Archive for the ‘Liaison Roles & Organization’ Category

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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Happy Valentine’s Day! I just saw a male student walking to class with a cluster of big shiny balloons. Was he a giver or receiver?

Catching up

Thanks again to Alyson Vaaler for writing her review of USASBE 2018. It’s important to support librarians taking their skills and knowledge to business conferences, educating faculty and promoting the value of business librarians. We can’t just preach to the choir at library conferences. USASBE will be in St. Pete Beach early next year, GCEC in Chicago in October.

Ilana Stonebraker, fearless business librarian at Purdue, has started a blog on “Teaching on Purpose” and other issues: http://ilanastonebraker.com/. Recommended. A number of interesting posts on teaching strategies, including some active learning lesson plans.

CABAL and BLINC are working on a joint one-day workshop in Richmond, VA this summer, probably a Friday in July. It’s still in the early planning stages, but the event will probably focus on both sources and services (including business research instruction), with dinner and partying afterwards. We will promote the event on BUSLIB in case you aren’t a member of one of those groups but would be interested in making the trip. Thank you to Howard University’s Tommy Waters, CABAL chair, for the suggestion that we do something together!

Professor Nick Williamson and I have finished writing our Export Odyssey e-textbook. Publisher Kendall Hunt is editing and processing the book. This is my first book, so hooray! Hopefully some classes will use it and help some local SME manufacturers make their first export sales.

Today’s topic: update on our team structure review

Four months ago, I posted on the creation of our Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force. That structure is around five years old. We need to periodically review how well it is serving our needs, and indeed, there are some significant issues with our liaison work that need attention.

Progress has been slow, mainly because it’s hard to get the teams together (more on that in part 2). But we are getting there. Our chairs Karen Grigg (Science Librarian) and Anna Craft (Coordinator of Metadata Services) are providing excellent leadership. The task force is summarizing the feedback we have received from individuals and teams, and has begun debating recommendations. I will post on our work in three parts:

Part 1: backstory on our liaison reorganization (2012-14) (see below);
Part 2: summary of feedback on our team structure and recent trends in liaison work (I will post that one over spring break, hopefully);
Part 3: recommendations for changes (by final exams week).

Back in 2012-14, I posted many times on the work and ideas of our liaison reorganization task force (tagged with “liaison organization”), largely wrapping up that thread with our 2015 ACRL program with Johns Hopkins and Villanova.  But as part of the current task force, I wrote a two page summary last week of what motivated us to pursue liaison reorganization back then and what the results were. Here is that summary.

Part 1: backstory on our liaison reorganization

Origins of our liaison and functional team model

In spring of 2012, Dean Bazirijan commissioned the Liaison Collections Responsibilities Task Force. The task force description begins with this observation: “the enhanced responsibilities of our liaisons have created some very real issues regarding the amount of time that can be spent on collection development.” The charge of the task force included:

  1. Define the collection development, instruction, outreach, and newly defined and enhanced responsibilities of our liaisons.
  2. Define the ways that collection development has changed over the years.
  3. Benchmark with other libraries to see how they are handling the complexities of liaison responsibilities in new, creative and innovative ways.
  4. Recommend an organizational model for collection development and other liaison responsibilities that will allow us to give the proper attention to both areas in a sleek and efficient way. More than one organizational model should be recommended providing alternatives to choose from.

While collections work dominates that charge, many liaisons had also grown frustrated with the increasing disconnect between evolving liaison roles (for example, an emphasis on proactive engagement with teaching and research support) and the lack of opportunities for discussion and training regarding those roles. Most meetings of the Reference & Instructional Services department continued to focus on collections work and reference desk staffing and policies. These issues were also considered by the task force.

A July 2012 retreat of the Administrative Advisory Group modified the goals of our liaison program: liaisons would spend much less time providing collection development and reference services, while focusing more on providing proactive support of research across campus. The task force was asked to incorporate these revised liaison goals into its work, expanding the scope of its final recommendations.

At this time, liaisons were based in a number of UL departments (including Music, missing from the below graphic). Liaisons met via the large Collection Management Committee. There was no central liaison coordinator. Some liaisons had other full-time roles in the UL; their liaison role was primarily handling collections questions from their academic departments.

Circa 2012 liaison organization

Circa 2012 liaison organization (the “before”)

Through the spring and summer of 2012, the task force organized many discussion and brainstorming sessions (including once with WFU liaisons), examined the (scant) literature on best practices in liaison organization and leadership, and interviewed liaison coordinators from the small number of libraries that had recently reorganized their liaisons away from the decentralized, collections-centered model. The task force then presented several new organization models to the liaisons and other stakeholders for final feedback. Finally, the task force submitted its report to the Dean in August 2012.

In December 2012, Dean Bazirijan formed two implementation task forces. The Collections Implementation Team had the goals of “Define the role of collections as it relates to other responsibilities of library liaisons; streamline collections decisions prior to sending projects/requests to library liaisons; reduce the involvement of liaisons in collection development activities, thereby freeing them up to spend more time on instruction, outreach and direct faculty support.”

The goal of the Liaison Implementation Team was to “strengthen the roles of liaisons in the areas of teaching, faculty support and consulting and outreach and reduce the collections responsibilities to the extent possible.” The charge of the liaison team included implementing these two models of liaison subject teams and cross-departmental functional teams:

Liaison teams and leadership

Liaison teams and leadership (proposed “after”)


Functional teams

Functional teams

The Liaison Implementation Team created a two-year timeline (2013-14) to implement these subject and functional teams. As part of the process, members of the Special Collections and University Archives and the Digital Media Commons become team members. The Reference and Instructional Services department was rebranded as Research, Outreach, and Instruction [long overdue]. The ROI department head become our liaison coordinator, who oversaw the teams and organized monthly all-liaison discussions. Some liaisons whose main role was collections work retired their liaison roles. The UL created a Science Librarian position for the first time; that liaison joined our existing Health Sciences Librarian and a SCUA member to form the Science Team.

Liaisons rewrote the UL’s official description of liaison roles. Teams began providing peer-training (often inviting other teams to participate). In general, meetings seemed more useful and more interesting to liaisons. However, communication across teams and through the UL proved challenging.

While collections work is now much less demanding on liaisons’ time, liaisons still struggle with workload issues. UNCG expanded student enrollment and the number of faculty dramatically in the 21st century. Some liaisons have experienced a large growth in their target population (one liaison is now responsible for over 4,000 students). A new liaison position to serve the School of Education was created in 1998, but was later redefined with a non-liaison focus. The creation of the dedicated Science Librarian position in 2014 restored the UL to the 1998 level of liaison staffing.

Online education, scholarly communication advocacy, and data management have joined instruction, collections, and more traditional research support as liaison roles. The UL has hired more functional liaisons to serve these roles, including two new positions planned for 2018-19. Hiring more functional liaisons doesn’t necessarily result in more manageable workloads for subject liaisons. (However, some of the functional liaisons also have liaison assignments, which certainly helps.)

In Fall 2017, the Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force was formed to examine and reassess the 2013-14 changes and their intended outcomes.

Blog post postscript

Those last two organizational charts were illustrative examples. We never really had a scholarly communications team, for example. (We may get one eventually: we are hiring our first dedicated ScholCom officer next year, apparently.) But overall those images do reflect what we ended up with by 2015.

In part 2, what continues to work well with our liaison teams but also a discussion of old and new struggles

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In 2013-14, my library finished a discussion of how to reorganize our liaisons. I blogged about this process under the tag ”liaison reorganization.” Our process was easy to write about because each brainstorming session, workshop, and internal survey produced a document that was easy to turn into a blog post.

After we submitted our proposal, Library Administration charged us to implement the proposed cross-departmental subject and functional teams. We also redefined our official liaison roles, and rebranded the Reference & Instruction Department as the Research, Outreach, and Instruction Department (ROI). ROI is now in effect our liaison department, since we largely ended the practice of having librarians in other library departments serve as liaisons with a primary focus on collection development. All liaisons now focus on R, O and I.

[The first proposed departmental acronym was RIO but our business librarian mentioned the financial acronym of ROI and folks apparently liked the implied connection. If we worked at UNC Wilmington out at the beach and not UNC Greensboro, maybe we would have stuck with RIO.]


This fall we have a new task force to review and rethink our liaison teams. I’m excited about this. After three years of working in these liaison teams, it’s time to step back and discuss how this structure is working out for us. There have been many successes with our team structure, but we created it in part to enable us to be nimble and flexible in response to changing opportunities and needs on campus. So our liaison organization should be reviewed every few years, even if we remain happy with it.

We also have new liaisons, a new dean, and a new ROI department head, Amy Harris (although Amy served on the reorganization task force with me). And some teams have been more active than others lately and so could use a little recharge.

My colleagues Anna Craft (Coordinator of Metadata Services and member of our Scholarly Communications team) and Karen Grigg (Science Librarian; Science and Collection Management teams) are co-chairing the task force. I’m a member and have been providing historical documents. The charge of the task force is below.

Our task force report will provide recommendations on the teams we need (subject and functional), how they are organized and led, and their activities. Amy asked that we consider the question “If we started from scratch in 2017, what teams would we propose?

Regarding leadership, we need to discuss the process for team leaders to give feedback to supervisors, as well as the time commitments team leaders should be expected to make (and should there be any sort of credit or workload allowance made for that service?).

We also need to consider the terms for serving on each functional team: do the current memberships still make sense? Which folks should basically be permanent members?

The task force will begin by surveying all the team members on team aspects and also surveying the liaisons on liaison roles and workload issues. The latter survey will be a repeat from one conducted in 2014. I will be interested to see how the results on that one will be different after having a few retirements and new hires since then.

I will keep you updated on any interesting developments or findings as we have these discussions this school year.

Charge: Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force

Goal: Examine the liaison functional and subject team structure implemented in 2013-14 to determine how well it is functioning and what changes should be made in response to evolving needs and University Libraries’ strategic priorities.


  1. Review weaknesses identified in our earlier (pre liaison team) organizational model to determine what challenges still exist.
  2. Identify new liaison opportunities based on Libraries’ priorities and campus needs.
  3. Assess and review current team structure and team activities. How can cross-communication be improved?
  4. Make recommendations on the team structure to address challenges and new opportunities.



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Another random recent vacation photo

Another random recent vacation photo

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


“Steering Change in Liaisonship: A Reverse Engineering Approach”
Eric Resnis and Jennifer Natale
ACRL Proceedings 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Tina P. Franks (Ohio State)
Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 2017, 6(2): 1-16.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Divide and Conquer: A Not-So-Common Approach to Develop Information Literacy Programs”
Andrea Wilcox Brooks, Mary Todd Chesnut (Northern Kentucky University)
Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 2016 6(1): 1-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An interesting article.

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

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

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

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vacation pix

vacation pix

I’m back from vacation and getting back into summer work projects. My folder of professional readings had gotten much too full since last summer, so I’ve done at lot of reading this week. Blogging a summary (sometimes with a bit of commentary) helps me slow down and ponder the ideas and experiences being discussed. Hopefully these summaries are useful to a few of you too. The topic focus as usual is on liaison work and business librarianship. More to come in July.


“Relationship Building One Step at a Time: Case Studies of Successful Faculty-Librarian Partnerships”
José O. Díaz, Meris A. Mandernach
portal: Libraries and the Academy, 2017 (17:2), 273-282

Based on examples from Ohio State University, “this study examines the qualities that help liaison librarians develop relationships with faculty and support ongoing library services” (273). The literature review notes the lack of writings on relationship building by liaisons. (The authors refer to Hyun-Duck Chung’s article “Relationship Building in Entrepreneurship Liaison Work” in the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship from 2010, back when Hyun-Duck was a BLINC member and I spilled Coke on her at a BLINC workshop in Burlington. (She now lives back home in Toronto.))

The authors interviewed seven OSU liaisons and five faculty members. The questions to both groups are provided in the appendix.

Findings: Relationships take time to build and significant energy to maintain. Liaisons need to be proactive to build relationships. Both the liaison and the professor need to benefit from the relationship for it to be successful and sustainable. Many examples of how to make first contact are provided (none surprising to a liaison who has been around the block already but a useful list nonetheless).

The authors also summarize reasons for failures: “Most liaison librarians indicated that the major deficiencies centered around poor communication, built-in systemic limitations, “poor chemistry,” meager planning, and faulty timing” (279). The relationship needs to start with a connection, shared experience, or an existing need. Faculty value liaisons who follow technology trends and “share their secrets”.

From the conclusion:

“Good relationship building represents a constellation of traits, values, and skills. Chief among them are patience (relationships take time), knowledge (know your constituency and your discipline), follow-through (go the extra mile), sincerity (treat every interaction as your most important), responsiveness (acknowledge all requests and respond promptly), and finally, individuality (customization for classes or interactions) is essential” (280-81).

This would be a good warm-up article for a liaison workshop on the topic.


“Liaisons as Sales Force: Using Sales Techniques to Engage Academic Library Users”
Nathaniel King and Jacqueline Solis
In the Library with the Lead Pipe

King and Solis succinctly summarize the evolving roles of liaisons and assert “While collection management, research services, and teaching remain core skills for liaison librarians, the advocacy elements of an engagement-centered philosophy positions liaison librarians as a “salesforce” for library-related solutions.”

Solis is the Director of Research and Instructional Services at UNC Chapel Hill, and King (who used to work there as the Social Science Librarian) is Director of Library Services at Nevada State College.

The authors explain how a sales attitude can enhance our liaison work:

“1. Recognition that selling is a positive and necessary part of a liaison librarian’s role.
2. Effective selling requires goal-focused interactions.
3. Enthusiasm for the library’s resources and services.
4. Ability to investigate the needs of the customer.”

King and Solis provide details for each point. They propose the SPIN® Selling method as the best method for “selling library services”. After defining the elements of SPIN, they provide a hypothetical interview of a prof by a liaison that applies the SPIN method.

Important stuff and well-written. I appreciate library writers who have the audacity to suggest that certain teachings from the business world can help libraries improve their value to their users.


 “Good for Business: Applying the ACRL Framework Threshold Concepts to Teach a Learner-Centered Business Research Course”
Charissa Odelia Jefferson, California State University, Northridge
Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 2:1 (2017)

Jefferson created and teaches an honors class on business research methods. It’s a one-credit class at the sophomore level graded as credit/no-credit. In the first semester, most of the students were seniors, but in the second semester the sophomores slightly outnumbered the seniors. (Mary Scanlon of Wake Forest told me that seniors often take one or 1.5 credit research classes when they need another credit to graduate). The class objectives include

“expose students to the resources they may want to consider for future research; be able to remember the resources at the appropriate time; understand the capacity of each source; and to be empowered to conduct independent research by their senior year capstone project.” (p.5)

Jefferson administered pre- and post-assessment questionnaires for two semesters and summarized the data here. She also summarizes feedback, such as ““I finally learned how to do proper research!” and “I learned more than I expected to. There were a lot of resources available that I never thought to use, and now can’t imagine not using them.” (I love testimonials like that.)

Next Jefferson discusses redesigning her class from Bloom’s Taxonomy to L.Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, which facilitated a focus on the ACRL Framework. Her article then provides lesson plans (activities and discussions) covering the six thresholds of the framework. Interesting ideas for introducing some of those threshold concepts.


“Canceling Serials Based on their Availability in Aggregated Full-Text Databases” [such as Business Source Complete]
Anthony Raymond, Business Librarian, Santa Clara University
Against the Grain, April 2017

Since 2005, Raymond’s library has been cancelling individual journal subscriptions in business and economics when coverage in aggregator databases is considered “sufficient”. He defines sufficient as “no publisher-imposed embargo” except for journals “considered of only marginal value to the SCU research community” (p. 30).

75 subscriptions have been cut in his subject areas for a savings of $22,750 over the ten-year period (he provides the list). The cuts were never announced to faculty because faculty don’t care if the article they want comes from a publisher or aggregator, Raymond asserts. He adds that there has not been a single complaint about the cancelled subscriptions since this process began. Raymond provides some thoughtful cautions about this strategy and speculates on what would happen to the publishing industry if many libraries adopted this strategy in all subject areas.


“Taking the Plunge! A Case Study in Teaching a Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Course to Business Undergraduate Students”
Laura Leavitt, Michigan State University
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 2016, 21:274-287

This is a three-credit, elective class taught twice as a pilot project (as of press time). Leavitt provides the syllabus and other class materials at http://libguides.lib.msu.edu/BusinessIntelligenceResources. Course objectives, student learning outcomes, and the topic outline are included in the article. Leavitt is one of four business librarians in the business librarian.

Most business instruction at MSU is one-shot, although there have been some embedded engagement with classes too. The librarians had built a strong connection with the one-credit, first-year orientation class for business students. The librarians have taught one of those sections for five years, incorporating some research instruction. After “years of informal advocacy with key decision makers in the College of Business” (p. 277), the librarians were asked to develop a credit class and begin teaching it only five months later.

The proposed class was given a BUS course designation, which allows it to be developed without going through a departmental curriculum committee (I think): BUS 291(2): Business intelligence resources. Enrollment was capped at 30 and ended up being open to all class levels and majors. It met twice a week. “The course was designed to be an introductory-level course that would inform the students’ work in other courses as they progressed through the business curriculum” (p. 278). The course objectives owe much to the ACRL Standards (the framework wasn’t out yet).

As many of you know, there isn’t a focused textbook for classes like this. The MSU librarians used a mix of readings and videos, including portions of Berkman’s The Skeptical Business Searcher (2004) and Ross’ Making Sense of Business Reference (2013).

The “Assignments: The good, the bad, and the ugly” section of Leavitt’s article is very interesting. The students found much value in the regular discussions of Financial Times articles, with a focus on the sources of information used in each article. The students also appreciated writing reviews of popular business books. Leavitt writes “It is an interesting observation that both of these more successful assignments required close reading of new material, reflection upon and discussion of that material, and writing an analysis of what was read—none of which are possible in a one-shot class.” (283).

The librarians also had the students watch a video of an entrepreneurial pitch, breakdown the pitch using the business model canvas framework, and then use databases to test the entrepreneur’s assumptions.

Grading workload was high, but in the second year, the librarians gained a teaching assistant to help. Most students earned high grades (as with my own 3-credit research class). And course evaluations were very positive. One student comment: “My Dad is the CEO of a Real Estate company and told me that I could use the stuff I learned in this class to work for him.”

In the conclusion, Leavitt notes the high value of being able to spend 3 hours a week with students compared to one-shots. Assessment was also much more meaningful. The class was a rewarding experience for the teachers. They gained more visibility for teaching it – among both students and business faculty.

A limitation of the class is of course the time involved in teaching it. It’s not scalable to all business students unless many more librarians were hired. And there might be issues with compensation. Some of us discussed these issues recently.


“LOEX 2017: Teaching Popular Source Evaluation in an Era of Fake News, Post-Truth, and Confirmation Bias”
Lane Wilkinson, Instruction Librarian at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

This is an interesting blog. Wilkinson is thoughtful and often cuts through hype and bandwagon-thinking. His examinations of the framework are examples. This post is elaboration on his LOEX presentation last month in Lexington. He provides specific suggestions (ex. don’t use controversial topics as search examples) as well as relevant psychological theory.


“Realizing Critical Business Information Literacy: Opportunities, Definitions, and Best Practices”
Ilana Stonebraker, Caitlan Maxwell, Kenny Garcia & Jessica Jerrit
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship 2017, 22: 135-148

The authors spoke on this topic at ACRL last spring and also led a #critlib Twitter discussion. Critical business information literacy = “the application of social justice to business information literacy” (135). The article address “What does it mean to be an ethical businessperson, and how does an ethical businessperson create, locate, organize, and evaluate business information?” (135).

After a long lit review of the library and business education literature, the authors provide examples of best practices from their teaching experiences. One challenge is the time constraints of one-shot instruction. The University of Washington librarians discuss student-centered, active learning exercises on source evaluation as one technique for one-shots; students are given much freedom to shape the workshop content.

At California State University–Monterey Bay, the business librarian provide a one-shot (one hour in a lecture hall or two hours in a computer classroom) session for the required “Business Communication, Ethics, and Critical Thinking” class. The students analyze the website of a nonprofit serving a homeless population. So the one-shot includes a discussion of the causes of homelessness.

The Purdue librarian writes about her 3-credit “Making Greater Lafayette Greater” research class (which Ilana has written about in this blog and elsewhere). The class has an “explicit egalitarian focus” on under-privileged groups in the city, discussing economic development failures as well as successes, and local economic and market trends, not just the national trends that are much easier to research.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t provide any evidence of impact of the critical business information literacy focus on students. I would have liked to seen a few quotes from students at least.


“Both Sides Now: Vendors and Librarians: Terms & Conditions”
Michael Gruenberg
Against the Grain, Feb. 2017, pp. 69-70.

Gruenberg was a senior sales executive in the info industry and now runs a consulting firm. In his February column, he asserts that most vendors are very aware of their operating costs, target margins, the costs of competing products, and the prices the market can bear. After describing some pricing situations vendors face when selling to academic and public libraries, Gruenberg focuses on how flexibility in the “T & C”’s can help the vendors make a sale (and get renewals) and improve the deal for the library. But the libraries have to make the effort to suggest changes as part of the negotiation. Gruenberg suggests asking the simple question “Can you defend your price?” whenever the proposed pricing doesn’t sound reasonable to the library.


“The University of Houston’s Liaison Services Advisory Board: A Case Study in Leadership Development and Succession Planning”
Christina Hoffman Gola and Miranda Henry Bennett
College and Research Library News 2016 77 (10)
University of Houston Business Librarian Orolando Duffus pointed out this article to me. The authors describe the first two years of their new advisory board, its challenges and successes, and recommendations for other libraries.

Creating the board was a response to significant growth in the Liaison Services Department (11 to 21 people since 2011). The department had two co-department heads plus four functional coordinators. (We have a similar set of coordinators here who serve as leaders of our cross-departmental liaison teams.) The department heads wanted to provide the coordinators with increased opportunities to develop leadership skills through project management. Projects included training sessions for the liaisons and team-building activities.

Year two featured peer-mentoring discussions. The department heads also began to include the coordinators in strategic planning. Finally, the board also assessed liaison services, growth opportunities, and future needs.

The board struggled at first with defining exactly what it was, but ended up working together well to support peer-mentoring and a higher level of trust. Two of the coordinators ended up promoted to “higher positions” (official supervisors or department heads, I assume), an indication of success regarding the emphasis on leadership development.

The authors recommend peer-mentoring for library leaders and providing project management opportunities.

This is an interesting take on liaison organization and leadership development. I would be curious to read the perspectives of the liaisons working under this leadership system. I also wonder if the only opportunities for gaining leadership and project management skills in this library are through serving as a department head or coordinator?


“Interview Intelligence: Teaching Students to Demonstrate Their Passion by Doing Their Homework”
Andy Spackman, Business and Communications Librarian, Brigham Young University
Academic BRASS Vol 12 (1), Spring 2017

Spackman writes about getting asked by his university’s career and advisement centers to provide research instruction. All BYU undergraduates take classes taught by these centers for career preparation. Spackman decided to adapt his approach to teaching business communication classes toward these workshops: instead of focusing on discussing themselves, students should focus on having intelligent conversations with interviewees. He offers six questions about the target company to investigate, three steps to take to do that research, and one final reminder:

“You don’t actually need to know the answers. The point isn’t to show off how much homework you’ve done. The point is to be able to have an intelligent conversation, and sometimes this is more about uncovering questions than finding answers.”

The same Academic BRASS issue includes a “Google Bucket Activity Lesson Plan” by Grace Liu of the University of Maine customized for a company and industry research assignment. Student teams compare content found through Google to subscription business database content.

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