collections for business students. (This came from the two librarians based in business school libraries.) One librarian asked if the rest of us still bought textbooks. Her library did, at the cost of big bucks each year. Yet having that collection is popular.
- One librarian asked if anyone was working on financial literacy programming for college students. Another thought that equally needed was “protecting your privacy” programming.
- We discussed our experiences with requests to do data mining (ex. with Wall Street Journal articles via Factiva or ProQuest). We wished that vendors would be more flexible regarding this option, but also discussed the need for vendors to protect their intellectual property from mass downloads. One librarian described how a vendor blocked access to his entire university because of one user abusing access to the database and hoped that vendor would work with the library on a more nuanced response the next time that happens.
- We joked about and lamented student requests for market or industry research on super-niche products or markets, such as umbrella handles or rugby cleats. We also sympathized with each other for students who expect data to always be current, like the student who assumed that complicated financial data for all countries through 2013 would be available by early 2014.
- Similarly, we discussed students requesting expensive market research reports they discovered through Google searches, or IBIS reports that don’t exist but are listed as potential future new reports on the IBIS public web site. Least you think we were complaining too much, we also discussed how helpful vendors can be, like providing a free report that isn’t part of our official academic subscription just because we asked about it. Strong relations with vendor reps can be very useful for both sides.
That last bullet points captures the over-all tone of our hour discussion pretty well. We enjoyed sharing a few frustrations specific to business librarianship with an understanding and sympathetic audience, but never abandoned a positive attitude about working with students and faculty, other librarians, and vendors. We’ll see if we can work together to make business librarianship a more regular topic at the Charleston Conference.
*(My ACRL program will be on liaison reorganization and will include my colleague Amy Harris and liaison leaders from Johns Hopkins and Villanova. Carol will be speaking on weeding along with librarians from Minnesota.)