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Archive for the ‘Liaison Roles & Organization’ Category

Wrapping up the semester

Exams at UNC Greensboro end today (Thursday) but my semester wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with the final presentations in MKT 426: International Marketing, the Export Odyssey class. The event took three hours and included three visitors: our SBTDC partner Owen George and two of the company representatives. I hosted the reps while Professor Bahadir was busy up-front grading and managing the team transitions. Half of the students were graduating, and for many this presentation was the final work of their UNCG career.

Unlike last semester, there were no presentation flops this time – all the teams did at least a good job presenting their research and recommending a detailed export market strategy based on that analysis. A couple of teams struggled to articulate their recommendation for the nature of the channel of distribution (i.e. “place” in the 4 P’s such as “indirect sales to a wholesaler” or “direct sales to major hotel chains”) based on their industry and customer identification research. But we asked them to discuss it more and eventually they got it right. This was an example of trying to make decisions based on research, perhaps the main goal of business research instruction. (This comes up later in this post.)

One student team’s company was AEG International, which exports the Firefly product: a solar-powered battery to run lights and power mobile phones. Firefly was developed in West Africa to support rural communities with no electricity. (Note the pictures on that page.) The students proposed having an NGO that serves rural areas in Senegal to distribute the product to its potential users. Professor Bahadir and I hope to have teams work with AEG on their additional products in the future, maybe their water purification product.

While walking back to the library after the final presentation, I bumped into a student who recognized me. His name is Vincent, finance major about to graduate. He reported he had three exams to go and looked tired already but stopped to thank me for the research workshop I led in his FIN 442: Investments class last fall. He said his team didn’t know what they were doing with their research project on Tesla until my workshop, and they ended up with a decent grade on that project because of me. I don’t do that much for the finance program, so this comment warmed my heart. Vincent has a summer job in Research Triangle Park (where BLINC met last time) and hopes to land a full time job in RTP after that. I wished him well.

On return to the library, our LIS intern Ashlea was working the Information Desk. She told me this was her last desk shift as she too was graduating. We exchanged a hug and I asked her to stay in touch as she begins her professional career as a librarian. And on these happy notes my school year ended.

Today’s topic

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

A few academic librarians in BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) have a tradition of gathering at the end of the spring semester for a 3-hour discussion of trends too narrow in scope for a general quarterly BLINC workshop. Mary Abernathy, our BLINC member from Salem College, hosted this event on Wednesday. Salem is the oldest, continually operated educational institution for women in the United States. The Moravians who settled Salem (nucleus for what became Winston-Salem) founded this institution before the American Revolution as a girls’ school. There is also a high school for women next to the college. (Old Salem is a neighbor; my pictures here are actually Old Salem pictures although the college is very pretty too.)

This year six friends were able to meet. Four of them were new members of BLINC and early-career business librarians, bringing energy and fresh ideas to our discussions. Before drafting our agenda, we asked Angel Truesdale from UNC Charlotte for an update on how she and her colleagues were doing after the shooting there last week. She reported that emotions remained high but that they were moving forward. Angel was not on campus the day of the shooting but was helping staff the library the next day.

We agreed to this discussion agenda:

  1. Measuring faculty research impact
  2. Programming for business students in the library
  3.  Instruction:
    • Classroom engagement and workshop design
    • Use of instructional tech
    • Assessment of business research instruction
  4. Summer projects: what do you focus on?

Any confusion in this summary of our discussions is my fault.

Measuring faculty research impact

Betty Garrison of Elon University introduced this topic. She and her colleagues are doing a lot of work in this area. Betty helped create a library guide on “Measuring Your Research Impact.”

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

We discussed marketing strategies for reaching professors on this topic. Summer Krstevska of Wake Forest University suggested than an informal and personal strategy can be more effective than mass emails. Focus on building relationships, meeting in person outside of the library, etc.

We discussed our faculty status (or not) on campus and how that status can help or hinder us. The status of librarians at UNC Charlotte is complex, Angel reported, but at least her dean is a member of the faculty council and is able to advocate for librarian expertise and services.

Angel also affirmed Summer’s focus on the personal touch. Angel uses a mail merge to email her faculty, so that the faculty member’s name is included in her opening line. She does get more responses that way, it seems. She also advocates for making friends with business school staff persons. Those folks are often key gatekeepers and holders of key information.

Several of us email the new faculty hires and new PhD students each August with personalized greeting and offers of teaching and research support. And attending scheduled research presentations in the b-school helps to get noticed (and to better understand the research the faculty are doing).

Angel created a visual graphic describing her services to faculty, as opposed to just using text.

Google Scholar now provides alerts for new publications with specific keywords, such as the name of your campus or the business school.

Business schools tend to highly rank journals from the big for-profit publishers like Elsevier. This could become an issue as more libraries and faculty senates reconsider supporting big subscription packages from those publishers. Stay tuned…

Programming for business students in the library

We discussed hosting special events in the library targeting business students. Ideas mentioned in our discussion:

  • Partner with the b-school on a co-branded program. (I mentioned the library-funded social entrepreneurship business model competition I need to work on this summer.)
  • Work with career services (also to provide research instruction to non-business students as they prepare for interviews).
  • Betty reminded us that the First Research industry reports (which NC LIVE provides via ProQuest) include sections on “conversation starters” and “call prep questions” – great for interviews, not just sales.
  • Partner with student clubs like CEO.
  • Nancy Lovas from UNC Chapel Hill discussed the Live Action CLUE game that her library system puts on each semester. (She played Professor Plum last time!)
  • Young business alumni can be interesting to current students (some alums could perhaps talk about the value of working with the business librarian and using databases too).
  • Consider livestreaming events for online students and satellite campuses.

Instruction

Given that four of us are newish business librarians, we talked a lot about making inroads intro classes for instruction time. Angel discussed her work with an accounting/ pre-business major class in which she provided drop-in lab support and research consultations. We talked about time efficiencies a bit here.

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene (flag represents the construction date of the building)

Nancy discussed the mere five minutes of class time she was allowed in a 400-student introduction to entrepreneurship class. There was some sentiment that short visits to large classes sometimes is a good strategy to get started creating productive engagements with students.

We talked about the sometimes tricky need to help professors create better assignments and research projects. This led to a really good discussion about the nature of teaching business research skills and information literacy. Summer lamented when students fail to apply research to making a decision. Or as students have put it:

  • “What do I do with this industry report or market data?”
  • “How do I apply this to my project?”
  • Or “What do I do next?”

We mentioned Ilana Stonebraker’s work at this point. Sometimes it helps to give students specific prompts:

  • Based on this demographic (and/or psychographic) research, who is your best customer?
  • Based on this industry analysis, how would you describe the long-term health of this industry?
  • Based on this financial benchmarking, what is a likely profit margin for your start-up?

Nancy discussed how she asks students to brainstorm their own research questions: “What do you need to know about this market or industry or company or business idea?” If looking at articles, “what are you looking for in the article?” Have them share their questions in a Google Document.

Don’t ask “Does anyone have a question” but rather “What questions do you have?”

Angel recommending looking at some of the products in Project Cora, which covers business research topics and specific business databases.

(In our spirited discussion of business research instruction, there was no mention of the frameworks, even though all of us are familiar with them.)

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

We discussed how we prepare for a workshop. While many of us usually have teams focus on their assigned or chosen topic (an industry, market, product, public company, local small business or nonprofit, etc.), Summer sometimes has all the students work on a product that is harder to classify than their officially assigned product for the class. She discussed how her example provides a deeper learning experience than researching the simpler, official product.

One of us likes to use mind-mapping tools, in which students develop a list of subtopics and/or research options for their assigned topic. Students still like Kahoot. Padlet can be a visually attractive alternative to a shared Google Document. Are tech tools like these effective or merely flashy? Well, students do respond well to the visual elements that these tools provide.

Nancy described an assessment research project she is working on. It will involve student use of a LibGuide with a test and control class. She is working on the IRB submission.

That was it for assessment, sorry. We were starting to get hungry but wanted to discuss one more topic before lunch.

What do you do in the summer?

For some of us, this will be the first summer as an academic librarian. What do you prioritize? How do you handle the sometimes very different workflow compared to the fall and spring when we are busy with instruction and consultations? (Of course this isn’t the situation with everyone. I just got off the phone with my fellow BLINC officer Sara Thynne of Alamance Community College, and Sara is no less busy in the summer.)

Some answers:

  • Betty’s library has weekly workshops for librarians and library staff. Departments take turns coming up with the topics.
  • Library faculty retreats and unconferences.
  • Updating web sites, LibGuides, videos, etc. Betty’s library devotes two full days for everyone to work on standardizing, updating, and improving LibGuides.
  • Mapping out a personal research agenda and writing articles.
  • Working through a “summer to-do” list used each summer. It covers updating LibGuides and videos, cleaning out email folders, desktop files, heavy-use folders, and paperwork in the office; updating social media professional profiles; adding possible conferences as well as fall semester embedded classes to the calendar, etc.
  • Updates to make, cleaning out my email folders, cleaning up my desktop and networked folders, etc.
  • Catching up on professional readings (articles and blog posts) saved up since the fall semester began.
  • Submitting proposals to fall and spring conferences (we briefly discussed our different travel funding policies).
  • Getting name and contact info for new incoming professors, PhD students, etc.

Then we walked up to Willow’s Bistro for lunch with a bit more work-related discussion but mostly socializing before bidding adieu.

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Nancy Lovas is the entrepreneurship librarian at UNC Chapel Hill, where she does all things business research. Instruction features heavily in her professional interests, as well as learning the ins-and-outs of business information and databases. Nancy’s best days include a walk outside, a strong cup of tea, and anything related to teaching. She holds a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Summer Krstevska is the business, economics & data access librarian at Wake Forest University, where she supports biz u-grads as well as entrepreneurship minors, and the economics programs. She is currently exploring her curiosities surrounding data visualization and developing her first for-credit business research course for entrepreneurs. She holds a M.L.I.S in Library and Information Science from Simmons University.

Athens GA street scene

Athens GA street scene. From Alan Sandercock, http://tinyurl.com/y2d4hqc7

Spring had come to Athens, Georgia when around 30 intrepid business librarians convened for the first-ever Southern Academic Business Librarians Conference (SOUCABL, pronounced “sociable”) on the last weekend in March. We braved pollen, a hilly UGA campus, and some friendly March Madness rivalry for a day of great conversations, connections, and development of business reference skills.

SOUCABL is the brainchild of Sheila Devaney at the University of Georgia, Rahn Huber of Vanderbilt, and Trip Wyckoff at Florida State. Intended to be “an affordable opportunity for librarians to discuss business librarianship and to network with other librarians in the region,” it is the opinion of this author (Nancy) that the conference accomplished its purpose.

Pre-Conference

We both attended the great pre-conference workshop on Friday afternoon with Celia Ross, author of the book Making Sense of Business Reference (new edition coming out this year!). It was a condensed version of her popular RUSA course. I (Nancy) enjoyed how Celia asked us to rate ourselves: “how ‘spicy’ can you handle bizref? (Mild, Medium, Hot, or On Fire)” Given the naturally humble natures of librarians, most of us labeled ourselves a variation on medium. However, after several hours together working through some tough ‘bizref stumpers’, I suspect we underrated ourselves. Also of interest was the opportunity to play around in a lot of databases.

The Conference

After the pre-conference, the conference officially opened with a reception sponsored by RKMA Publishers. Downtown Athens is hopping on a Friday night, and the librarians were no exception. Afterwards, a few of us found a place to watch the UNC vs. Auburn game.

It was a jam-packed Saturday.

The conference had a great start with the keynote presentation by Susan Klopper, the Executive Director of Goizueta Business Library at Emory University. She went over the qualities and competencies she looks for when hiring business librarians. Though we both have somewhat recently just made it out of the hunger games of the librarian job search, this keynote’s content was still useful.

Klopper cut straight to the point about what makes business librarians unique and how one can continue to grow these competencies, whether new in your position or more seasoned (sticking with Celia’s spicy metaphor here). Her suggestion to consider yourself as a business was key to her main point of ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ of a true business librarian. In this sense, Klopper stated that a business librarian should:

  • consider their competitors and customers,
  • differentiate their services,
  • negotiate their time strategically,
  • and build clients for life.

Klopper highlighted the importance of knowing your value proposition, as well as figuring out what you love and then putting yourself out there. Kopper challenged us: “what kind of librarian do you want to be?” Her talk emphasized that we all can develop, define, and refine who we are today and grow into who we want to be tomorrow.

With Klopper’s motivation, it was easy for the group to transition into a competency brainstorming session after the keynote. During this session, we partnered up and discussed what competencies we were already strong with and of those competencies, which one would we want to develop. We then considered how we would develop that competency.

This realistic approach to improving our strengths was practical and felt achievable. I (Summer) felt like I could go back to my office immediately and get to work! The encouragement from Trip Wyckoff to actually pursue our development plan by keeping our partner accountable with the end goal of presenting together next year at SOUCABL was priceless. His suggestion helped collaborators move past just temporarily collaboration and instead paved the way to building lasting partnerships with each other.

After a delicious lunch from Statista, it was time for poster sessions. The poster sessions touched on topics of flipping the entrepreneurial classroom, building partnerships with career services, what students think of discipline specific information literacy, and OER usage of accounting faculty. All of these posters were relevant, intriguing and (in my/Summer’s opinion) would make amazing full presentation sessions in their own right. I hope to hear more from the presenters next year.

When it came time for the full presentations, the presentations covered topics such as the challenges of engaging business students early on in First-Year Seminar & First-Year Experience courses, entrepreneurship-related events hosted by the library, and the growing popularity of fintech and its impact on biz ref, just to name a few. I (Nancy) liked the structure of presentation time. Presenters were allotted twenty minutes, which allowed for more depth than a lightning talk yet was a good length for our dwindling attention spans.

We took a few minutes at the end of the day to share our “roses, thorns, and crowns” (what we liked, didn’t like, what should stay the same). Everyone agreed the conference should happen again!

The day ended with lively chat and laughter on a sunny rooftop bar in downtown Athens courtesy of PrivCo.

Conclusion

Summer

Overall the conference was a great experience for me. The content really hit the spot and networking-wise it could not have been a better, more enjoyable group of people to get on with. Aside from BLINC workshops, I’ve never attended a full conference where every session felt so directly related to my work. I left SOUCABL feeling inspired and satisfied. This conference was more than worth its price tag and was only a short distance from North Carolina. I look forward to going back and hopefully presenting with librarians I made connections with this past year.

Nancy

I am so glad I went to SOUCABL. I echo Summer’s comment about meeting great people and benefiting from the excellent content. I also appreciated how many vendors were in attendance. As an early-career business librarian, the whole collections-thing can be rather daunting. Susan Klopper specifically mentioned the vendor community in her keynote and working with vendors is often brought up at BLINC workshops. This conference was a low-key opportunity to meet vendors for many of the databases and products I currently manage and start building relationships with those vendors.

Thank you, Sheila, Rahn, and Trip, for your hard work in organizing, and to the vendors who generously sponsored the conference.

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Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

Food truck lunch time at the BLINC workshop

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

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

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

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

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

Agenda:

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

Introducing the topic

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

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

Dan Maynard

Dan Maynard on lessons learned as a Sullivan Fellow

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned:

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

Measuring outcomes: assessment or story telling?

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

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

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

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

From the Q&A with Dan on academic implications:

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

We moved the IRS 990 discussion for after lunch.

Food truck lunch

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

Nonprofit financial research and benchmarking

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

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

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

Librarian support of the UNC-Chapel Hill Makerthon

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

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

Nancy Lovas on the Makerthon

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

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

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

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

Small Business and Technology Development Center & social entrepreneurship

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

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

Deanna Day on SBTDC consulting

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

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

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

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

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

Social data

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

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

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

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

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Happy spring break! Well it’s that magic week at UNCG at least.

Catching up

Sorry I haven’t written here since before the spring semester began. We liaisons are busy people, right? I’ve had more night classes than usual this semester, for both one shot instruction (often graduate classes) plus two of my core embedded classes (for which I had to reduce my roles). I’ve also had some morning classes on the same day as the night classes, so a number of 12-hour days this semester. Tiring.

But perhaps also because of this trend:

UNCG business school enrollment trend

UNCG business school enrollment trend

The UNCG School of Human & Health Sciences has also grown a lot, while the Nursing, Arts & Sciences, and Education schools have been declining in enrollment. Interesting trends that will maybe someday have liaison staffing implications here if our subject assignments become partly informed by data? But I have to bear in mind business librarian friends like Ash Faulkner from Ohio State and Min Tong from U. of Central Florida who have over twice as many students in their liaison roles as me. Props to those hard-working professionals working their lean liaison programs.

Over 125 folks have filled out the survey my friend Betty Garrison from Elon University and I created on experiences with business librarian organizations. The results including the comments are very interesting and we look forward to writing them up. With Betty’s permission, I might share a few findings and comments from survey here this summer while writing about ACRL 2019 and BLINC programming. BLINC’s spring workshop in mid-March focuses on social entrepreneurship — outreach, services, instruction, and resources.

I also hope to write more about our explorations of librarian (and liaison) workload and evaluation guidelines. That task force has identified some interesting guideline examples from other libraries. Eventually our revised guidelines (if approved by our librarians) will help us better define and manage workloads plus expectations for scholarship and professional service. But on to…

Today’s topic

In outreach and teaching opportunities, I’ve been thinking about this more.

We are teachers, research consultants, and economic development partners who frequently make first contact with students, professors, deans, entrepreneurs, and/or eco dev leaders. So we need to establish strong, favorable first impressions through delivering a concise, effective sales pitch — we are selling ourselves as liaisons.

In the 2018 edition of USASBE’s Annals of Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy (sorry, no open access), the lead-off article is “What I’ve Learned about Teaching Entrepreneurship: Perspectives of Five Master Educators”. One of those five “master educators,” Luke Pittaway (Ohio University), wrote of his very mindful work in his classroom before the students show up for the first class session. Some of this mindfulness applies to introducing ourselves as liaisons.

Professor Pittaway enters the classroom quite early, turns up the heat (wow I’ve never been in a classroom in which you can control the heat! What a luxury), writes his contact info and class learning objectives on the board, powers up the projector while opening Pandora for some Latin Jazz, and reviews his printouts of the student names and pictures. Finally the students begin to trickle in.

Professor Pittaway shakes each student’s hand as they enter the room and chats with many of them about their backgrounds. He asks them to set out their name tags out on the desks (table tents — a stable of MBA education). Finally he begins class not by going through the syllabus but by asking the students about entrepreneurship and getting them to talk and share.

Of course, professors and librarians don’t always have that much time before a class begins. Yet this is a good example of trying hard to make a good first impression.

[This article is also interesting for illustrating the biggest debate in ENT education — should educators focus purely on teaching students to become entrepreneurs, or should they also help students launch ventures while still a student? Strong views on this issue with ethical and educational arguments. There’s also the too-rarely discussed issue of privilege; students who are largely paying their own way through college (as do many UNCG business students) can’t spend 20-30 hours a week outside of class working on a venture.]

Building your liaison pitch

There is much in that story we could apply to research instruction, but let’s try to apply those ideas to our first contact situations as subject and functional liaisons. We need to communicate that:

  1. We care (we want the students, professors, entrepreneurs, the center etc. to succeed)
  2. We are engaged (often illustrated in part just by showing up. Assuming we aren’t stuck at the reference desk for many hours a week, which some business librarian friends report is still the case)
  3. We provide needed expertise and resources (your functional and/or subject knowledge, and perhaps also your library’s databases and physical spaces)

Point #3 becomes our value proposition as liaisons. Instead of pitching our business model in the elevator, we need to pitch the value we bring to the table as a library liaison. Or, if you prefer, we need to have a prepared yet authentic-sounding answer to this question our patrons might be thinking: “How can you help me with my research needs, or with my class, department, or center?”

Preparing our pitch to answer that question helps us use patron-centered language, as opposed to the language used in our library goals, the ACRL framework, etc. Those documents are written for a different purpose.

Our liaison pitches can be used in:

  • A class (whether in a one shot or the first day with an embedded class)
  • A welcome video
  • Meeting a new prof, department head, student, etc.
  • Random encounters in the business school hallways, a special event you are attending (crashing or invited), or indeed in an elevator

Our pitches need to vary by target audience. In my case, the Geography grad students have very different needs compared to the evening/executive MBA students. Or the PhD students in our Consumer Apparel and Retailing Studies program, the new head of Economics, or the head of our campus entrepreneurship center. Or the Action Greensboro officers working to keep more young professionals in the city.

Some examples

For a research workshop:

“I am your business librarian, which means I am your personal business research consultant. I will help you save time, reduce stress, and probably help you get a better grade on this project.”

I use this one a lot. Yes, it’s not intellectual. But this message resonates with students. They hear I am on their side. Usually when I say this, I get both eye contact and some head nods from the students. The professor (even if sitting in the back of the room focused on grading) sometimes pipes up with a verbal “Yes!” as confirmation.

In my for-credit research class, I have told the students I want them to become “more effective and efficient researchers” and “more comfortable searching for numeric data from datasets.” But those students have already signed up for a 3-credit class on ENT and eco dev research, so they are already pretty crazy umm I mean committed.

Sometimes I talk about how employees increasingly want to hire recent graduates with skills in “big data” and “data analytics.” The professors also add a “yes” to this. Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch to use such language regarding skills using ReferenceUSA, SimplyAnalytics, or American FactFinder. But I do anyway.

An addition for a team-based experiential learning class:

“I have a list of your teams and their topics and have already done some pre-research on your industries and markets in order to learn where your research challenges will be. So if I don’t get to your topic today in our workshop, get in touch with me next week for some customized research support.”

I try to avoid telling students to see me when they need “help.” Some students perceive “needing help” as a sign of failure on their part. Instead, say something like “need some research suggestions” or “want to explore this research option [ex. mapping data] with me.”

Plugging library subscription databases:

“Through this research guide I made for your class, you can access expensive research tools that are free to you as students. They give you information and data you can’t find via Google. These are some of the same research tools that major corporations buy for their own needs.”

[Then show a pre-looked up example of industry growth projections, or mapped consumer spending data — some research need straight out of their project description, a need I remind them of.]

Sometimes after they have used some of the databases, I ask the students to guess the commercial cost of an individual IBIS or Mintel report. Usually the students underestimate the prices at first. I respond “higher, guess again!” until they get close. Then I show the actual cost using marketresearch.com (pulled up before class began). “Information has value!” sez the framework.

For PhD students:

Emphasize your skills in identifying possible datasets they could use, teaching citation management software, and conducting citation analysis to identify seminal works and the core authors.

To students in general (via a script for a short welcome video when I became the Geography liaison recently):

“[camera mode] Hello! My name is Steve Cramer and I am the Geography librarian. My focus as a librarian is on teaching research strategies and sources and providing research consultations. Each year I provide dozens of hands-on research workshops for my academic departments and provide hundreds of consultations. Each spring semester, I also teach GEO 530, (which by the way has no prerequisites.) [switch to screencast showing the GEO subject guide] I try to make myself as approachable as possible and answer questions as quickly as I can. My contact information on the right side of this guide [zoom in] …so please let me know what I can do to help you save time and improve your research. [back to video] Thank you and have a good semester!”

Hmm that pitch could have been more student-centered, which something like “When you need data or articles for your research projects, please let me know and I’ll…”

To new, untenured professors:

Here is an email template I use each summer. I haven’t looked at this since last summer. It would be more interesting if I worked in something specific about the prof, like their teaching or research focus.

“Subject: Welcome from the UNCG Business Librarian
Hello, Professor X. [Your dept head] told me you were joining the faculty this fall. As the librarian for [Dept X], I would like to welcome you to campus. If there is anything I can do to help with your research and library needs, or if you would like an orientation to the library’s digital and print resources and services, please let me know anytime. I also provide research instruction, consultations, web guides, and screencast tutorials to a number of classes each semester and would be happy to help your students, too. The library XX portal is http://uncg.libguides.com/xxx. I look forward to meeting you, and hope you have a good fall semester.”

The in-person pitch to a new prof can be more challenging since it’s more conversational. You have to remember your core points and try to work them in without sounding like you are giving a speech. Lots of new professors have never talked to or worked with an academic librarian before. Some profs come from countries in which librarians have limited roles. So try to work in that:

  • You serve as a teacher and research consultant, as well as a librarian who oversees collections (mostly electronic) in the new prof’s subject area
  • You have worked with other professors (perhaps including the department head) in that department on research and teaching
  • You might be going through (or have gone through) the tenure process yourself
  • You can provide guidance on navigating the library’s ejournals, citation management software, and other research needs
  • While budgets may be tight, you can certainly pursue acquiring datasets and other resources the new prof might need for their own research agenda.

Wrapping up

Some of these liaison pitches could certainly be improved. I hope you found the examples interesting and are thinking about your own pitches. A vendor recently told me that I would be good in sales (she may have been buttering me up). I replied that sales is part of being a liaison — we just call it outreach.

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Catching up

Yesterday BLINC met at UNC Charlotte for our winter workshop. The morning focus was “selling ourselves as information professionals,” in collaboration with Carolinas SLA. We had five special librarians present along with 15 public and academic librarians. Having those special librarians aboard enriched our discussion. More on this workshop next week.

Exams at UNCG end today. There are still students studying in the library this morning, but I bet it will be pretty empty but the time I go home this afternoon. Looks like we get some snow this weekend, so hello, winter!

Charleston Conference 2018

Charleston featured a record number of programs provided by business librarians and vendors. Alas, many of those programs overlapped. We knew that would eventually start to happen as we continue to grow our presence there.

I already wrote a suggestion to vendors who haven’t been embracing the unique opportunity they have at this conference. Below are a few notes on interesting programs.

Stacy Gilbert and Alyson Vaaler

Stacy Gilbert and Alyson Vaaler

Alyson Vaaler (Texas A&M) and Stacy Gilbert (U. of Colorado at Boulder) gave an interesting talk on “Bringing the Workplace into Collection Development: Analyzing Advertising Position Descriptions to Inform Database Collections”. Based on their research of the job postings, they discussed using workplace research needs to plan and provide collections and instruction. Alyson and Stacy compared industry databases (primarily sold to corporate users) to library databases (courtesy of campus-friendly licensing terms). Could this methodology be applied to other fields, like accounting? I asked if they would consider doing this time-intensive study for that field, and they laughed at me. Humph.

No, actually they were very nice.

Cynthia Cronin-Kardon (U. of Pennsylvania) organized a well-attended panel on “Who’s Counting? Measuring Usage of Untraditional Databases Subscriptions”. The pictures on my two most recent posts are from this panel and identify the other speakers. Lots of good points about the challenge of trying to apply COUNTER usage methods designed for articles and ebook databases toward databases for data, mapping, and company records. COUNTER Project Director Lorraine Estelle was present and told everyone that COUNTER version 5 will work with such databases much better. This program had a lot of questions and could have gone on longer. Maybe Cynthia will lead a sequel and update next year?

Orolando Duffus and Rosalind Tedford

Orolando Duffus and Rosalind Tedford

Orolando Duffus (U. of Houston), Rosalind Tedford (Wake Forest U.), and I led a lively lunch discussion on liaison trends: “Thriving (or Just Surviving) as a Liaison Librarian: a Lively Discussion of our Evolving Roles, Opportunities, and Challenges.” Roz summarized the trends and needs identified by the 40 attendees, who then discussed some of those items in small groups with share-backs to everyone. We could have used more time too.

Here is Roz’s summary of the liaison trends and needs identified. I bolded the ones mentioned the most:

  • Not being able to get users the resources they need: 2 mentions of
  • Keeping up with the literature and resources available: 1
  • Prioritizing how to spend time: 3
  • Time spent in learning to be a liaison takes away from being a liaison: 1
  • Supporting new areas (or not your area of expertise) when they are assigned to you: 7
  • Extra duties assigned (checking the formatting on theses, etc.): 2
  • Making one-shots as effective as possible: 2
  • How to reach all the faculty and researchers at your institution: 1
  • Convincing faculty that we can bring value to their courses; Faculty buy-in when we know students want and need help; engaging faculty: 3
  • Scope creep when liaison role is a small part of your job: 2
  • Help the librarians that report to you – new skills require time to learn; they need more functional expertise; what is the best structure: 5
  • How to integrate the materials into the classroom – what could vendors provide?:  2
  • Getting started as a liaison – esp. When there isn’t a structure: 2
  • Learning the products we have: 1
  • Organizing liaison work within the structure of the liaison program and/or library: 4
  • Keeping departments informed: 1
  • Digital scholarship duties and interests: 1
  • Productive relationships between functional liaisons and subject liaisons: 1
  • Empowering liaisons in purchasing decisions: 1
One of the small groups at our lively lunch discussion

One of the small groups at our Thursday lively lunch discussion (Cynthia is there too)

That lively lunch discussion was on Thursday. On Wednesday, I missed a lively lunch on entrepreneurship librarianship organized by Alyson and other friends in order to attend the first lively lunch on liaison trends. I wanted to hear if any interesting ideas or new hot topics would be mentioned there for us to consider in preparation for our discussion the next day. Oddly, however, that Wednesday lively lunch discussion (70-minute sessions in which “use of slides is strongly discouraged”, according to the conference submission form) featured lots of slides and absolutely no discussion. We just listened to the speaker and filled out a series of online polls. Quite a surprise. Conference speakers, please follow your submission guidelines.

Both business librarian happy hours (sponsored by PrivCo and InfoUSA respectively) were fun, as was the dinner provided by Gale Cengage. We dined at a little Italian place on a side street near the College of Charleston. Thank you, vendor friends.

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Speaking at the Charleston Conference 2018

Conference speaking (Dan Gingert and John Quealy in the Gold Ballroom, Charleston Conference, earlier this month)

On October 23, I asked the fine folks on BUSLIB-L if they would share with me the details of their libraries’ support of professional travel. About thirty librarians responded with dollar amounts and policy descriptions, filling six pages once compiled. I expected a wide range of per-librarian budgeting but didn’t know there were so many systems for calculating support. It was very interesting.

After removing campus and library names from the compilation, I shared the combined details with the thirty business librarians. Below is a summary. Skip this next section if you are in a hurry.

Why the question?

Since the 1970’s, UNCG librarians have enjoyed faculty status, but we didn’t have rank. A UNCG librarian was simply untenured or tenured and that was it, even though we followed all the other UNCG tenure guidelines and served on the faculty senate and the many faculty committees.

But sometimes being neither “assistant”, “associate”, or “full” proved limiting or awkward. For example, this was a headache when applying to join the UNCG graduate faculty, serve on a dissertation committee, or teach a for-credit class. Beyond campus, our lack of rank often complicated or limited our role as external reviewers of tenure candidates on other campuses. It also provided no additional motivation for long-tenured librarians to push themselves in scholarship and service. Finally, lack of rank removed one opportunity for a pay raise that all other tenured faculty enjoy – an equity issue (especially since most of the librarians are female).

Three years ago, the library faculty started to seriously explore this oddity in our faculty status. We had a series of nested task forces. One finding: no one knew why ranks are missing from our librarian guidelines. Another finding: of all the campuses in the U.S. with library faculty, only one other campus had librarians without rank.

The final result of our work was a draft rewrite of our guidelines that included ranks. The Provost and the leaders of the Faculty Senate gave us their full support. (“Why don’t you have rank?” and “How could you function without ranks for all these years?” were their common questions.) We speculated the Provost’s office was also happy to suddenly have a bunch of new assistant and associate professors on campus at no cost to the existing HR budget.

Our library administrators were also very supportive, but this process was driven by the rank and file (including untenured librarians). The process had extra-appeal for not being driven from the top down.

Last spring, the librarians had one more vote in our three-year project, this time to approve the revised guidelines. The vote passed easily. On July 1, 2018 untenured librarians became assistant professors and tenured librarians (a few of whom had been tenured for decades) became associate profs. Our library dean became a full professor. We will have more full profs eventually.

Inspired by that successful project, we are now looking at improving our evaluation guidelines, which establish what levels of librarianship, scholarship, and service are necessary for each stage of the tenure and rank process. Our guidelines are very flexible in what types of work, writing, speaking, and service can count toward getting promoted or tenured, but don’t provide any guidance on quantity or quality of accomplishments.

There is now consensus here that the lack of guidance has contributed to “accomplishment inflation” – every year, untenured librarians seem under pressure to write and speak more than past tenure candidates did. The lack of guidance has also resulted in occasionally contradictory messages in our annual peer review process. Not a good situation.

We have a new task force (again staffed by untenured and tenured librarians) looking at best practices in evaluation guidelines. How do other libraries define or describe quantity and quality in scholarship and service?

One aspect of requiring service and scholarship (which for us includes conference panels and presentations as well as publishing) is travel funding. If for example, national-level service is an expectation, does the library provide enough travel money to attend both ALA Annual and Midwinter? Or if speaking at two national conferences in one year is an expectation, is there funding to attend two? Many of us feel that librarians shouldn’t be expected to pay for required travel out of their own not-very-deep pockets. (Yes, service in state and local organizations (like BLINC!) is highly valued here, and we are encouraged to participate in online conferences too.)

So I believe our revised evaluation guidelines need to reflect the reality of our travel funding. I’m chairing our Promotion and Tenure Committee this school year. Before our committee drafts revised evaluation guidelines based on the work of the new task force, I wanted to learn more about how other libraries handle travel support. I also asked the BUSLIBbers if their library requires scholarship and service.

Summary of travel support policies

Please remember that I only have info from 30 libraries. This was not meant to be a thorough survey. It is enough data, I believe, to enable a serious discussion. That was my goal in asking.

Types of policies are numbered to facilitate skimming. Some policies didn’t fall cleanly into one policy category.

1. Specific dollar amount per librarian per year

The most common system. The amount varies widely — the range from my small survey was $800 to $4,000.

  • Mean: $2,413
  • Median: $2,000
  • Mode: a tie between $3,000 and $2,000 (5X each)

n = 23 (Some of the more complex funding policies can’t be condensed to a single dollar amount. For libraries providing more travel funding for untenured librarians, I used that dollar amount).

1b. Variations in who gets how much:

Usually untenured librarians get more than tenured librarians.

Several librarians added that candidates for promotion to full professor also get additional travel support.

Many libraries provide more travel funding to librarians giving presentations or performing a major professional association role (like chairing a committee meeting), than to librarians “merely” attending a conference for professional development and networking.

At one library, deans get more travel money.

1c. Interesting related policies:

At one library, conference registration fees are not counted against the annual travel budget for each librarian. The library pays the fee separately.

One library allows unspent money to be rolled over for use next year by the librarian.

One library with a July-June fiscal year will in February redistribute unspent travel money (from librarians who chose not to travel that year). So travelling librarians can get additional funding for spring and early summer conferences.

2. Specific dollar amount per librarian set each quarter

A variation on the certainty of #1. “Ours is done on an allotment basis via a professional development committee. (We vote once a quarter.) Untenured faculty get highest priority, followed by tenured faculty up for a promotion.”

3. Competition and rubrics for allocation from a central travel budget

The rubric is debated and discussed with everyone. Tenure track librarians, librarians making presentations, and candidates for full professors get more consideration.

Another library bases travel money allocations on librarians’ ranking against the other librarians that year based on annual evaluations. However, untenured librarians always get the maximum funding regardless of their annual rankings.

4. Funding for one conference a year (no exact budget)

No dollar amount is specified, as long as the trip is reasonable.

This was also the policy when I worked at Davenport College (now University), Holland, MI campus, my first professional job. For example, I was able to attend Online (Information Today) in Chicago’s historic Palmer House in 1995 (I took the train, that was cool), my first conference, where I learned of the existence of BUSLIB. The next year I flew to ALA Summer in San Francisco where I watched the gay pride parade and took a day trip to Yosemite (which I paid for myself, of course). Gosh I’m getting sentimental, time to move on…

5. Maximum spending per conference

Up to $1,400 is funded per conference at which the librarian is speaking or has a committee role. Librarians can get at least some funding for up to four conferences in one year.

6. Variable percentage contributions for each conference

In this system, librarians get X% of costs covered for their first conference of the year, then a smaller percentage for additional conferences.

One library once provided 100% support of the first, then 75% for additional conferences if the librarian was speaking. This policy eventually got too expensive for the library, which now provides a set dollar amount per librarian.

Another provides 75% for the first conference if the librarian is speaking or has a committee meeting. 50% is provided just for attending a conference (limited to two a year). However, for any conference, the librarian needs to share the hotel room, or the reimbursement is halved.

7. Additional funding approved by a research committee or administrators

Two of the libraries have research support committees that use a rubric to evaluate funding requests for a research project or research-based presentation. This pot of money is separate from the standard per-librarian allocation.

At another library, “junior faculty are eligible for supplemental funds.”

One library has a travel fund for international conferences that librarians can apply for.

Another: “Special circumstances and more money can be arranged for international travel or if you have an unusually high number of presentations in a year.”

One librarian in a business school library can potentially access three funding sources: the business school, the main campus library, and (through a competitive application process) campus professional development funds.

8. Administrative travel

Most libraries provide “administrative travel” for official library business. Some libraries call this “directed travel” or “sent travel.” The size of this budget is not generally made public.

9. Miscellany

One librarian added that their travel funds cannot be used for webinars and continuing education, but the librarians there are working on changing that.

Two librarians wrote their travel money can be used to pay for professional memberships.

One library dean has made providing stable and significant travel money a priority, according to that library’s business librarian. The dean is using donor and foundation money to support travel, since the state budget has been very tight for many years.

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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 #?)
https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/RSR-12-2017-0048

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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