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Archive for the ‘Business Research’ Category

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 keep 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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UNCG Bell Tower in summer

UNCG Bell Tower in summer

I continue to work on summer projects, but this week finally started to dip into a folder full of readings that date back to last fall. Below are summaries and some comments on articles, blog posts, and conference presentations concerning teaching and business librarianship.

All of these readings are open access (except the one from the Journal of the Academy of Business Education, which is available in ProQuest and Ebsco).

Conference review: MBAA International Annual Conference 2017
Cara Cadena
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 2:2 (2017)
http://ticker.mcgill.ca/article/view/25

MBAA is a business administration academic conference that meets each spring in Chicago. 900 folks attended in 2017. Cara is a business librarian from Grand Valley State University (who did a good program at LOEX in 2016). She summarizes the programming and support for research and publishing offered by this conference.

Cara spoke at this conference with an international management professor with whom she co-teaches. Cara writes that she

“…was the only librarian in attendance at MBAA International and was warmly welcomed by attendees and organizers. The idea to collaborate or team-teach with a librarian was new to many in the audience. Many viewed this as a real innovative idea and sought to replicate it at their institution. The presentation is available at: https://works.bepress.com/cara-cadena/2/ .”

Do check out the slides, which approach the issue from both business education and librarianship perspectives. You can tell from the slides how Cara was teaching the MBAA profs about our take on information literacy.

Thank you, Cara, for promoting the value of business librarians at this academic conference.

Speaking our language: Using disciplinary frameworks to identify shared outcomes for student success in college … AND BEYOND!
Rebecca Lloyd and Kathy Shields
LOEX 2018
http://www.loexconference.org/sessions.html and Google Drive

Rebecca is from Temple University, Kathy from Wake Forest University. Both are subject liaisons. I would have certainly attended this one if I had gone to LOEX in Houston this year. Don’t overlook the notes to the slides.

Do you remember what popular movie “…AND BEYOND!” comes from? The initial communication problem of those two co-stars was a result of two different mindsets (being a real spaceman v. being a toy), which Kathy compared to talking “to disciplinary faculty about information literacy” from a library mindset. Understanding a disciplinary mindset regarding IL helps up perform more effectively as liaisons.

Rebecca wrote (quoting from the notes, slide 9):

“[Information literacy] is not a term that resonates with most disciplinary faculty. And even for those that can define it, they do not see information literacy as a separate skill-set, detached from the other knowledge practices in their discipline. Instead disciplinary faculty see it as embedded within the various practices and ways of thinking students need to learn as they move through their discipline’s curriculum.”

So liaisons need to use the language of the discipline to help develop “higher order critical thinking skills among undergraduate students.” The next part of their presentation discusses disciplinary frameworks (with a link to the ACRL list) and connects those frameworks with the ACRL Framework (ex. slide 14 notes). Case studies follow.

The Framework, like the old Standards, seem to me too focused on using scholarly literature, other types of articles, and evaluating web pages (article-like content). Those content areas aren’t relevant for the majority of teaching I do, in which the students are using specialized content (including lots of numeric data and other structured data, like company lists) to solve problems in their communities. I’ve seen some attempts to apply all the Frameworks to business research, and sometimes the suggested active learning activities seem irrelevant to business research needs. It’s easier to do this with more social sciencey disciplines like Economics and Geography. Something I need to think more about.

Business and workplace information literacy: Three perspectives
Elizabeth Malafi, Grace Liu, and Stéphane Goldstein
Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57 (2), Winter 2017
https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/article/view/6521

Three short articles by public, academic, and special librarians (published under the above title) on the state of IL in those three different environments. This piece provides a good summary for those new to business librarianship, but also some benchmarks for more veteran librarians. Show this to your boss if he/she doesn’t understand your work or operating environment as a business librarian.

Elizabeth Malafi, the coordinator of the Miller Business Center at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, New York writes on “Business Empowered at the Public Library.” She asserts that public library business services must reflect the needs of the local business community, and then provides examples of that customer-centered focus. Career research, financial literacy, and legal questions dominate her scene. Their business librarians also support other reference librarians. Research consultations with business persons are common and encouraged. Elizabeth concludes with this message to us:

“The only way to get to know your local business community is to meet them. Talk to them at your programs. Visit local business groups and partner with local business organizations.”

Grace Liu, Business Reference Librarian at the University of Maine, writes on “Business Information Literacy in Academic Libraries: Challenges and Opportunities in Meeting Trends in Business Education.” She identifies five trends in business education affecting business research instruction and services:

  1. AACSB’s “Engagement, Innovation and Impact” Principles (more emphasis on community engagement, community problem solving, and experiential learning. But challenging to support without embedded librarian engagement; one-shots can’t really cut it.)
  2. Data-Driven or Evidence-Based Decision-Making (more emphasis on critical-thinking and analytical-reasoning skills)
  3. Customization, Specialization, and Innovation (students have more choices in their business school curriculum, so librarians need to be more flexible)
  4. Experiential Learning (which “enhance students’ critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills, self-directed-learning skills, and teamwork skills”. My focus by necessity at UNCG.)
  5. New Business Curricula (ethics, leadership, entrepreneurship, etc.)

Stéphane Goldstein, the Executive Director of InformAll CIC and Advocacy and Outreach Officer for the CILIP Information Literacy Group, writes on “Workplace Information Literacy.” Unlike in academia, IL in the workplace concerns the “social contexts” of each workplace as well as the skills of the individual:

“Effective handling of information—and the IL that goes with that—contributes to the growth of organizational knowledge; and workplace information tends to be less structured and more chaotic than is the case in educational settings.”

IL leads to both improved organizational performance but also employability. People with strong IL skills will be vital to the development of “knowledge societies”. (This section is dense with idea and hard for me to summarize.)

I made my students 49% smarter and I can prove it
Chad Boeninger
Libraryvoice.com (January 2018)
http://libraryvoice.com/teaching-learning/i-made-my-students-49-smarter-and-i-can-prove-it

Blog post from the always inspiring Chad Boeninger from Ohio University. This post describes Chad’s lesson plan for teaching 100 students at a time how to research a business venture of each team’s choosing. So two challenges:

  1. Leading active-learning in a huge class;
  2. Supporting all the teams despite each needing to use different research strategies and sources based on their business model. (I wrote a little about this challenge last time.)

Chad discussed how the last time he taught this class, the students focused on learning the databases, but didn’t do much thinking about how they could use their research findings to make decisions and solve problems with their proposed business. (See some of Ilana Stonebraker’s writing about problem solving being the ideal goal of research instruction and IL.) Chad ended up having to provide many consultations with student teams regarding using their research.

The next time he taught these sections, Chad had the student teams watch database video tutorials and then answer questions using database content. Through answering the questions, the students learned more about understanding the content and applying it to a business idea. Chad still had many consultations with teams after the workshop, but the consults tended to focus on the business ideas and how to support them, not just database training. Much more lesson planning details in Chad’s post. I always enjoying reading detailed accounts of a lesson plan for interesting research assignments!

Why can’t I just Google it? Factors impacting millennials use of databases in an introductory course
Anne Walsh and Susan C. Borkowski
Journal of the Academy of Business Education, (199) Spring 2018
Available in ProQuest and Ebsco

The authors are faculty at La Salle University. They surveyed students in an introductory business class and “found that performance features, along with ease of use, were primary factors influencing database selection.” The authors didn’t apparently work with a librarian on this project (see below for such a research partnership) but do refer to librarians several times in this long research article and cite some library science journals. However, the idea of librarians proactively supporting research and classes is not mentioned.

The article opens with a lit review on millennials’ digital behavior. The introductory class is taken by all first-year students in the business school, who work in teams to develop a business plan over 16 weeks. That’s an interesting choice. I think most entrepreneurship educators would recommend having new/young students first learn to develop a business model. But writing a business plan in this class does get the students into using research for problem solving (one of Liu’s trends in business education, see above).

In each class session, the students view PowerPoint slides that link to one of 17 “online databases” to use to research their business idea. Table 1 identifies the databases – mostly free sites, some not normally defined as a database, like the Johnson & Johnson homepage (?), but also Mintel, MarketLine and Capital IQ. Some of the more complex databases like Capital IQ were demonstrated in class by the instructors.

The article’s theoretical discussion explores students’ preference for using a small number of search engines that they are familiar with, and discusses other information seeking behavior. The authors surveyed 141 students from several sections of the class near the end of the semester and had a 55.3% response rate.

Students were asked to rate the usefulness, ease of use, and intention to use each database in the future. J&J, MarketLine, Monster, UPS, and Mintel were deemed “easy to use” by over 50% of the students. The research/library databases scored well for “intended to use in the future”, despite being new to most of the students and more challenging to use. Nice to learn. The authors note this as one of several pleasant surprises from the findings.

The discussion provides strategies to encourage student success with databases. Being extra responsive to first year students is one suggestion. Introducing new databases relevant to current research needs in class is another. The authors caution that a longitudinal study is needed to learn if students do continue to use databases introduced in this class.

From barrier to bridge: Partnering with teaching faculty to facilitate a multi-term information literacy research project
Elizabeth Pickard
Collaborative Librarianship, 9(3) 2017
https://digitalcommons.du.edu/collaborativelibrarianship/vol9/iss3/5/

Elizabeth is the Science & Social Sciences Librarian at Portland State University. She writes about collaborating with a professor on IL instruction in an asynchronous, online class. She also provides recommendations for creating such partnerships.

This project began with Elizabeth’s interest in conducting an IL research project comparing different teaching formats (ex. face-to-face v. online). She first needed access to bibliographies from student papers. Elizabeth targeted a 300-level online and face-to-face archaeology course and pitched the benefits of her involvement in the class to its professor. (See p.4 of the PDF for her selling points, which concern the needs of both the students and the prof.)

Elizabeth relates successes and frustrations getting students to agree to participate in the student. Working with a second instructor of this class proved to be a challenge. (Given the nature of this journal, its articles tend to go into great detail about relationships and communication. Editorial emphasis I’m sure.) In the first professor’s sections, Elizabeth’s contributions paid off for both the students and the professor. Other professors in the department learned of the collaboration and project and were interested in and enthusiastic about the results.

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Back at work after the longest vacation we will take this summer. Included on my annual list of summer projects is “Review teaching notes.”

Tulsa at twilight

Tulsa at twilight (1 of 3 vacation pix)

My colleague Lynda Kellam recently wrote about the “Performance Zone” (being busy performing our expertise, like providing instruction and consultations in our subject or functional areas) versus the “Learning Zone” (intentionally making time to reflect and develop our skills). Too often we are too busy performing to have time to learn. Reviewing my teaching notes on a quiet summer day each year is a learning zone activity.

These notes are based on ideas, tips, and tricks picked up from conferences, workshops, blogs, and articles. Some years, I delete content when I think the info is integrated in my teaching performance.

I thought it would be interesting to share those tips along with some real-life classroom applications, or perhaps with speculation on how a tip might be applied if I haven’t tried it yet. This list might also be useful for those of us with short attention spans. Some of you might find some of these tips obvious.

These aren’t in any kind of order. Yes, I’ve overused “So…” as the first word of a sentence. So saith grammer-check.

1. Students like seeing that their feedback is being considered and used in class

So if you ask for feedback, actually do something with their comments and suggestions. Students will appreciate the respect you show them by responding to their ideas. Certainly this is easier to do in an embedded situation with multiple class sessions than in a one-shot.

In my entrepreneurship research class this spring, in the 5th week, I asked the students to anonymously write replies to the question “What could improve the value of this class to you?” One response was “Use more examples from current news” (as opposed to using my archive of past entrepreneurship and economic development research questions).

Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa

Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa

That was a good suggestion. It doesn’t necessarily have to take much more class prep time. So before a planned review/practice/“deeper application of your new research skills” day, I assigned the student to read a short news article about North Carolina once again failing to recruit a big new auto manufacturing plant. (N.C. is the only southern state without a car plant; this state didn’t play the incentives and tax break game in the past, and so we don’t have the local supplier infrastructure that, for example, Alabama has, which won that Toyota/Mazda plant).

So to practice local industry and economic development research, I had the students work together to measure and compare the transportation manufacturing supply chain infrastructure in N.C. and Alabama, using datasets like County Business Patterns, the Economic Census, BizMiner, and ReferenceUSA. That topic worked well for this review day.

(For the 5th week check-in, I also ask the students “What aspects of this class have been most valuable so far?” and “Any other comments or suggestions?”)

In a two-shot instruction class, we could use a “one-minute paper” from the end of the first session to collect ideas, and then implement a student suggestion in the second session. I haven’t done that before for two-shots but should try that this fall.

2. Use shared a Google Document link on a class library guide; have student teams fill out their findings on the shared document as it is projected on the big screen

Haven’t tried this yet either, but I should. Great for student teams showing off the good work they are doing, learning from each other, providing a little competition, and making it easier for the instructor to see which teams are working hard in the workshop.

The challenge might be that in many of the experiential, community-engaged classes I work with, each team is consulting for a different small business, nonprofit, entrepreneur, or government agency; some have B2C projects, others B2B. Completely different research strategies AND sources in the same class. So the teams’ research findings aren’t comparable.

In some one-shots I work with each semester, each student is researching a different publicly-traded company. But they could all be using Mergent Online or their 10-K. So this strategy could work for those workshops.

I need to finally try this in the fall for some class. My colleague Jenny Dale probably first demonstrated this teaching strategy to me (a while ago).

However, sometimes in smaller classes, I do have the students all come to the whiteboard in front of class, grab a marker from my Big Box O’ Markers, and work together to brainstorm.

In a transportation geography class, I asked the students to list ways to measure transportation by metro area (infrastructure, personal behavior, environmental impact, financial, etc.), which led to a discussion of data sources for many of those measures/variables.

In a marketing capstone class, I have asked the students to brainstorm on the board segmentation variables (demographics and psychographics), which leads to discussions of definitions (ex. Household? Family? Hispanic? (hint—not a race)), followed by a discussion of Census data versus privately-conducted survey data (asking the students to color-code the variables with circles regarding Census versus private data).

Group board work is harder with a big class. Sometimes I will split the class into two groups (left side, right side) and have a volunteer from each group come down to the board and write suggestions shouted out by groupmates who remain in their seats. Then see which side of the room has more or better suggestions. Business students usually enjoy a little competition and get spirited. Sometimes the prof urges them on like a sports coach.

A variation in a library classroom with portable white boards is having groups form in each corner of the room, with their own whiteboard. Then wheel the 3 or 4 whiteboards up front to compare the ideas.

3. Useful comments to make in a class:

“You’ll want to write this down.”

Resulting in a dramatic pause time, calling attention to something really important. When I have said this, most students have listened and wrote something down.

“Do you understand why this matters?” and then “Can you explain why this matters?”

And wait for a response. Short bits of silence while teaching are quite all right. Find your water bottle and take a sip. Usually you will get a response and then an opportunity for a discussion.

“I do have a response to your question, but want to have the class react/respond to that first”

When a student (or instructor!) asked me a question I was planning on the students addressing via active learning or discussion, my usual response has been “Sorry, no, I want the class to work on that question…”, but the above quote is friendlier.

4. Recognizing the limited opportunities for learning to stick

This applies to one-shots as well as teaching a 3-credit class:

  • Most learning happens in the first 10 minutes;
  • Then again in the last few minutes.
San Antonio river walk scene

San Antonio river walk scene

Therefore learning doesn’t happen continuously through a class. Our brains learn in chunks. So break up the class with short interruptions, a change of pace (ex. showing a video, running a think/pair/share exercise, etc.), and frequent start-overs.

I probably noted this from an education professor. Maybe at LOEX a few years ago in Grand Rapids, MI. A Central Michigan University prof gave a key note concerning research on reading comprehension and learning. (That was also the first time I heard a researcher debunk the idea of “learning styles” — kinesthetic, visual, auditory – since there was no research supporting that concept. See my post from the 2017 Innovative Library Classroom Conference in which Candice Benjes-Small and Jennifer Resor-Whicker led a workshop on “Urban Legend or Practical Pedagogy?” Their workshop was fun and informative but also a little shocking, too.)

So write or display the learning goals or the agenda points on the screen or white board before class beings. Refer to that list as you teach. At the end of class, ask the students to remind everyone what they learned and the main points you tried to make about research.

5. Teach how to research questions and problems, not topics

Humans do research to explore questions or solve problems. [Probably too simple an assertion, but please bear with me.]

I had a quote for this recommendation, so I can actually give credit where it is due! In 2009, Mark Dibble of Texas Lutheran University spoke at LOEX on “Shifting the language of research using problem-based learning”. (His slides and handout are still available from that link.) His summary:

“When librarians teach students how to conduct research, we need to use language which reflects how faculty conducts research. Faculty do not research topics, instead they are researching problems and questions. Instead of focusing on a topic, they should be focusing on a particular problem/question. Using problem-based learning as a teaching method allows librarians to model and instruct students on how research is done.”

Problem-based learning is pretty much required for supporting experiential learning (see #2 above), so Mark’s point can extend beyond finding peer-reviewed articles.

Reviewing his 2009 slides today, it’s hard to not think of the ACRL framework.

Ok, so I’m trying to think of an example from my experience that applies this recommendation. Can’t really think of one, I’m sorry. Perhaps because experiential learning is the nature of most of the classes I work with. Researching to solve problems in the community is built in.

6. Some notes about using resources in class

Or, ways to avoid merely “teaching a database”.

Show the big picture first

Useful for more complex research strategies and research tools, like SimplyAnalytics or the ITC Trade Map. Start with a map that looks good, or a table of data that’s not too hard to grasp (download it ahead of time). Tell the students “this is what you will need to create to be successful – and effective — in your research for your client.” Then begin some active learning involving the concepts that will lead to using such a tool effectively: NAICS codes, the nature of psychographics, HS codes, the availability of financials for private companies, whatever.

This also applies to company lists (“here are your competitors [or B2B customers] in your industry and target market”), industry reports, market reports, or infographics that live inside databases or .gov sites.

Be very positive about research tools

Yes, Euromonitor isn’t the easiest database to use, but it’s worth the effort, right? Yes it is, students. (It better be for the price, right? Haha.)

I think I first heard this concerning library catalogs. Sad.

“See if you can figure this out….”

When the primal urge to demo a database comes welling up from our animal brain stems, say this instead, and then be quiet for a minute. Get another sip of water and walk the room a bit. Maybe even ask for a student volunteer or two to use the instructor’s workstation to show us how they did it.

7. Reveal personhood: greet students individually

Show that you are a person – and care that the students are persons too. Before class, you probably can’t meet every student, but at least introduce yourself to the folks who get to class early, or sit in the front. I find that this helps reduce my pre-class jitters, too.

If the class is small enough, ask for everyone’s name and write them down in their seating order. (Perhaps also ask them to tell you their research problem, or what team they are on if you already know what each team’s experiential project is). Then try to use their names during the workshop. Even if you have pull out your seating chart occasionally to look up a name. Students will respond to your efforts with more enthusiasm (and perhaps respect too?) than otherwise. The instructor will appreciate your efforts at building a rapport with the students. Your list of students will be useful for post-instruction consultations with those students, too.

Do this in videos, too. Both introduce and show yourself at the beginning. Chad Boeninger from Ohio University provides excellent examples of this in his screencasts. Then the videos become outreach tools as well as instructional tools.

8. Two short notes on teaching the Decennial Census & American Community Survey

Wrapping up this blog post with two very specific suggestions involving Census data, the newest additions to my “teaching notes”.

When discussing the American Community Survey, emphasize that the ACS is best used for trends & characteristics. The Decennial Census is best for exact counts, of course.

Michele Hayslett, the UNC Chapel Hill Librarian for Numeric Data Services & Data Management, suggested that wording at a recent data workshop co-sponsored by BLINC and GRS, the Government Resources Section of NCLA. My colleague Lynda Kellam, our own Data Librarian, uses similar language.

When discussing potential undercounts in the Decennial Census, I ask students what demographic segments are harder to find. Hoped-for-answers include the homeless, college students, migrant workers, and undocumented residents. But from Michele, I learned that foreign language speakers are also at risk of being undercounted.

Now noted on my “Teaching notes” document, to be reviewed and pondered each summer.

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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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This year, the Charleston Conference on collections, publishing, and scholarly communications moved from a Wednesday-Saturday schedule to a Tuesday-Friday schedule. I preferred the earlier schedule since now I had to miss my Tuesday co-teaching class, and it’s hard to avoid the terrible rush-hour traffic in Charlotte on the return drive home on Friday afternoon. Oh well. Maybe next year if I go, Carol and I will splurge on a Friday night stay and play tourist after the conference wraps up at Friday lunch time.

dinner group

dinner group

A growing number of business librarians and business information vendors attended and presented in Charleston. Some of those programs overlapped, which was disappointing but can happen at any conference. The business librarians also enjoyed a cocktail social sponsored by InfoUSA, and many of them attended a “dine-around” dinner Thursday night. So we continue to expand our unofficial business information track after last year’s “lively lunch” discussion. (Cynthia Cronin-Kardon from Penn is already working on a great programming idea for 2018 and has recruited a couple of business vendors to be co-speakers. Cynthia also worked with InfoUSA on the social this year.)

We would be happy to find a business vendor sponsor for a 2018 dinner. It might just be 10-15 folks, so not a huge group.

Critical business collections

On Wednesday, Heather Howard (Purdue University Libraries), Katharine Macy (IUPUI), Corey Seeman (University of Michigan) and Alyson Vaalar (Texas A&M) presented “Critical business collections: Examining key issues using a social justice lens.” Great topic. I couldn’t make this one (see below) but Corey sent me the URL ahead of time (http://tinyurl.com/CHS17CritBiz). Their topics included:

  • Business Librarianship Basics
  • What is Critical Librarianship
  • Open Access & Evaluation of Collection Resources
  • Database Licenses & Practical Business Activities
  • Making Business Resources Available for Walk-in Users

Among the issues specific to business information: Is market research and survey data being collected using bias-free methodologies? Is there a binary representation of gender (and other demographic variables)?

Can student teams working on experiential learning projects (ex. working with or consulting for local entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, and large businesses) use business subscription databases under the terms of the licensing for academic customers? Is experiential learning compatible with “non-commercial use”? (There has been more discussion of this issue lately.)

What about walk-in use of business databases in a library? This is a particularly important issue for public universities increasing expected to support the people/taxpayers in our states. Most vendors allow walk-in usage (and usually that traffic is a very small percentage of all use) but some do not.

Data & mapping

Charles, Steve, & Kevin

Charles, Steve, & Kevin (speaking)

At the same time as “Critical business collections”, Kevin Harwell (Penn State), Charles Swartz (SimplyAnalytics), and I presented And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Library and vendor perspectives on mapping, data visualization, and geographic analytics.” [Does anyone recognize the italicized part?] This is another topic that hasn’t been covered in Charleston before. Kevin and I enjoyed speaking with Charles, the VP of Technology of the company and a PhD.

Charles Swartz

Charles

Charles began with an overview of raster versus vector spatial data and then listed the many examples of attribute data available (including “Tree data — species, height, health rating, etc.”– cool). He provided examples of how mapped data can be used, such as “A public library in NC used Hispanic population data in their decision to hire a bilingual librarian” (thanks to NC LIVE being an early subscriber to SimplyMap). The lone examples of SimplyAnalytics Charles provided compared ownership of Chevys in the U.S. to Honda ownership at the county level. Midwestern countries had high ownership for one brand, and coastal states had high ownership for the other – try to guess which ones. Quite a striking difference.

Kevin identified various web applications (vendor databases and ArcGIS Online) and desktop applications like ArcMap, MapInfo, Manifold, QGIS, and GRASS GIS. He then compared characteristics of web applications (ex. “Easy to use, but less advanced functionality”) to those of desktop applications (“Oriented to using your own data”).

Steve

Steve

I concluded with selection issues, such as which units on campus might pay for the data, limitations on access, and limits on concurrent users. I used WRDS at UNCG as a quick case study. In evaluating web applications, look for the level of geography provided (down to the Census block group?), the level of NAICS coverage (down to 6 digits?), currency (recent American Community Survey data?), and the availability of proprietary psychographic data (from MRI, Simmons, Nielsen, etc.). Finally, try to explore the level of vendor support provided, and the nature of usage data provided. A librarian can easily spend an hour working on a single variable & map with a patron, so we should also collect success stories (ex. for economic development and entrepreneurship projects).

We finished our slides in 25 minutes and then had a solid 15 minutes of discussion with the audience until our 40 minute block ran out. The audience had many questions for Charles, a first-time attendee at the conference.

Career services

On Thursday, Heather Howard (Purdue), Lauren Reiter (Penn State), and Nora Wood (U. of South Florida) presented “Landing the job: Tips and tricks to prepare students for the job hunt.” Heather began by discussing the uncoordinated funding of career databases by several campus units at Purdue, including the library. She worked with several centers to create a more efficient, joint payment plan for those databases. Now the campus has access to more resources for the same amount of spend. She has talked to the 35 campus centers and offices providing some type of career assistance about linking her master library guide on the subject. Heather teaches career research in three core classes using active learning. The workshop concludes with students discussing how the research tools can “help them start conversations, write cover letters, interview, etc.”

Heather, Lauren, & Nora

Heather, Nora, & Lauren

Lauren discussed how she coordinates with her Career Services Center, which has its own librarian. She teaches career research in the first-year seminar for business students, as well as an English class on business writing taken by juniors and seniors. The assignments vary by instructor, but can include writing persuasive letters on “why I am pursuing career ABC in field XYZ.” She also helps train student mentors in financial education. Those mentors provide financial literacy support to fellow students.

Nora described providing services on her large, new campus with little funding support. She co-teaches a number of workshops with catchy names:

  • ResuMe—How to Get Noticed (on creating a resume)
  • Map Your Major to Your Future (career exploration and sources)
  • Tips and Tricks for Acing Your Interview (including company and industry research)
  • Building Your Brand with a Custom Resume (using Adobe InDesign)
  • Using Internships to Kickstart Your Career
  • Networking—Why and How You MUST (and Can!) Do It!

During the Q/A, Heather (if I remember correctly) showed us https://datausa.io/, which aggregates and visualizes useful career data using the BLS and other sources.

Alumni resources

At the same time as the career services discussion, Corey Seeman and Jo-Anne Hogan (Publisher, Business, ProQuest) discussed “What’s past Is possible: Opportunities and perspectives for library alumni resources.” From their abstract:

A growing number of colleges and universities are offering alumni a suite of electronic resources that are either bundled as part of their existing package, negotiated or purchased separately. The value to the vendor may be as an additional revenue line or exposure to a larger population. This might be especially true in business where the need for information and news resources is ongoing. The value to the library may be as a connection to a mission of lifelong learning that can partner with other aspects of the school. Even in a time of tight resource budgets, this can be a good investment by the library.

Other Charleston programming

fall color in Charleston 2017

fall color in Charleston 2017

The Tuesday vendor showcase (the one day of exhibits – otherwise librarians, publishers, and vendors attend programs together) took place in the larger Gaillard Center for the first time. Everyone liked the extra elbow room.

Of course, the conference also had plenty of programs not provided by business libraries. A morning session on “Publication Ethics, Today’s Challenges: Navigating and Combating Questionable Practices” was very interesting. A Wolters Kluwer director discussed the increasing challenges of dealing with fraudulent article submissions and the publishing industry’s efforts to fight back without limiting submissions by legitimate authors.

The “Long Arm of the Law” session once again kicked off the final morning with analysis (plus the usual sing-along) of legal developments in fair use and copyright. This panel and the “Legal Issues” section of Against the Grain are my favorite ways of keeping up with the legal issues in our industry.

Finally, I also got to hear my wife Carol Cramer (Head of Collections at Wake Forest University) present a lightning round on “A Tempest in a Teapot? Comparing Same-Publisher Sales Before and After DDA Withdrawal”. She addressed the questions “Did individual librarian selectors start buying more print from this publisher, offsetting any savings? Did the publisher make more sales from WFU before or after the change?” It was fast-paced and interesting, and Carol drew the biggest laugh of the hour.

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Catching up: NCLA 2017

Sunrise from my Halifax hotel room at GCEC 2017 (I didn’t pay extra for a harbor view)

This school year, I am attending three conferences. Two were back to back, ending on Friday, and the third begins two weeks from today. So no conferences next semester unless something local and cheap pops up.

The biennial conference of the North Carolina Library Association met in downtown Winston-Salem last week. So I was able to walk to work for three days! That was great. Many members of BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina, a section of NCLA) presented. Topics included researching grant opportunities, outreach to local small businesses and entrepreneurs, NC LIVE databases for business, researching local market data, and data visualization and data literacy.

We also had a fun BLINC dinner sponsored by SimplyAnalytics. Thank you, Steven and Juan! Steven said this was really Juan’s conference, since NC LIVE renewed its subscription to S.A. for another three years and so everyone at NCLA is a customer.

I also attended a packed program by friends Jo Henry, Joe Eshleman, and Richard Moniz on “Addressing the Problem of Incivility in the Library Workplace”, a talk based on their latest ALA Editions book, The Dysfunctional Library: Challenges and Solutions to Workplace Relationships.

But equally important at NCLA 2017 was the networking and socializing and sharing experiences with librarian friends from across the state. Smaller conferences are so good for that.

Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres 2017

Break during a plenary session at Dalhousie University

Three days before NCLA 2017 began, I returned from Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres 2017 conference. Around 300 entrepreneurship program coordinators and professors plus two entrepreneurship librarians from Ontario and one from North Carolina attended. Around 40 folks attended the “New Conference Attendee” orientation. There were no graduate students, since this conference doesn’t have a research track.

(In comparison, NCLA 2017, which I just called “smaller”, had around 920 attendees. The five entrepreneurship conferences I have now attended have all been very small by library conference standards, although USASBE came close to 900 people last winter.)

An organizational membership in GCEC is a prerequisite for individuals to attend this conference. There are 250 campus members. The conference registration fee for individuals, $450, was not high compared to other business education conferences.

Member campuses apply to host the annual conference. The host school(s) are responsible for all conference expenses, but retain all the conference registration fees as well as any sponsorship money the school is able to recruit. An interesting model. So a school could in theory make some money by hosting. GCEC usually has met in the U.S., but University College London hosted in 2014, and the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship will host in 2019. 2018 will be co-hosted in Chicagoland by DePaul University and Illinois Institute of Technology (a Coleman Fellows campus like UNCG).

This year, Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, and the University of New Brunswick were the hosts. The main conference days were Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14. We met at Dalhousie on Friday and Saint Mary’s on Saturday. We enjoyed visiting a different campus each day. There were conference buses, but some folks walked since both campuses are downtown. The official conference hotel faced the historic harbor. Breakfasts and some socials happened in the hotel.

In December when the semester is over, I will submit a formal conference report to Ticker for its consideration. But here are some more personal notes and observations.

Lunch on Friday

First, wow, the free drink tickets! We had four a night for three nights. Very nice. (No, I didn’t actually use all of mine. For one thing, I had to get up early Sunday morning to catch a flight to Toronto!) The first evening social (Thursday night) was at Pier 21, the national immigration museum of Canada. The second was at a local brewery, while the final evening social was at the local science center, which had a crazy special exhibit on quantum physics. On the top floor, we made giant soap bubbles. There was also a late evening hospitality room back in the hotel each night.

Some aspects of communication and scheduling with the conference presenters were dicey. This is perhaps a consequence of this conference floating around different campuses each year – the organizers are different each time, may have no experience with conference planning, and might have a full time job to do in additional to the GCEC planning work. Participants submitted programs for 50 minute slots, but most of us ended up paired with another speaker or panel within the 50 minute slot. We got that news of that pairing pretty late. Awkward after having a 50 minute program accepted months in advance to have to make it a 25 minute program with only 3 weeks to go. Most of the program titles were apparently written by the conference organizations after the mergers of accepted submissions. On the other hand, having 2-in-1 50 minute programming slots resulted in brisk presentations and panels with lots of idea-sharing.

Since this conference focuses on entrepreneurship centers, most of the programs concerned the creation and support of accelerators and educational programs. Experiential learning, collaboration and engagement with local entrepreneurial ecosystems, mentoring and counseling programs, creating cross-campus programs, and how to measure and assess successful programs were common topics.

As usual for entrepreneurship education conferences, the attendees at GCEC were happy to have librarians in attendance. The profs consider us partners in entrepreneurship education and most know who their own entrepreneurship librarian is. There were a number of questions after each of the librarian panels, and the comment “I which you had more time to talk” was expressed at both.

On Friday, as part of a program given the title “Learning from Being on the Ground and Asking for Help from Those Who Know”, Carey Toane, Entrepreneurship Librarian at the University of Toronto, and I presented on “Teaching Entrepreneurship Students to use Regional Industry and Market Data to Make Better Decisions and Reduce Risk” (the title we submitted).

Carey provided data from a survey she conducted on “campus entrepreneurs’ research habits and needs.” The survey helped describe the information seeking behavior of University of Toronto entrepreneurs. I talked about the roles academic libraries and entrepreneurship librarians can perform for entrepreneurship programs and centers, and emphasized faculty’s key role in making sure students utilize high quality research sources (including data) and utilize their research consultants (us librarians). Carey concluded our talk with a walk-through of a Toronto-based case study in which students did make some significant decisions using data (including Canadian consumer data via SimplyAnalytics).

Carey Toney and Christina Kim speaking on how librarians support campus entrepreneurs

Carey Toney and Christina Kim speaking on how librarians support campus entrepreneurs

On Saturday, Carey and librarian Christina Kim (Senior Manager of Market Intelligence of MaRS Discovery District, cross-appointed from the University of Toronto) spoke on “How Librarians Support Campus Entrepreneurs and Build Culture.” Carey discussed how she supports students and startups across three campuses, nine campus accelerators, and courses that span from Music to Medicine to Computer Science at her campus of almost 89,000 students (whew!). Chris coordinates the provision of research databases and datasets to the MaRS accelerator program, but also supports regional innovation centres across several provinces as well as other campus-based accelerators in Ontario. Carey and Chris concluded with recommendations to faculty (“Your homework”) to reach out to their business or engineering librarians, provide links to their guides, and invite librarians to class to support students’ research.

The conference began and ended with plenary sessions. The opening plenary featured a debate on “education versus acceleration” – which should be the focus for an entrepreneurship? The debate was pretty good (the Hyde Park debates at the Charleston Conference are more entertaining) but the plenary got much more interesting when the first attendee to ask a question, a prof from Yale, pointed out that the moderator and the four debaters were all males speaking to a conference that was about 50% female. (My neighbor complained to me that all four guys were from the U.S., despite GCEC meeting in Canada for the first time.) In response, the moderator invited the female prof from Yale to join the group on stage as they fielded more questions. But sexism in entrepreneurship (both education and the world of start-ups) remained an unofficial theme for the rest of the conference. We even discussed this in the Halifax airport Sunday morning as we waited to fly out.

Privilege came up less often. Getting students to work 20-40 hours a week in a campus incubator on their business idea while also taking a full load of classes is only a possibility for well-off kids who don’t need to work a job to pay for their education (or support their families, since sometimes students are also parents). In contrast, UNCG is an urban, regional state school with many first generation college students (as I was at the U of M), and almost minority-majority.

Diversity came up a few times, as did the vital role of immigrants in creating jobs and supporting the economy. Canada continues to out-complete the U.S. for recruiting immigrants who start companies, create jobs, and grow the economy.

I really liked this conference for the exchange of practical ideas and the ample opportunity for networking. Ok, yes, for the socials too.

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Another random recent vacation photo

Another random recent vacation photo

Last time I predicted “part 2 coming in July”, but I guess I’ve really been in the mood to read the literature of our profession lately. Now I’m finally caught up. All bolding inside quotes is my emphasis.

1.

“Steering Change in Liaisonship: A Reverse Engineering Approach”
Eric Resnis and Jennifer Natale
ACRL Proceedings 2017
http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2017/SteeringChangeinLiaisonship.pdf

Like many libraries, the library at Miami University (Oxford, OH.) now has both subject liaisons and functional liaisons. How the two types of librarians should collaborate has been a question. Liaison work had been “siloed and scattered” with little to no coordination or leadership of liaison work. Like our own liaison reorganization, the desire for change at Miami seems to have been from the ground-up: “True buy-in did not come until the results from the initial workshops were shared with [administration], bringing home the dysfunctional symptoms that were described earlier” (663). The liaisons decided to implement a “reverse engineering approach” with a target goal of “productive engagement with users.”

The liaisons met in a series of workshops to redefine their work and goals. One interesting workshop idea: “The group activity…was to imagine a new librarian who would be joining our team of liai­sons. Individuals were asked to brainstorm three best practices they would share as a way of explaining liaison­ship at our library” (664).  In the third workshop, the liaisons considered other liaison models and organizational strategies. After the three workshops, however, there were still big problems:

“There were four pervasive themes that emerged from the workshop discussions:

  • There was no consensus regarding liaisonship duties and expectations.
  • Considerable uncertainty existed regarding quality liaisonship.
  • There was confusion regarding “outreach” and other duties as related to liaisonship.
  • Execution of liaisonship duties varied greatly between departments” (665).

Nonetheless, the workshop leaders created a framework for liaisons that established expectations for liaison work and performance measurements for supervisors to use. The four core liaison goals include engagement, teaching and learning, collection management, and research support. Subject and functional liaisons will collaborate on scholarly communication, digital scholarship, student services, and special collections.

Miami’s assessment plans are interesting and add something new to the liaison reorganization literature. There will be faculty surveys and a LIBQUAL, but also assessment of individual liaisons using three categories, “Base Level, Developing, and Accom­plished” (667), tied to a liaison’s ongoing development of proactive relationships with an academic department. The three categories also are loosely tied to the librarians’ faculty ranks. But impact on a department is more important than simple performance statistics: “For instance, while the number of instruction sessions might have decreased, involvement with the department curriculum committee might have resulted in much more impactful instruction” (667).

Given the lack of consensus after the three workshops, I wonder how these assessment plans were received by the other liaisons.

2.

“The Impact of Physically Embedded Librarianship on Academic Departments”
Erin O’ Toole, Rebecca Barham, Jo Monahan
portal: Libraries and the Academy, July 2016, 16(3) 529-556.
https://muse.jhu.edu/article/624188

The authors are three liaisons at the University of North Texas (UNT). First question from me is what kind of physical presence are we writing about here. Sitting in an office waiting for a visitor? Co-teaching in the class room? Meeting with a research team in a conference room? Yet another definitional problem with embedded librarianship. (Answer below.) The authors summarize different definitions in their lit review, but focus instead on goals: “increased interaction, collaboration, and integration with the target community” (531). Most articles on embedded librarianships are case studies. Some more quantitative studies have been published, but it’s difficult to measure the impact of embedded work.

The main question of this paper: “Does embedding a subject librarian within a department lead to increases in interactions, collaboration, and integration with faculty and students?” (530).

As late as 2012, their library had seven service desks. They went down to two desks (a combined service desk and a tech support desk). Liaisons no longer staffed a desk, which freed them to consider new services (or forced them to?).

The arts, biology, and education liaisons began physically embedded work. Short case studies on each follow. All three liaisons already had long and strong connections to their departments. The arts and biology liaisons sit at public tables in high-traffic areas and used name tags and signs to announce their services. The education liaison now works 36 hours a week in an office in the education school. All three use electronic communication to promote their on-site services.

To measure the impact of the new services, before and after reference statistics were collected – a “natural experiment” (only available for a sudden, distinct change in services, not more gradual change). Details on the nature of the data and its limitations (rather significant regarding the old service desk data) follow. Email and phone numbers were also studied; course guide hits too.

Results are interesting (548). Walk-up transactions decreased for the three librarians. The authors suggest two reasons: the decreased visibility (for two of the three liaisons), and less foot traffic in their new spaces compared to the busy library. Phone reference also decreased. However, consultations, emails, and instruction increased.

Casual chats with faculty were not recorded. The authors speculate that such casual contact and resulting word-of-mouth advertising contributed to the increase in emails and instruction requests (which makes much sense based on my own experience). There was student word-of-mouth too.

The increased exposure leads to other types of engagement with students and faculty (illustrated with a graphic that attempts to depict three nested zones of embedded accomplishment). It’s an interesting visual but limited in the examples of embedded work.

3.

“Toward Informed Leadership: Teaching Students to Make Better Decisions using Information”
Ilana Stonebraker, Purdue
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 2016 21: 229-238.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2016.1226614

Stonebraker defines informed leadership as “the purposeful integration of information into decision management.” She asserts that simply gaining more information without the appropriate context doesn’t help people make better decisions, and might even hinder the decision-making process. Instead, decision management and evidence-based management provide teaching approaches to help students learn information in the context of the problem at hand.

Decision management can connect to research instruction through decision awareness (ex. recognizing bias), process creation (ex. having the students create a SWOT analysis as they do research), and decision practice (practicing making decisions based on information). There are lots of concepts here, so sorry if this summary seems rushed.

Stonebraker give a few examples of classroom discussions and activities to illustrate the application of these concepts to teaching. She discusses implications for the one-shot and her focus on “qualitative and authentic” assessment. Common one-shot assessment strategies will not help assess decision making and informed leadership skills. Stonebraker includes a lesson plan as her appendix B.

4.

“Trusted Librarian: Service Model Offers Best Practices for New Subject Librarians”

Tina P. Franks (Ohio State)
Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 2017, 6(2): 1-16.
https://journals.tdl.org/pal/index.php/pal/issue/view/367

I didn’t read this one closely, but it’s open access and provides a useful summary to new liaisons on how to build strong relationships. Franks includes ten best practices to become trusted (and well-respected and effective): see pages 14-15 of the PDF. She presented on this topic at ALA last summer.

5.

“Flipping the Classroom in Business and Education One-Shot Sessions: a Research Study”
Madeline E. Cohen, Jennifer Poggiali, Alison Lehner-Quam, Robin Wright, Rebecca K. West
Journal of Information Literacy 2016, 10(2) 40-63
http://dx.doi.org/10.11645/10.2.2127

The authors work at Lehman College. “Researchers explored two research questions: Do students in a flipped session demonstrate greater knowledge before their session than students in a control session? Do flipped and control students demonstrate significant, positive improvement in knowledge after their session?” They used pre- and post-tests to evaluate the effectiveness of assigning homework before class and using active-learning. The answer to both questions was yes.

The business classes were Introductory Business Management and Advanced Business Management. Both involved student teams researching a public company. The original teaching strategy was the business librarian demoing databases and SEC filings. The LexisNexis Academic portion became a 7-minute screencast video with a homework worksheet. The librarian visited the class before the research session to briefly review the homework; the professors provided “participation credit” for doing the homework. Then in the research session, the librarian reviewed the homework and had the students work in teams to explore the other databases.

For the pre- and post-tests, traditional classes were compared to the flipped classes. Lots of data follow. Most of the business students completed the homework, which certainly contributed to the improvements in learning of the flipped sections.

 6.

“Text Mining in Business Libraries”
Clifford B. Anderson & Hilary A. Craiglow, Vanderbilt University
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 2017,  22:2: 149-165.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2017.1285749

Useful introduction to this topic; I learned a lot. The bottom of page 151 gets into licensing issues regarding text mining of subscription databases. (I once pursued text mining of the Wall Street Journal via ProQuest for a professor, and after a very long wait from PQ management, got a polite response that they still don’t allow or enable text mining but may someday offer a fee-based product to support that.) “Publishers and information aggregators are also trying to figure out how text mining can be a benefit to their interests…The library community is still organizing around the best way to address potential legal barriers” (151-52).

If access is available, researchers may not have the tech skills to conduct the mining. This could be a new role for librarians, the authors suggest.

The article describes 7 stages of a typical text-mining project:

  1. Identifying sources
  2. Licensing data [which includes funding]
  3. Extracting data
  4. Data munging [preparing the text for mining, ex. changing formats]
  5. Devising models
  6. Curation and preservation
  7. Publishing [including the data itself]

Librarians can provide support throughout these stages, resulting in a more embedded research partnership than may be typical for faculty research projects. There may be workload issues too: “In one case, our librarians spent approximately 50 hours assisting with a graduate student’s text-mining project, primarily helping out with the data extraction and munging stages” (155). (I hope the librarians were listed as co-authors for any resulting publication! And that this collaboration wasn’t recorded as a single “stat” in their public service statistics.)

The article next provides a long case study in which the library’s scholarly communication team supported the business librarians. Finance profs wanted to text-mine management calls with investment analysts. The libraries decided that the best source of those transcripts was…LexisNexis Academic of all things, using a LN add-on API service. The library provided technical skills and training as well as licensing prowess and ended up signing a memorandum of understanding with the business school regarding their involvement in the research project. The project is on-going.

As text mining at Vanderbilt grows, the scholarly communication team now has an XQuery Working Group that includes a business school representative. The group meets 2-3 hours a week (wow) for ongoing discussion and training. This and other working groups reflect the library’s support of emerging functional skills and roles of liaisons.

7.

“Collaborating for Success: A Case Study on Mentoring, Partnering, and Teaching”
Megan N. Kellner, Nedelina Tchangalova, Rachel W. Gammons, Alexander J. Carroll, Devon C. Payne-Sturges
Collaborative Librarianship, 2016 8(4): 202-223
http://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/19120

University of Maryland College Park Libraries. “The authors present the experience of one MLIS student in collaboration with a subject librarian and a faculty member to plan, implement, and assess an information literacy instruction session for an undergraduate course in public health” (from the abstract). So how to help a library student get practical library teaching experience.

In 2015, the Maryland MLS program created a Research and Teaching Fellowship for students to gain paid and for-credit teaching experience. In the first two semesters, the students learn teaching theory and teach a few one-shots for first-year students. In the third and final semester, “fellows complete a Teaching as Research Project of their design, which provides a unique opportunity to partner with a subject liaison librarian and disciplinary faculty member to develop an information literacy session for an undergraduate course” (204). I like the focus in that last semester on subject-specific instruction. That would certainly help the library student grow as a teacher and provide an experience that would liven up a cover letter and resume.

The student worked with the Physical Sciences and Public Health Librarian to target a Public Health class. With the Public Health professor’s support, they picked “Introduction to Environmental Health: A Public Health Perspective.” The MLS student had interest and some academic experience in public health, and the public health librarian already had a working relationship with the professor of this class. The class had a semester-long research project involving critical thinking about evidence in popular and scholarly articles (so not exactly the banal “research paper”). The MLS student designed a tutorial module and some quizzes, which the prof assigned points for completion. They also created pre- and post-tests. The MLS student led one research workshop for the class (60 students, so a big class).

There are some assessment results, but then on page 207 under “Discussion” we learn that finding a class for this fellowship experience was actually challenging. A limitation was that the student wanted more than one-shot exposure to a class. There was also a staffing snafu of some sort with the research session. Few details provided about these challenges.

“Impacts for Collaborators” are covered for the student, the co-director of the fellowship program, the liaison librarian, and the professor.  For the student: this was a “substantial undertaking” (208), being an instruction leadership experience. The work strengthened her interest in health science librarianship with a focus on teaching. The experience helped her land a post-MLS health sciences librarian fellowship. For the director: of course, this is excellent and otherwise hard-to-get experience for their MLS students. For the librarian: the librarian benefited from the mentoring experience. For the professor: the public health students cited few web sites in this semester, and had more meaningful conversations on credibility. One of the students won a “Library Award for Undergraduate Research” that semester. (This section of the article reads more like a sales pitch than a critical assessment of the experience.)

However, the nature of the fellowship was interesting to read about. I have mentored LIS students in practicums and independent studies in “library liaisoning” and also worked with two diversity resident librarians to get them embedded in research-intensive business classes. So I can affirm that the process of engaging a MLS student (or early career librarian) in an upper-level class does require thought, planning, and conversations with all the stakeholders. Time commitments to the MLS student are indeed substantial and have to be factored into the semester’s workload.

The assignment, lesson plans, student learning objectives, and the assessment tools make up the second half of the article.

8.

“Client-Based Experiential Learning and the Librarian: Information Literacy for the Real World”
Andy Spackman, BYU
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 2016, 21(3-4) 258-273.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2016.1226616

I’m looking forward to this one. Community-engaged, experiential learning is big here and has long been my focus for proactive engagement. Sometimes, frankly, for some purely-academic undergraduate research projects (including cases), I have to fake my enthusiasm.

From Andy’s abstract: “The shift from academic learning to experiential learning requires a corresponding shift in the way librarians approach information literacy. This article explores this trend through the literature and through personal interviews and proposes ways in which library instruction, collection development, and liaison relationships can be tailored to meet the needs of experiential learners.”

Common factors in business school experiential learning: students work in teams; the client can be a business or nonprofit [or entrepreneur or social entrepreneur]; the project is integrated into the curriculum [and much of the semester]; the student teams are accountable to the client, academic program, and university. So stakes can be high. “Service learning” and “student consulting” are related terms.

Spackman summarizes the literature and trends on experiential learning in business schools. The emphasis on such learning is increasing. Spackman talked to the founder of EduSourced, which provides project management software for universities. [There are now vendors who sell a service to connect classes with potential clients. One of these vendors offered to sell their services to Export Odyssey last semester. We were curious about what the vendor could do for us but declined the invitation. Perhaps I should shut up and let Andy tell his story.]

For experimental learning projects, students need to know how to find and interpret company, industry, and market data – skills the students will need as professionals. Not how to read scholarly journals. Interpreting such data forces the students to deal with ambiguity as they try to make evidence-driven decisions. These “deeper principles” (261) can’t be easily taught in a one-shot. Use of proprietary business research sources gets students exposed to the idea of “information has value” and “authority is constructed and contextual” as they work toward recommendations for the client.

Spackman describes how research instruction for experiential learning can be different. Librarians sometimes have to teach students that the information they need (ex. market share for a new or obscure product or service) doesn’t exist. “This provides an opportunity for instruction on the differences between primary and secondary research, including the relative costs in money and time involved” (263). Experiential learning students are often interested in learning about the costs of library databases and different pricing models offered to corporate customers. The librarian might have to teach the use of proxy data. Embrace the messiness of real-world research. Teaching as well as consulting with teams is often necessary. Teams often share what they learned from the librarians about research and research tools with their clients.

Spackman next writes about collection development implications, including licensing issues concerning client projects. As with the research student teams are pursuing, there can be ambiguity regarding the contracts. This has become a hot topic in business librarianland lately. Spackman recommends (as budgeting allows) a just-in-time strategy for providing access to useful subscriptions. I wish he included a few examples of resources purchased this way, and why.

Specialized research tools may not designed for the library market and so may come with unusual interfaces, limited access options, and problematic licensing terms.

Experiential learning also impacts liaison work. Consultation stats increase. A lot. Long consults and follow-up visits with teams are common. Non-business students may be involved (as with many UNCG entrepreneurship classes) and so the business librarian needs to be considerate of varying levels of business knowledge among the teammates. The librarian often works closely with the professors, even at the project design phase before the semester begins.

In his conclusion, Spackman predicts increased emphasis on experiential learning. This creates an even stronger need for a proactive librarian. “By positioning themselves as essential facilitators of experiential learning, librarians better benefit students, faculty, and even the external clients” (267). Students see how research skills help them develop as professionals and help them get good jobs. “By adapting to their needs, librarians can help these students gain experience finding, evaluating, and applying actionable business intelligence to form their own conclusions, make decisions, and convincingly defend their recommendations” (267-68). So true life-long information literacy.

The article ends with a few pages of interviews regarding “perspectives from experiential learning program directors.”

9.

“Divide and Conquer: A Not-So-Common Approach to Develop Information Literacy Programs”
Andrea Wilcox Brooks, Mary Todd Chesnut (Northern Kentucky University)
Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 2016 6(1): 1-18
https://journals.tdl.org/pal/index.php/pal/issue/view/366

The authors’ library had a traditional reference and instruction services department, in which subject liaisons provided reference, consulting, embedded, and instruction services. “In 2012, however, the department broke tradition and RIS librarians split responsibilities. One group continued to provide research services, which included online and face-to-face reference assistance; individual consultation appointments for students, faculty, and staff; and a growing embedded librarian program. The second group of librarians focused solely on designing and teaching IL to undergraduate and graduate classes” (2). The change was largely driven by the need and desire to augment instruction services: teaching a for-credit IL class, and closer integrating IL needs to academic departments.

Interesting, isn’t it. My gut reaction was “how can you better support the research and teaching needs of a department when your instructional services aren’t directly informed from research consulting, and vice versa?” I also wondered about the effectiveness of outreach to a department with this functional split of core liaison services. I also wondered if the department considered creating teams. So kudos to Brooks and Chesnut for not being shy about their experience.

They studied how the “evolving role of information literacy in the last decade” impacted the organization of reference/research/instruction departments. The lit review focuses on the increasing importance of instruction and IL while reference desk staffing has been deemphasized.

Brooks and Chesnut conducted a survey and received 115 responses. Most departments cover both reference and instruction. Most have not considered splitting their departments as Northern Kentucky has. Some libraries had split departments, but the focus of the splits were varied: instruction, outreach, assessment, engagement, etc.

Based on the survey answers, splitting “allowed for an increased focus on growing and formalizing the instruction program, gave more time for training and planning, enabled innovative instruction, helped with flexibility in scheduling classes, and increased clarity in specific roles of librarians” (7). However, instruction in both the split and unsplit departments still focused on one-shots. By percentages, librarians in unsplit departments were more likely to teach for-credit classes, design instruction with faculty, and create tutorials.

The authors next describe the Northern Kentucky situation in detail. Before the split, six librarians taught one-shots. There was little collaboration in teaching and assessment. After the split, only two librarians taught one-shots. (A department of two?) The libraries decided to replace one-shot instruction in the core first-year English class with a tutorial; consistency was improved and more sections could be reached. The instruction librarians could then put more effort into a core sophomore English class that has more substantial research needs.

They address the need for strong communication between the teaching and reference functions. The instruction librarians gained more time to develop their skills and design their instruction. Despite the increased teaching load, their stress level fell – so burnout became less of an issue. (That’s an important outcome that shouldn’t be minimized.) The reference department was also able to focus on training and made some significant improvements to their services.

An interesting article.

One point I was looking for but never came up in the article: the role of department liaisons/subject specialist librarians. Is the library too small to serve those roles? Libraries that abandoned subject liaisons and switched to only functional liaisons usually did so due to staff reductions from financial emergencies and the resulting smaller library staff. (One flagship campus library that famously switched to only functional liaisons eventually recreated its subject liaison corps after hearing too many complaints from faculty that they no longer had librarian contact, and after gaining a new library dean who did something about those complaints.)

How library outreach to academic departments is provided is also not covered.

Finally, I was surprised at the emphasis on traditional reference, a service most libraries have deemphasized. This library now has a single service desk, the authors tell us. What are the reference librarians up to now? I would love to see a follow-up article.

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