Archive for the ‘Liaison Roles & Organization’ Category

Hurricane Florence from NOAA

Hurricane Florence from NOAA

UNC Greensboro is now closed for Hurricane Florence. It’s getting a little breezy this morning but the storm is still far from this part of the state. We are of course concerned about the students and staff down at the coast. (UNC Wilmington has been closed all week.) Several business vendors have emailed me today asking how we are doing – very nice of them.

I’m covering chat reference this morning with a few colleagues and should be working on a couple of articles, but instead am trying to get this blog post up before walking over to the local retro arcade in the afternoon for some R&R. The post begins with tracking down the origin of an interesting phrase.

What is the “Lean Liaison Model”?

I first learned this phrase through the below article, which I briefly reviewed in July:

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

Nora Wood was writing about her business liaison work at the University of South Florida. (She is now at Emory.) Quoting myself quoting Nora in that previous blog post:

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.

“Lean liaison model” is an interesting way to describe a liaison role involving many thousands of students and the associated large number of faculty.

I searched Library Lit and Google Scholar for other uses of that phrase. Nora and Melanie Griffin used it in a Charleston Conference program, written up in an open access conference proceedings: “Liaison Librarians in the Know: Methods for Discovering Faculty Research and Teaching Needs”.

Melanie also used the phrase in a 2017 College & Undergraduate Libraries article, “Shifting expectations: Revisiting core concepts of academic librarianship in undergraduate classes with a digital humanities focus”.

I asked Nora if she came up with the phrase, but she said she didn’t think so. I then asked Melanie (Special Collections Librarian at USF). Melanie isn’t sure who came up with the phrase either. So let’s just credit both of them. Thank you, Melanie and Nora, for giving me a green light to focus on this phrase in a blog post.

My lean liaison situation

Melanie and Nora’s writing made me think about my own liaison situation. I began at UNCG in 2001, serving three of the four departments in the business school plus the Consumer Apparel and Retailing Studies department, which was in a different school back then.

In 2001, total number of students I was responsible for: about 1,700.

In Fall 2017 (most recent department-level enrollment data): 4,116.

That’s the total number of students in the six departments now comprising the business school, plus the Geography department. I’m not counting the cross-campus Entrepreneurship minors nor the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program, but those students contribute to my work load too.

In Fall 2017, UNCG had 19,922 students. So I’m responsible for a little over 20% of the campus.

In 2017, the business school had 112 faculty (full time plus part time). Geography had 14 (a lot compared to the small number of students it serves; GEO has a PhD program but so do three of the six business school departments).

We have 12 subject liaisons in the UNCG University Libraries. If we all had the same number of students, we would each serve 1,660 students. However, to be fair, some of our subject liaisons also have major functional roles (first year instruction, online education, e-resources, data, etc.) and others are also department heads.

Library faculty positions at UNCG have been increasing – our collections budget is smaller than that of many of our peers, but we have more staffing than most – yet the emphasis on new liaison positions here has been on functional roles. For example, we hope to hire three new functional liaisons this school year: GIS, Scholarly Communication, and Student Success. I’ve spoken and written a bit about subject v. functional liaison roles.

Meanwhile, we are hiring a replacement science librarian this fall, but have no plans (as far as I know) to create any new subject liaison positions in response to big campus growth.

Not alone?

Yes, this post might now sound whiny. I do really like my job and the opportunities it provides, plus the friends I have made in the library, business school, and across campus. I have chosen not to pursue other openings, including a recent one that would have resulted in a much shorter commute. But still, 4,000+ students? Come on.

There are a bunch of colleges and a few universities in North Carolina that have total enrollments less than the size of the UNCG business school. And the libraries at those schools have more than one subject liaison.

Many flagship campuses that don’t have a separate business school library also have business librarians responsible for many thousands of students and many faculty. Sometimes those librarians are also assigned other social science departments. Crazy, but some of those libraries don’t seem to have a liaison model that focuses on teaching and consultations, our focus as UNCG subject liaisons.

[Evening update: a business librarian friend of mine (also “Engagement Librarian for international students”) told me she is responsible for 9,223 business school students at her university. Wow.]

How to handle a lean liaison model

Well, there’s a lot that could be written about working within the lean liaison model. More than I’m probably willing to address today. (The Sopranos pinball game has a siren song. Although that siren cusses up a storm — definitely don’t let your kids play that game.) Here are some main points to get started.

1. Accept that you can’t do it all. You have way too many students and faculty. It’s impossible.

2. Your time is particularly limited if you do any embedded work. Proactive and high-impact engagement is very time consuming. So is relationship building with faculty, deans, and other key stakeholders.

3. So be selective in your liaison work. Where can you have the most impact? Identify both the easy low-hanging fruit and as well as the high-impact, high-visibility classes or programs or experiential learning initiatives you could engage.

4. As with online education, well-designed LibGuides and video tutorials can help a lot, especially for lower-level classes with basic research projects. Many libraries with understaffed liaison programs have focused on tutorials to reach their students.

5. Partnering with our functional liaison colleagues can help with specialized research needs related to functional expertise, but doesn’t really help that much with the bulk of subject liaison work, especially if you do a lot of teaching and research consulting concerning your subject specialty.

6. Yes, even though we might sound whiny, we need to make sure our department heads and deans know we have far too many students and faculty to provide the full suite of liaison services equally to all departments.

7. If our library leaders expect us to provide full services to all our departments, then the leaders need to fund enough subject liaison positions to provide that coverage. Funding subject liaisons is a strategic decision. Yes, libraries have to juggle and prioritize many goals. Leaders, make your decisions (hopefully with feedback from your staff) but then accept the consequences if subject liaisonship isn’t a priority.

8. Over-worked subject liaisons, if at all possible, try not to stress out. Prioritize, set boundaries, and collect and share your success stories. Engage in helpful venting with other subject liaisons when you can. If the situation becomes unworkable, and you have the freedom and flexibility in your life, consider working elsewhere. Above all, take care of yourself. Have a life outside of work. Play some pinball.



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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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Genifer Snipes is the Business & Economics Librarian at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, OR. She works with the Lundquist College of Business and Department of Economics, which encompass a number of data-oriented programs and classes. Prior to the University of Oregon, Genifer was the Business & Economics Librarian at West Virginia University.

She earned a B.A. in history from Centre College and also holds an M.L.I.S. for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and an M.S. of Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University.

Review of DSVIL 2018

This year, I participated in the Data Science and Visualization Institute for Librarians (DSVIL) at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. DSVIL is a five-day boot camp where librarians build data-related competencies. The Institute was held at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on June 4-8, ending at 1 pm on Friday afternoon.


NCSU Hunt Library

NCSU Hunt Library

The Hunt Library is a 15-minute drive from the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel where we stayed. The Institute provided shuttles between the hotel and Hunt. For attendees who missed the (early) morning shuttles to Hunt, Raleigh has both taxi and Uber/Lyft.

In addition to the typical options for getting between the city and Raleigh-Durham International Airport, NC State provided a shuttle on the final day to take attendees directly from the institute to RDU.


Suffice to say, many attendees made complimentary comments about “southern hospitality” during meals at this conference. Our daily breakfasts and lunches consisted of both vegetarian/vegan and omnivore options in addition to snacks, juice, and tea, which were available throughout the day.

There was a reception at the Sheraton’s Jimmy V’s Osteria the first night, but dinners were self-serve the rest of the week. Fortunately, the Sheraton is within walking distance of a number of excellent restaurants at all price points. FYI, if you’re interested in sampling North Carolina’s particular brand of BBQ, check out The Pit, for an excellent example of Eastern North Carolina BBQ.


Expensive. The institute costs $2,500, in addition to transportation, lodgings, and dinner most nights. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and transportation between NCSU and the hotel were included.


Tiny. Because DSVIL provides hands-on training to attendees, the number of participants is necessarily small. My resource notebook listed 30 participants plus instructors, IT support, and observers.

Application Process

For anyone who went through ACRL Immersion’s old competitive application process, the DSVIL process will look familiar. It is a competitive process where applicants respond to questions about their background and interest in data science and expected contribution to the DSVIL experience. The application also requires a letter of support (including financial) from the Library Director/Dean.

I found the application and review process to be painless with a fast turnaround. The application committee was also wonderful about updating me on my application’s status, such as when acceptance notifications were delayed when what sounds like the entire screening committee came down with the flu.


For most of the week, participants spent from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in a single room listening to instructors and working through data analysis and visualization activities. On Friday, participants chose from one of three electives to focus on relevant technical or program leadership skills.

The training covered a different theme every day through different workshops and speakers.

  1. Monday: Data exploration and statistical analysis
  2. Tuesday: Data visualization
  3. Wednesday: Gathering and cleaning raw data
  4. Thursday: Network analysis and data curation
  5. Friday: Building technical and managerial skills


I attended DSVIL hoping to develop a baseline understanding of how research librarians can support their institution’s data-driven teaching and research efforts. I came away satisfied. This was a fantastic training opportunity and I am so grateful that the University of Oregon Library offered to support my attendance.

As a business librarian without a data support role, I was in the minority of DSVIL attendees. The bulk of participants were either data analytics or STEM librarians with significant data roles. There were two other business librarians attending, but one was also her library’s data analytics librarian. This meant the bulk of attendees had at least intermediate knowledge of the topics covered while a smaller part of the group, including myself, were at firmly at the novice level.

The instructors, who were drawn from NCSU, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, and Harvard Catalyst, were fantastic at teaching often-complicated data science topics to a group that was unevenly comfortable with statistical information. The tools they taught weren’t complicated or expensive – in fact, most were free – which, from my perspective, was more useful than teaching us top-level analytics tools that many libraries wouldn’t be able to afford. I was also impressed by the level of planning and documentation the instructors developed to support their sessions. Not only did participants receive notebooks containing most workshop materials, we were also given extensive online documentation and practice datasets to take home for later use.

One topic I hoped to learn more about at DSVIL than I actually did was teaching data as a source. My business school is interested in building undergraduate data literacy competencies, so I want to see how other libraries and librarians incorporating concepts and skills like those taught at DSVIL into the classroom. It seems like our DSVIL instructors are probably as good at teaching data to students as they were with us, but the teaching aspect of data librarianship wasn’t addressed. This isn’t to say that I didn’t learn transferable skills – for instance, the social media scraping and data visualization sessions were both relevant to undergraduate instruction – just that a session on teaching data literacy would be a good addition to the final day’s electives.

In short, the Data Science and Visualization Institute for Librarians was a well-organized and effective way for librarians to improve their ability to understand and support data-related initiatives. Even though most attendees come from STEM fields, social science and humanities librarians shouldn’t be deterred. The skills and tools learned over this week would be relevant for you too.

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UNCG Bell Tower in summer

UNCG Bell Tower in summer

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

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

Conference review: MBAA International Annual Conference 2017
Cara Cadena
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 2:2 (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business and workplace information literacy: Three perspectives
Elizabeth Malafi, Grace Liu, and Stéphane Goldstein
Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57 (2), Winter 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made my students 49% smarter and I can prove it
Chad Boeninger
Libraryvoice.com (January 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From barrier to bridge: Partnering with teaching faculty to facilitate a multi-term information literacy research project
Elizabeth Pickard
Collaborative Librarianship, 9(3) 2017

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

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

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

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Welcome back, summer

summer view at UNCG

summer view at UNCG

Except for the final grading in the entrepreneurship research class, my spring semester ended with six hours of student presentations to evaluate across three classes (2pm to 9pm, plus a dinner break). Whew. Had to force myself to concentrate for the last team presentations (I don’t have the longest attention span).

It was an interesting semester and I’m tempted to write a bit about some spring developments, but I’m trying to resist for the sake of a shorter post today.

Yet I would like to briefly mention another positive experience talking about embedded business librarianship to a non-librarian audience. The upcoming prof to teach the UNCG MBA capstone consulting course (which Orolando Duffus has blogged about) invited the outgoing prof, two of the executive mentors, two of the recent students, and me to talk about our roles in that class to a regional branch of an association of management consultants. That conference was Monday. Mostly older men in the audience, but some younger women too (evidence of generational shifts in the business world?) Those consultants were very interested to learn about what academic business librarians are up to these days, the value we add to the class and student teams, and the “big data” tools now provided by libraries.

Today’s topic

Here is the 3rd and final post on our Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force.

Part 1 covered why we reorganized five years ago. Part 2 summarized feedback on our teams & liaison trends: what’s working well and what’s not.

We have finished and released our final report, and so I can now share our recommendations here. In late August 2017, we began work on this report that originally had a target deadline of January. Given the difficulty we had in getting teams together to talk (see the part 2 post), we had to ask for an extension.

Our Research, Outreach, and Instruction department head, Amy Harris, has scheduled a liaison retreat in July, so I’m hopeful that this summer we will start discussing and maybe taking action on some of these recommendations.

The short comments after the eight recommendations are mine, except where noted.


1.  Implement methods and increased opportunities for communication, information-sharing, brainstorming, and strategic planning among liaisons and liaison team members

a. Hold annual liaison strategic planning retreats.

We haven’t had one in a while. I blogged about our 2014 event (that’s when we brainstormed our new department name, among other accomplishments). We have found our retreats useful. Both subject and functional liaisons plus other team members have been invited. Making this an annual event would make this a routine best practice for us.

b. Create a central location to share documentation

Some teams have used Google Drive to store info, but we haven’t coordinated this well across teams.

2. Create structures and documentation to support team leaders

a. Create documentation to address team leader guidelines and best practices

We aren’t sure what team leaders are supposed to do. That means we can’t really hold them accountable. Or reward them (if possible) for their service. The guidelines will probably be different for subject team leaders (in which we take turns serving as leaders) and functional team leaders (in which our official functional leader librarians are permanent leaders, ex. our head of collections chairs the collections team).

b. Create opportunities for information-sharing and support among team leaders

We need regular meetings for team leaders with Amy and Kathy Crowe, our AD for Public Services. Agendas would include checking in on progress made to annual goals, making sure we are doing our peer-workshops, sharing challenges and opportunities faced by a team, etc.

3. Retire using liaisons at the Information Desk, including for weekend work and backups. Try new staffing models

We debated if we should include this recommendation, since reference service is not one of our official liaison roles. But info desk hours came up several times in our surveys of the liaisons. Most questions at the physical desk concern directions and guest-printing. Meanwhile, liaisons are asking for more time for writing and their growing liaison roles.

We recommend considering these models:

a. Reference desk triage model

Use undergraduate student worker to handle directional and guest-printing questions (the bulk of desk activity), with well-trained interns (including our MLS students) and our excellent staff colleagues handling the less frequent research questions. Refer to a liaison for more challenging subject-specific questions. We have never used undergraduate students at our information desk, but such students answer directional and basic reference questions at our check-out deck and our Digital Media Commons desk.

b. Combined service desk model

Examine the possibility of combining the Access Services and Information Desks on the first floor. We are doing “Master Space Planning” with the hope of new library expansion in the next decade, so maybe we should get used to this model before we have a new first floor layout.

4. Make recommendations on liaison workload expectations and roles.

Yup, workload. Every liaison’s main problem? Roles and responsibilities continue to increase, and our campus is increasing (see part 2). Some of us struggle with balance and prioritization.

We should benchmark with other libraries to compare workloads. We should also calculate how many faculty and students each liaison is responsible for, and discuss if there will ever be a reasonable limit on that number.

5. Evaluate optimal team sizes and formats

Some teams aren’t functioning well. (Again, see part 2.)

a. Team format

Subject teams and functional teams will probably need different formats. We need to discuss that. We didn’t when we formed our teams.

b. Team size

Some teams (*cough* Humanities Team) are probably too big. Maybe it should be split up. Also consider membership. Membership could be flexible, not permanent, based on goals and needs. But having a member of SCUA (Special Collections & University Archives) on most teams remains a successful outcome of our teams.

6. Establish expectations for regular, ongoing team workshops, and hold team leaders accountable for those expectations.

So more defining of team goals, and the roles of team leaders.

7. Update the liaison roles document to better match current campus needs and changes based on the task force’s recommendations

Our current documents are:

These docs should probably be reviewed every few years (at summer retreats?) as campus needs and library goals evolve.

8. Make recommendations on space needs of department in relation to desired service model

I think Karen Grigg, our task force co-chair, wrote this excellent paragraph: “While the issue of departmental and Libraries’ space is outside the charged purview of this committee, space is intrinsically connected to liaison work. And as the Libraries are involved in a significant space planning initiative, it seems not only appropriate but critical to consider space in relation to liaison work.”

Hear hear! For example, perhaps a multi-use consultation room. This would really help when a student team needs to meet with a liaison in his/her narrow office. Sometimes we sit at a big table in the reference room, but it’s hard for 5-6 heads to see the same laptop or iPad.


summer walk through the woods to the UNCG music school

summer walk through the woods to the UNCG music school

Karen, Amy, and another colleague (Maggie Murphy) recently attended the ARL Liaison Institute in Atlanta. They found it useful, but also reported that we are mostly on top of the liaison trends discussed. There apparently wasn’t any programming on how liaisons should be organized and led to accomplish their goals, so my colleagues didn’t change our draft recommendations when they returned from the institute.

I will probably blog about our July liaison retreat and may have updates on the next steps regarding these recommendations.

Between now and then, I will try to get caught up on professional reading concerning liaison and business librarianship trends. My “read me!” folder has 29 items right now (saved up since September), plus there are some interesting blog posts starred in my news reader.

I hope everyone has a good summer!


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

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

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

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

Today’s topic

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

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

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

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

What happened

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

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

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

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

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

My content and active learning


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

About you:

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

See above for a quick summary of this.

Part 1: Nature of business services

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

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

Patron base [my answers to that question]

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

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

Nature of business services

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

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

Nature of services [my answers]

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

Nature of services: within the library

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

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

Nature of services: embedded

  • Discussion: What does embedded librarianship mean to you?

Nature of services: embedded [my answers]

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

Export Odyssey homepage story

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

Nature of services: job titles

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

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

Nature of services: job titles [my answers]

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

The students did come up with some of these.

Part 2: Nature of business sources

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

A suite of topics

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


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

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

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

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

Nature of sources

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

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

More on sources

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

Part 3: Hands on time using NC LIVE business sources

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

The students already working in libraries knew about NC LIVE.


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

Scenario: Export Odyssey example:

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

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


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

The first scenario was a real entrepreneurship example:

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

But I had the students do scenario 2 instead:

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

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

Morningstar Investment Research Center

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


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

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

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In part one, I summarized what motivated us to pursue a liaison reorganization in 2012-14, and what the new team structure looked like. The Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force has spent much of this school year gathering feedback from liaisons and other liaison team members on the state of the teams. We have also asked about liaison trends. Here in part two, I will summarize that feedback and discussion. (In part three, in a month or two, I’ll write about our recommendations.)

We began in fall 2017 by re-asking survey questions written in early 2013, back when we began to explore liaison reorganization. In 2017, these liaison questions weren’t very relevant to the non-liaisons serving on our subject and functional teams. But we added new questions relevant to all:

  • From your perspective, what aspects of the team structure and associated activities are working well?
  • From your perspective, what aspects of your team structure and associated activities are not working well?
  • Do you have recommendations on what could be done better or differently in relation to the team structure?
  • What suggestions do you have for our current mix of subject and functional teams?

After collecting survey responses, members of the task force led discussions with all but one of the subject and functional teams (see below regarding the missing team), to discuss common themes from the surveys and solicit additional feedback. Next we shared the themes from those meetings with larger groups of liaisons and team members, asking them to respond with more details on the issues as well as possible solutions.

Our able task force leaders, Anna Craft and Karen Grigg, recorded much of the feedback. Task force members Kathy Crowe and I contributed notes too. Below is my summary of all the feedback covering what is working well, what is not working as well, and the main issues in more detail. The task force hasn’t written its final report yet, so any typos or lack of clarity below are on me.

What is working well

  • Organizing relevant, specific, and practical discussions on our work as liaisons;
  • Peer-mentoring and professional development; sharing our skills and experience in workshops or more informally around a table;
  • Having a welcoming and supportive small group for brainstorming and discussing new ideas;
  • Discussing subject-specific and upper-level research instruction;
  • Discussing support of graduate students;
  • Teammates helping each other, like co-teaching large classes or helping cover during illness or a conference;
  • Getting subject liaisons, functional leaders, and folks from other departments like Special Collections, Archives, Technical Services, and the Digital Media Commons together to share, discuss, and collaborate.

What is not working so well

  • Finding time — making time! – to meet and work together;
  • Lack of accountability for the work of the teams;
  • Lack of accountability for the team leaders — but also lack of support system and rewards structure for serving as a team leader;
  • General coordination of the teams and communicating across teams;
  • Need for clearly defined purpose of both subject teams and functional teams;
  • The goal of functional teams supporting a subject liaison with a challenging situation or new idea or opportunity doesn’t happen often – while all teams are often invited to a workshop sponsored by one team, we don’t have much inter-team collaboration.

Main issues

Here is more detailed coverage of major themes that have come up concerning liaison work as well as the nature of our subject and functional teams.

Liaison workloads always increasing

Quotes from UNCG liaisons:

“Collections work & reference desk have lessened [since 2013] but everything else increases.”

“There is always the issue of too much to do and too little time to accomplish everything. I think learning from each other is the best support we can give – if there is ever time to do that.”

“Maybe we could have careful discussions about how to prioritize when you have an overload or what to do when you can’t do something that needs doing.”

I feel like I need more time for all of [our liaison roles]. Not sure about what kind of support would help. Cloning?”

Yes, all librarians are busy, but the number of students, faculty, research centers, graduate programs, and online programs at UNCG keep going up, as do the number of liaison roles (see below). Yet the number of subject liaisons has been basically flat. (See the end of part 1).

There is also strong interest in having more dedicated writing time, or release time for writing and research. We are tenure-track and so are required to write and present. In the summer, most of us have more time to pursue that work. But in the fall and spring semester, it can be hard to focus in our offices, where interruptions from patrons and colleagues are to be expected, and where we are usually expected to be logged into chat reference to support that service channel.

Liaison work continues to be very much solo work. There has been a lack of contributions of staff and student workers to supporting liaison work. This was mentioned as an opportunity back in 2013. That this largely hasn’t happened is the fault of liaisons (and perhaps liaison teams and leadership), not the fault of staff and student workers.

The ongoing expansion of liaison roles is a factor in how busy we feel. Busyness is also a problem with getting some teams together. But one issue at a time…

Expanding roles

What’s new or growing since 2013?

  • Data curation/management;
  • Open education resources (promotion of);
  • Copyright and licensing questions and training for faculty (well, this is not new, but happening more often; related to the above, also to open access publishing);
  • More online classes and programs (so new tech tools to learn and use, and increased need for outreach). “Online take a lot of time to do well”, someone wrote for the task force’s survey;
  • Teaching of credit courses (ex. LIS 200: Information Use in a Digital World) with no work release time or compensation for;
  • Community outreach (ex. more high school programs connected to UNCG);
  • Embedded and outreach opportunities;
  • Importance of creating and using assessment tools.

As noted above in one of the quotes, our liaison reorganization has resulted in much reduced time and obligations for collections development work, especially book and e-book selection and also weeding.

Our reference desk obligations have been low for many years, but is still an issue with many liaisons. There is concern that reference staffing expectations are creeping up (creeping back, really).

Team sizes

Also related to busyness, some teams have rarely met due to how busy its members are. For example, Karen and Anna were never able to meet with the largest team (the Humanities Team) over a five-month period because there was no time when all the team members could meet. So that team is basically too big to meet during the fall and spring semester. Also, too big to function? (But the members of the Humanities Team had opportunities to give feedback in other meetings or with other teams.)

Smaller teams seem to do more workshops and collaborate more.

There will be some interesting recommendations regarding team size as we wrap up our task force report.

Functional teams helping subject liaisons with specific needs

The final org chart from last time suggests that the functional teams will be connected to the subject teams, helping subject liaisons with specific functional needs or goals. There are a few examples of such collaboration, but in general this hasn’t happened much. There is still a lot of old liaison behavior: liaisons working by themselves, not partnering with others as often as they could.

Functional teams v. working groups?

All the functional teams (Collections, Scholarly Communications, Reference Desk, and Instruction) have a functional leader. Those leaders have their functions in their job titles (ex. Head of Collections; Information Literacy Coordinator). So they are team leaders for life, basically, and that makes good sense. But some of the teams, like Collections and Reference, behave more like working groups. They take care of routine tasks, such as making sure reference services are running smoothly, or weeding the book collection. Only the Instruction Team provides regular programming for liaisons.

In contrast, subject teams have rotating leaders and instead focus on discussions and workshops.

Do we really need the functional teams anymore? We created them in part because we proposed ended the large Collections Management Committee and needed to deemphasize reference services as a liaison function. Creating a Collections Team and Reference Desk Team helped insure that those functions would continue, and, frankly, hopefully helped reassure a small number of liaison/reference librarians who were very focused on selection and reference. (The Instruction Team predates our liaison reorganization.)

On the other hand, the functional teams help us connect across departmental lines. That’s important.

Communication issues

Communication within teams has been good, but communicating across teams has been a challenge. This connects to the time issues (see above) and to leadership issues (see below).

Team leadership

We need to do a lot of work with team leadership. Their roles, expected workloads, and the credit or rewards they should earn for serving need to be defined and written up. The rotation of leaders needs to be clarified too.

We haven’t had a summer all-teams retreat in years.

More generally, the goals of both subject teams and functional teams are unclear. The lack of clarity is increasing as the time since our reorganization increases. The initial enthusiasm and investment in our teams – responses both emotional and intellectual to the structural issues we mostly fixed back in 2013 – have faded over time. The teams have become the new normal, and we hired many librarians since we reorganized. Team leadership and the teams in general need redefining and recharging.

There’s also concern about the workload of expecting the head of the Research, Outreach, and Instruction Department (ROI) to also serve as our liaison team leader, making sure that all the teams are functioning well and communicating with each other. Since the teams cross departmental lines, the liaison leader role covers more ground than ROI. Is that fair to ask and doable? But we do really need that liaison leader role.

That’s it for feedback. By exam week, I’ll post part 3 – recommendations to solve all these problems forever! Haha.

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