Archive for the ‘Embedded’ Category

Another NC flower hopes you are having a good summer

Another NC flower hopes you are having a good summer

Today’s selections:

  1. Are my LibGuides useful? Usability testing on business LibGuides
  2. Embedded librarians as providers of knowledge services
  3. The state of academic liaison librarian burnout in ARL libraries in the United States
  4. Laying a foundation for library liaisonship: A business librarian case study
  5. Reinventing an online business research course
  6. Company research strategies for entrepreneurship: What to do when NAICS/SIC fall short

Here they are.


Are my LibGuides Useful? Usability Testing on Business LibGuides
Nataly Blas
Academic BRASS, Vol 14 (1), Spring 2019

Blas (Loyola Marymount)  conducted a usability study to “determine how useful Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) Business LibGuide is for answering basic research questions in business, specifically basic company and industry research.”

Blas recruited five students to talk through two tasks: “locate two databases for company information” and “locate two databases for industry information.” She describes her methodology as “low-cost” and “low-time” while still providing useful results.

As you can see at http://libguides.lmu.edu/business, Blas’ LibGuide includes a “Most Useful Places to Search: Business” box. Most of the students used that box to complete the two tasks. The LexisNexis (NexisUni now) Company Dossier was the most popular selection. Blas provides additional analysis and ratings from the five students.

Blas ends this short article with confirmations that, yes indeed, students scan pages, not read them. She confirms that database descriptions are used by students and so should be displayed. 


Embedded Librarians as Providers of Knowledge Services
Anna Pospelova, Rimma Tsurtsumia, and Margarita Tsibulnikova
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(4), 2018: 651–669

Here is a Russian take on the “e” word. The authors are two librarians and a professor of engineering/environmental management at Tomsk Polytechnic University in Siberia. Focusing on so-called expert librarians providing research support for faculty, this article “proposes that embedded librarians have the potential to become providers of knowledge process outsourcing for their institutions.” Outsourcing here means doing some of the research work that the professors usually do themselves. 

Favorite line from the lit review: “[Liaisons] must be knowledgeable, confident, proactive, and politically savvy.”

The Obruchev Scientific and Technical Library at Tomsk Polytechnic began its “Expert Librarian” project in 2015. It’s goal: “provide complex information support based on worldwide print and electronic resources for research groups, departments, university staff, and PhD students.” 

The project coordinator worked with the library director to compare subject librarians to “embedded expert librarians” (see the table on page 656 if you have access to this journal). The distinctions are interesting. For example, while the subject librarian supports requests from anyone on campus working within a certain field, the embedded expert librarian only works with the “supervised institute”. The subject librarian “fulfills basic library functions” while the other kind is “embedded in the scientific process of the assigned institute”. The former is passive while the other is proactive and “searches for collaborative partners”.

[So I think you can sense an effort to create a cultural shift in this library. Embedding in research teams also has been an emphasis at some UK universities, while many US-based embedded librarians seem to focus on student learning and success as well as faculty research.]

The project coordinator and library director identified 14 tasks to get engaged with the assigned research institutes. One service I hadn’t seen before: “Organize literature exhibitions based on the scientific and educational activities of the institute”.

Each embedded Interaction with researchers was tracked and then compiled quarterly by the project coordinator. The main activities of the expert librarians were “consultations (individual and group), subject searches, and journal and conference searches.” Researchers filled out a form to request the librarian run a literature search for them. 

The experts created an online competition on scholarly e-resources. One question was “What e-database got its name in honour of the hamerkop, which has excellent navigational abilities?” (answer below). 

In 2017, the university reorganized from seven institutes to ten schools. Additional expert embedded librarians joined the project to reach all the campus units.

Late in the article, the authors write that “the Expert Librarian project is now mainly noncommercial and focused on supporting research activities within the university. The next stage may be to offer outsourcing services to third parties on a commercial basis.” And in the discussion section, there is a paragraph explaining the “willingness-to-pay concept.” 

So did the library get payments for the work of the expert librarians? If so, did the librarians get some of the money? There are no details about this. Curious.

Answer: hamerkop is Scopus umbretta, a wading bird.


The State of Academic Liaison Librarian Burnout in ARL Libraries in the United States
Jennifer Nardine
College & Research Library News, 80(4) 2019

Nardine is the Teaching and Learning Librarian and Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech.

Key finding: “lack of personal agency is the primary contributor to a sense of burnout.”

Studies of burnout among liaisons have been rare. Questions she wanted to explore with this study:

  1. “How well do the values of liaison librarians correlate with the values of their profession?
  2. How pervasive is moderate to severe burnout in this population?
  3. How do self-identified primary role and level of seniority affect burnout?
  4. How does service time spent as a liaison affect burnout levels?
  5. How does service time spent at an organization affect burnout levels?
  6. Is there a gender effect on liaison librarian burnout?”

Nardine collected 176 completed surveys from liaisons at ARL libraries. She reported that much of the data defied her expectations. Among her findings: The roles of liaisons (collections, instruction, other, etc.) didn’t seem to matter much. Liaisons in middle management positions — not front-line liaisons — reported the highest level of burnout, while liaisons in senior roles reported the least. 

Burnout over time as a liaison fluctuates — not a clear pattern. Burnout seems to drop as liaisons get closer to the end of their careers.

There was no significant difference between male and female liaison burnout.

Nadine concludes:

“Based on the initial findings it appears that, while under significant workload and with a low sense of fair treatment, liaisons are well-matched with their chosen profession in terms of worklife scoring regardless of gender, service time as a liaison, service time at a specific organization, self-identified rank, or self-identified primary responsibility or role.”

However, “liaisons experience significant levels of Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization across all examined variables”. Increased emphasis on quantitative outcomes and assessment might be part of the problem. Work demands need to be better connected to “core liaison and librarian values.” 

Nadine’s findings seem to indicate that we need to resist the urge to predict patterns in liaison burnout. 


Laying a Foundation for Library Liaisonship: A Business Librarian Case Study
Stephen Fadel
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 24(3-4), 2019, 75-95

Fadel is a “newly hired business liaison Librarian” at CSU Monterey Bay. The article describes his work to learn about the campus, business school, business research tools available, and the existing library instruction program. He created a “Liaison Information Document” as a blueprint for planning and engagement, making this article useful for both new liaisons as well as any liaison beginning work at a new campus. 

It’s also useful to prepare for the common interview question, “how would you go about learning about the academic departments and programs you would be serving if you were hired here?”

In the discussion section, Fadel evaluates the resources and information-gathering strategies he used.

Fadel discovered that there was a big opportunity to expand liaison services to the  MBA program. Regarding library databases, he concluded that “Coverage of company and industry information was strong, while other subject areas were weak.” [That subject concentration seems to be common when business research needs have not been reassessed in a long time.] Meanwhile, the library offered little for the many marketing majors. 

The article ends with the template for the Liaison Information Document for possible reuse by others.


Reinventing an Online Business Research Course
Willow Fuchs
SLA Business and Finance Division: 2019 Posters

The posters from this SLA division are worth a look each summer. Fuchs (University of Iowa) participated in an “intensive 8-week faculty development program” called Design4Online to improve her existing one-credit course. Goal: create a class experience based on the “Community of Inquiry model” (a cite for that model is provided).

Fuchs wrote learning objectives based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and added associated assessment tools and learning activities. The course pages [I think in the CMS] were changed to include “clearly defined sections” and icons for user-friendly modules. 

Engagement changes included adding an “orientation module –with student icebreaker,” having shorter video lectures, adding discussions, adding “short quizzes after each video,” and scheduling reminders each week.

The changes were effective. Fuchs wrote “The added assessments have given me additional ways to evaluate how students are progressing and what changes need to be made to make the course go more smoothly in the future.”


Company Research Strategies for Entrepreneurship: What to do when NAICS/SIC Fall Short
Tim Tully
Academic BRASS, Vol 14 (1), Spring 2019

Let’s close out this post with some more Academic BRASS. Tully (San Diego State) turned this article into a roundtable discussion at SOUCABL but I was hosting a competing discussion and so missed his. 

As most of you know, NAICS and the old SIC code systems have their limits when you need to research innovative business ideas or very specific ideas. Tully provides examples from the infamous 339999. Meanwhile, many large companies offer diverse services and products that often are not fully covered in databases that only list a handful of industry codes when many more are needed.

Tully describes four alternative strategies and resources to try when the NAICS code falls short. He also provides a useful example of using each one. His suggestions:

  • Exhibitor Lists and Membership Directories
  • Advanced Article Searches – Trade Publications, Local Business News, and Buyer’s Guides
  • Specialized Directories (Both Print and Online)
  • Consumer Review Sites

I might work some of Tully’s strategies into my entrepreneurship research class next year. Good stuff.

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NC summer flowers

NC summer flowers say hi

Summaries (and some opinionated reactions) to articles and blog posts. Mostly recent stuff, but maybe some older things too since I’m trying to catch up from not having much time for professional reading last summer.

This week’s selections:

  1. “Moving from collecting to connecting: articulating, assessing, and communicating the work of liaison librarians”
  2. “Networking, not a four letter word”
  3. “Help! I’m new to licensing and don’t know where to start”
  4. “Knowing when to cry uncle: balancing instructional initiatives”
  5. A reference librarian working from home”

Here we go.


Moving from collecting to connecting: Articulating, assessing, and communicating the work of liaison librarians
Nancy Kranich, Megan Lotts, Jordan Nielsen, and Judit H. Ward
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 20(2) 2020, 285–304.

The authors are liaison librarians at Rutgers. (Nielsen, the business librarian, is now at San Francisco State University.)

Longtime readers (the two or three of you) of this 9-year old blog might remember that I used to post extensively about our liaison reorganization. While redefining liaison roles was in the mix, we focused on how liaisons should be organized and led to accomplish those revised goals. Those organizational and leadership aspects remain frequently missing from discussions of liaison trends. Refreshingly, the Rutgers librarians do write about both liaison roles and organization. 

Although not emphasized in the article, staff reductions were also drivers of their change. It seems that Rutgers resisted the “functional liaisons only” model that libraries at Guelph and U. of Arizona tried out in response to downsizing. (See this slide deck, part 4, for details on Arizona’s experiment including its return to subject liaisons.) Instead, Rutgers adopted a more nuanced approach. 

Case study #1 is an example. The library lost its liaison to the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences with its 6,000+ students (so it’s not just business librarians who serve as lean liaisons!) A team of subject and functional liaisons started working with this school. The liaison team partnered with the experiential “Social and Cultural Aspects of Design” class, in which the students provided strategic planning consulting for the science library. 

Another case study described the impressive outreach work of Nielsen to the local entrepreneurship ecosystem. He provided market research workshops with the Small Business Development Center, which led to his engagement with the new cross-campus Entrepreneurship Coalition.

This article includes a detailed and useful lit review. 


Networking, not a four letter word
Nancy Lovas
Biz Libratory

As I told Nancy, I love her title. Professional networking is certainly something I did not learn in library school (and that’s my fault). Lovas emphasizes: “the best networking is instead humanized by genuine interest in the other person’s professional work. The best networking is building relationships” [emphasis mine]. Give this post a read, it’s not long. 

The three creators of this blog recently pushed the story of its origin at Academic BRASS: “The BizLibratory: Collaborative Blogging for Professional Development and Networking.” Each wrote a paragraph about the impact of their blogging on their careers and their building of professional relationships.


Help! I’m new to licensing and don’t know where to start
Breezy Silver
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 4(1), 2019.

As Diane Zabel writes in “A Ticker Refresh”, this open access journal has relaunched with additional categories. The editorial board has expanded, recruited from the ABLD. 

This article is the first for the “Tips” column. Whether you are officially responsible for licensing, or if you sometimes need to work with the vendor and your licensing expert to influence the process, Silver provides helpful recommendations and insights. 

Regarding licensed business content, Silver writes:

“Business resources and database licenses can add their own challenge, since many come from companies in the corporate arena, and they do not translate well to academia and our needs. Some companies are so new to academia that they do not know that academia uses resources differently than the corporate world. That means the licenses may need some extra work to make them fit our needs.”

Silver addresses “academic use only” issues that can be tricky to interpret with student and faculty commercialization projects, as well as specific aspects of trying to license datasets. In the “Access Methods” section, she emphasizes that licenses can protect the library’s interests as well as the vendor’s. 

The article ends with negotiation tips:

“Do not be afraid to negotiate and do not automatically accept any terms or prices. You will be amazed what you can get just by asking. Vendors are not our enemies. They are trying to sell a product, and as an employee of an institution, you must be a good steward of resources that benefit your users. You can work together to find some mutually beneficial ground.”


Knowing when to cry uncle: Balancing instructional initiatives
Angie Cox, Jim Kelly, and Chris Neuhaus
C&RL News, Feb. 2020

A 3-page editorial. The authors, the instruction librarians at the University of Northern Iowa, created a one-credit info lit course called “Beyond Google” intended for lower-level undergrads. Creating and teaching it was time consuming of course but the class became “very popular with students and advisors.” 


“with only three library instructors, the course never reached more than a small percentage of the student population. The instructors teaching Beyond Google were getting burned out as their one-shot teaching load remained unchanged even with their added Beyond Google assignments” [emphasis mine, also below].

What could the librarians do about this problem? 

“So we did what the organization hadn’t done in years — we stopped doing something: we stopped offering Beyond Google.”

Nice introduction! I really like practical and honest case studies like this.

The class featured complex and variable learning options and evaluation techniques, which apparently prevented other librarians from volunteering to teach additional sections, and prevented use of Blackboard modules to facilitate efficiency. Eventually the instruction librarians hired a temp librarian for one semester solely to set up Blackboard. Sounds like they focused more on trendy learning strategies rather than sustainability but maybe that’s too harsh.

As with other one-credit IL classes, many seniors who needed one more credit to graduate also took the class. The mix of students made it harder to teach. 

The library pursued some strategic planning in 2017. Everyone reported that their work was vital and needed to keep doing it, but were overworked and needed more support. Retirements and a new associate university librarian provided an opportunity to rethink reference and instruction. The instruction librarians considered how to reach more students with info lit instruction across campus. They decided they couldn’t do that while still teaching “Beyond Google”:

Ah yes: “We realized, at last, that sustainability was just as important as innovation.” The instruction librarians instead began to work on easily customizable modules that could be used in many subject areas. They utilized Credo IL modules and LibGuides.

From the conclusion:

“A system that keeps adding new initiatives without routine program assessment and services realignment can have a negative impact on employee well-being, morale, and productivity. A successful organization finds a balance between risk-taking and program management that allows for sustainable innovation.”


A reference librarian working from home
Iris Jastram

Despite mainly working with patrons who rely on physical collections, Jastram from Carleton College writes:

“One thing that’s struck me, though, is how completely similar my work as a Reference Librarian During Pandemic Times is to my work as a Reference Librarian”

Her users (especially faculty and upper-level students) often ask about texts only available in one specific special collections library elsewhere in the world:

“So then we’re back to the conversations that are actually familiar even while feeling strange — those reference interview questions that are intended to help you and the researcher figure out what the goals of the information need are, and whether those goals could be accomplished with materials that are accessible. And if not, what are some accessible materials that are sufficiently interesting and similar that if we adjust the goals slightly the researcher could have meaningful work to accomplish.”

Continuing to be able to provide effective reference interviews is “comforting in a world that feels pretty chaotic and uncertain.” Her post is comforting and reassuring too.

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Call for writings on business info lit

I promised Genifer Snipes to help promote the call for proposals for this book that many of us will be eager to read:

Call for chapter proposals for the ACRL book Teaching Business Information Literacy, edited by Genifer Snipes, Ash E. Faulkner, Lauren Reiter, and Marlinda Karo.

This will be the first-ever title focused specifically on business information literacy instruction…readers will find a collection of practical, classroom-tested business information lesson plans, learning guides, research activities, and projects for one-shot, embedded, and credit-bearing library classes in disciplinary and interdisciplinary settings.

Contact Genifer at gsnipes@uoregon.edu with questions, to discuss proposal ideas, or for the proposal submission form. Deadline is July 30, 2020.

Catching up

Tuesday was my last long day of the semester. I had a brief student consultation at 9am but then free the rest of the morning and took some time off as comp time. Later read about Summer Krstevska taking her future “Creating Social Change” class to Rotterdam, got jealous, and told her so. (Elizabeth Price wrote about her experience with students in Antwerp last year.)

Our library faculty met at noon for a final discussion of our rewritten evaluation guidelines plus other topics. The rewrite addresses several previously unanswered questions: What are the quality and quantity expectations in scholarship and service to get tenured? What does it take to become a Full Professor? Votes on the rewrite are due by Thursday. I should post an update on that long process; the discussions and decisions have been interesting.

Then lunch.

My entrepreneurship research class met for the last time at 2pm, followed by the final Export Odyssey class session. In both classes, we discussed the final project, so pretty informal.

From 5pm to 9pm, UNCG Entrepreneur in Residence Noah Reynolds and I observed 8 final presentations, 30 minutes each, by the teams in the entrepreneurship capstone course.

Whew. Too much WebEx and Zoom for one day. But now the rest of my week is mostly open.

Meanwhile, Chad Boeninger wrote an interesting piece this month about making the most of online consultations.

Today’s topic

Competition flier

Competition flier

I spoke about this competition at SOUCABL in March and promised to conclude the story in a blog post at the end of the semester. Here is that full story.

In spring 2019, my new library dean, Dean Martin Halbert, joined me in attending the luncheon of our cross-campus entrepreneurship program. He was excited to learn about my embedded work within the program as a Coleman Fellow and offered to provide some funds for a student entrepreneurship competition. He funded such an event at his previous library in Texas.

I began to think about the scope of this library-funded competition. There are a few entrepreneurship competitions on campus and in the city already, but we no longer had one that focused on social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is big at UNCG. Many academic programs and many students are interested in helping solve problems in our city and the world. So a few weeks later, I proposed this focus to Dean Halbert and he liked it.

I told Professor Dianne Welsh, our entrepreneurship program, about the competition and she replied “Great, thank you! We can make that part of ‘Entrepreneurship Everywhere’.” I replied “umm, ok, sure!” That was a day-long program in the ballroom of our student union scheduled for Feb. 13, 2020. I was helping organize that program.

Next steps — decisions to make:

  • Solo or team submissions
  • Graduate students judged separately from undergraduates
  • How the pot of award money would be shared
  • What kind of document and financials get submitted
  • Amount of primary and secondary research required
  • Evaluation rubric used
  • Who will judge
  • Strategies for promoting submissions
  • What would happen in the hour-long slot allocated for this at “Entrepreneurship Everywhere”


Other libraries have sponsored or hosted competitions, right? I asked BUSLIB-L and learned of some interesting examples:

  • Philadelphia Free Library: Pitch Corner (media coverage). Quote: “The Free Library’s Business Resource and Innovation Center wants to teach Philly entrepreneurs a thing or two about pitching…” Gillian Robbins runs this. She is co-chairing the Concurrents Team for the Entrepreneurship & Libraries 2020 conference.
  • Brooklyn Public Library: PowerUP! (Timothy Tully told me about this competition he helped run. Tim now works at the San Diego State University and I enjoyed getting to know him over beers at SOUCABL.)
  • New York Public Library: New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition


From the libguide for the competition:

Social entrepreneurship means creating sustainable organizations that address a problem for local or global communities in an innovative way. The organizations can be for-profit or not-for-profit, and could be social, educational, environmental, artistic, etc. in nature.

(The libguide still exists but is now “unpublished”.)

What gets submitted?

Steve speaking at SOUCABL

Speaking at SOUCABL. (No, I don’t golf. Bill and I were performing for a skit in Chicago.)

I asked the SOUCABL librarians a short discussion question, “If you were creating a social entrepreneurship competition, what document would you require?” Choices could include business plans, feasibility analyses, business models, the business model canvas, lean startup frameworks, short financial projections, super-detailed spreadsheet templates, etc.

Between USASBE, GCEC, and SBI conferences, I’ve heard all of these things praised and all of them condemned.

While our already mentioned capstone course ENT 300 (also required for Arts Administration majors) requires a long feasibility analysis report (followed by a business plan in the follow-up class), most of the cross-campus and cross-listed entrepreneurship classes at UNCG require a 3-4 page business model. Not too long but usually detailed enough to require critical thinking and some secondary research. Professor Welsh created a business model that most of the classes use. I modified it just a bit to make it more clear about market versus industry research. The outline:

  1. Business Overview
  2. Industry & Market
  3. Financial Analysis
  4. Funding & Next Steps
  5. References
  6. Financials

Professor Welsh recommended the SCORE financial template, which is the super-detailed one I referred to above. It’s intimidating to finance newbies so I was interested in something shorter. Our Entrepreneur in Residence created his own financial template for his version of the ENT 300 class. With his permission, I copied four small tables from his template for the social entrepreneurship competition. See the Appendix below for both the full business model and those tables.

Judging rubric?

Competition libguide

Competition libguide (no longer public). The other tabs came from my master guide.

I enjoyed creating this section from scratch. Please note the emphasis on problem identification (1-2) and research (6-9):

  1. Clearly defining the problem or issue
  2. Clearly defining and measuring the target population and geography
  3. Proposing a solution that is innovative but also well-defined, realistic, and sustainable
  4. Writing in a professional style (no grammatical errors, incomplete sentences, or run-on sentences)
  5. Using the business model outline and covering all the listed topics in 3-4 pages
  6. Effective use of relevant, high-quality, secondary research sources (ex. for local industry size data, target market segmentation size data, and financial benchmarking)
  7. Incorporating a data visualization (ex. a data map, graph, or chart)
  8. Effective use of primary research (for example, a personal interview)
  9. Proper use of APA or MLA citations (within your text as well as the works cited list)


Morgan Ritchie-Baum and Christina Adams, entrepreneurship librarians at the public libraries of Greensboro and High Point (and BLINC friends), agreed to serve. Professor Welch recruited Pete Peters, a retired, serial life-sciences entrepreneur who also founded some non-profits and taught as an adjunct. Plan B for judges would have been reaching out to some of the NGO leaders in Greensboro whom I’ve met through experiential learning classes.


Emails to the faculty who teach social entrepreneurship classes, mostly.

Money and February 13 event?

Another quote from the libguide:

The UNCG University Libraries is offering $400 each to the best undergraduate and graduate student social entrepreneurship business models. Second-place submissions will earn $100 each. Participants must be current students. The business models can be past class projects or can be written for this competition.

So I did decide to spread the money around a bit. If we had two graduate competitors and two undergraduate competitors summarizing their business models in the final round during “Entrepreneurship Everywhere” on February 13, then all four students would win some money.

So what happened?

No submissions!

Afterwards I talked to a few students in the target classes. They said their business models were due at the end of the semester and so were barely started by mid-February. (Most UNCG students work to support themselves and so don’t have time to do big projects outside of class work.)

At SOUCABL in early March, I discussed my revised plan:

  • New deadline: April 30 (reading day)
  • Re-promote the competition to the social entrepreneurship classes, circulate paper fliers, and ask for the professor to also share the flier via Canvas.
  • Hold the final event in the library’s attractive Special Collections reading room, not the cavernous student union ballroom.

Then I drove back to North Carolina on Saturday, returned to work on Monday, and then the campus shut down.

Final chapter

I didn’t want to convert the final event to a Zoom session. (Writing this here at the end of semester, Zoom fatigue is now quite apparent.) So I wrote the judges and Professor Welsh:

I’m very sorry, but I’ve decided to cancel the competition for this school year. The final presentations and award ceremony were supposed to be a celebration of the winners and the idea of social entrepreneurship, plus serve as a promotional opportunity for the library and the UNCG cross-campus entrepreneurship program. I don’t think we could accomplish those goals in an online environment. Plus, students (and many of the faculty too) are getting really tired this semester from doing school in the new normal and I don’t think there would be much energy left in early May for even an online event.


I’m not going to decide right away about pursuing this idea in 2020-21. Will the campus be open this fall? Given the budget cuts coming, could I get $1,000 from library administration? Will I have more time to devote to promotion than in 2019-20?

Having a cross-campus event on social entrepreneurship in the library would certainly help promote this topic as well as the library as a promoter of and partner in solving problems in our community. I already have strong connections to the cross-campus entrepreneurship program. Would my time and energy be better served by trying to better connect with programs I don’t have strong connections with?

So to be determined. But at least the library tried something new.


Business model for the Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Business model © Dr. Dianne Welsh, 2019 (which some small additions)
Financial form © Noah Reynolds, 2019.

A. Business Overview

  1. Describe your idea and business model: Who does what with whom and how? Who pays for it?
  2. Financial value proposition: Why is this great idea from a monetary standpoint-for the people investing in the service or product? For the target market?
  3. Value proposition: What is your niche? Who are you selling to and why are they buying your product of service?
  4. Vision: What is the ultimate objective of your plan?

B. The Industry & Market

  1. Customer Identification: who is the target population, consumers, non-profits, or businesses? (B2C or B2B)
  2. Market size, analysis and forecast: What is the need?
  3. Industry analysis and forecast: Who else is delivering this service already? What is the outlook on this type of activity?
  4. Your competitive advantage: What makes your business or nonprofit the best qualified/positioned to deliver the good or service you are proposing?

C. Financial Analysis

  1. Funding sources: Where will the money actually come from for the activity? What funding already exists or is committed?
  2. Discuss assumptions and capital requirements.

D. Funding/next steps

  1. How much funding does your plan require to get off the ground?
  2. How much time does your plan require to get off the ground?

E. References

F. Financials: fill out the four boxes below

Financials set 1


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Summer Krstevska is the business, economics & entrepreneurship librarian at Wake Forest University; she is co-creator of Bizlabratory. Steve Cramer is the business librarian at UNC Greensboro; he writes This Liaison Life. They co-wrote this post, which was published at both blogs.

SC: Summer, how has the transition to working from home going for you? 

Summer Krstevska visiting Steve's workstation

Summer Krstevska visiting Steve’s home workstation

SK: I suppose I had the opposite experience of most people that I work with. Before starting at Wake, for 2 years I worked for National University. National has mostly online classes, and prior to that I worked for an English language learning institute, Education First, where I taught English as a second language from home for almost 4 years (at times full-time, other times part-time). When considering that, the move to online and WFH, really feels like returning to something familiar. I really can’t complain, especially because in this case there is so much additional support due to our current circumstances. Everyone is trying to help each other out and is empathetic, even many publishers are opening-up their resources for free use during this time! The feeling of community is surreal and much appreciated, both within Wake, the profession in general, and between myself and my friends and family. Have you noticed this, Steve?

SC: Yes I think so. Even [that one very annoying business content vendor] has been respectful, ha. My department has been meeting every day for hourly “water cooler” sessions. We use Zoom with its grid view (or the “Brady Bunch mode”, a reference that, yes, dates my childhood). But there is also plenty of stress among many of my colleagues and also lots of students. We have UNCG students who suffer from food insecurity, for example, and sending those students home doesn’t necessarily solve that problem, particularly if they had on-campus jobs that they can’t work anymore. Yesterday I had a consultation in my WebEx office with a UNCG student from Berlin. She is on our golf team and was in Arizona for a big tournament when the team suddenly had to fly back to NC; a few days later she was back home in Berlin with her family, where she struggles to work with her student teams given the time difference. Summer, at National, you primarily worked with remote students. How did that work experience help prepare you for how we are serving our students and faculty in this crisis? Is it any different now?

SK: My previous experience prepared me to be ‘camera ready’. I’m not shy about turning on my camera and pulling together resources (video, etc.) that supports use of our resources. I think the only difference between providing distance services at my previous job compared to now, is that it was the norm and now providing these services comes with so many uncertainties behind it. Policies are changing daily and weekly on what services we’re offering, for example if we’re buying materials or what hours we’re monitoring the chat. But, on the brighter side, the current circumstances also seem to bring an air of empathy. The expectations for our services are reasonable and students and faculty are understanding as we work to figure out what the new normal is. There’s so much messaging around just trying something and that it won’t be perfect the first time, which is completely true.

SC: Yes! Very true. For example, the first day of classes after our unexpected, second spring break, I spent the evening meeting online with each team in our evening executive MBA capstone class, in which I’m embedded as a research consultant. To me it seemed a normal set of online consultations (UNCG has had online programs for years) but the following weekend one of the students emailed me this:

Hi Steve, Thanks for the information and research but more importantly thank you for having the call and bringing some normality to a chaotic week. The casualness that you had for the video portion of the call helped me tremendously for my next online class (Tuesday) where I had to present a case study. It was a very simple thing and something that you are likely very accustomed to but it was pivotable…Thanks again. Your touchpoint was beneficial in getting used to the new normal. Also the information presented was helpful in confirming & expanding our research.

I guess that’s a reminder that we liaison librarians can have an impact on our students beyond just dropping research knowledge, maybe now more than ever. I was happy to get that student email out of the blue. What has surprised you about our new normal so far?

SK: What has surprised me is that I really feel a difference in regards to my physical and mental state. I feel less tired, both physically and mentally. Most days I feel really motivated when I start working. I think I’m better at taking care of myself in these WFH circumstances, not that I’m perfect at it by any means, but I feel a difference, so that must speak to something.

SC: Wow, that’s great. I wish I could say the same! Carol [my wife who is also a WFU librarian] brought home her office chair and now I wish I had done that. But I’m trying a back cushion this week. I certainly don’t miss my 30-minute commute and do enjoy taking a long walk every workday at 5pm. And I do now sympathize more with my colleagues who don’t have windows in their work offices, since I’m working out of our windowless den. So during the work day I frequently step outside for a few minutes of sun. And I’m wearing shorts but also a button-up shirt for classes and consultations.

SK: I too have found that I am much more purposeful in these WFH circumstances about getting outside regularly. I am also more aware of how much (or unfortunately at times, how little) I’m moving my body. I’ve been doing my best to regularly workout at home and go for walks! I am quite jealous that you live in a much more walkable neighborhood than me! There are no sidewalks near where I live, well there are a few but they end abruptly! I feel so lucky to have great windows in my apartment and a small balcony, though our home office has been thoroughly taken over by my husband, who worked from home prior to COVID-19 (completely fine by me, I find I like to change up where I’m doing my work). I do not miss having to spend a good chunk of time in the morning getting myself in business-casual dress for the business school! I’m enjoying wearing my yoga pants with my blouses! It has been a relief of sorts to go to meetings and see everyone, whether it’s my colleagues from the library or the business school or students in a one-shot, in a slightly more casual setting! Despite the crisis and the distance, the feeling of community is strong. We seem to be building a stronger bond as we go through this together and allow each other to be more open and vulnerable.

Steve Cramer visiting Summer's home workstation

Steve Cramer visiting Summer’s home workstation

SC: You mentioned the feeling of community earlier. Probably like many others, I’ve been checking in with some library friends, ex-interns and mentees and colleagues around the country. We are lucky that business librarians are a well-networked bunch and so member-oriented organizations like BLINC, the Entrepreneurship & Libraries planning group, and BRASS are providing opportunities for us to connect and share. Hopefully for our CABAL friends too. Now is the time for liaisons of all stripes to ask their groups and sections to do something to foster online support and community if their groups aren’t already. If not, dump those groups! Find better ones. Or create one with a friend or two. And at the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up, we appreciate your leadership with BLINC in this time of crisis, Summer, thank you.

SK: Thank you, Steve. It really has been so comforting to know that we have these various outlets to reach out to for help and that folks are out there listening and willing to help, I just want to do my part in this sense. I completely agree with you that this is the time for liaisons to take advantage of the connections they have and bring folks together or to use this time as an opportunity to make new relevant connections and offer their expertise. Prior to working at Wake, I did more work that was faculty-facing. There was a much heavier demand on me to work together with faculty to curate course materials, create and collaborate on library instruction videos, and to work directly with instructional designers and IT. Those instincts still exist because when we first were told to start WFH, I reached out to the few instructional designers that our business school has to offer my support in finding course materials. I also had scheduled one-shots prior to the outbreak, so once I started WFH, I reached out to the faculty and offered to go do a live-Zoom session or create some videos to place in their course guides. The timing is perfect because everyone is looking for assistance and is open to trying new ways of doing things! I’ve now been asked to join a team that is developing an orientation course for the online MSM program.

SC: Oh, very cool, good luck with that project! I’m glad your b-school is recognizing (and utilizing) your mad skills. This crisis is hopefully an opportunity for liaisons to get involved with their academic programs in new and expanded ways. “Never let a crisis go to waste” or something. I have heard from a few friends that they and their liaisons haven’t had to work with distance education before and so are kind of scrambling to learn the tools, strategies, and etiquette. From what I’ve heard so far, these are typically flagship public campuses or highly prestigious private schools? But public librarian friends working from home are also now starting to do online programming and consults. What special projects are you working on in response to the stay-at-home order?

SK: I’m currently working to host a book club in coordination with a local non-profit organization in Winston-Salem, called Venture Cafe. This book club was being planned for months prior to COVID-19, and we have decided to go virtual! So, I’ve been spending some time reading the book, Thinking Outside the Building by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and thinking about how I will lead and prompt the discussion in an engaging way! I’m looking forward to discussing Kanter’s theories on social entrepreneurship! I’ve also been working on planning BLINC’s upcoming workshop, I believe it will be BLINC’s first virtual workshop! Unfortunately, I think we will have to shorten our gathering time, just in considering best practice for online conferencing. Typical BLINC workshops take up most of the workday, from around 9am-3pm, and they have a heavy focus on socializing and networking! Somehow, I don’t think 6 hours of Zooming will be as enjoyable, but I’m hoping 2 – 3 hours will be (that’s my initial thoughts as I start planning at least). I’m looking forward to trying out the new format and seeing what others in the group think of the experience. You know that my Research Methods for Entrepreneurs for-credit class ended as usual half way through the semester, before the campus was shut down, but your for-credit class runs through the spring semester. What happened in March and how’s it going? 

SC: So as I wrote recently, I was at SOUCABL (you too!) when everything started going crazy. My class was already cancelled for Thursday, March 12 since I was away at that conference, but we learned by Saturday that all classes were cancelled for the next week to allow students to go home and for faculty to have time to convert their on-campus classes to an online format. We met via WebEx on March 24, our first class since March 10 (and the week before that was the regular spring break). The students all reported they and their families were doing ok, and that they did want to meet synchronously at our normal class time. I was very happy to hear that since real-time interaction with students is maybe my favorite part of teaching. And most of our class periods in April focus on using their new research skills to try solving problems, which best happens through discussion and collaboration. One of the students is in the Army and I was afraid he would be called up, but not so far. He has a baby at home, who he sometimes needs to tend to during class — I wish he would show us the kid on camera! Sounds pretty cute. In our most recent session, one student had a maintenance worker come into his apartment to fix something and as per a new requirement in his complex, the student had to leave the apartment to obey social distancing. So during our practice time, he had to call back into WebEx on his phone while hanging out on his tiny balcony for 30 minutes!

SK: That’s great that they wanted to meet synchronously! I think the students are searching for routine and socialization! We’ve mentioned community a few times already, but it really is so heartwarming that not only librarians are coming together to support one another, but that students, faculty and staff are as well! With these virtual circumstances, I think we all have a funny story of interruptions (pets, spouses, etc) or technical issues that have come up during our meetings or classes! I think these are moments that open us up to each other. We see each other in these situations and we relate easier to one another! I’m glad we’ve gotten the chance to collaborate during this time! Good luck in April, Steve!

SC: Thank you, Summer, you too! Good luck to everyone. 

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Elizabeth Price works as the Business Librarian at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. She is always eager to embrace opportunities that involve travel and is up to 30 states and 17 countries. She’s an active member with the Special Libraries Association and the Capital Area Business Academic Libraries group (CABAL).

The Municipal Library of Prague features Matej Kren’s Idiom, a tower of books that seems infinite because of the mirrors inside - perfect for a librarian selfie.

The Municipal Library of Prague features Matej Kren’s Idiom, a tower of books that seems infinite because of the mirrors inside – perfect for a librarian selfie on our side-trip.

Embedded librarians, by definition, take their information expertise out of the library. 1 In spring 2019, I stretched the bounds of embeddedness across the Atlantic Ocean by accompanying a group of 30 business majors on a semester-long study abroad in Antwerp, Belgium.

I ended up learning so much from this experience that will affect my work as a business librarian and as a supervisor of student employees. It helped me understand much more about what students know, what they don’t, and what they most need — beyond basic help in citing sources (which they really need). While this experience might be atypical or even impossible for some business liaisons, I think there are applicable lessons to share.

First, a little background about the program. My institution, James Madison University, offers the Semester in Antwerp program three times a year. Between 30-35 students take part each term. The cohort takes four business fundamentals courses — finance, management, marketing, and operations — that are taught by faculty from the University of Antwerp or Antwerp Management School. The fifth course is a business elective, European Business Environment (COB 301), that is jointly taught by a European-based lecturer and an instructor from my home institution called the Faculty Member in Residence (FMIR). That was me. 

JMU students toward the Port of Antwerp, which is the second largest container port in Europe.

JMU students at the Port of Antwerp, the second largest container port in Europe.

All full-time faculty and administrative personnel with teaching designation can apply to serve as an FMIR. The FMIR’s role is to lead, advise and support our students living and studying in the city abroad. FMIRs handle administrative coordination between local faculty, the program coordinator in the host country, and the program directors back home. Unlike other study abroad programs, Antwerp FMIRs aren’t required to propose/teach/recruit for a course of their own design. Instead, they are responsible for grading 50% of student work in COB 301, largely projects related to our field trips and a weekly reflective journal.

That’s the role I signed up for, though it didn’t begin to describe all of the work I had to do during my 13 weeks abroad. Among the “other duties as assigned”: 

  • Carry a program phone with me at all times; answer student texts at — seemingly — all hours. (At one point, this led to a discussion of the inappropriateness of texting your FMIR at 5 a.m. with the question: “What time do I need to be up?”)
  • Attend all field trips to ensure students represent our institution appropriately and to help them connect those experiences to course content.
  • Mentor students about how to network and conduct themselves in professional settings. (Highlights of lessons imparted: Don’t write or draw immature things in swag notebooks and leave them at the firm; Don’t converge en mass on complimentary snacks like a pack of ravenous dogs; Don’t show up to morning field trips smelling like what you did last night.)
  • Lead weekly program meetings and organize weekly dinners with rotating group leaders.
  • Discipline students for unprofessional, unsafe, or academically unethical behavior.
  • Navigate student welfare issues such as homesickness, roommate feuds, dealing with a foreign healthcare system, group dynamic difficulties, alcohol misuse, and travel woes such as stolen phones (8 in total) and misplaced debit cards (4).
  • Keep financial records and program receipts; withdraw and disperse weekly stipends to 30 students; oversee two student assistants.
Antwerp Central Station is frequently ranked among the most beautiful in the world

Antwerp Central Station is frequently ranked among the most beautiful in the world

Does it sound like a ton of work? It was. But there were perks. I had the opportunity to audit the COB 301 lectures to learn the history of the European Union and how that government body impacts the business landscape. I also got a peek into a fantastic array of organizations through field trips to NATO headquarters, the European parliament and commission, a London-based asset management firm, the Antwerp diamond district, a fashion house, a major pharmaceutical company, and a family-owned chocolatier and craft brewery. (The latter had a great library-related origin story about how the founders searched through libraries and archives for a recipe thought permanently lost.) I was able to ask questions at these visits about the information skills the organizations need in new hires and how they manage their corporate research centers and/or archives. (The asset management firm had a fabulous presentation from the corporate archivist about the company’s history that really surprised the students.) 

I was able to read the students’ weekly reflective journals and witness what they were learning, even if sometimes they didn’t realize the full implications. And mentoring students — especially in the informal conversations we’d have about leadership roles, career opportunities and measuring success — was incredibly rewarding. 

Being embedded with a group of 20-year-olds for four months revealed tons about their communication patterns, technology gaps, and research skills. I struggled to get them all to utilize the program’s Facebook group — they definitely prefer information via text. They AirDrop one another constantly and memes are their common language. A few students bristled when faced with a LockDown Browser that wouldn’t let them use CTRL+F to search their lecture notes for an open-book exam (Quote: “We’ve never had to find information another way!”) 

JMU student attempts to make the signature Antwerp Chocolate Hand at a local chocolatier.

JMU student attempts to make the signature Antwerp Chocolate Hand at a local chocolatier.

Yet for being constantly connected to their phones, several had no idea they could register for classes using a mobile device instead of their laptops. Only a handful had used our institution’s library resources to do research during their college careers. I took for granted that they’d understand that “current” information meant articles published in the last two to three years. Only one group presentation among the five I observed in their marketing class did APA citations or appeared to have gathered data from scholarly journals. And the laziness of some students’ information gathering could be astonishing at times. I eventually enacted a zero tolerance policy for misspelling the name of an organization we visited in their learning journals.

But the research trend that concerned me the most? Students’ expectation that all of the information they need will be given to them. Early in the semester, they rarely conducted research before a field trip. I think of how often I perform pre-research in my work-life and wonder about how to instill its value. I know they eventually will learn that walking into a client meeting blind is a major no-no. But I think we can do more as librarians to urge students to pre-research and to encourage faculty to value it. 

Students were able to tour Bloomberg’s London headquarters thanks to a JMU alumnus who works there.

Students were able to tour Bloomberg’s London headquarters thanks to a JMU alumnus who works there.

Yet for every perceived #researchfail, I found plenty to celebrate. I began rewarding students who asked thoughtful questions on field trips and was impressed by their astuteness by semester’s end. I think assigning each student team to curate five internet sources about each field trip and share them to a Wakelet helped them become more engaged. One night, a group texted me about getting free dessert in Budapest after writing TripAdvisor reviews of the restaurant (we had done an exercise scrutinizing reviews for their usefulness before writing our own about an Antwerp museum). I urged them to use LinkedIn to research the professional guests at our etiquette lunch and arrive with at least two questions to ask. Lastly, I had the students collaborate on annotated bibliographies to prepare for their fashion district and Port of Antwerp tours and the subsequent case study presentations. Although students often groaned about these assignments, a few ultimately recognized their value. They might have only said that in hopes of a better grade, but I still plan on counting it as evidence that I taught these 30 students that Information has Value

My experience abroad was exhausting, enlightening and edifying. I gained significant insight into the corporate world through field trips and the courses I audited, learned more about the unique challenges of the Gen Z student experience in a culture that is Permanently Online, Permanently Connected (POPC), and gained empathy for people in new surroundings and the culture shock that ensues. It was tough to be away from family, in a place where I didn’t speak the primary language, and where even everyday tasks like grocery shopping or banking had a learning curve. Sometimes it was difficult to know whether the students were learning anything from me or from their academic experience. Even after being back for a few months, those doubts emerge. So I read through a few of the students’ reflection essays from the end of the trip and I always come back to my favorite one:

“My view of America changed a little because of this experience. I learned that two big arguments against American politics are that we have to pay a ton for our education, and ‘if you get cancer in American you will die if you don’t have a lot of money.’” (Belgian guy, De Prof, 2019).

The citation wasn’t perfect, and according to APA guidelines about in-person interviews, not even technically required. But the fact that the student attributed a conversation from a bar to support his point encapsulates our semester together. I truly couldn’t be prouder of how much we learned from one another.

  1.  Shumaker, D. (2012). Embedded librarian: Innovative strategies for taking knowledge where it’s needed. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

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

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

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

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

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


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

Introducing the topic

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

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

Dan Maynard

Dan Maynard on lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned:

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

Measuring outcomes: assessment or story telling?

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

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

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

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

From the Q&A with Dan on academic implications:

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

We moved the IRS 990 discussion for after lunch.

Food truck lunch

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

Nonprofit financial research and benchmarking

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

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

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

Librarian support of the UNC-Chapel Hill Makerthon

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

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

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

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

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

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

Small Business and Technology Development Center & social entrepreneurship

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

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

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

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

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

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

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

Social data

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

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

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

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

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WFU building in the Winston-Salem Innovation Quarter

WFU building in the Winston-Salem Innovation Quarter after an evening storm (Bailey Park in foreground)

The Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians was back in downtown Winston-Salem last Friday and I enjoyed being able to walk over to it from home. The one-day conference met in new Wake Forest University space in the Innovation Quarter, built from RJ Reynolds tobacco factories. BLINC had a workshop over here in 2015 hosted by the Forsyth Technical Community College’s Business & Industry Services. It’s exciting to see these sturdy, tall-ceiling, big-window spaces converted to new uses and bringing more employees back downtown. (There are also lots of new residential spaces nearby, although affordability and gentrification are becoming more of a problem.)

The latest hurricane moved through North Carolina Thursday afternoon. I had a fun 9:30am research workshop for an investments class (and most of the 48 students were there!) but we learned then that classes would be cancelled at 2pm. Three big trees were down on the highway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem on my way home in mid-afternoon. Our region had localized flooding and power outages, but no deaths. Several speakers at the conference were unable to get to Winston-Salem (including the morning keynote, who had to provide his talk online).

As mentioned here in 2014 and 2016, this is not a conference about entrepreneurship librarianship, although a few business librarians usually attend each year. “Entrepreneurial” in the conference’s name is defined as “innovation”, so the topics of the speakers and discussions are broad. As an attendee, I focused on supporting as many of the business librarian speakers as I could. One of those business librarians was Ash Faulkner, whom Carol and I joined for dinner downtown Thursday night. The sun came out an hour before sunset.

“Retiring in 2055: Evolution and Education a Long Library Career”
Ash Faulkner
(Ohio State University Libraries)

Ash Faulkner

Ash Faulkner

Abstract: “As a librarian at the beginning of her career, the presenter has devoted considerable time to considering the future of libraries and librarianship. In this presentation she will discuss her views on the evolving roles of librarians and how she has prepared for these changing needs. Discussion will include the utility of basic business knowledge (gleaned from an MBA), the importance of understanding data and the growing need to understand statistical analysis and software, how to utilize professional organizations and personal networks to address learning gaps, and best bet resources for individual learning pursuits. The presenter will discuss her views of current and future librarianship, as well as those found in the literature and through conversations with other early-career librarians.”

A financial planner told Ash that she could expect to retire in 2055. In this discussion-oriented program, Ash explored trends in librarianship and the workforce in general to guess what the nature of her career might look like up to its end.

She used Mentimeter to display her slides and enable instant feedback from the participants. We discussed ideas like digital nomads and the gig economy applied to librarianship. Ash speculated on the future of librarians:

  • “Yup, data” (increasingly important)
  • Boutique service (emphasis on specialized services)
  • Increasing collaboration…to integration
  • Fewer professional librarians
  • Self-service (less interaction with librarians)

She also speculated on gap areas in our skills and education:

  • Deeper subject expertise
  • Finding data
  • Data management
  • Statistics
  • Basic business knowledge

Some of the discussion was on near-future trends but it was interesting speculating on the long term possibilities.

 “An Entrepreneurial Approach to Helping Entrepreneurs”
Kassie Ettefagh, & John Raynor (High Point Public Library)

John Raynor and Kassie Ettefagh

John Raynor and Kassie Ettefagh

Abstract: “The High Point Public Library was tasked with finding a way to help support the city’s strategic plan to increase population, create new housing and employment, and create a vibrant downtown. Focusing efforts on entrepreneurs, job-seekers, and current small-business owners, HPPL designed a plan to provide personalized research sessions, one-on-one training with databases, social media usage advice, and space for job-related programming. Three Business Librarians work with Chamber of Commerce, small business expos, city council, and more. By changing its methods of providing information and trying to be more proactive, HPPL has evolved to better serve entrepreneurs, job-seekers and small-business owners.”

Kassie and John are BLINC friends whose outreach and consulting work at the High Point Public Library have always been impressive. They discussed their library’s proactive engagement with the local business and nonprofit community, inspired by the embedded librarian model of reference service.

The business librarians promote the development of ongoing, productive relationships between the library and its customers. Getting out of the library to build relationships with clients is key. “We need to leave the library and show the community what a powerful tool we are,” John advocates.

This embedded work is the library’s response to the city’s strategic plan, which promotes entrepreneurship city-wide but with emphasis on downtown. The library also created a dedicated business center in the library for training and hosting local organizations. The library has partnered with many local organizations supporting entrepreneurship, economic development, and nonprofits. The librarians now help steer entrepreneurship to relevant support groups.

The library had a preliminary goal of 12 client consultations a year, but now averages around 150 per year. The librarians use NC LIVE databases (such as ReferenceUSA and SimplyAnalytics) and High Point GIS data, but also provide some tech training, such as basics of using social media. Some clients want to learn how to use the databases themselves, so the librarians are trainers as well as research consultants.

Kassie and John provided several happy customer testimonials and some examples of research projects. One example: when the city tore up Main Street for a long, comprehensive utilities rebuild, the library organized downtown businesses to collect feedback and complaints about the road closure, and to help those businesses promote that they were still open for business. Now another chunk of downtown will be ripped up to build a new minor league baseball park. The city asked the library to repeat those coordinating services for that neighborhood. State legislators are also hearing about the library’s business and nonprofit outreach.

Really good stuff – high impact and progressive. Kudos to Kassie and John (and their former colleague Vicki Johnson) for their excellent work, but also to library leadership for funding these positions and the business center.

“The ROI of ROI Outreach”
Amy Harris-Houk & Maggie Murphy (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

Abstract: “Liaison librarians in the Reference, Outreach, and Instruction (ROI) department of UNC Greensboro’s University Libraries have collaborated on educational programming with regional high schools, the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, a nearby retirement community, and a grassroots political advocacy group in Greensboro. Through these collaborations, our information literacy programs have reached a range of audiences, from middle-schoolers to retirees. However, while these opportunities have raised the library’s profile in the community, they are not without downsides. This session will discuss our collaborations, how these partnerships began, the lessons we have learned, and balancing the time commitment associated with community outreach with other duties to maximize return on investment.”

My colleagues Amy and Maggie discussed their recent outreach and programming to groups outside of the university. With implications for liaison work (and workloads), they discussed how to prioritize such outreach, and balance “departmental work with our core constituents with community outreach”. They also presented a SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) analysis for evaluating the impact of the work.

“Growing and Evolving Education: Librarians Developing and Implementing Community Health Literacy Workshops”
Sam Harlow (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

Abstract: “In order to align with the University Libraries strategic plan to increase both general information literacy and health literacy efforts in the community, UNCG Health Science librarians developed a series of workshops on “Finding Health Information on the Internet.” In these workshops, librarians covered website evaluation, database recommendation, search strategies, and created a LibGuide for community members interested in finding health information. This presentation will cover outreach and marketing strategies when reaching out to community partners (such as churches, local hospitals, and university staff); successes and failures of presenting to community patrons; future plans for health literacy workshop expansion; and ways to further engage your community in information literacy workshops and conversations.”

My colleague Sam followed up with a description of a community engagement project she implemented along with Lea Leininger, the UNCG Health Sciences Librarian. They have provided 5 workshops so far. Challenges include communicating the medical terminology, dealing with different levels of technology, assessing the workshops, and participation.

Other conference notes

 The opening keynote speaker was Patrick Sweeney, Political Director for EveryLibrary, the only PAC for supporting libraries. I didn’t know anything about this organization. He challenged our traditions of feel-good marketing (all those ALA posters) and instead asserted that the goal of advocacy is driving public library supports to action – doing something (donating money, fundraising, or voting). He asserted that libraries need to use data analytics on its financial and voting supporters and make decisions based on that data. Libraries need to understand their communities – demographics, lifestyles, and attitudes/politics [there’s the business librarianship connection] – and craft their messages to match, not just speak from a librarian echo chamber.

Timothy Owen, Assistant Librarian for the State of North Carolina, discussed telling stories. He also provided examples of problems in data visualization and asked us to figure out what was going on.

lunch outdoors at the conference

lunch outdoors at the conference (opposite direction from the first picture above)

Half the value of a good conference is networking, and this conference enabled that in the breakfast social and lunchtime. Several new and veteran BLINC members, plus other friends from the area, attended and updated each other on what was new in their lives. (The newest downtown brewery is one block from our conference location, in the old power plant for the RJR factories – I was surprised there was no night-before or right-after social planned there.)


I had to miss this session due to an overlapping event:

“Reaching Campus and Community with Entrepreneurship Research Workshops”
Meghann Kuhlmann & Sara Butts (Wichita State University)

Abstract: “Wichita State University (WSU) has positioned itself as an “innovation university” with strong emphasis on invention, small business incubation, and economic development across the region. WSU Libraries launched the Entrepreneurship Research Series (ERS) of workshops in Fall 2016. Each semester since then we have offered 6-11 workshops on intellectual property and market research topics relevant to inventors and prospective business owners. Workshops are open to students and the community. Successful outreach, with marketing beyond our traditional patron base, has led to increasing our visibility as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) and partner in innovation support and promoting use of our business and intellectual property resources. We’ll discuss the opportunities and challenges of creating an entrepreneurship education initiative aimed at both campus and community members including alignment of the library initiative to university goals, community outreach, partnership creation, and managing multiple priorities in an academic setting.”

These librarians were unable to fly in due to the storm:

 “How to Never Underestimate Librarians as New Commercialization Partners”
Yvonne Dooley & Steven Tudor (University of North Texas)

Abstract: “As higher education evolves and re-imagines information exchange with industry, an increasing number of universities are creating and expanding Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) to commercialize faculty created intellectual property. This exchange fosters technology-based economic development and entrepreneurial success. Conference attendees will learn about the successful alliance between UNT Libraries and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, where the library moved outside its normal sphere to help create a patent internship program. Presenters will explain how this collaborative partnership works and provides win-win situations for all parties involved. Attendees will also learn new ways librarians can advance innovative community initiatives, position themselves as trusted partners, and create professional experiences to prepare students for valuable career opportunities.”

I also missed this interesting talk about managing liaison workload. App State is a UNC campus, so I should reach out to Jennifer about sometime. Sounds like her idea for engagement plans might be relevant to my last post about the lean liaison model. (I learned that Ask Faulkner covers 8,000 or 9,000+ students on her own, another example that dwarfs my situation.)

Enterprising Liaisons: Evolving Engagement
Jennifer Natale—Appalachian State University

Abstract: “Liaisons have responsibility for multiple academic departments and/or student populations and are pulled in too many directions in the middle of the semester, leaving themselves unable to accomplish all the liaison activities. Enterprising librarians can stay ahead of the curve by building a profile of the academic departments or student populations they serve and developing an engagement plan for the year. In this workshop I will outline key concepts within a profile identifying ways liaisons can intersect with their departments or student populations. The profiles will then provide the foundation for generating an annual engagement plan and allow you to balance your workload throughout the year. Engagement plans, and some technology tools, can be implemented in part or in whole and as an individual or liaison team.”

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Summer ends early when you work at UNC Greensboro. We are already two weeks of classes into the fall semester.

This fall, all three of my embedded classes feature significant changes. Perhaps the biggest change is with ENT 300, a feasibility analysis (pre-business plan) class required of all Entrepreneurship majors and minors and all Arts Administration majors. This is a team-based, research-intensive class in which the students create a major report to decide if a business or nonprofit idea should move forward to the business plan phase.

This semester ENT 300 is asynchronous online for the first time. A gutsy experiment? My workload for this class could be much less or much higher, I don’t know yet. We shall see. (The spring section will continue as an on-campus night class.)

MBA 741, the capstone course Orolando Duffus wrote about a few years ago, has a new professor, Dr. Beitler. But after two evening classes so far, the nature of this class is very similar and my role (based on Orolando’s successful embedded work) is unchanged.

Today’s topic

The third class is MKT 426: International Marketing, the oldest ongoing story at this blog. The class is dominated by Export Odyssey, an exports promotion and experiential learning project in which the student teams try to make a sale to a new country market for a North Carolina manufacture.

From the BizEd photoshoot

From the BizEd photoshoot

Working closely with this class was my first embedded librarian role. The class helped me gain teaching experience that I couldn’t get from one-shot instruction and also helped me get involved in the local economic development ecosystem. And it was a lot of fun although also at times challenging and always time consuming. Collaborating with Professor Williamson gave me confidence to pursue other embedded opportunities, such as getting involved with cross-campus entrepreneurship.

The rest of this post updates the story of this embedded role. I’ll also touch on workload and sustainability – issues always behind the scenes in embedded work.

New professor, same project

Last year, I wrote about Professor Williamson wrapping up his phased retirement, and the hiring of the new international marketing professor, Dr. Bahadir. We made the adjustment of working together as co-teachers. We also like each other. But it is a different relationship than I had with Professor Williamson. It would have to be because the professors are different people.

Professor Bahadir teaches more Export Odyssey research methodology than Professor Williamson did. So I’m not formally teaching as much as I used to in class. I miss that a little. But he is the professor of record on the syllabus, and he feels responsible to know all the Export Odyssey material. He learned all that very quickly.

BizEd photoshoot

BizEd photoshoot

I continue to attend most class sessions but decided to skip a few sessions early in the semester when class content focuses on core concepts, not the Export Odyssey project. Those sessions don’t involve the students learning research strategies and so I think my time is now better spent elsewhere on those days. (Sometimes, like both class days this week, I have one-shot instruction for other classes when MKT 426 meets.)

I used to put so much time into this class (including research consultations, team counseling, and consoling upset students). So being able to adjust my role and the workload in this project has been nice.

This fall there are now two 75-minute sections with a 15-minute break in between. So an almost 3-hour time commitment to this class each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. For past ten years or so, there was only one section.

Utilizing my professional network

Professor Bahadir recognized how time consuming it is for the student teams to recruit their own manufacturers. We give them four weeks to do that at the beginning of the semester, limiting the time the teams have to develop their export marketing strategies. So Professor Bahadir asked if we could pre-recruit manufacturers to assign to student teams.

Through partnering with Professor Williamson, I had met officials from several export promotion agencies. I began inviting those folks to have lunch or coffee with Professor Bahadir and me to see if their agencies could help recruit interested manufacturers. We ended up talking to representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce (the local office), Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC, a UNC system organization), the Triad Regional Export Initiative (a grant-funded local organization on whose advisory board I serve) and some folks from state government. I enjoyed introducing everyone at those lunches.

We did end up with four student teams out of ten working with companies recruited from the SBTDC. The SBTDC became part of the support network of those teams, and attended class a few times. We hope to have more pre-selected companies in the future. Professor Bahadir is coordinating this work now that he had met everyone.

(Earlier this month, I wrote an external review for a tenure candidate in a rural part of Ohio. She is doing amazing work supporting her regional entrepreneurship eco-system and received really strong reference letters from economic development officers. I hope she writes an article about that important and interesting embedded work. )

A real Export Odyssey textbook

Cover of Export Odyssey textbook

Cover of Export Odyssey textbook

This summer, Kendall Hunt published the Export Odyssey textbook. Professor Williamson and I used to create a home-made project textbook for the students that the UNCG bookstore printed and packaged like a course pack. Through some other professors in the business school, Professor Williamson learned that Kendall Hunt was interested in new content. We pitched the idea to KH’s local rep and they agreed. We spent nine months updating and improving it.

We had to rewrite the book to accommodate non-UNCG audiences. I cut out most of the references to commercial databases in favor of free sources (mostly .gov sources like export.gov) with the exception of ReferenceUSA. We also greatly improved (IMO) coverage of the 4 P’s in the context of export marketing and provided updated case studies.

The plan was to sell the book as an e-textbook for $50. I liked the cheap price. Alas, the price has gone up already. So much for affordability as a selling point.

The MKT 426 students are using the new textbook this fall. A few professors from other campuses are apparently peer-reviewing it. We will see if any other international marketing classes pick it up. And then see what the feedback is.

BizEd article & photoshoot (in the library!)

Final story today. In May, the communications department of the UNCG business school was finishing up an invited article about Export Odyssey for BizEd, the magazine of AACSB International (accrediting body for business schools). The magazine wanted to include a picture of the instructors and some students. So we invited some students from the teams that worked with SBTDC-recruited companies. We also wanted an attractive location for the photoshoot, so instead of the business school, we ended up…in the library’s Special Collections reading room, ha.

The campus photographer took a zillion pictures, as they tend to do at photoshoots. You can see the one that BizEd decided to run at the article, but above are two rejects I liked (although I look kind of inebriated in the group portrait?) The diversity of those students is pretty typical for UNCG – we are almost a majority-minority campus.

Most of the students were about to graduate, so they were a little giddy that afternoon. Professor Bahadir and I enjoyed that symbolic wrapup of the project. It was the end of our first year working together on Export Odyssey and it went pretty well.

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Blame Vanessa for this post

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

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

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

Last Friday


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


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

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

Right heel starting to hurt.


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

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


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

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

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

Foot hurts more.


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


Went home early.


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

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


Decided to change shirts.


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


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

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

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More summaries (and sometimes feedback) of articles I finally had time to read this summer. There’s also a couple of recommended blogs for helping improve one’s research skills. Unlike last time, most of these articles are behind paywalls.

Hometown summer beach scene

Hometown summer beach scene


Distinctive roles: Engagement, innovation, and the liaison model
Jennifer Church-Duran
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17:2 (2017)

Jennifer is the head of user services for the University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This is a useful summary of trends and published case studies. From the abstract:

“Bent on improving the teaching and learning experience, enhancing the productivity of researchers, and increasing the visibility of research outputs, libraries are redistributing staff, reallocating resources, and reorganizing internal structures, all to better partner campus-wide. Nowhere is the impact of this push for service innovation and user engagement greater than on the workload, direction, and even future of liaison librarian programs.”

Jennifer begins with a summary of the focus shift in research libraries from collections to engagement. Liaisons may be the librarians most impacted by this shift. The 2009 ARL white paper “A Framework for Articulating New Library Roles,” based on work at the University of Minnesota Libraries, led to other updated definitions of liaisons at Duke and other libraries (see links from a 2015 post of mine; table 1 in this article provides a concise comparison).

Core roles circa 2015 include outreach, research services, resources, teaching, and scholarly communication, but in the last 6-8 years, a bunch of new roles have been added: digital humanities, data management, bibliometrics, etc.

This “explosion of additional service areas” leads to a need to establish desired skill sets and (less often, alas) training sufficient to help liaisons acquire those needed skills. One 2012 study identified “32 skills or areas of knowledge” liaisons will need. [How liaisons are organized and managed — and partnerships with subject liaisons and functional liaisons – could be additional responses to help liaisons.]

So yes – this “explosion” of liaison roles can lead to issues of workload and resources stretched too thin:

“…librarians will work as liaison officers between the library and researchers in their domains, as knowledgeable consultants who understand the unique information cycles of faculty in their disciplines, as entrepreneurs able to identify opportunities and offer innovative solutions, and as trainers to improve users’ skills and understanding.” [emphasis mine]

[And also as teachers, a role sometimes ignored by the research libraries, sadly.]

Jennifer then quotes from UNCG’s own 2012 liaison reorganization task force regarding the unreasonable expectation that each liaison should be skilled in every liaison role and apply those roles equally to all academic departments, regardless of the nature of those departments. Later studies echo concerns about “sustainability and scalability”.

How liaisons are organized and managed can be part of the problem, with liaisons at many libraries working solo. (Our task force actually focused on liaison organization, not liaison roles.) Jennifer next provides an update on the literature of liaison organization, but reports that

“While a growing number of publications explore librarian engagement with users as a critical part of innovation, far less is available in the professional literature to connect that engagement with strategic priorities, or to offer up the means for assessing the merit of ideas and the methods for then managing the process of innovation from idea to implementation.”

Sometimes our library structures inhibit innovation in liaison services. (Hmm is that actually a strength of the “solo liaison” approach?) A few libraries experimenting with different organizations are mentioned, including UNCG, but details aren’t provided (subject and functional teams, in our case).

Jennifer concludes with encouragement to try out new library structures that support innovation (I would add nimbleness):

“To truly create agile systems for translating engagement into ideas and, in turn, transforming those ideas into scalable, sustainable, and replicable services, libraries must work to connect the ongoing emphasis on engaged librarianship with the need for supportive organizational strategy, structure, and culture.”


Mapping information literacy using the Business Research Competencies
Heather Howard, Nora Wood, and Ilana Stonebraker
Reference Services Review, (2018) (no vol or issue #?)

From the abstract: “This paper aims to provide an overview of the current landscape of curriculum mapping across business courses at two institutions and a replicable methodology for other institutions.”

Heather (Purdue), Nora (University of South Florida), and Ilana (Purdue) used the BRASS Business Research Competencies in mapping of Purdue and USF business school curriculums. They sought to answer these questions:

  1. “Do the Competencies serve as a good framework for understanding business information literacy and its effects on an undergraduate curriculum and graduate level curriculum?”
  2. “How do the Competencies inform our scaffolded instruction?”
  3. “Do the Competencies relate to the overall curriculum of the business school?”

Based on their study, the authors recommend this approach and provide examples of uncovering gaps in business research skills on their campuses based on the Competencies.

The authors provide lit reviews of the business research competencies, curriculum mapping in business education, and scaffolding.

Of the competencies, only international business research was missing from the Purdue curriculum. Since the business librarians teach a required research course, they will work to correct this oversight. The South Florida curriculum lacked emphasis on international business research and business law. There is not a simple fix for the absence of business law research in the curriculum. (IMO the “international business” competency seems to focus on foreign direct investment research strategies and databases. There are other types of international business research.)

Topics not covered in the BRASS competencies were also mapped. The authors recommend adding “ethical use of information, intellectual property and decision-making” as well a career research to the competencies.

The article’s discussion section includes a paragraph on liaison workload issues. Nora writes “At the University of South Florida, providing comprehensive support across all departments in the business school is not feasible owing to the size and structure of the existing library liaison program.” My situation too (although Nora covers around 5,500 business students, about 1,400 more than me, but that’s still way too much). “This lean [liaison] model results in inconsistent coverage of the whole business curriculum and limits the number of new projects that can be pursued.” Therefore partnerships across the business school are essential to support school-wide business research skills.

Given the lack of AACSB standards in information literacy, the authors advocate for more comparisons of curriculum mapping across campuses.

Appendixes cover the draft competencies, the core curriculum at the two schools, and “suggested additional research competencies”.


“Is corporate a bad word?”: The case for business information in liberal arts libraries
Danya Leebaw
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(2), April 2018, 301-314

Fun title! The first paragraph explains it through an anecdote.

From the abstract: “Are there reasons to teach [liberal arts students] to grapple critically with business information?”

Danya (social sciences and professional programs director at the University of Minnesota Libraries) uses survey results, critical information theory, and the ACRL frameworks to explore that question.

A number of us now work with cross-campus entrepreneurship programs, in which some of the students come from the liberal and performing arts. That’s not the focus here though.

Danya asserts that “business information is useful material for teaching core liberal arts learning outcomes: critical inquiry, lifelong learning, and ethical citizenship.” She also believes that the frameworks “help to situate business information comfortably in a liberal arts context.” That’s a refreshing attitude to me since I find the frameworks (like the standards) too focused on scholarly articles and books as research. Business research (especially research to make decisions in community-engaged experiential learning) requires a much, well, richer research experience with much more lifelong learning potential that traditional academic scholarship. However, I know that Charissa Jefferson, Amanda Click, and other business librarians are doing interesting work in applying the framework to biz info lit.

Maybe related to all that, Danya continues:

“This paper argues that the absence of business information from library reference and instruction programs at liberal arts colleges is out of step with both liberal arts and information literacy learning goals. Indeed, this absence risks communicating to students that business sources are unworthy of critical study, thus inadvertently reinforcing biases and missing a variety of pedagogical opportunities.”

She surveyed reference librarians in the Oberlin Group, a “consortium of 80 highly selective, top-ranked liberal arts college libraries.” Most of those campuses provide business classes but few offer regular business instruction. Few of the surveyed librarians reported confidence in teaching business research.

Danya discusses that negative connotations of “business” and “corporate” seem to be factors limiting business info lit on many of these campuses. Not too surprising — “corporate” is not one of my favorite words either. But I wonder what the reactions of the liberal arts librarians would be to “entrepreneurship”, “self-employment”, or “social entrepreneurship”.

Danya next applies critical pedagogy literature. Since (in the U.S. at least) our students live in a capitalistic society in which large corporations wield much influence and power, the students need to understand that business information “can be understood as a discourse with its own guiding practices, worthy of sophisticated study and understanding.”

She next gets into the framework, devoting a few paragraphs to each frame. This topic forms the largest section of this interesting article. For each frame, Danya provides

“examples of business sources and learning scenarios that deepen students’ and librarians’ understanding of these threshold concepts, in ways authentic—rather than external—to the core missions and values of small liberal arts colleges.”

Frame 1 focuses on business news and trade journals, formats (particularly the latter) unfamiliar to most students, not just liberal arts students. Articles from those publications are usually more understandable to undergraduates, who typically don’t have the research methodology background or disciplinary knowledge to get very much out of peer-reviewed research articles.

Frame 2: Focuses on quantitative information. Statistical literacy! And also the creation process for advertising, which can mirror that of academic research.

Frame 3: The existence of expensive proprietary business research, much of which is not available on a liberal arts campus. This becomes a teachable moment (or conversation) with the students. (Using marketresearch.com, I often show student teams the cost of specific reports from IBIS and Mintel they have just used via the library’s subscription. The students usually have a strong reaction when learning that a report their team used to start making decisions costs over $4K to corporate buyers.)

Frame 4: Since liberal arts students have to do more creative research when the expensive reports are not available, they “must be prepared to turn to unexpected or unfamiliar sources, with curiosity and an open mind about where to look, what one might find, and where that might lead.” Danya’s students often have to get beyond core library tools like the catalog and article databases and instead do some primary research, make some phone calls, dig into the hidden web, etc. The students get much deeper research experience and learn some lifelong-learning research skills too.

Frame 5: Business researchers have conversations too but use their own language and communication practices.

Frame 6: Danya discusses using commodity chain research to explore “searching as strategic exploration.” Students learn that “there no clear, objectively correct path for their research. Instead, they must pursue a series of questions, explorations, redirections, decisions, and restarts.”

A useful article for both liberal arts librarians and business librarians.


Toward core competencies for entrepreneurship librarians
Carey Toane & Rachel Figueiredo
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 23:1 (2018)

Carey is the Entrepreneurship Librarian at the University of Toronto (with whom I presented at GCEC in Halifax last fall), and Rachel is the Engineering and Entrepreneurship Librarian at University of Waterloo (Waterloo is the Silicon Valley of eastern North America). They surveyed North American entrepreneurship librarians “to identify the job responsibilities and tasks, skills and experience they employ, and the impact of campus context on engagement with this community.”

The article begins with a detailed lit review on the rise of campus entrepreneurship and the evolution of definitions of librarian core competencies. The authors utilized BRASS and SLA documents to design their survey as well as the Ohio State University Libraries Framework for the Engaged Librarian.

88 librarians filled out the survey. While a narrow majority of those folks had been librarians for 8-25 years, 56.82% had served as entrepreneurship librarians for four years or fewer. So an emerging field. 63.64% reported entrepreneurship being a “central area or focus of their work” but only 24% were able to spend over 30% of their time on entrepreneurship.

The next section of this article summarizes the types of entrepreneurship classes, programs, and activities on the campuses. Level of library support is mixed. Some libraries have multiple librarians engaged, but others lack library support outside the solo entrepreneurship librarian. Research services and consultations were the most common service (especially market research), followed by teaching and then outreach. These services/activities drive the rankings of the competencies reported in this article, with collections and scholarly communications coming in last.

Detailed analysis of each of these five competencies follows, complete with heat maps  by level of importance and frequency, and illustrative quotes from the survey.

For subject expertise, market and industry research took the top two spots, followed by company research. Financial research was #7 of 12, which surprised me – thought that would be higher.

The top “enabling competency” (language from the SLA document) was “Initiative, adaptability, flexibility, creativity, innovation, and problem solving.” My two favorite survey quotes from this section:

“Researching new ideas—new markets and technologies—requires a high level of creativity and “out of the box thinking”—you’re not looking for straightforward, easy-to-find information.”

“People don’t come to me with easy questions. They answer those on their own. So by the time a question gets to me, creative thinking is required”

The essential need to develop relationships (I would call that proactive engagement leading to an embedded relationship) is also discussed.

While cross-campus entrepreneurship seems to be increasingly emphasized, most of the entrepreneurship librarians are also serving as general business librarians. But cross-campus services and physical spaces offered by campus libraries seem to be on the rise.

The authors refer to Kauffman’s limited support of cross-campus education (which they stopped doing a while ago), but not to the work of the Coleman Foundation, which at one point had a larger cross-campus Entrepreneurship Fellows program than Kauffman had. But Coleman is changing the nature of its entrepreneurship support too (blog post about that coming this fall, after the last Coleman Fellows summit in Chicago in October).

Apparently, the survey didn’t cover social entrepreneurship.

This is really good analysis of the state of entrepreneurship librarians and library support of entrepreneurship.


Entrepreneurship resources in U.S. public libraries: Website analysis
Ashley E. Faulkner
Reference Services Review, 46:1 (2018), 69-90

Ashley studied the websites of the largest 46 U.S. public libraries to learn how they support entrepreneurs. She first conducted a qualitative evaluation of the websites, limited to 15 minutes each. Then Ashley conducted a thorough analysis using the “Checklist for Entrepreneurship Resources in US Public Libraries” document (see her appendix).

She did not include web site content listed under the label “business” or “small business”, an interesting decision she write about. Most of the libraries did not use the word “entrepreneurship” in any way to label databases by subject — “business” was the core and common keyword. A few more sites had research guides using the E-word. Few business or entrepreneurship librarians are identified at all on the public library web sites (which is also true of most N.C. public libraries, which makes it harder to recruit BLINC members from public libraries!)

Similar results regarding the words used to describe relevant programming.

Most of the libraries mentioned partner with community partners like the SCORE, SBA, SBDC, etc.

Ashley recommends that more public library web sites provide a site search engine. (Librarians like to browse; patrons like to find?). Slightly less than half of the libraries have a business or entrepreneurship center or space. It was usually unclear if an entrepreneur could use library meeting spaces for free. There is more potential for collaboration with local support organizations. Finally, listing a public services librarian who can work with entrepreneurs would be a boon to the local entrepreneurship community.


Buying the haystack: New roles for academic business libraries
Meg Trauner
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 2:2 (2017)

Meg is the director of the Ford Library at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. She writes about how usage of traditional subscription datasets like WRDS modules and Capital IQ at her school have dropped dramatically. Meanwhile, requests for purchasing one-off datasets from untraditional sources are on the rise. These are

“stand-alone data sets that are not widely available to the library market and not available through WRDS. The seller often withholds university-wide use, and in many cases is not set up to offer it.”

The new library role is figuring out how to license, fund, and host or access these datasets, in cooperation with the data provider (who may never have sold data to a library before) and the faculty.

Meg provides reasons for the library remaining involved in this data market. Meg asks for other libraries dealing with this shift in data demand to share their stories with her for a follow-up article in Ticker.


A day in the life: Interviews with three PE/VC librarians
Doug Southard
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 22:3-4 (2017)

Doug interviews Laura Young and April Kessler (co-partners at Bizologie, a research consultancy) and Laura Berdish (Ross School of Business, University of Michigan). Interesting stuff, but my favorite section provides the responses to Doug’s question “What specialized skills or expertise are helpful in this area?”

LY: “I think you have to be willing to learn something new all the time…”

LB: “My first one would be flexibility. You have to be fast. You get all kinds of questions from different teams, you have to be quick, you have to be persistent…”

LY: “You mentioned having confidence in what you are doing. If you are not used to being in a business setting, it helps to have confidence in general. Business  librarianship can be intimidating to new librarians…”


If we built it, would they come? Creating instruction videos with promotion in mind
Leticia Camacho
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 23:1 (2018)

In this short article, Letica discusses creating a series of short videos to help make teaching 1,800 students per year in a required business writing class manageable. She explains the process of creating the videos, and summarizes her formal assessment of their effectiveness. Not highlighted in her article title – but equally interesting and significant I think – is her partnership with the faculty to help design, narrate, and promote the videos.


A business librarian’s review of the AACSB International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM)
Annette Buckley
Academic BRASS,  Vol 12 (2), Fall 2017

Annette is the Research Librarian for Business at UC Irvine. She attended this Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business conference instead of ALA due to a schedule conflict. Always good to read about librarians attending business faculty conferences and promoting the value of librarians (she provides an example of doing that). Throughout this short review, Annette compares this conference to ALA (not a fair comparison, but entertaining).

Annette details how this is a 1.5-day conference with a registration fee of $1,295. Whew, more than USASBE! She summarizes networking opportunities and programming slots.

Her “key take-aways” are direct and refreshing. She suggests strategies to learn from a conference like this without actually attending it (for example, you can review the published agenda and read the white papers).

10 & 11.

Two educational and interesting blogs:

 PolicyMap’s mapchats blog: Insights into GIS, data and mapping

If you work with numeric data and mapping, this blog is very useful, regardless of subscribing to PolicyMap or not. Each posts explains the nature of the data on that topic, discusses the issues with mapping that data, and may also discuss data visualization best practices. I learn a lot from it and am going to assign some of the posts to my entrepreneurship/economic development research students for in-class discussion.


Byline: “A blog about search, search skills, teaching search, learning how to search, learning how to use Google effectively, learning how to do research. It also covers a good deal of sensemaking and information foraging.”

Blogger Dan Russell is a “search research scientist at Google”. Sometimes he does work in libraries and proprietary content (databases) when appropriate. His research challenges are fun!

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