Archive for the ‘Business Research’ Category

A group of business librarians and vendors are going to be working together to propose some programs at the Charleston Conference this fall. There will also be a vendor-funded social or two.

Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor

Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor

This is an annual conference on publishing, vendors, scholarly communication, open access, open education resources, and user behavior*. Like LOEX, Charleston is a mid-sized, high-quality conference providing three days of rich programming. Its schedule evolves a little each year, which keeps things fresh and librarian-centered. There is only one day of exhibiting, so for the rest of the conference, the publisher and vendor reps are freed to attend and even contribute to programs, which usually leads to deeper discussions of issues and opportunities.

Over the last few years, a small number of business librarians have started to get together for informal chats. Last year, there was a “lively lunch” discussion with four of us as well as vendor friends John Quealy (S&P Global) and Dan Gingert (PrivCo). Nora Wood also provided a lively lunch with a colleague on liaison issues. More business vendors have exhibited in the past few years.

For 2017, at least seven business librarians will probably be working together to submit a few programs:

  • Betsy Clementson (Tulane)
  • Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Heather Howard (Purdue)
  • Lauren Reiter (Penn State)
  • Corey Seeman (University of Michigan)
  • Nora Wood (University of South Florida)
  • And me

We might invite a few vendors to speak with us too, depending on the topics and formats we come up with. Three vendors have offered to host social gatherings in 2017. This is a wonderful historic and walkable city for food and drink.

So we encourage more business librarians, publishers, and vendors to attend, discuss, debate, and socialize. And submit programs!

Please contact any of us with questions about this conference.


*Yes, its official subtitle is “Issues in Book and Serial Acquisitions,” but that is a historical legacy and so you shouldn’t hold that subtitle against it. LOEX has a funny full name too!

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Philly butterfly from a social event

Philly butterfly from a social event

Business librarians Mary Scanlon (Wake Forest University), Diane Campbell (Rider University), and I attended and presented at USASBE 2017 last week in Philadelphia. Diane has presented at this conference before, but this was the first visit for Mary and me. I’m going to submit a detailed conference review for Ticker but will provide a short summary and a quick assessment here.

USASBE is the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship:

the largest independent, professional, academic organization in the world dedicated to advancing the discipline of entrepreneurship. With over 1000 members from universities and colleges, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, and the public sector, USASBE is a diverse mix of professionals that share a common commitment to fostering entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors. [introduction to USASBE]

But mostly entrepreneurship faculty. Around 500 attended. I heard there is higher attendance in even-numbered years, when USASBE meets in southern California (San Diego last February, L.A. next year). Preconferences met on Wednesday, with the main conference running Thursday afternoon through Sunday at noon. Yes, the same days as ALA Midwinter in Atlanta.

Sunrise from my room

Sunrise from my room

Registration was $675 (early bird – full cost was $750), higher than any library or business educator conference I’ve been too, but includes membership in the association for a year. We met in the Loews Hotel on Market Street, between City Hall and Independence Park. Always convenient to stay in the same building for a conference — until you really need to get outside for some fresh air and walking. There really wasn’t any sun that weekend but it wasn’t very cold.

The three librarians provided a 75-minute “competitive workshop” titled “Teaching students to use authoritative industry and market datasets in order to make informed decisions in their business plans”. We discussed both free sources (Economic Census, American Community Survey, and Consumer Expenditure Survey) and subscription databases while also leading discussions on how to get students to use such data.

I also participated in a workshop by the UNCG Coleman Fellows on “Beyond the basics of cross-disciplinary entrepreneurship: reaching across the curriculum with mentoring, counseling, research support, and assessment.” I spoke about how a business librarian has the freedom to support entrepreneurship classes across campus (not just in the business school) through research workshops and consultations, and also briefly summarized my research class, ENT/GEO/LIS/MKT 530.

And right after the librarians’ workshop, Diane presented with a Rider professor on “Experiential learning with non-profit organizations: how to use the student team consulting model for service learning situations.” Unfortunately Mary and I missed the Rider workshop due to our return flight schedule.

Philly butterfly from a social event

Philly butterfly from a social event

As with SBI [my recent Ticker conference review on SBI] and World Bank/GWU Entrepreneurship 2016, the faculty at this conference seemed genuinely pleased to have librarians present. The profs often complimented the roles and work or their own business librarians. (Good job, friends!) We librarians enjoyed the networking and the opportunities to provide comments to the faculty and PhD students on research sources and strategies. And some nice socials.

USASBE was very interesting for its variety of types of programs. This made the “call for submissions” document rather complicated. Interesting that educator conferences like USASBE and SBI don’t require “learning outcomes” for conference submissions unlike LOEX and ACRL, a silly submissions requirement in my opinion. On the other hand, competitive workshop submissions require proposals that could be up to 10 pages long. So it was a lot of work to submit for the librarians’ and Coleman Fellows’ workshops.

I made a point to attend most of these program types:

  • Competitive Papers (short solo presentations on research, teaching, or program design)
  • Teaching Cases (presentations of case studies used in the classroom)
  • Developmental Papers (roundtable feedback on research in progress)
  • Competitive Workshops (interactive panel discussions, mostly)
  • Rocket Workshops (short workshops)
  • Experiential Exercises (classroom exercises)
  • Student Pitches (from Philly-area schools, with several rounds of voting throughout the conference)
  • Exhibitor Sessions (mostly from entrepreneurship educational software vendors)

Sage, Emerald, Business Expert Press, and a couple of other publishers had tables. The reps on hand were editors and content recruiters, not sales staff.

Philly moth from a social event

Philly moth from a social event

USASBE provided several socials, including one Thursday night at the Drexel Academy of Natural Sciences, where these butterflies and moths live. Some of the attendees participated in the women’s march on Saturday. I hadn’t been to Philly since ALA Midwinter 2002, back when I served on the BRASS Education committee. That January, Independence Hall was surrounded by several concentric walls of fencing and concrete barriers after the 9/11 attacks. Mary and I visited the hall on Thursday and enjoyed its liberation from all that security. I also visited the National Museum of American Jewish History (new to me) and found it very interesting but also full of sad stories and concerns on anti-Semitism and anti-immigration that still resonate in our political climate.

Philly butterfly from a social event

Philly butterfly from a social event

On our way back to the airport, Mary and I discussed how useful this conference was to us personally. Of course we will get presentation credits for our CVs (and not just speaking to the librarian choir), but we didn’t really learn things that we could apply to our research classes. However, wearing my Coleman Fellow and embedded librarian hats, I did benefit from the discussions of teaching strategies and program design. And I gained more insight into the teaching and research needs of professors. So I really liked USASBE and (assuming our Coleman grant gets renewed) will consider attending at L.A. in 2018. Hmm maybe L.A. librarian Nataly Blas would consider submitting a proposal with me…

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Monday and Tuesday was fall break here at UNCG. On Monday, Wake Forest University and UNCG sponsored the 2016 edition of the Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians. Since I had just returned to work from D.C. and forgot to ask for a sub for my lunchtime reference desk shift, I wasn’t able to walk over to the conference until after my late lunch.

So I missed talks by friends Richard Moniz, Dan Maynard, and Nina Exner (sorry, guys) but did attend two very good programs in the afternoon, summarized below. A bunch of BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina, a section of NCLA) members attended, but there were also business librarians from Howard University and the fast-growing University of Central Florida. Between sessions, some of us talked about interest in a southeast regional business librarians’ conference of some sort, or just hosting a BLINC workshop the day before the next Entrepreneurial Librarians conference and inviting the out-of-state business librarians. Interesting ideas.

“Developing Liaison Librarians for Data-Intensive Research Engagement”

Hilary Davis, NCSU

Hilary Davis, NCSU. Sorry, these aren’t the best iPad pictures.

Hilary Davis and Honora Eskridge from North Carolina State University discussed a curriculum they created to help librarians “develop knowledge, skills, and confidence to communicate effectively with researchers” regarding data. As many of you know, NCSU is well known for innovations in library spaces and tech tools, but I really enjoyed hearing Hilary and Honora discuss their investment in liaison skills development.

They began by summarizing the changing environment for liaisons at research universities:

  • Research is changing (increasingly interdisciplinary; open access);
  • Subject liaison roles are changing (programming and training for NCSU liaisons has not been consistent, but that may be changing)
  • Liaison services need to be aligned with the research enterprise on campus.

The “Leveraging the Liaison Model” report from Ithaka/Anne Kenney provided additional context for recent changes. Supporting data research was identified as a top priority by the library, and Hilary was asked to lead the process of providing training support to the liaisons. They decided to try a short course experience that the library would design with support from the Odom Institute in Chapel Hill. That led to the creation of the Data and Viz Institute for Librarians. The first institute was held in May 2016 for an international group of librarians and researchers.

The objectives included:

  • Effectively use the language of data science to communicate with researchers;
  • Demonstrate basic methods of exploring and analyzing data;
  • Apply visualization techniques to improve data communication;
  • Learn tools and techniques for version control;
  • Understand data sharing requirements of publishers and funding;
  • Understand the impact of open research practices.

This was 4.5 day program with a registration fee of $2,500 (which included food but not transportation or housing). Yes, rather pricey. The library provided laptops to limit problems with downloading software and practice datasets, which did take a lot of time to prepare.

Honora Eskridge, NCSU

Honora Eskridge, NCSU

Thirty applicants were accepted out of ninety applications. The library gave preference to applicants whose work directly aligned with data research.  Honora summarized feedback from the inaugural institute (see picture). Not all instructors provided hands-on instruction, as they were asked. Participants also asked for more networking time.

The institute will repeat in April 2017 with a slightly different mix of instructors and more emphasis on hands-on learning. (Hmm a tough month for being away for a week for those of us who teach in the spring semester).

The NSCU liaisons have appreciated the training opportunities in response to their needs (although the big institute was mostly a vision of library administrators). Hilary and Honora emphasized the importance of investing in their liaisons. Some of the liaisons are putting their increased data skills to use by text-mining reference chat questions, creating predictions of DDA ebook usage and creating a data dashboard for ARL statistics.

Hilary and Honora suggest three top take-aways:

  • Train for exposure (short course-style training);
  • Develop for depth (deeper training, more specialized skills);
  • Put it into practice (include data skills in liaison job responsibilities, and offer data services to faculty and students).

“The Future of Subject Specialists in Academic Libraries”

Betty Garrison (Elon University) and Mary Scanlon (Wake Forest University)

Mary Scanlon (WFU) and Betty Garrison (Elon)

Betty Garrison (Elon University) and Mary Scanlon (Wake Forest University) led a discussion on “whether subject specialists remain relevant in the future.” They also provided predictions on “anticipated evolutionary changes to current responsibilities, potential for expanded roles, and the need for education and skills beyond the MLS.” While employing a clear outline, this program enjoyed a pleasant conversation feel to it.

Betty and Mary began by discussing their concern about the smaller attendance in BLINC’s quarterly meetings in last few years. They had considered possible reasons:

  • Cuts in professional development time?
  • Fewer business librarian positions?
  • More focus on national organizations?

They planned this program to delve into those possibilities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, business remains one of the most popular majors at college, so the demand for library and research support probably remains high.

However, the natures and job titles of liaisons are evolving. Many positions are now focusing on functions, not subjects. Betty said she is now the only librarian at Elon with a job title that indicates a subject focus (Business Librarian). Mary and Betty provided decade-by-decade snapshots of changing job titles, responsibilities, and roles. The changing roles are more evolutionary than revolutionary:

  1. Teaching: deeper engagement & embedding. Instructional design; teaching our own classes.
  2. Approval plan increasingly important –> same for collection policy. Less ordering.
  3. Reference services: meeting patrons where they are; the desk less important; using student workers in a triage model. Outreach librarians spending time in dorms. Public librarians going door to door, or working at the chamber or small business and entrepreneurship centers.
  4. Research and publications support. Data sets, open access, citation assistance, institutional repositories. (Betty’s business school dean recently called her to provide education to his faculty about predatory journals.)
  5. Supporting faculty tenure applications: impact factors, times cited, alt metrics.
  6. Outreach: supporting the outreach librarian (a functional position); frosh orientation; advising; embedded work.
  7. Technology: devices, services, location-independence; tech check-outs.

Some subject liaisons are shedding functional roles as libraries hire more functional librarians. This should help us deal with the crisis in the escalation of liaison responsibilities. Mary alluded to a workshop the WFU and UNCG liaisons once had on this topic.

Comments from the audience at this point:

  • “I’m one of those new outreach librarians. There has been a lot of support for my position. I’ve been asked to try some new things, and am sort of writing my own job description.”
  • “Do your 1st year instruction librarians have subject liaison roles too?” Many do, apparently.
  • Two librarians mentioned recent failed searches (for a science librarian and business librarian) because their favorite candidates were snatched up quickly by other companies.
  • Subject librarians continue to get busier. Work/life balance is becoming more difficult.

Conclusion from Betty and Mary: Subject liaisons will endure as our roles and responsibilities continue to evolve.

Conference proceedings will be published soon.

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Beginning of the conference

Beginning of the conference

The official name of this conference is the GW October Annual Entrepreneurship Conference, http://gwoctober.com/. It is hosted by the World Bank Group and the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) in D.C. The 2016 theme was “Promoting SMEs to drive growth.” I attended using Coleman travel funds. Registration wasn’t expensive, but man, the hotel rates in the Foggy Bottom area!

It really seemed like two different one-day conferences on adjacent days. Day one was last Thursday and consisted of short talks and discussion panels on public policy issues at the World Bank, a few blocks from the White House. There was also a long networking lunch. The speakers were a diverse group of federal government and NGO higher-ups from around the world. 150-200 folks attended, representing 16 countries. About a quarter of attendees where international students from GWU. Almost all the men wore dress coats and tie and the women dress suits. Sitting at my table most of the day were two Swedish academics, three Egyptian academics and NGO officers, and a U.S. SBA representative (born in Nigeria).

Day two was Friday and consisted of papers and workshops by mostly professors in the GWU business school. Attendance was small, maybe 30-40 people. There were three time blocks, each with four concurrent sessions to choose from. The evening ended with an ICSM dinner and awards ceremony (which I didn’t attend). So a very different flavor from day one.

This was my first overnight visit to D.C. since working a 5-week internship at the Smithsonian the summer before beginning college (many years ago!). We stayed at a small GWU dormitory not far from this conference’s two locations. So I enjoyed some nostalgia (also perhaps because I had a birthday the day before the flight up). I wasn’t able to visit the brand-new African American History and Culture museum, due to the high demand for the timed entry tickets, but did make time to visit the newish National Museum of the American Indian.

Here are some notes from some of the more interesting programs I attended, plus notes from networking lunches with U.S. Census officials and a GWU librarian friend.

At the World Bank:

World Bank from Pennsylvania Avenue

World Bank from Pennsylvania Avenue

“The State of SME Policies and Support Programs”

Description: According to estimates, 600 million jobs will be needed in the next 15 years to absorb the growing global workforce, mainly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This panel will address the targets set by governments for SME policy development and help identify strategic priorities for improving business environments. The progress of SMEs is key towards narrowing the development gap.

  • Anabel Gonzalez, Senior Director, Trade & Competitiveness, World Bank Group
  • Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the US Small Business Administration
  • Moderator: Luca Iandoli, President of International Council for Small Business (ICSB)

Contreras-Sweet opened the conference with an overview of the importance of SMEs to the world economy. She was an excellent speaker and also briefly related her life story. She entered the U.S. from Mexico as a five-year old girl in an extended migrant family. Her family (especially her grandmother) pushed her hard to do well in school, and she ended up founding a bank and a philanthropic organization before joining President Obama’s cabinet.

Beginning of the conference

Opening panel

Contreras-Sweet described entrepreneurship as the “most powerful force for people to lift themselves out of poverty.” She has been promoting the creating of SBA-type agencies in other countries, with the support of the Kauffman Foundation. There will be a big international small business promotion conference in South Africa partially supported by the SBA.

Anabel Gonzalez, one of several World Bank officials on the program this day, spoke on how “promoting small businesses is essential to ending poverty & increasing shared prosperity.”

Luca Iandoli (a professor from Naples) moderated a discussion with those two speakers and also took questions from the audience and online listeners. He began by displaying a 2012 MIT Technology Review cover of moon-walker Buzz Armstrong lamenting: “You promised me Mars colonies; instead I got Facebook”. Iandoli noted that the IT revolution has not helped much with job creation and income growth, showing some stats on revenue-per-employee ratios for major IT companies compared to manufacturing companies like Ford Motor. He posed the question “So can SMEs benefit from innovation trends? Or will the income gap increase even more?” It was an interesting discussion that touched on the tax advantages enjoyed by multinational but unavailable for SMEs, the increasing digital divide especially when you compare richer countries to poorer countries, and other topics. The panel steered into ethical aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship (which reminded of Ilana Stonebraker’s recent post), and how the SBA has started to track the involvement of women, minorities, and veterans in SBA loans and other services. Women entrepreneurs proved to be a hot topic for the audience, and my SBA neighbor at our table discussed this over the coffee break.

“SME Policy Design and Evaluation: Insights from Research on Entrepreneurship and Innovation”

Description: Despite significant advances in the measurement and analysis of entrepreneurial activity, cross-country comparisons remain notably difficult. This panel will address the intersection of data and policy, and discuss how research can contribute to the design of national policy interventions as well as enable assessment of progress toward objectives.

  • Mary Hallward-Driemeier, Senior Economic Advisor, Trade & Competitiveness, World Bank Group
  • Winslow Sargeant, ICSB Vice President of Data and Policy [and SBA official]
  • Moderator: Ayman El Tarabishy, Associate Professor at George Washington University and Executive Director of ICSB
Mary Hallward-Driemeier

Mary Hallward-Driemeier

Ah, then we got into some data. Well, just a little. Mary Hallward-Driemeier discussed the data collection the World Bank is trying to collect to assist its efforts to promote SME growth. She listed six thematic areas as priorities for trade and competitiveness (see the picture). These themes may help loaning organizations define and measure the success of its loans to SMEs. She also encouraged support organizations to be “gender informed” and look where women can disproportionately benefit: transportation issues; having broader definitions of collateral; and encouraging specific industrial sectors.

Winslow Sargeant

Winslow Sargeant

Winslow Sargeant was an engineering professor and Kauffmann professor, but now works in the SBA Office of Advocacy. Given his engineering background, he enjoyed discussing U.S. patent history but then used statistics to show the importance of small business to the US economy. He made the important distinction between small companies and nonemployers. I liked that because we discuss those important distinctions – and the different Census datasets involved – in my 530 class. Sargeant noted that most online sales are made by large companies, not SMEs, continuing the concerns that the social media revolution has been overhyped in terms of benefits to SMEs. He expressed concerns that the number of patents issues in the U.S. is falling compared to some other countries (as a percentage I think – my notes aren’t clear, sorry) but that U.S. immigrants continue to have a disproportionate positive impact on entrepreneurship, job creation, and patent submissions

Networking lunch with Census folks

There were a dozen themed tables for lunch discussions. I considered sitting at the social entrepreneurship table but decided to talk shop with the Census folks. Bárbara Zamora-Appel (Program Analyst), Philip Thompson (Special Projects and Outreach Coordinator), and Andrew Hait (Survey Statistician and leader of the Census Business Builder project) were there. I think those three were happy to have a business librarian present, although a couple of NGO types stopped by to ask questions.

Barbara had interesting insights into the tradition of Census racial categories, comparing them to an even more complex array of categories (20 total) used in her native Guatemala. We wondered if the younger U.S. generations are rebelling from the standard U.S. demographic variables involving race and Hispanic/Latino status. (I mentioned recent discussions with students on Census terminology). Barbara noted that the OMB maintains racial/ethnicity and country of origin terminology used by the Census – I didn’t know that.

Philip recently attended a business educators’ conference in Atlanta and wondered if I had advice on how to reach college students and also faculty on the value of Census data for population and industry research. Too many students don’t know where most U.S. demographic and industry data come from, he lamented. We talked about the need for business faculty to set clear expectations for research in their classes, and for librarians to be involved in the research classes. (Mary Scanlon, Diane Campbell, and I hope to lead a workshop on the expectations part at USASBE next semester.)

Andrew discussed his efforts to link related business, industry, and demographic data through the Census Business Builder, allowing users to find useful data they might not have known to exist. Such linkages would vary by industrial sector and might also include relevant trade data trends. Andrew would like to add short, practical case studies of how an entrepreneur or SME owner successfully used the Business Builder. These stories would help demonstrate the value of the tool and show off the diversity of data that could be applied to a business idea. I promised I would get back to him on this, although maybe an email to BUSLIB would be a better strategy to collect examples…

My notes after lunch were more limited, so let’s jump ahead to Friday morning at GWU and wrap up this already long post. The Friday conference didn’t begin until 10:30, a late start IMO.


“College and Community Partnerships: The Development of an Entrepreneurial Program to Support Economic Development”

Kathleen Burke (Professor of Economics) of SUNY Cortland lamented the loss of many small business in upstate and rural New York. Many of the 64 SUNY campuses provide the main economic activity in their small towns, including Cortland. Most of the businesses in this county are within a 4-mile radius of the Cortland downtown. Her campus became the main driving force for economic development through a new cross-campus entrepreneurship curriculum and an Appalachian Regional Commission grant. The students partnered with entrepreneurs and existing small businesses to help develop business plans and marketing plans. The grant also helped fund an innovation business center. Like the Coleman Fellow campuses, SUNY Cortland now has an entrepreneur in residence to work with the faculty to better support the students’ work and learning.

Their ENT 1 course (the first course in the sequence) covers primary and secondary research as well as business models, business plans, and making pitches. Students from all over campus are taking the class. The next class (still in development), ENT 2, will be an independent study with faculty and community mentors – that’s a different approach I think. The goal is for those advanced students to participate in regional competitions. Long Island Bagel is one downtown retail success established by students.

Next steps include classes on social entrepreneurship and social innovation. They are also creating a “Community Innovation Lab” that will support local nonprofits.

The concluding discussion focused on how to increase student participation across campus, how to increasing engagement with the community, and what other types of courses are offered. The Coleman Fellow director from Colorado Mesa University was in attendance too, so there was some discussion of best practices discussed at the annual Coleman summits.

“Geographies of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Non-Farm Proprietorship Employment by U.S. Metropolitan Area”

Keith Debbage

Keith Debbage

My buddy Keith Debbage (Professor of Economic Geography) presented on his new research on geographic aspects of entrepreneurship. (He is also researching innovation quarters.) These are new areas of interest for him, resulting in part from his involvement in the Coleman Fellows program beginning two years ago. My notes on Keith’s talk aren’t too detailed, partially due me taking some pictures of Keith’s talk and posting them to social media for the Coleman program and the UNCG Geography department. So if you ever read this, Keith, please forgive me for the brevity and any misinformation.

Keith’s framing question for the research: “Is self-employment in any geography primarily the entrepreneurship of opportunity or the entrepreneurship of last resort?”

…And already we have to deal with the issue of how to define and measure entrepreneurship. Many of you business librarians have wrestled with this question before in your research workshops and consultations. Keith decided to use BEA data on non-farm proprietorship (NFP), so he defined entrepreneurship as self-employment (also the Coleman Foundation’s definition). He also used American Community Survey and BLS data for his research.

He studied MSA’s, not cities, to take into consideration commuting silos that limit spill-over effects. (Keith pointed to me as an example of the value of using MSA data, since I commute from downtown Winston-Salem to downtown Greensboro for work.)

Jumping ahead to what factors seem very important for self-employment growth:

  • Access to capital, such as bank loans and/or using ones house as collateral (high home values are disproportionate)
  • Median age (rates of self-employment go up with age)
  • Hispanic status (also higher rate of self-employment)

For example, notice in the picture how well Florida is performing.

Conclusions: NFP is an increasing important part of economy. Entrepreneurship of last resort AND of opportunity are important (capital is used more often in the latter case). So public policy needs to do better job of recognizing these two divergent entrepreneurship trends.

Finally talking to another librarian

I skipped the Friday conference lunch to have lunch with my friend Ann Goebel Brown, the Instruction Reference Librarian at GWU. Her library is right across the street from the business school. Ann has been very involved in RUSA and so besides catching up on family and personal life, we had an interesting discussion on the future of “reference services” (she is presenting at ACRL next spring on “Reference: The New Dirty Word?” – great title!) and how RUSA might be changing how it is organized to better reflect the nature of 21st century public services (with possible implications for BRASS).

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Catching up

As Cynthia Cronin-Kardon from the University of Pennsylvania announced on BUSLIB recently, a group of librarians are working on creating business librarian programming every year at the Charleston Conference. This year, Cynthia, Betsy Clementson from Tulane, Corey Seeman from the University of Michigan, and I are facilitating a “lively lunch” on the topic of “Why business content subscriptions can drive us crazy, and what to do about it: A dialogue with business librarians, business vendors, and the audience on best practices and solutions”.

Also joining us will be John Quealy from S&P and Dan Gingert from PrivCo. As I’ve posted before, this is the best conference for discussion of trends in collections, publishing, licensing, and open access. Publishers and vendors participate in many panels and discussions, as opposed to being banished to the exhibit hall all conference long. And Charleston is a wonderful city for history, art, strolls along the rivers, and enjoying fancy food and drink. So we encourage business librarians, business vendors, and anyone else who has to work with business content as part of their job to join us.

Congrats to Orolando Duffus for being named ACRL member of the week!

Segue to today’s topic

For so many of us, search committees are a year-round concern. My department (Research Outreach and Instruction) recently hired a new department head, the amazing Amy Harris, who was our internal candidate and so there will be another search next year to replace her old position. But first we will have a search for an Online Learning Librarian based here in ROI. This is great news. After budget cuts a few years ago, we ended up with one of those dreaded Frankenstein positions — Electronic Resources & Distance Education Librarian — formerly two full time jobs.

Long-time readers know this blog don’t usually get into negative stuff (I’m not a very annoyed librarian I guess) but creating that kind of unsustainable position was pretty sad and probably reflected a momentary lack of leadership. When resources are scarce, we need to prioritize and consider making a difficult decision about staffing, or maybe consider if a team approach would work using existing staff. Anyway, Kate Hill, whom we hired for that Frankenstein position, is highly skilled and is working extra hard to try to keep up, but it’s simply not feasible for one person to handle that workload. Hence the new position. Kate is looking forward to “just” being an ER librarian (and pursuing tenure, etc.). I really like how the DE librarian will be based in our liaison department, emphasizing the public service focus of that kind of position and how this person will work with us liaisons supporting DE classes within our subject areas. My colleague and office neighbor Karen Grigg, Science Librarian, was asked to chair this search since she did such a good job chairing the Frankenstein search.

And one more bit of somewhat related news: I’ve been asked to serve on the search committee for the business school’s next professor of international marketing. My long time teaching partner Professor Nicholas Williamson is finishing his phased retirement this year. His department, Marketing Entrepreneurship Hospitality and Tourism (ok, yes, another Frankenstein thing! but MEHT is full of strong library supporters) wasn’t slated to get another position to replace Nick (not sure why). But the business school dean told the provost that the Export Odyssey project might be finished after this year, and the provost replied “We can’t have that.” So she gave MEHT an extra position. Since I co-lead that project, the MEHT department head asked me to serve on the committee. This is my first time serving on a search committee for a prof. I’ll write a post later about the experience and how it was different from librarian searches. Does anyone have experience with professor searches and would like to share?

Today’s topic (finally)

This is kind of a sequel to my “Confessions of a search committee chair” post from last winter. This spring, a librarian emailed me to ask for advice on interviewing for a business librarian position for the first time. She was particularly interested in how to make the mock research workshop stand out. I waited a while before sharing this here, removing any identifying information. Hopefully this is useful to others.

To make a mock class on business research information literacy stand out, I would suggest three areas of emphasis:

  1. Demonstration of specialized subject knowledge. Market research as a topic would certainly give you an opportunity to do this, especially if you demonstrate comfort with and knowledge of statistical data (ex. demographics, spending data, psychographic data). The Economic Census or other financial data benchmarking too. I guess trade data would be another example, although that’s maybe too specific/rare a research need for many campuses.
  1. Related to that, demonstrated familiarity with specialized business research tools. Most librarians are comfortable with the catalog and Ebsco and ProQuest databases. No big deal. But far fewer are comfortable with American FactFinder and the BLS.gov tools for finding statistical tables, let alone SimplyMap or DemographicsNow or Business Decisions or Euromonitor Passport (depending on what subscription tools for market data would be available). Lots of professors don’t know data tools well either. I see evidence of that at the business professor conferences I’ve started attending.
  1. Active learning exercises, tied to the needs of the research project/assignment of a particular class. So leading a discussion about how the Census is conducted (the decennial version as well as the American Community Survey — most students know something about the decennial census at least, which helps get the discussion going) as opposed to just lecturing, and then looking up some basic tables to highlight the main points (ex. “note the data from 2015 – so is that from the decennial Census or ACS? — also note the margins of error provided – why is that there? Yes, right, it’s a survey…”). Then later asking the students to find some information or data and then reporting back what they found and how they might be able to apply that to the project at hand (for example). So to do this you would really need to come up with a fake project to teach to. I would be happy to share one with you from UNCG if you would like (of course you could change details to fit your local situation).

[Follow-up suggestions:]

A few suggestions about SimplyMap (sorry if you are already aware of these issues!): most campuses have simultaneous user limits in their SimplyMap subscription (it’s 10 users here), so that may impact access to your mock students. I would suggest emailing Steven Swartz asking for more concurrent seats at that campus for your day there. I’m sure he would be happy to help. Also consider if you want everyone to create their own accounts (which requires checking their email to confirm) or using the S.M. guest access.

I agree that AFF, BLS (ex. the CEX data), and SimplyMap make an excellent progression of sources — if you have time for all three– for example using the much more detailed consumer spending data in SimplyMap, or ending with the psychographic data (if the MRI or SimmonsLocal modules are provided at that campus).

Good luck with the interview!

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BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) met at the High Point Public Library yesterday, the 3rd day of classes at UNCG. This should be an interesting school year. with some new experiences to write about. I’m not sure yet how some of them will turn out!

High Point Public business librarians John Raynor and Vicki Johnson sponsored us in their sharp-looking library. We had 17 librarian present: mostly public and academic, but also one community college, one corporate, and one special librarian (a Senior Research Analyst at the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Raleigh.)

BLINC at High Point Public

BLINC at High Point Public during a break

After networking over breakfast snacks, Dan Maynard from Campbell University began the workshop with a presentation “What if you couldn’t scare me? Engaging your fourth sector community: high-impact educational experiences and a very different spin on financial literacy.”

The “4th sector community” phrase was new to me. Dan explained it basically as companies with a social entrepreneurship focus (ex. on local food, the environment, or social issues). We learned that Dan is a Sullivan Foundation Fellow at Campbell! He is the only Sullivan Fellow who is a librarian. Very cool.

As a fellow, Dan works with 3 classes in the business school, all required for business students in (generally) their first, second, and third years.

He framed his introduction to the 4th sector as “finding good work” (identifying a local need) and “funding good work”. Dan led us in a discussion of the ecosystem (including regulatory issues) in our state for nonprofits and 4th sector.

4th sectors companies in Dan’s rural Harnett County include mainly lifestyle companies: a bicycle shop, dairy farm, green/sustainable organic farm, a river adventures service outfit, a golf development/training company for “juniors”, a video production company, and the new Arts Council.

Moving into the funding good work aspect, Dan played for us a video about Detroit SOUP and talked about similar efforts in North Carolina. Some of his students are working on a SOUP project in Harnett County.

Dan concluded by getting into aspects of financial literacy. Instead of investing in multinational public companies via traditional investments, what about investing in local start-ups? He play a portion of a TEDx Piscataqua River talk by North Carolinian Carol Peppe Hewitt titled “What if you couldn’t scare me?” Hewitt is founder (I think) of Slow Money NC and has worked with Dan. The point of her TED talk title: we are scared into investing in big corporations as being necessary for our financial solvency and retirement savings. Instead, we should invest in local small business doing good work locally.

We ended the morning with a discussion of library services to nonprofits and 4th sector companies. Lydia Towery (Charlotte Public and Foundation Center coordinator) talked about how nonprofits are just another kind of company, and so the market and financial planning to start a nonprofit is much the same. Deanna Day, the SBTDC research analyst, and Heather Stanford from Mauney Memorial Public Library, Kings Mountain provided some interesting stories about working with social entrepreneurs/dreamers brimming with passion to start something up but not doing their feasibility homework first. It’s always reassuring to hear other business librarians discuss challenging consulting situations! A memorable quote from John: “Some dreams need to die.”

Business Center at High Point Public

Business Center at High Point Public

After lunch at a downtown Asian bistro, we looked at the library’s new business center. High Point Public just created this attractive and flexible space to support the library’s economic development work: workshops, consultations, and connecting entrepreneurs with other local support centers. The space is part of the library’s response to the city’s strategic goal of keeping more young business owners in High Point and not moving to the bigger cities in the state. Virginia Lewis, their department head, discussed their funding efforts to get the room and its tech set up. John, Vicki, and Casie (a community liaison librarian) will be leading this initiative. Creating more partnerships with other organizations is one of the outcomes that will be measured by the library and reported annually to the city and other stakeholders like the local chamber. Impressive, proactive work.

Inside the Business Center

Inside the Business Center

Back in our conference room, Heather described her trip to Omaha to attend the ReferenceUSA User Conference for public librarians in May. She attended as our NC LIVE rep, our state-wide database provider. I assumed this was mainly a focus group event, but Heather reports that the event instead focused on training the librarians and explaining in detail InfoGroup’s data collection and quality control practices – still certainly worthwhile.

Heather told us that InfoGroup wants ReferenceUSA to be closer associated with entrepreneurship research. The company is also promoting the database as the best source for closed businesses (part of the U.S. Businesses module). Social media links are being added to the establishment records.

Business Center again

Business Center again

We then got into an interesting discussion of SimplyMap versus ReferenceUSA U.S. Consumers/Lifestyles module for market data research, and where the data comes from in each product. Or course, SimplyMap is a collection of datasets with different methodologies, so we had to break down our discussion a bit into Census data v. survey data (ex. MRI and Simmons) v. the subscription and online purchase data used heavily by InfoGroup. This topic, the nature of the data, and how to make conclusions (ex. what is my local market size?) using these tools would be an interesting future BLINC workshop.

We ended the BLINC workshop with Lydia providing an update on the Foundation Center and then asking us for possible dates for our next workshop. NC LIVE has asked BLINC once again to review the NC LIVE business database mix and make recommendations for its 2018-2020 subscription package. BLINC has provided this service to NC LIVE every three years since 2008 or so. Always an interesting discussion for us, as we compare and debate the needs of our patrons (not necessarily the same needs!) and the best databases to serve those information needs. That will happen in November and December, with our report due to the NC LIVE officers on New Year’s.

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A summer goal continues to be getting caught up on professional readings since last winter break. Blogging about readings helps me not rush through them. Hopefully these summaries and occasional responses are useful for other folks too. Topics relate to liaison work and business librarianship.


Connect, build, develop: Forming effective liaison strategies through peer mentoring and partnership.
Cayce Van Horn. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 89-94

From the new business librarian at Auburn University. But the article is very useful for any subject liaison new to the job.

Cayce “became the business and economics liaison at Auburn University during the summer of 2015. It was an unexpected change in focus [business is not her background], and my initial reaction was a feeling of fear.” But she benefited from having a mentor:

“Bridget Farrell, the current marketing liaison and previous business and economics librarian at Auburn University, has served as a peer mentor as I make the transition from instructor to liaison, and together we developed a plan to help me connect with faculty and students in my subject area, build effectual and productive relationships with them, and develop my own skills and knowledge in this new role.”

(In 2013 Farrell wrote “New Kid on the Block: The Troubles and Triumphs of Being a New Business Librarian” — see https://liaisonlife.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/reading/).

Cayce discusses planning (“the importance of reaching out to subject-area faculty was immediately noted as a top priority”), collection development (book ordering & weeding), and subject training. Cayce and Bridget drafted a learning plan for Cayce that included taking Celia Ross’s Business Reference 101 class, reading Ross’s Making Sense of Business Reference, attending webinars, and getting involved in BRASS.

Through the mentoring relationship, Cayce gained much confidence in her skills. Lessons learned:

  • Non-business research and teaching skills can be applied to business liaisoning.
  • It is ok for business librarians to need some time to explore and research a difficult research request, and get back to the patron later.
  • Yes, some questions are unanswerable.

Once the fall semester began, Cayce and Bridget implemented an effective outreach campaign to faculty. They began with an associate dean of the business college, which led to attending an executive meeting of the college (deans and department heads), which led to meetings with departments and department heads. By the end of this series of meetings, Cayce was entertaining faculty research questions and requests for instruction workshops for classes. She also targeted new faculty via email and had many fruitful responses.

Cayce concludes:

“As a result of this peer-mentoring experience, I have learned to draw upon my own strengths while benefitting from the expertise of others, a process that embodies the true spirit of collaboration and support while fostering an environment of successful and engaging librarianship”


Business librarians and new academic program review
Kerry Wu & Heidi Senior. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 114-134.

This article is also useful for any subject liaison. It provides excellent suggestions for outreach and relationship building for any liaison initiative.

These Portland-based librarians have been busy supporting new program reviews and surveyed the profession on such involvement. From the abstract:

“Although more than 60% of the respondents thought that librarians should play a part in the proposal process, more than 65% of them indicated that they were never involved….The authors held in depth interviews with [nine] survey participants reporting higher-than average involvement to find out about their strategies for success.”

They identify a challenging (but common?) situation:

“The implied expectation is for the librarian to provide an affirmative statement that ‘library resources are adequate.’ Sometimes librarians are caught in an awkward position when the expected statement is not true.”

The article provides a literature review, survey methodology, and findings. There is discussion of library funding limitations and having to “make-do” with existing resources to support the new subject area.

Based on the nine interviews, the authors provide a list of success factors for getting very involved with new program applications. Examples: being held in high regard by the business faculty; and having strong existing relationships with the faculty. The “strategies to improve librarian participation” focus on building trust and relationships with faculty and certainly apply to any kind of liaison work, ex. teaching, consulting, and scholarly communication advocacy.

One interviewee emphasized proactive engagement, as the authors summarized:

 “Insert yourself wherever possible,” one participant advised, “I was pretty good in terms of pushing the envelope…. I always try and make the library sticky.” He was willing to negotiate and the following summed up his philosophy:

But often it is very definitely [sic] you cannot wait for them to come to you, you have to go to them and be willing to be “insertive” and make some suggestions going, “You know, I think the library can help you or we could help you with this, let’s talk about it…”

Ah, some new synonyms for embedded librarianship?

  • Sticky librarian
  • Insertive librarian

Hmm wouldn’t recommend an unfiltered web search for those phrases! Haha

Another good suggestion from an interview: “gave [faculty] a talk on ‘these are things that you can use me for’”.


Using rubrics for assessing information literacy in the finance classroom: a collaboration
Elizabeth M. Mezick & Lorene Hiris. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 95-113.

This article presents rubrics to assess ACRL info lit standards (not the frameworks) through a company and industry information assignment that uses a handful of popular business databases. The full assignment is provided.

Transition to the great ACRL controversy of summer 2016…


Framework or Standards? It doesn’t matter
Blog post by Lane Wilkinson

A calm discussion about the current frameworks v. standards brouhaha. Refreshing.

Another thoughtful response but in a different tone: http://betterlibraryleaders.com/2016/06/30/reframing-our-standards-initial-thoughts-on-information-literacy-in-a-post-standards-framework/


Why the “Research Paper” Isn’t Working
Blog post by Barbara Fister

Yes, this post is old, but I reread it in May after returning from LOEX. I get tired of hearing librarians only discussing the “research paper” as an outcome of student research work.

From near the end:

“If you want students to learn about a topic and be able to synthesize information effectively, fine – but don’t call it research. Turn it into a presentation, an informational brochure, or a Wikipedia article. If you want students to make an argument, start from something they know and care about, something that matters to them and about which they can hold an informed opinion. If you want them to read and understand scholarly material, focus on close reading and have the class jointly prepare an annotated edition. If you want them to write academic prose, wait until they know enough about the discipline to know what they’re talking about and how to ask a meaningful question about it.”

We could add a sentence like “If you want your students gain experience working in teams, as so many grownups have to do in their professional and volunteer work, structure the project to be done within teams.”


Small changes in teaching: the minutes before class: 3 simple ways you can set up the day’s learning before the metaphorical bell rings
James M. Lang, Nov. 15 2015. Chronicle of Higher Education

Excellent suggestions! Yes, it’s easy to spend all your time before class begins getting the libguide and Canvas on screen, and writing notes on the whiteboard. The “create wonder” suggestion is certainly one I should be using more often, like a new Statista infographic, or interesting results from a SimplyMap map.


Don’t get married to the results: managing library change in the age of metrics (presentation)
Corey Seeman, from the ABLD-EBSLG-APBSLG Joint Meeting 2016 in Singapore

Corey is the head of the University of Michigan business school Library (Kresge Library). His library has gone through a major physical change, which had impact on the nature of metrics collected by the library. He makes an important point about our complex customer base:

“Library challenge [with assessment] is that we have multiple stakeholders and they have different needs:

  • Faculty needs –scholarly journals, articles, books , datasets
  • Student needs –articles, company & industry information, market reports
  • Community –Mostly similar to student needs”

He warns that “Numbers have no intrinsic value –they can show just about anything you want.” Also: “And while your indicators might be fine –it might not reveal the threats that are all about you.”

There’s more about library change, and telling your story (be proactive, talk to your stakeholders, and rewrite your mission as needed.)


A Response to “Embedded Librarianship: A Critical Perspective”
Blog post by Robert Farrell

A thoughtful rebuttal of a polemic piece about the limits of embedding as a co-teaching librarian. Robert notes that the proposed alternative is clearly another type of embedded librarianship – proactive involvement with the curriculum, utilizing strong relationships with faculty. A bit ironic.


Rejection burnout–a guest post
by Kaitlin Springmier

A guest post from a resident librarian at the University of Chicago. (I’m a little concerned about why a resident librarian fresh out of library school would be writing on this topic). She presents “5 tips I’ve learned that can greatly reduce the rejection of new ideas or the burnout you feel after hearing ‘no.’” Interestingly, tip #4 goes against recommendations made in other posts at this blog, ex. maintaining work-life balance and enjoying “me time”.


Some interesting articles in the journal Against the Grain: Linking Publishers, Vendors, & Librarians from the Dec 2015-Jan 2016 & February 2016 issues

Negotiation Skills 101: Where Is That Course Given?

Since no one gets a chance to take a negotiation skills class in library school, consultant Michael Gruenberg lays out a 4-point preparation plan involving objectives, timetable, team, and strategy. Gruenberg authored the 2014 book Buying and Selling Information: A Guide for Information Professionals and Salespeople to Build Mutual Success (Information Today).

Cooperation is Key:  How Publishers and Libraries are Working Together to Achieve Common Goals

Michael Arthur (University of Alabama) and Stacy Sieck (Taylor & Francis) discuss their two organizations working together to provide workshops on open access and how to get published. Favorite quote:

“More recently, however, there’s been a gradual shift away from publishers being seen as adversarial to libraries, and there’s now a stronger sense that improving these relationships is important, if not imperative, to the success of both parties…But developing these relationships doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that starts with building trust and creating open and honest lines of communication.”

Give the People What They Want — or What They Need?

The often provocative and always interesting Rick Anderson (University of Utah) wrote on this old debate. He contrasts using data to learn what users actually want (which he calls “science”) versus what our patrons should want according to us librarians (“religion”). Providing what they want is our old service model, while advocating for what they should want is our education model. He asserts that

“the first option kind of grates on us as professionals; the second is fraught with frustration (since changing people is notoriously difficult) and political peril (since the people we’re trying to change are also people whose support is essential for our professional survival).”

The education route also risks “alienating our stakeholders”.

I don’t usually get into philosophical writing on librarian issues, but I was thinking about how these ideas might apply to a business librarian working with business faculty and students. Maybe a future post…


Dread data no more: crash course in data visualization for librarians (presentation)
Liz Johns. LOEX 2016.

Liz is the Librarian for Education at Johns Hopkins University. This presentation is a good introduction to the topic. It includes polls in which the audience is asked to pick the better representation of the data, which we readers can also participate in by reviewing the slides. Nice interactive touch.


BusinessDecision: demographic and expenditure data for small business owners [product review]
Trevor L. Winn & Steven Assarian. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, (2016, May) 21:2, 175-181.

A detailed, expert review of this database by two business librarians in Michigan. The Michigan State Library provides both DemographicsNow and BusinessDecision to libraries in the state. This review well illustrates two really important aspects of database reviews: talking about the source data, and comparing the product to competing products. It usually frustrates me when a shorter review in a publication like Library Journal makes no mention of competitors. That really reduces the value of the review to me, since due to our flat budgets (in a good year), we only get new subscriptions by cancelling existing ones.

But be careful making the comparisons:

“With its extensive consumer data, business and people directory, and mapping features, DemographicsNow is the prime competitor to BusinessDecision when considering the needs of small business owners. Although SimplyMap most closely resembles BusinessDecision’s scope and map-centric interface, DemographicsNow offers more data points relevant to entrepreneurs.”

No, SimplyMap offers data points just as relevant to entrepreneurs as DemographicsNow, and even much more so if you subscribe to SimplyMap modules like MRI and SimmonsLocal. That’s in part why NC LIVE has provided SimplyMap to this state for 8 years now (although not the SimmonsLocal module). My new 3-minute SimplyMap video uses entrepreneurship examples.

13 (last one):

Transitioning to 100% Business E-Books: The Case of a Large University Business Collection
Wahib Nasrallah. Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 1:2 (2016)

Wahib is the Senior Business Librarian at the University of Cincinnati. I’m not sure if I’ve read an ebook study before that focused on business ebooks. He writes of his library’s successful transition to mostly ebook purchasing. Regarding why the business school was happy with this change, he writes:

“In many ways, we forget that we are in the knowledge business, clinging to old formats while the world around us requires adaptation and change….Book publishing is a slow process, and the transporting of a physical book to a patron isn’t always feasible…The practice of housing print books in mammoth structures with very little circulation statistics to show for is neither efficient nor effective and has not served the goals of business research.”

The library worked with YBP to create notifications of new e-books only. He notes that some publishers have crazy ebook pricing strategies, and presents data on the number of ebooks on business topics published by core business publishers (see the table on p. 3).

Wahib asserts that “Librarians have always shown a preference for selecting books rather than leasing collections from aggregators (Vasileiou, 2012)” but I don’t think that’s true. We like the Safari package for updating its collections of tech books every year, keeping the collection fresh and relevant.

Their library began using DDA in 2012. There has been an increase in titles triggered for purchase and total spending since then. But the library is not using DDA-only:

“The DDA plan is supplemented by minimal print book purchases from those publishers who resist e-publishing. It is also supplemented by a few e-book purchases for books not available on the DDA platform. We are also retaining our publisher-based e-book collections…In 2013/2014, the e-book collection totaled 1,710 DDA titles and 2,937 titles from other sources.. In the same year, we purchased [only!] 89 print books from publishers who do not supply electronic copies for libraries.

Wahib concludes that their “transformation has received much praise and little to no complaints.” A useful case study.

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