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Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) met for its spring workshop last week Friday. You can’t tell from this lunch-time picture, but the flowering trees are now blooming over here in the NC Piedmont, and the daffodils are up and looking pretty. Well, the lack of coats on these business librarians enjoying lunch and networking outdoors is a sign of spring!

We met at the Frontier, a shared-work space, in Research Triangle Park, just south of Durham. It had been a while since we met in RTP. It’s pretty famous for being one of the most successful research parks in the country. It reflects the early, 1950’s, suburban model of research parks; only recently has the park become concerned with mixed-used development and more sustainable transportation options. In contrast, the newish Winston-Salem Innovation Quarter, where BLINC has met before, is largely built from downtown former RJ Reynolds tobacco factories. The Quarter is high-density and has lots of housing a short walk away. (However, we are still waiting for our downtown, full-sized grocery store.)

Around 20 business librarians, public and academic, attended the workshop. We had more public librarians than academic librarians this time, a nice change of pace. Four folks were first-timers at a BLINC workshop. We gave our new friends a special welcome.

Workshop description: “Social entrepreneurship has gone mainstream, but libraries have been helping people trying to solve problems in their communities for a long time. At this workshop, we will share and discuss library services and resources to support social entrepreneurs in both public and academic libraries.”

My notes are somewhat rough since I was also serving as the workshop coordinator, along with fellow-officer Sara Thynne of Alamance Community College. My apologies to the presenters and you readers.

Agenda:

9:30-10:00: Socializing over morning snacks and coffee
10:00-10:30: Introductions; what’s new with your work or at your library
10:30-11:30: Social entrepreneurship, part 1:
Steve Cramer (UNC Greensboro): Introduction to social entrepreneurship and how today’s topics fit together
Dan Maynard (Campbell University):  Lessons learned about working with social entrepreneurs  as a Sullivan Fellow
Betty Garrison (Elon University): IRS 990 forms for nonprofit research and financial benchmarking
11:30-12:30: Lunch at the Food Truck Rodeo
12:30-2:00: Social entrepreneurship, part 2
Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill): The UNC Makeathon — students developing prototypes that promote positive social impact
Deanna Day (Small Business and Technology Development Center): Support organizations for social entrepreneurs
Steve Cramer: Simply Analytics (NC LIVE) v. PolicyMap v. Social Explorer for community indicators data
Final discussions facilitated by Sara Thynne (Alamance Community College)
2:00-3:00: BLINC planning discussions: NCLA 2019 additional program proposals and final decisions on our socials; topics for summer workshop at App State

Introducing the topic

I used the definition from UNCG’s Seminar in Social Entrepreneurship class:

“Social entrepreneurship is a growing field that depends on market-driven practices to create social change. Social entrepreneurs leverage available economic resources and innovations, to support their passion to have a positive impact on the global and local community.”

After describing a few examples from recent magazines and newspapers, we discussed core aspects of social entrepreneurship. Many of these aspects impact our consulting work with social entrepreneurs.

  • Includes for-profit and nonproft organizations (including triple bottom line companies: people, planet, profits)
  • The need to define and measure the problem being addressed, and the people involved
  • The need to have direct experience with target populations
  • And working in partnership with members of a target community, not swooping in to fix problems for them – that’s almost never helpful or effective or indeed wanted
  • Industry analysis, competitive intelligence, financial benchmarking, and market analysis are required – the same research required by general entrepreneurship — even if you want to start a nonprofit and your heart is in the right place
  • Social entrepreneurs can’t expect grant money to come in from local governments or foundations just because it’s a significant social problem and you are passionate about your proposed solution
  • Social entrepreneurs must think seriously about possible revenue streams, and will have to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow – whether nonprofit or for-profit

Lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

Dan Maynard (Campbell University) discussed “lessons learned about working with social entrepreneurs as a Sullivan Fellow”. Dan remains the only librarian serving as a Sullivan Fellow. From that page:

Dan Maynard

Dan Maynard on lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

“The Sullivan Foundation is focused on supporting faculty who are interested in incorporating social innovation and entrepreneurship into new or existing classes and/or proposed projects that serves to deepen knowledge of students interested in the field and faculty impact in the community.”

Dan has a lot of interesting stories to tell and recommendations to share. He presented social entrepreneurship in terms of the 3 M’s:

  1. Mission (useful work)
  2. Margin (it’s profitable)
  3. Meaning (“good work”)

The Sullivan Foundation focuses on rural and micropolitan places in the U.S. south — the kinds of places that often get ignored in discussions of trendy entrepreneurship.

Lessons learned:

  • Turn outward: everyone has aspirations: find out what they are
  • Discover your niche: deal with causes, rural issues, or urban issues. Don’t try to solve all the problems at once
  • Social entrepreneurship is not social innovation, social justice, service learning, or community engagement per se. It often involves those things, though. But watch out for folks with their own agenda but less interest in sustainable solutions
  • Be prepared for push-back from some faculty for using the “e” word. For some, entrepreneurship is a dirty word, a capitalistic idea
  • Be prepared to push back against administrators, bosses, sponsors, and funding agencies with their top-down pronouncements and top-down agenda (Dan gave a few examples)

Measuring outcomes: assessment or story telling?

  • Foundations seek storytelling and branding – human aspects, humanity on display. Not a spreadsheet of numeric assessments
  • Provide storytelling that earns name recognition
  • Assessment data is a fading emphasis in the foundation community

An example Campbell U story from Sullivan (Dan shared this link with us after our workshop – the story was posted the same day.)

Success stories sell, Dan asserts. He is getting more instruction and consultation requests on his campus as a result of Sullivan Foundation storytelling,

Dan is helping social entrepreneurs grow their networks and seek funding. Slow money, micro grants, and peer lending is happening in Dan’s rural county. It’s not just Detroit Soup anymore.

From the Q&A with Dan on academic implications:

  • A business schools are not the most fertile ground for social entrepreneurship — the arts and humanities are.
  • There is much less emphasis on traditional business plan writing [more on that after lunch].

We moved the IRS 990 discussion for after lunch.

Food truck lunch

The Frontier has “Food Truck Rodeos” on Friday, so we went outside and had lunch. That was fun. Easy to network and socialize on foot, and then we munched on benches.

Nonprofit financial research and benchmarking

Betty Garrison (Elon University) caught a bug and couldn’t make it, so I jumped in to cover this topic. Most of the BLINC friends had experience with the IRS 990 financial forms required for many nonprofits.

  • 501(a) organizations.
  • Due 5 ½ months after fiscal year ends
  • If under $200K in receipts, an organization can submit a shorter version, 900-EZ
  • Private foundations of any size submit a 990-PF that usually includes a list of organizations given funds with the dollars amount

Using some examples I pulled up from http://foundationcenter.org/find-funding/990-finder, we discussed using these forms for financial benchmarking and strategic insights.

Librarian support of the UNC-Chapel Hill Makerthon

Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) described the nature of this event and her role in it as the recently-hired entrepreneurship librarian. This is a new but already big event at her campus. https://www.makeathon.unc.edu/ . It lasts a week. Ideas must have a social impact focus. Many non-business students compete.

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

Student teams present either an idea for a physical product or an app (apps are really popular). The teams use the business model canvas for their submissions and 12-minute presentations. Nancy provided research consultations for six of the teams.

Nancy has a research guide, https://guides.lib.unc.edu/lean-canvas, organized around the topic boxes of the business model canvas.

She also works with the campus’ social entrepreneurship hub, located within the Campus Y.

Nancy led a discussion on the business model canvas versus the business model versus the traditional business plan. Many of the public librarians hadn’t been exposed to these alternatives to the business plan.

Small Business and Technology Development Center & social entrepreneurship

Deanna Day (research consultant (and librarian), Small Business and Technology Development Center) discussed how the SBTDC supports social entrepreneurs. SBTDC is the “business and technology extension service of The University of North Carolina” [from that site]. So it covers the whole state through our 16 campuses.

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

Deanna provided some examples of SBTDC’s social entrepreneurship clients. SBTDC councilors also support students working on pitch competitions (I didn’t know that).

The councilors’ biggest concern when working with new social entrepreneurship clients: that the clients won’t be able to sustain their business/organization, and that their financial planning is undeveloped.

Deanna expanded on the financial challenges of creating nonprofits. From one of her slides:

  • Everyone wants to be a nonprofit
  • Because funding is difficult to obtain from traditional sources?
  • Most VCs and angels are not interested in social impact funding
  • Only 11% of big bets go to people to color
  • But other business structures can also be effective
  • SBTDC’s biggest challenge is clients who are not interested in developing a financially sound, sustainable enterprise

SBTDC now uses Liveplan, available to their clients. It works well, she reported. Banks and the SBA accept Liveplan reports when they consider making a loan.

Social data

 I talked briefly about Simply Analytics (which we all have access to via NC LIVE), PolicyMap, and Social Explorer as tools for social entrepreneurship.

Even though many of us usually turn to Simply Analytics for its deep collection of psychographic data, it has plenty of Census data too, which can easily be ranked by location as well as mapped.

PolicyMap has lots of free data and therefore is still useful without having a subscription. It has a robust collection of health indicators, not just Census data: CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the Behavioral Risk Factor Service, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Also HUD data on affordable housing. The PolicyMap blog is open access and had been very helpful to me: https://www.policymap.com/blog/

Social Explorer is very useful for time series data, since it has data back to the original, 1790 Census. Of course, the data back then was pretty limited in scope. For more recent years, it has data from County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.

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Snow day today! We got about 18 inches on Sunday. Campus will probably be closed on Tuesday too, although the snow is melting pretty fast.

Full group at the BLINC workshop

Almost the full group at the BLINC workshop

At its August workshop, BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) focused on ReferenceUSA and Proquest business content. Both products are available state-wide through NC LIVE. InfoUSA’s David Turner, an old friend of BLINC, came over from Omaha. New friend Jo-Anne Hogan, ProQuest business content manager, came down from London, Ontario. David and Jo-Anne talked to us about their new content, their third-party data acquisition process, and interface issues and options. The librarians asked many questions and made a number of suggestions. That was basically it for the workshop agenda.

For our December workshop last week Wednesday, BLINC returned to its roots: sharing, networking, and learning from each other.

We met in Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte, courtesy of UNCC Business Librarian Nicole Spoor. BLINC planned this workshop with Carolinas SLA. There were five special librarians present along with 15 public and academic librarians. Having those special librarians aboard enriched our discussion. We welcomed several first-time attendees at a BLINC workshop, including one MLS student.

The morning focus was “selling ourselves as information professionals.” Today I’m mainly writing about that discussion. But here was the full agenda:

9:30-10 Socializing and morning snacks
10-10:30 Introductions; what’s going on with your position or at your library
10:30-11:45 Selling ourselves as librarians and information professionals
11:45-1:15 Lunch on campus
1:15-2: New techniques for business info teaching & training (BLINC/CABAL Richmond workshop highlights)
2-2:30: Short report on the ReferenceUSA User Conference in Omaha; NC LIVE request for feedback on searching ProQuest market research reports;
2:30-3: Brainstorming BLINC programming at the NCLA 2019 Conference

Sara Thynne (Alamance Community College) and Betty Garrison (Elon U.) summarized the instruction sessions at the BLINC/CABAL workshop from last summer. Both Sara and Betty were speakers at that event. Beth Scarborough (UNC Charlotte) described her experience at the ReferenceUSA User Conference, and what she learned about how InfoUSA collects and verifies its data.

We also asked Susie Corbett, Vice President, Library and Information Technology, of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, to tell us more about her interesting institution (a “public-funded private non-profit”) and the drug pipeline and venture capital databases she and her team use in their information center. Both the public and academic librarians thought this was very interesting.

Today’s topic

To help facilitate a good discussion and sharing of experiences and skills, we sent out these discussion questions ahead of time:

  1. To whom are we selling ourselves?
  2. What does each group of people care about? (What are their motivations or needs?)
  3. How can we align our messages with our organizational priorities?
  4. Formats of outreach: in person, email, social media, print, meetings, events? Pros and cons of each?
  5. Stories of successful outreach you can share? Not so successful stories, or still in progress?
  6. How do we measure success or outcomes in selling ourselves?
  7. How can leverage the special powers of introverts toward effective outreach?

We began our discussion with the first question, using a big white board to segment our markets. So the first step: identify your different targets or types of customers for outreach. Most of those groups have different needs. So your outreach message and strategy need to be customized for each group.

White board work

White board work

Here is what we came up with for “whom are we selling ourselves to”:

Public libraries:

  • Small business owners
  • Nonprofit leaders
  • Entrepreneurs and “wantapreneurs ”
  • Chambers of commerce/other eco-system groups/small business centers
  • Local government officers
  • K-12 students using the library, and their teachers
  • Library department heads and administrators
  • Job seekers

Academic libraries:

  • Schools, colleges, other academic units on campus
  • Academic deans and other administrators
  • Faculty
    • Untenured
    • Associate & full profs
    • Named professorships
    • Department heads
    • Adjuncts
    • Whoever is teaching online classes
  • Campus partners (writing center, career services, etc.)
  • Students
    • First year
    • Upper-level
    • Graduate
      • Professional program (MBA, MS-Accounting, etc.)
      • Academic (PhD programs)
    • Online students
    • Adult students
  • Early or pre-college students on campus
  • Incubators, entrepreneurship centers
  • Library department heads and administrators
  • Job seekers

Special libraries:

  • Small business owners
  • Nonprofit leaders
  • Incubators
  • Pre-ventures
  • Consultants
  • Other librarians
  • Local professors
  • Colleagues and other departments in the organization
Public librarians small group disussion

Public librarians small group discussion

Some overlap in groups, as we expected. We get pretty nuanced. For example, MBA and PhD students have some pretty different needs. For any campus that has diverse graduate programs, generalizing about the needs of graduate students (“our grad students need this…grad students want that…”) isn’t a very thoughtful or effective way to support them.

After developing those lists as a big group, we broke into small groups by type of library: special, public, academic. We had about 25 minutes for the break-outs. Each team wanted to talk longer, but I was a meanie and asked them to come back into the big group for our summary of small group thoughts before lunch time.

Special librarians round table

Special librarians round table

I joined the academic group. They focused on outreach to adjuncts and teachers of online courses. Often those faculty have full-time jobs in addition to their teaching gigs, adding another barrier to our outreach efforts. Ideas and programs mentioned:

  • UNC Charlotte has a “library faculty engagement award.” (Nicole mentioned that a business prof recently won this award, but donated the prize money back to the library to help fund a new business database subscription that the business school really wanted!)
  • Creating local “READ” posters (using local faculty and students as the featured readers)
  • Offering adjuncts library spaces for their office hours (could be a small study room or just a table in a public room)
  • Getting on the agenda for required online educator orientations
  • Creating modules for classroom management systems

I didn’t take notes when we reassembled as a big group to share key points from the break outs, I’m sorry. I was standing down in front of the classroom moderating the discussion.

Academic librarians small group

Academic librarians small group

Attendees thought our outreach discussion that morning was very useful but could have used more time. Lesson learned. We could have budgeted an hour after lunch to continue discussing outreach, but there were other topics we wanted to talk about too (and a couple of time-sensitive requests from NC LIVE and NCLA). Hopefully in our 2019 workshops, we will build on what we started at UNC Charlotte.

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Vanessa

Blame Vanessa for this post

Yesterday my work friend Vanessa Apple, a coder in our tech department, drove over to Winston-Salem for a visit. At one of the downtown breweries (a dog-friendly one, as Vanessa is into dogs), I was telling her about my crazy Friday with its ups and downs. She replied “you should write about that on your blog! You could title it ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’.”

Eh, why not? It’s been a while since I wrote anything personal about liaison work. And then I can procrastinate on some other projects I’m not in the mood for yet…

Vanessa, thank you for the suggestion. Sorry I used a different title, though.

Last Friday

8am

Didn’t sleep well, so a lame start to the day. Sunny and hot already. Put on new dress shoes to start breaking them in for the fall semester. Traffic not bad.

9am

Learned that a Charleston Conference proposal I submitted with Orolando Duffus (U. of Houston) and Rosalind Tedford (Wake Forest U.) was accepted. Yay. It will be a “lively discussion” (one of this conference’s program formats) on liaison trends. Should be fun.

Walked over to the student union next door to deposit the royalties check for the 2017-18 version of the Export Odyssey project textbook Professor Williamson and I co-wrote. (That version was printed by the campus bookstore. The next edition will be an ebook published by Kendall Hunt. More on significant changes to this, my originally embedded role, in a blog post next month hopefully.)

Right heel starting to hurt.

10am

Prepared a bit for next week’s BLINC workshop at Elon University. Got caught up on emails. Reviewed my notes from Thursday’s liaison teams retreat.

Scheduled a chat with Kelsey Molseed, a former intern and mentee, for late afternoon today in downtown Winston-Salem, where she also lives. Kelsey has just finished her MLS and had been interviewing.

12pm

Drove from campus to our downtown Nursing school building (easy parking), then walked a half mile to a downtown Mediterranean restaurant to have lunch with the new business librarian at the Greensboro Public Library, Morgan Ritchie-Baum. Morgan is also a new member of BLINC. I ordered a new-to-me wrap that included strips of dried beef. Ended up with some of it stuck in my throat and had to retire to the bathroom to cough it out. Very embarrassing. But Morgan was super-polite. She is already getting involved with the local entrepreneurial and nonprofit ecosystems.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks south and I gave Morgan a quick tour of HQ Greensboro (an incubator space — UNCG is an institutional member).

On the sidewalk, we bumped into a former reference intern, Melanie Knier, who also took my old business information class. She opened a vintage apparel shop in the neighborhood.

Foot hurts more.

1:30pm

Back in the office. Took off shoes. Oh look, I had a blister which popped and then bled through my dress sock. Yuck. Applied Neosporin and band-aids.

2:30pm

Went home early.

3:00pm

Switched to my hiking shoes with thick short socks. Heel feels much better in them.

Considered changing shirts for the 4pm chat with Kelsey. Notice the new knit shirt I’ve been wearing today had a tear along the seam in the armpit area. Lovely.

3:10pm

Decided to change shirts.

4:00pm

Met Kelsey in a coffee shop and we had a nice chat. She just received two job offers (from a small school and a big school) and had to make a tough decision. We talked about that and other things for a while. She moves away next month. Hopefully we’ll meet again at a conference sometime soon.

Evening

Read a book in a brewery (not the one Vanessa I visited yesterday), then played some pinball in the retro arcade. Chatted with barkeep Cheyanne before heading home to see my wonderful wife Carol and ask her how her day went.

Made dinner together and talked about looking forward to playing with the little nephews on Saturday at a family pool party. Slept much better that night.

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Last November, Tommy Waters (Howard University) emailed me in his capacity as chair of CABAL (Capital Area Business Academic Librarians). He asked about the possibility of CABAL and BLINC working together sometime. Fellow BLINC officer Sara Thynne (Alamance Community College) and I liked that idea and proposed Richmond, VA, as a possible location. Carrie Ludovico (University of Richmond) volunteered her campus’ downtown Richmond location, which is where we met last week Friday for this day-long workshop.

downtown Richmond

downtown Richmond

Seven academic BLINC members (we include academic, public, and a few special librarians) signed up to join 23 CABAL members from as far as Baltimore. (Two of those BLINC members had very recently moved to Richmond; a third BLINC member starts work in a couple of weeks at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg VA but was still unpacking boxes and couldn’t make it to the workshop. I think the Virginia Library Association owes us a commission!)

Jo Ann Henson

Jo Ann Henson (standing)

The night before the workshop, the BLINC folks plus three of our spouses/partners and a business librarian friend (whose membership in CABAL would be voted on the next morning) whom I met at the Charleston Conference gathered for dinner and drinks in the hip Carytown neighborhood. As I wrote last time, socializing and networking and supporting each other are really the core functions of BLINC and so we had a great time, concluding with a group walk and ice cream. Meanwhile, CABAL had a fancy dinner downtown that we were invited to, but after our recent fancy retirement dinner, we wanted to do something more casual this time.

The workshop began at 10am with introductions by everyone. Tommy and I also asked each librarian to share one opportunity and one challenge he or she is facing. I identified some trends:

  • Getting up to speed as a newly appointed business librarian;
  • Building relationships in the business school and across campus;
  • Data services;
  • Workload and sustainability issues with serving large and fast-growing business student populations without additional library staffing support;
  • Business info lit strategies and applying the framework to business research;
  • Weeding collections to create more space (and the headache of having to ask to withdraw government documents).

I enjoyed seeing some old BRASS friends like Jennifer Boettcher (Georgetown University) and old UNCG friends like Amanda Click (American University).

Sara Thynne

Sara Thynne

The main morning slot was devoted to short presentations on active learning strategies for business research. Shana Gass (Towson University) moderated. We had a nice mix of topics:

  1. Betty Garrison (Elon University) on MBA orientation strategy
  2. Natalie Burclaff (University of Baltimore) on scenario-based learning for marketing analysis and stock research
  3. Elizabeth Price (James Madison University) on a first-year source exploration activity
  4. Me on supporting problem-based, experiential learning in community-engaged capstone classes
  5. Amanda Click on a first-year online information evaluation exercise.

I took notes on each but I’m reluctant to just cut and paste them here (email me if you are really curious about one of these). Several speakers talked about the less than thrilling results with earlier versions of their instruction plan, and then described more effective revisions. Several also discussed decision-making as the desired outcome of effective information literacy. Another theme: selling the value of subscription databases as expensive library products also used by professionals in the business world.

Indian buffet lunch

Indian buffet lunch, with a patient smile from Ian

Often in this blog I lament the limited opportunities for business librarians to discuss teaching strategies in our more specialized info lit realm, and the limited relevance of more general info lit content (ex. at LOEX and ACRL). So not surprisingly, I thought these presentations and the ensuing discussions proved the most interesting part of the Richmond workshop. I wish we could have kept on going.

We broke into three groups for lunch downtown (no banal box lunches, hooray!)

The main after-lunch topic was databases, moderated by Shmuel Ben-Gad (George Washington University):

  1. Jo Ann Henson (George Mason University) on Factiva;
  2. Sara Thynne on SimplyAnalytics;
  3. Susan Norrissey (University of Virginia) on merger and acquisitions information in Bloomberg, Pitchbook, Privco, & Capital IQ;
  4. Sara Hess (University of Virginia) on EMIS (Emerging Markets Information System);
  5. Shmuel Ben-Gad on ABI-INFORM.

Good content from all five presenters with ensuing “compare and contrast” and “is this really worth the money?” discussions.

Early in our planning of this workshop, we considered bringing in a vendor to do an hour-long training session. That would have been useful to the librarians who subscribed to that product, but I’m really glad we ended up with this format instead.

socializing at CABAL/BLINC 2018

socializing at CABAL/BLINC 2018

No profound conclusion today. It’s always useful to get folks together to talk about shared topics of interest and build professional friendships and networks. That’s what makes successful professional organizations.

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BLINC workshop in the Durham MakerLab

BLINC workshop in the Durham MakerLab

This is a sequel to my last post of 2017. The folks in BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) think we are making progress in re-energizing the group and its workshops. But we have reminded ourselves what is most important to us as an organization.

Our first 2018 workshop was at the Durham Public Library MakerLab in March. The MakerLab is in a mall north of downtown. (The main library is being completely rebuilt and so the library system is leasing that space.) The workshop theme was “community engagement, including library support of job hunting and economic development.” Four librarians from special, public, and academic librarians led discussions on partnering with local organizations, using a new NC LIVE job hunting subscription database, and supporting for-profit and non-profit entrepreneurship.

BLINC workshop in the Durham MakerLab

BLINC workshop in the Durham MakerLab

Turnout was strong – 25 people — with half of the folks being first-time attendees to a BLINC workshop. The new people provided many positive comments about the workshop being a friendly and welcoming event with the emphasis on networking and sharing. They seemed to really enjoy the short topics and ensuing discussion plus chatting over lunch in the mall’s food court (no boring boxed lunches, hooray; the Greek place proved most popular).

Most of the first-timers were not official business, nonprofit, or entrepreneurship librarians. The workshop’s emphasis on community engagement attracted this diverse turn out. Given the evolution of business librarianship I wrote about in December, community engagement might be the emphasis that BLINC needs to grow beyond the core “business librarian” cohort.

In May, BLINC offered a hands-on Census data workshop with our sister organization Government Resources Section (of NCLA). The workshop included a preview of the new data.census.gov interface that will replace FactFinder, as well as training in American Community Survey and Economic Census data.

In ten days, seven BLINC members will travel up to Richmond, Virginia to meet up with seventeen members of the recently formed group CABAL for a joint workshop on active learning strategies and research databases.

In early August, VIPs from ProQuest and ReferenceUSA (both are NC LIVE subscriptions) will be flying to North Carolina to meet with BLINC at Elon University. They will be discussing content acquisition, licensing issues, quality control, usability, and future plans for the databases. We rarely invite vendors to BLINC workshops but do like to check in with the NC LIVE vendors occasionally since their products are available state-wide.

Finally, in early December, we will be down at UNC Charlotte for a discussion of “selling ourselves as librarians and information professionals” and also “outreach for introverts”. This will be a combined workshop with NC-SLA and (like the March event in Durham) will feature many voices representing different types of librarianship.

Meanwhile, we now have 41 people in our new BLINC Google Group, which replaced our old Wiggio group when that product died last winter. Sara Thynne and I (the current officers) are trying to do a better job of announcing and publicly welcoming each new member of our virtual space in order to continue to build fellowship and networking. Member Mimi Curlee always replies to those announcements with her own affirmation.

Mary Scanlon and Lydia Towery

Mary Scanlon and Lydia Towery

BLINC folks have long recognized networking as the #1 goal of the organization. But networking often leads to friendships too. That friendship was apparent last Saturday evening, when twelve of us gathered at a fancy restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem to celebrate the careers and contributions of two retiring business librarians and past chairs of BLINC, Lydia Towery and Mary Scanlon. My wife Carol and I could have walked to this restaurant (although we didn’t, it was too hot) but some other folks drove from two hours away to honor Lydia and Mary in person.

While BLINC has our strong tradition of creating free quarterly workshops, it is networking and friendship that really defines who we are. If that emphasis continues, then BLINC will remain a successful group.

Most of the folks at the dinner

Most of the folks at the dinner

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Home stretch of the spring semester — getting into the peak weeks of research consultations, as the student teams prepare their final reports and presentations. Good luck to all the academic librarians facing the same time demands!

BLINC had a well-attended March workshop in the Durham County Library MakerLab. We had 25 folks present, half of whom were first-time attendees to a BLINC workshop. I wrote last winter about the apparent decline of business librarian positions in North Carolina. That situation is unchanged, but demand for programming on community engagement and economic development remains strong. Perhaps that should be the focus of BLINC, not pure business librarianship. Something to think about.

Meanwhile, BLINC has collaborations coming up with the Government Resources Section of NCLA in May as well as CABAL up in Richmond, VA in July. We are looking forward to those events.

And a bunch of librarians are working on proposals for business content programs at the Charleston Conference this fall. We had at least four such programs last year, plus a dinner, and also a happy hour sponsored by InfoUSA. So we hope to have even more programming in 2018. We will email BUSLIB about that soon. Proposals can be submitted between mid-April and July.

Today’s topic

UNCG’s Professor Latasha Valez is teaching two sections of LIS 620: Information Sources and Services: a hybrid class and a synchronous online class. The hybrid class meets on Monday mornings, the purely online class Wednesday evening. Professor Valez asked if I could introduce business information sources and services to these first-year LIS students.

Years ago, I taught a 3-credit “Business Information Sources & Services” class for the UNCG LIS program. For LIS 620, I dug up my old slides from the first day of that old LIS class to see what I could reuse. Not much! I basically retained two slides (I’ll point those out below). The rest of the slides were too out of date, or I no longer liked the content. My current research class is cross-listed with LIS, but it doesn’t attract many LIS students, and that class isn’t an “introduction to business librarianship”-type class. So there wasn’t much from my current class to apply to LIS 620.

No, I normally don’t use slides when I teach. I have (quietly) enjoyed the sometimes fierce debates between librarians regarding using slides in research instruction. This debate sometimes comes up in our search committee discussions, when we need to critique the mock class a candidate provided. Strong feelings are sometimes expressed and the committee chair might have to assert “we are not going to reject this candidate because he/she used slides and you don’t” (or the reverse). (Yes, a little exaggeration there.)

But for online classes, I wanted the students to be able to see content and review it later. Otherwise, all they could do to review would be to watch the recording of me speaking and using a LibGuide. I also embedded links in the slides and included some content I didn’t cover during my time with the two sections (mainly, examples of real research questions from business students, nonprofit managers, entrepreneurs, but with vital details removed of course).

What happened

As part of the classes, I had the students explore three NC LIVE databases: SimplyAnalytics, ReferenceUSA, and Morningstar. These are available state-wide. Most of the students had not used any of those products yet. That hands-on work was the final third of my class.

Before that, we discussed the nature of business sources and the nature of business information services. I had discussion questions for those two topics. If I talk to this class again, though, it might be interesting to start with some database exploration and then discuss sources and services.

Each section had around 25 students. I began by asking then to introduce themselves, describing any specialization in library science or archives they are interested in, and describing any experience they already have with business information. None of them expressed a goal at this early stage of their library studies in business librarianship. But some already work at a library service desk supporting general questions, including business research and job seeking. At the beginning of the Wednesday evening class, some participated via their phones while driving home from work. Yikes!

It was not hard getting the students to participate, either verbally or via text. There some strong personalities in the class! That was fun to hear.

Here is what I talked to the students about, including my discussion questions and database searches. I preached a few times. My comments on slide content are in italics.

My content and active learning

 Agenda:

  • About me, about you
  • Nature of business services
  • Nature of business sources
  • Hands-on exploration of research questions using NC LIVE business databases

About you:

  • Your background
  • Plans after graduation?
  • Business research experience?

See above for a quick summary of this.

Part 1: Nature of business services

  • Discussion: What are the types of patrons (users/clients)?

The students did of a good job of thinking beyond just business owners.

Patron base [my answers to that question]

  • Nonprofits
  • Small (& large) businesses
  • Entrepreneurs (& social entrepreneurs)
  • Governments & economic development agencies
  • Personal investors
  • Students, faculty, teachers

No one had heard of “social entrepreneurs”. When I asked what they thought that means, the responses were “social media companies”. I hadn’t expected that. Maybe I’m in an entrepreneurship bubble.

Nature of business services

  • Discussion: What do you think?
  • Or, how is business information service different from other kinds of service?

Some students mentioned statistical data and more specialized sources that take more time to learn or figure out.

Nature of services [my answers]

  • Strong need for subject skills, to understand and apply the sources
  • High demand for library instruction, training, and research consultations
  • Promotion of the library’s services and collections is vital, given…
  • The many types of patrons
  • The availability of free web sources for basic-level business information
  • The historic impression of libraries being merely book warehouses

Nature of services: within the library

  • Business librarians tend to be among the busiest subject librarians
  • Other library staff often not comfortable with business research (opportunity?)
  • A library that can’t analyze its own changing community (demographics, psychographics, industry mix & employment) is a weak library.

I preached a bit here. (The students said they enjoyed hearing me get more passionate for this topic.) I did briefly discuss how business librarians often have to be the hardest working librarians in their departments or libraries. I also emphasized not being afraid of business research can get you noticed. But I focused more on the last point. I still sometimes hear librarians at conferences saying “oh, we are a public good, we don’t need to do marketing – that’s something icky corporations do.” Um no. Are you patron-centered or not? It’s not all about you the librarian and your preconceived notions. Get over yourself, understand your community, and then serve your community. Can’t do that without market research.

Nature of services: embedded

  • Discussion: What does embedded librarianship mean to you?

Nature of services: embedded [my answers]

  • Proactive engagement with the community
  • Get out of the library!
  • Get invited (or crash) board meetings, entrepreneurship or nonprofit forums, etc.
  • Sell yourself and the library’s resources
  • Experiential learning (classes working with local businesses, nonprofits, & agencies)
Export Odyssey homepage story

Export Odyssey homepage story

At the risk of being self-centered, I showed a screen capture of when I was on the campus homepage with Professor Williamson and Jenny from Ms. Jenny’s Pickles, as example of the community engaged, economic development Export Odyssey project. I also showed a picture of me working with an Economics graduate student in the business school that was on the Economics Department homepage for a while.

Nature of services: job titles

  • “Business Librarian” is one.
  • What else can MLS graduates with these skills be called?

Trying to get the students to think beyond academic and public library work.

Nature of services: job titles [my answers]

  • Information Specialist
  • Competitive Intelligence Specialist
  • Knowledge Manager
  • Research Consultant
  • Corporate & Special Librarian

The students did come up with some of these.

Part 2: Nature of business sources

  • What do you think?
  • Or, how is business research different from humanities research?

A suite of topics

  • Industries
  • Competitive intelligence (CI) (company research)
  • Public company financials
  • Private company financial benchmarking
  • Nonprofit financials
  • Investments

More:

  • Consumer/B2C marketing (demographics, psychographics)
  • B2B marketing
  • Real estate
  • Economic data
  • Trade data
  • Management (best practices, trends)

I was trying to show that “business” is a broad discipline, like the “humanities”, not just one topic or one academic degree program. This information and the “Nature of sources” section below are all I saved from my old slides.

One library guide example: http://uncg.libguides.com/mba

  • Note use of subtopics to organize these links
  • Also the opportunities for intro videos
  • And the need for specialized APA help

Nature of sources

  • Usually specialized tools
  • Often very expensive
  • Libraries usually not the primary market
  • Numeric data is vital
  • Local data often needed
  • Functionality can be as important as content
  • Example: sorting or ranking companies or data; exporting to a spreadsheet; mapping data

Emphasis on the functionality point, and the “not just libraries use these” point. Those factors make our content much more challenging (and interesting too) than content for most other disciplines, I suggested.

More on sources

  • Changes in vendors, publishers, and products are routine and should be expected.
  • There are many choices in vendors and publishers, making evaluation and re-evaluation of products very important.
  • Government datasets also vital
  • Census / American FactFinder
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • State-level data, like state data centers or http://accessnc.nccommerce.com/

Part 3: Hands on time using NC LIVE business sources

  • https://www.nclive.org/
  • 3-part mission: “helps member libraries to better support education, enhance economic development, and improve the quality of life of all North Carolinians.”
  • Funding state-wide access to SimplyAnalytics, ReferenceUSA, ABI-INFORM, & Morningstar
  • BLINC & NC LIVE work closely together

The students already working in libraries knew about NC LIVE.

ReferenceUSA

  • URL was here
  • Covers every business, nonprofit, & government location in the U.S.
  • But often called a “marketing database” due to its B2B applications
  • Google, Microsoft, & Yahoo buy this company data for their mapping tools
  • Has nine other modules

Scenario: Export Odyssey example:

  • Find all the SME (small-medium size establishments) chemical manufacturers in the Triad

I had created two scenario/practice questions per database, but decided to only use one for each. The students had to use the custom search to figure out how to find these companies. They didn’t have much problem. I also demonstrated searching for very specific industries, using “yoga” as a keyword. Students were impressed by the scope of this database and curious about the other modules.

SimplyAnalytics

  • Called SimplyMap before Aug. ‘17
  • 30,000+ demographic & psychographic variables
  • Create maps & tables from U.S. states to Census block groups (neighborhoods)
  • Fun and popular!
  • UNCG pays for the Simmons data module

The first scenario was a real entrepreneurship example:

  • “I’m working on a business plan for a K-8 private school in Philadelphia. I would like to know about the expected tuition costs, what neighborhoods have above-average income, and what neighborhoods are spending the most on education.”

But I had the students do scenario 2 instead:

  • Look up one of our hobbies or interests.
  • Map interest or participation in that hobby in a city of your choice.
  • What neighborhoods (use Census tracts or block groups) are more interested?

In the process, I had the students discuss the meaning of “psychographics”. (This was before the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal.) I also had the students discuss how the market research companies like MRI and Nielsen/Simmons get their data. The students started to express privacy concerns, but then I ask how many have location services enabled on their smart phones. They had some good insights about how citizens/consumers (including library students) willingly give away their own behavioral data to companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple.

Morningstar Investment Research Center

  • Investment data and analysis for stocks and mutual funds
  • Also a public company research database
  • Used by students and also local investment clubs
  • Look up individual stocks or funds, or use the screener to create lists that match your criteria

Scenario

  • Is Netflix a good company to invest in?
  • Why or why not?

At the time, Morningstar assigned 2 stars to Netflix. I tried to find a famous, new company that the analyst wasn’t gushing over. That made the “why or why not” discussion more interesting.

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Last day of work in 2017! The campus closes at 5pm today for the winter break. Despite the campus being quiet all week, I’ve been pretty busy: training an Economic prof on Zotero as he begins writing his next book; creating promotional videos for a couple of entrepreneurship classes switching to online format; preparing to teach my 530 class next semester; and working on BLINC projects as its new chair.

We formed BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) in 2003 as an independent group representing public, academic, and special libraries. BLINC joined the state library association, NCLA, a few years later as a new section. However, we have continued our tradition of offering quarterly workshops that are free and open to all. Workshop locations rotate around the state.

We have sadly noticed a slow decline in attendance in our workshops in this decade. Based on our discussions with librarians, we attribute that slow decline to:

  • Reduced staffing of public service points (making it harder for some librarians at smaller libraries to be away for the day);
  • Reduced travel support;
  • And the declining number of librarians with a focus on outreach and service to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and small businesses.

That last trend is particularly disturbing. Wake County Public Library is our poster child for that one. Wake is the second largest county in population in the state; it includes Raleigh, Cary, and the southern edge of Research Triangle Park. Normally the public library systems in larger counties have a business librarian. Wake once did (Susan Wolf Neilsen, a 2016 winner of the BRASS Public Librarian Support Award sponsored by Morningstar, and co-founder of BLINC, now recently retired; Kathe Rauch was another Wake County public librarian involved in BLINC –Kathe recently retired too). But apparently the library administrators there have a strong focus on children now, not proactive engagement with entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and small businesses to support economic development. Wake Co. is also unusual for not having a central or headquarters library, which is where a business librarian would normally be based.

In strong contrast is the High Point Public Library (a city-based, not county-based library, which is uncommon in this state). HPPL has three business librarians (Cassie Ettefagh, Vicki Johnson, John Raynor) charged to build connections across the city, provide support in economic development and job hunting, and promote the value of the public library to community stakeholders.

There are also academic business librarians (or liaisons assigned to business programs among other programs) who are not very engaged with BLINC. This is sometimes due to geography – it’s a long drive from the coast (UNCW) or the mountains (WCU) to the center of this state.

Another issue is the recent emphasis in many academic libraries on functional liaison roles over subject liaisons. In this decade, the liaisons covering the business schools at UNC Chapel Hill and NCSU have also been assigned many social science programs, a huge workload that makes business information one of many foci for those business librarians. UNCCH is hiring its first entrepreneurship librarian very soon, so BLINC will invite that person to get involved with us like BLINC founding member Rita Moss (a past UNCCH Business Librarian, now retired) was. (However, David Ernsthausen remains a BLINC member. He is the Faculty Teaching and Research Support Librarian for the UNCCH business school. We appreciate David’s continued involvement.)

And that brings up what could have been a fourth bullet point above, so I’ll add it now:

  • BLINC needs to put more energy into recruiting and welcoming new members.

So at our winter workshop two weeks at the Greensboro Public Library, a dozen BLINC friends spent two hours after lunch brainstorming some strategic planning, including marketing and promotion. Our discussion included what are the trends with our own positions and professional needs, not just trends in BLINC, since BLINC needs to remain relevant to our own needs.

the value of BLINC, or, how would you describe BLINC

the value of BLINC, or, how would you describe BLINC

Our first question was:

“What is the BLINC value proposition; or, how would you describe BLINC to a prospective member?”

We had fun with post-it notes and came up with this list:

  • Developing/professional growth
  • Learning
  • Getting feedback
  • Networking
  • Consulting
  • Collaborating
  • Amplifying the capacity of business librarians
  • Turning outward / Supporting economic development
  • Sharing
  • Training / teaching / educating
  • Mentoring
  • Caring (about each other)

The next question:

“What are your individual needs as a business librarian (or as a librarian who supports business/entrepreneurship/nonprofits among other roles)?”

Responses (with some overlap, as you would expect):

  • Teaching — examples, learning from other experiences, best practices
  • Resource sharing: new, free sources
  • Inspiration, what others are doing, getting me out of my bubble; real life uses of business databases
  • Affirmation: need to know what others are doing, thinking of doing
  • Big topics in business education
  • How to be a better educator
  • Learning about emerging/big topics in business (ex. A.I., crypto-currency)
  • Need to build relationships/network: with business and nonprofit service providers
  • Opportunity to collaborate with other business librarians: conference presentations, publications, etc.
  • Networking: getting out of office; looking for expertise
  • Getting help evaluating business collections and resources; what is still core resources and reference sources; sharing resources (ex. gov docs)
  • Getting help with a tough question.
  • Evaluating NC LIVE business collections
  • Promoting NC LIVE business collections
  • Developing training
  • Collecting success stories
  • Data skills: finding, collecting, interpreting, how to teach making decisions

Then we transitioned to discussing BLINC itself. Question three:

“What are BLINC’s needs as an organization?”

blinc as a group -- SWOT analysis

blinc as a group — SWOT analysis

Being business librarians (or just smart and effective thinkers, haha), we organized this discussion around a SWOT analysis, making sure to limit the S and W to internal factors (BLINC) while O and T focused on the external:

Strengths:

  • Our diversity (roles, experiences, work situations)
  • Our energy (interest and enthusiasm for networking and training and collaborating, and in service to our communities)
  • Esprit de corps
  • Professional experience and knowledge
  • History of professional development
  • Pride

Weaknesses:

  • Our diversity [yes, listed twice – John said, very thoughtfully]
  • We have been getting smaller
  • Fewer business librarian positions in the state
  • Our name – too business focus? There’s also nonprofits, entrepreneurship, job/career services, economic development. Some folks who are not full-time business librarians might be scared off by the emphasis on the B-word.
  • Lack of marketing and promotion of BLINC
  • Limited time and attention
  • Not collecting success stories enough and sharing

Opportunities:

  • Google (need to provide more advanced training on)
  • New professionals we can recruit
  • Awareness could grow
  • Provide broadcasts of our quarterly workshops and/or webinars
  • Partnering with groups (GRS and STEM [NCLA sections], CABAL, Azalea, SBTDC, etc.)
  • Increasing focus on data (big data, data analytics, data visualization, new sources for data)
  • Cal Shepard (State Librarian for NC)
  • Telling stories
  • Collaborating with NC LIVE on training that has already been asked for

Threats:

  • Google
  • Competition
  • Fear (and misunderstanding) of business research
  • Travel budgets in decline
  • Travel time allowed in decline
  • Lack of economic development mission/focus in public libraries (maybe some campuses too)
  • Our bosses out of touch with community needs, possible roles of libraries in communities.

Finally, we discussion action steps based on the above:

“What can we do to meet those individual and group needs while living out our value proposition; or, what should BLINC do in 2018-19?”

  • Recruit new members:
    • Make a list of prospective members and contact them
    • Also prospective LIS students (there are several LIS programs in this state)
  • Develop a marketing strategy; rebranding: our focus, titles, roles
  • Professional development, learning, sharing
  • Partnering with other groups (see above in SWOT – Opportunities)
  • Online workshops/Webinar trainings (have an N.C. focus at first)
  • NC LIVE training package / toolbox
  • Quarterly workshops — possible topics:
    • Business service support / promoting economic development using NC LIVE and government data (Census, BLS…)
    • Learning more about emerging business topics, such as AI and cybersecurity
    • Learning the needs of city/metro planners (ask one to talk to us)
    • Data sources
    • Teaching and training techniques (on business research topics, not common info lit topics).
    • Trends in embedded librarians and liaison librarians

We have begun to work on some of those ideas already, with more work to come in 2018. My fellow officers for the next two years are the amazing Sara Thynne of Alamance Community College and Arnetta Girardeau of the NCCU Law Library (very recently the business librarian for Greensboro Public). The three of us will try to leverage the full BLINC membership to identify potential new members (or former members) and reach out to each person individually. Time consuming, but more effective than a blanket emails to NCLA-L.

We also plan on targeting messages to library system directors, with the angle that “if your library has a goal to be more involved in your community, then you need a BLINC representative” (something like that).

We also need continued programming, attractive and convenient, promoted effectively. We have had that every year since 2003, although not always promoted as well as could be. But there are some other types and formats of programming, alone or with other groups, we could consider adding to the mix.

Wish us luck!

Oh, and happy holidays!

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