Thanksgiving break has begun, but the library is open today (Wednesday) and I was actually eager to come in to work to clean up my desktop, go out for Greek food for lunch with friends, and do a bit of writing.
Between last Friday and yesterday, the search committee for the professor of international marketing conducted nine interviews of candidates via Webex. We allotted an hour to each interview. So that was a lot of time to spend while also covering last-minute research consultations. But I had my last one-shot instruction session last week Monday, and submitted two long USASBE workshop proposals before their last week Tuesday deadline, so now my stress level is pretty low. Those might be subjects for future blog posts, but first I want to write about what the business librarians and vendors were up to at the Charleston Conference in early November.
Business vendors & business librarians at the Charleston Conference
Two years ago, five business librarians gathered in the late afternoon at the Charleston Conference to share notes. We expressed an interest in having business librarianship programs each year at the conference. Last year, I think there was another informal get-together (I didn’t go to Charleston that time). But this spring four business librarians and two business vendors worked together on a “lively lunch” discussion proposal, which was accepted.
The Charleston Conference meets in Charleston S.C. in very early November. As I’ve written before, I really like this conference for allowing publishers, vendors, and librarians to participate together throughout the conference, rather than banishing the vendors to the exhibit hall the entire time. The programming is high quality and varied (plenaries, panels, lively lunch discussions, posters, lightning rounds, Shark Tank-type pitches (new this year), parties, and dine-arounds). The conference sites are close together. And even though collections are now a minor part of our liaison roles here at UNCG (as covered in my “liaison reorganization” thread), there is enough programming regarding liaison roles and scholarly communication advocacy that I stay interested. Plus business content!
The title of our program was ““Why business content subscriptions can drive us crazy, and what to do about it: A dialogue with business librarians, business vendors, and the audience on best practices and solutions”.
The librarians on the panel included:
- Cynthia Cronin-Kardon(University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School/Lippincott Library)
- Betsy Clementson(Tulane/Freeman School/Turchin Library)
- Corey Seeman(University of Michigan/Ross School/Kresge Library)
- And me (a business librarian based in a general library, unlike the others)
The vendors on the panel included:
- John Quealy(S&P Global)
- Dan Gingert(PrivCo)
Our program description is below if you are interested. The four librarians are writing a conference proceedings article (due December 1) that will be openly available. I’ll post a link to that article when it becomes available.
The Charleston Conference “lively lunches” are intended to be discussions, not presentations, in the midday time slot. Some folks do bring a lunch but most of the attendees ate before or after. We were assigned the large Gold Ball Room in the Francis Marion Hotel. While we did arrange chairs into a couple of concentric circles, this was a challenging location given the room’s size. There was no portable mic, so folks sitting in the back had to listen carefully to hear everyone. But it worked out fine.
Around 40 folks attended. About 1/3rd of those folks were vendor representatives: in addition to S&P and PrivCo, Bureau van Dijk, InfoGroup, OCLC, Oxford University Press, Ebsco, and ProQuest representatives attended – and many, as we hoped, participated in the discussion. The librarians included other business librarians, electronic resources librarians, and collection development librarians.
[One of the business librarians in the house was Nora Wood from the University of South Florida. The previous day, Nora and a colleague led a lively lunch about liaison outreach. It was an excellent and useful discussion. I’ll provide a summary of it and some other liaison-centered Charleston programs in my next post, hopefully next week.]
Below is a summary of points made in our discussion. Many vendors and librarians thought the discussion was very useful and agreed that we should try to submit business content programming every year to the Charleston Conference. Bureau van Dijk even offered to host a social next year (thank you, BvD friends!). So we will see what we can make happen next time. If you have interest in attending Charleston but have questions about its value, logistics, etc., or want to share a programming idea, please let any of us know.
Summary of points
As you probably know, it can be hard to take notes about a program you are in the middle of. So I’m sorry if this summary seems fragmentary. I promise that the conference proceedings article will be more detailed. This summary reflects comments from both librarian and vendors. It was a frank, open, friendly discussion that never turned into an “us versus them” discourse. Betsy’s role in the discussion was to summarize the exchange in the form of best practices. Most of these points are thanks to Betsy.
- Open, clear, honest communication between business librarians and vendors is key.
- Librarians need to understand our users’ research needs AND need to protect our subscriptions, limiting access as much as we can to authorized users AND authorized usage.
- Vendors need to understand the access challenges of serving a business school or an entire campus. Vendors also need to understand the typical academic calendar and patterns of database usage. For example, for some subscription content, most of the usage comes in one short time period within the fall/and spring semester.
- And of course, vendors need to understand the budget challenges many of our campuses go through every year.
- We talked about potential abuse of our academic licenses. Student consulting projects, experiential learning, tech transfer support, and internships are blurring the lines between academic and corporate use. In general, the librarians emphasized that we need to tell our students to share their summaries of the research in our databases for such projects (well, internships may have additional issues) but not to share the downloaded content.
- In general, business librarians should educate our students about database licensing restrictions as part of our information literacy or “information has value” discussions. Cite the university honor code.
- Many vendors need to put more effort into providing standardized usage data (ex. Project COUNTER).
- Both librarians AND vendors complained about vendors sending corporate licensing terms to academic libraries. One vendor says that the legal team of his company always starts with a corporate version, despite his efforts to create an academic template for the legal team to start with for those customers. (So complaints of bureaucracy are not limited to us academics!)
- Law librarians have many of the same issues with legal vendors, so there was a suggestion for business librarians and law librarians to talk about our shared issues.
Business databases have a reputation for being expensive, having problematic licensing terms, and generally being a pain to work with. This reputation is particularly common among collection development and e-resources librarians in general libraries. In addition to affordability, issues can include licensing restrictions to specific campus populations and locations, requirements that users create personal accounts, severe download restriction s, not working with consortiums, and shutting down summer access to prevent usage by student interns. On the other hand, business vendors must design their products and licensing to work with many types of customers: corporations, government agencies, consultants, and academia. Their content is often very expensive to produce, and vendors sometimes have to license content from third-party providers that have their own pricing and licensing issues.
To help better understand why business databases can be challenging to work with, and to propose recommendations on how libraries and business vendors can best work together, a group of business librarians and business vendors will lead this lively lunch discussion. The librarians will represent both business libraries and general libraries, and will present case studies representing different types and sizes of campuses. The vendors will represent specialized business content publishers. Together we will discuss how business information is different, why business vendors behave differently, examples of challenges in working with business vendors, examples of challenges in working with libraries, and recommendations & best practices. We will invite audience participation throughout.