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Archive for the ‘Reference’ Category

Past

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.]

Present

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 I’m a member and have been providing historical documents.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.

Objectives:

  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.

1.

“Steering Change in Liaisonship: A Reverse Engineering Approach”
Eric Resnis and Jennifer Natale
ACRL Proceedings 2017
http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2017/SteeringChangeinLiaisonship.pdf

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.

2.

“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.
https://muse.jhu.edu/article/624188

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.

3.

“Toward Informed Leadership: Teaching Students to Make Better Decisions using Information”
Ilana Stonebraker, Purdue
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 2016 21: 229-238.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2016.1226614

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.

4.

“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.
https://journals.tdl.org/pal/index.php/pal/issue/view/367

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.

5.

“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
http://dx.doi.org/10.11645/10.2.2127

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.

 6.

“Text Mining in Business Libraries”
Clifford B. Anderson & Hilary A. Craiglow, Vanderbilt University
Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 2017,  22:2: 149-165.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2017.1285749

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.

7.

“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
http://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/19120

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.

8.

“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.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2016.1226616

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.”

9.

“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
https://journals.tdl.org/pal/index.php/pal/issue/view/366

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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During lunch at my desk today, I took a look at my oft-neglected newsreader (for this time in the semester) and saw the article “ARL Library Liaison Institute: What we learned about needs and opportunities for reskilling” from the March issue of College & Research Libraries News. The article summarizes a 1.5-day workshop that brought together 50 liaisons from Cornell, Columbia, and the University of Toronto. A 34-page final report of the event is available at http://www.arl.org/storage/documents/publications/library-liaison-institute-final-report-dec2015.pdf. The C&RLN article provides a concise recap, so I will just point out some things from the final report that I found particularly interesting.

The institute sounds like a larger and longer version of the “WFU & UNCG Liaison Benchmarking & Brainstorming” workshop we conducted together in May 2012, although our workshop had a focus on liaison organization as well as liaison roles. I wish there was more in the ARL report about how liaisons should be organized and led to achieve their goals. There are a few ideas. For example, from the “Next Steps” section near the end (p. 22):

Helping liaisons understand the big picture requires investment in training for managers and liaisons (both in core competencies and communication skills that provide the ability to look beyond the library as the center), but also an organizational structure for liaisons to collaborate (among themselves, with functional experts, beyond the confines of their departments or disciplines). Setting up a team-based model might be one way to encourage such collaboration.

Also, on page 23, regarding follow-up activity at Columbia:

Finally, the libraries addressed a recent vacancy in the Journalism Library with a new approach to filling the interim position. A team of librarians from the science, social science, and humanities libraries was created to fill the interim journalism librarian position. The libraries see this team approach as a possible model going forward for permanent positions, breaking down disciplinary silos and better integrating research methods.

Sounds interesting! I hope the Columbia folks have followed what has happened in Arizona with team liaison assignments to academic departments. The two situations are a bit different, though – in its previous model, Arizona Journalism faculty would have to decide which functional team to contact for a particular need.

Also, “Scenario Two” on page 9 involved liaison teams. However, we can’t tell what major themes came out of the Scenario Two teams compared to the other scenario teams.

The write-up of the “healthy debate” on the value of subject expertise (pages 10-11 and also 21) is interesting. While few of the liaisons here at UNCG in my time have preferred the traditional bibliographer expert model of liaison work, we have had some discussions like this. So what is the mix of subject and functional skills a liaison should have? Does the need for that mix vary by subject area (ex. business versus history)? But without strong skills in outreach, teaching, and advocacy, can you do much with your subject expertise besides ordering books? (Trying to be provocative here).

Also interesting was that some librarians were offended by the customer segmentation and value proposition exercise (11-16). Sounds like a really useful exercise that could help liaisons reconsider traditions and pre-conceived notions of what our customers err patrons need. Some of the suggestions were more interesting than others.

The summary of “what kind of support they need from library administrators” on page 18 reminds me of some of the goals of our liaison reorganization that began in 2013 – more relevant and frequent training; less time in meetings; use of teams; etc.

The report concludes with “concrete next steps that Columbia, Cornell, and Toronto are taking as a result of the Library Liaison Institute.” Lots of communication and sharing of course. But I also came away with respect for these large institutions (especially Toronto) for re-envisioning liaison work in very complex organizations. In comparison, almost all liaisons at UNCG and WFU work in the main library. So credit to those three schools for running an institute like this.

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I’m catching up on my professional reading after the fall semester. Here are summaries and thoughts on some of the readings with my usual focus on liaison work and business librarianship. Good luck to everyone as your semester and year wind down.

1.

It’s Your Business: Evaluating the Business Curriculum to Target Information Literacy in the Discipline [pdf]
by Nataly Blas (Loyola Marymount University)
Academic BRASS, Vol 10 (1), Spring 2015

Nataly provides a step-by-step plan to create a curriculum map of a business info lit program. She writes about what kind of documents to use and look for (ex. syllabi, accreditation standards, library goals, etc.) and provides the example of a business law class. At the end of the short article, she provides a link to map of the Finance curriculum, and also provides a Word template for our mapping efforts. Nataly attended ACRL Immersion this year, so hopefully she will continue to share her thoughtful work with us.

2.

Framework-ized Information Competency Skills for Business Students
by Amanda Howell (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater) after Nancy A. Cunningham (Director, Academic Services University of South Florida)
Google Drive document

Amanda updated Nancy’s information literacy guidelines for the ACRL frameworks idea. The instruction leaders in my library have begun to schedule workshops for liaisons to work on frameworks for our areas, so I’m grateful for Amanda for sharing this recently in a BRASS online discussion. As I’ve heard business librarians lament more than once, the old standards seemed overly focused on students using articles, books, and web sites to write research papers – old-fashioned outputs of student work. So it’s great to see statistical data, market research, company financials, etc. covered on a frameworks guide, and “authorship” defined as more than individuals writing a book or article.

3.

Both Sides Now: Vendors and Librarians: Can You Give Me a “Ballpark” Price of What This Will Cost?
by Michael Gruenberg (President, Gruenberg Consulting, LLC)
Against The Grain, June 2015

ATG is the companion publication to the Charleston Conference. (A small group of business librarians rendezvoused in Charleston last month, Cynthia Cronin-Kardon from the Wharton School reported. Maybe for the 2016 conference we will submit a panel proposal or organize a business librarians & publishers dinner?) Both the publication and the conference are great for facilitating dialogues between librarians and vendors, and for better understanding each other’s practices and needs. In this article, Michael discusses the salesperson’s challenge of responding to early requests for a price, and the information professional’s need to not provide budget details too early. Michael also provides suggestions to both parties on how to handle the negotiation dance.

4.

Two presentations from NCLA 2015

If You Build It, Will They Come? Designing a More Engaged Liaison Program
by Teresa LePors and Betty Garrison (Elon University)

I missed this one due to a class commitment, but really wanted to go. Betty is the Business Librarian and a BLINC-buddy. Teresa became the library dean in summer 2012 and worked with the librarians and staff on some strategic planning and reinvisioning. In 2014 the Elon librarians created a Library Research and Scholarly Services department, with monthly meetings of liaisons. Increased outreach and stronger relationships with faculty is one goal of the new group.

Email was chosen as a target communication tool, and so the liaisons did a study of email interactions with profs by time of day, day of the week, department, who initiated the email, etc. Most of the slides are devoted to this. There are some graphs and pie charts, plus a study of topic/word mapping with quotes for each topic, ex. instruction.

Best practices according to the Elon liaisons:

  • Be visible
  • Show interest
  • Experiment
  • Build relationships
  • Respond promptly
  • Support colleagues

There is also a useful timeline of outreach responsibilities over one year (slide 40).

North Carolina Librarian on Main Street
Nancy Tucker (Business Librarian, Mauney Memorial Library, Kings Mountain, NC), Sharon Stack (Library Director), and Jan Harris (Director, Kings Mountain Main Street Program, City of Kings Mountain). Heather Sanford is the other business librarian involved with this project.

Another program from a BLINC member I regret having to miss. Nancy discusses her library’s proactive engagement of downtown businesses – she and Heather went door-to-door (yes, literally) to offer the library’s support of small businesses:

In this presentation, participants will learn how a small library in Kings Mountain partnered with its city’s Main Street™ organization and Planning and Economic Development department to help small businesses be successful in the 21st century marketplace and in return, the program has benefited downtown revitalization efforts.  This program is a powerful example of how the library has facilitated, through partnerships, a transformation downtown and triggered small business success and economic growth.

The library’s involvement is a vital part of the city’s “Four Point Approach” to revitalize downtown:

  • Organization
  • Promotion
  • Design
  • Economic restructuring

The library offered to help the downtown businesses with business plans, market research, website development, online marketing, print marketing, logo design, branding, technology assistance, mission statement writing, and secret shopping (!) A wonderful example of effective, proactive engagement.

5.

Making All the Right Moves for Liaison Engagement: A Strategy for Relating to Faculty
by John G. Bales
C&RL News, November 2015

A short opinion piece encouraging liaisons to create an action plan for faculty outreach, and then track progress using a spreadsheet that covers all the faculty. Other liaisons have proposed using customer relationship management (CRM) software to enable a group of librarians to track faculty connections. Creepy or really useful?

6.

Where Have All the Books Gone? Exploring “Virtual Libraries” at Cornell University’s Engineering and Physical Science Libraries
by Jill Wilson, Jeremy Cusker, & Dianne Dietrich (Cornell University)
Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division, 5(2):23-31, 2015

Some of you business librarians may have heard Corey Seeman talk about what happened with the library space at the University of Michigan business school. These stories from Cornell are similar. The most interesting parts to me where the outreach efforts that had to be ramped up big time to compensate for the built-in promotional value of the physical space:

New undergraduate and graduate students may hear from peers that “there was once a library and now there is not” and believe—erroneously—that the library is no longer relevant to their development as future researchers. It is crucial then, in the virtual model, that librarians continually develop partnerships with faculty members and remain visible to students.

Interesting perspective for those of us who have always worked out of a general library.

7.

First issue of Ticker

The first issue of Ticker: the Academic Business Librarianship Review came out last summer. The aforementioned Corey wrote a summary of the “Action Learning Conference” held at Michigan Ross. Representatives of several MBA programs discussed their active learning programs or capstones. Michigan business librarians have written about their embedded work in such classes.

In another Ticker article, Jessica Lange of McGill University described a team competition she created for MBA orientation (“MBA Versus MBA Challenge: Developing an Engaging Library Orientation for Incoming Students”). In the first challenge, teams competed to find certain database content the fastest. In the second, the students did a battledecks competition. Slides in the presentation were from Jessica’s short introduction to library services that began the library workshop. Interesting idea!

The research article in Ticker’s first issue is “Our Year of Assessment at Columbia University’s Business and Economics Library” by Kathleen Dreyer and Nisa Bakkalbasi of Columbia University. They adopted

a multi-method assessment approach combining quantitative and qualitative statistics through a survey, exit polls, and direct observations to inform improvement planning of library services and spaces.

Their assessment was partially in response to concerns from MBA students about sharing the library with undergraduates from other campus units. Services fared well in the assessment, but the Columbia librarians reported less satisfaction with technology (for which the library has limited control) and physical spaces. The library has addressed some of those concerns, but still faces the challenge of balancing the needs for group study and social space versus quiet study space.

8.

More from the RSR special issue on entrepreneurship

As noted here recently, Reference Services Review published a special issue on entrepreneurship. Lots of interesting articles from that issue, more than I will summarize here.

Engaging with Entrepreneurs in Academic and Public Libraries
by Jared Hoppenfeld (Texas A&M) and Elizabeth Malafi (Miller Business Resource Center, Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY), both leaders in BRASS.

A good introduction to the special issue. I like the focus on both types of libraries. After a long lit review, Jared and Elizabeth summarize the kinds of services they provide to entrepreneurs in their libraries

  • Networking (librarians networking with entrepreneurs, and providing space for entrepreneurs to network with each other)
  • Outreach (ex. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities at Texas A&M).
  • Business incubator support
  • Supporting entrepreneurs’ intellectual property research needs
  • Educating entrepreneurs at the library

Many short case studies are briefly summarized.

Jared and Elizabeth conclude with recommendations. The main points:

  • Back to the basics: perform a reference interview
  • Learn about licensed data and entrepreneurs (for the academic subscriptions) [Posie Aagaard and Natasha Z. Arguello from UT San Antonio have an article about this in the same issue]
  • Use your support network (ex. SCORE, SBA, BUSLIB-L)
  • Networking: don’t do it alone; be persistent; try new approaches sometimes
  • Become familiar with intellectual property
  • Take advantage of entrepreneurs’ experiential learning preferences (do hands-on teaching, and get involved with pitch competitions)
  • Keep aware for the next opportunity

In Entrepreneur Assistance & Economic Development in Florida Libraries, Janet Elaine Franks (Saint Leo University) and Carol Johns (Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, Tampa) provide survey results from entrepreneurs and analyze public library services provided to entrepreneurs. A good read after the Hoppenfeld and Malafi survey article.

Academic Libraries as Community Resource Partners for Entrepreneurs by Patrick Griffis (UNLV) focuses on his library’s “strategy of collaborating with community agencies in assisting community entrepreneurs,” especially the local Small Business Development Center and the UNLV law school.

The Business Model Canvas as a Platform for Business Information Literacy Instruction by Terence William O’Neill of Michigan State. Great topic for an article, given how common the one-page business model has become. I remember when even a freshman entrepreneurship class assigned a “business plan” to the student teams, which in hindsight was a foolish choice. Business models are a much better choice for lower-level or introductory courses in entrepreneurship, or for cross-campus classes (ex. Dance or Chemistry) “infused” (as the Coleman Fellows program puts it) with an entrepreneurship module lasting three weeks or so.

In this article, Terence discusses how the MSU business librarians use the business model to organize a research workshop, assigning the students databases like IBIS for the boxes on the model that require industry research. First the librarians have the students spend five minutes fleshing out their business idea. Then the students look at IBIS and reconsider what they have decided so far about the model. Terence notes that IBIS’s topics and subtopics for each industry match pretty easily to the business model topics/boxes. Terence continues:

This in-class exercise immediately encourages the students to think of their business model, and the resultant canvas, as flexible and changeable with new information. The exercise encourages them to check their assumptions while also filling in details for some aspects of the business they might not have had a strong sense of previously.

Nice. Noting that IBIS doesn’t cover all the business model topics, the librarians present an image of the business model with the logos of relevant database in the relevant boxes. For example, RMA eStatement Studies and BizMiner are in the “Revenue Streams” box – a great idea!

My second thought on first seeing that image (the first being that it was a great idea) was that more resources should be listed, ex. Census.gov, SimplyMap, and DemographicsNow for “Customer Segments”. But Terence later writes that in their experience, students are less likely to use databases if too many are listed. An interesting note of caution.

9.

Latest from JBFL

Finally, some good stuff since the spring in the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, including reviews of CCH  Accounting Research Manager, PrivCo, the now-free IMF portal, and the OECD e-library. (The ARM review by Susan Klopper of Emery includes a memorable section header: “Accounting Content: Not The Sexiest”. I always appreciate good help like this with accounting resources.)

In a short opinion piece (“What’s in a Name? Rebranding Librarianship for Professional Students”), J. P. Huffman of Penn State University reviews the old “librarian” image problem and discusses the business librarians’ efforts to rebrand themselves as “research consultants”. That language emphasizes their role as coworkers and partners instead of information gatekeepers. She also notes that “consultants” are common in the business world and therefore seeking out the help of a business consultant doesn’t carry a stigma that asking a librarian for help might include. Instead “the library as an institution takes a backseat to our skill set and interactions with students…our identity should come from our actions, not our titles.”

And Ilana Stonebraker wrote up her very interesting flipped classroom experience I first heard her talk about at LOEX last year (“Flipping the Business Information Literacy Classroom: Redesign, Implementation, and Assessment of a Case Study”).  There are a couple of other interesting info lit articles from this issue too.

I could go on, but I just thought of a good title for a post I want to write concerning a search committee I’m chairing this winter.

Happy holidays, all!

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Marla, Richard, & Steve presenting at NCLA 2015

Marla, Richard, & Steve presenting at NCLA 2015

Marla Means, Richard Moniz, and I presented at NCLA 2015 today on “The Expanding Role of the Academic Liaison: Balancing Subject Versus Functional Skills” (PDF).

[Summary of the final discussion with the audience]

Marla introduced the topic and provided definitions. Richard discussed the Johnson & Wales University Library in Charlotte, NC as a small library case study. I summarized the interesting experiment at the University of Arizona of having only functional liaisons, and briefly presented UNCG’s team model of subject v. functional teams.

Good comments, ideas, and questions from the audience. Thanks for everyone who came.

There are some cites and links at the end of the PDF.

Abstract:

“For liaison services, subject knowledge used to be enough. Now functional skills are increasingly important — academic libraries are expanding their outreach and advocacy efforts into data curation, scholarly communication, information literacy, distance education services, etc. How should libraries balance these two types of liaison roles? Should libraries hire functional specialists to partner with the subject liaisons, or somehow train subject liaisons to pick up the needed functional expertise? And how should these functional and subject specialists be organized and managed? Two librarians representing a small and large library and a LIS student doing an independent study on liaison trends will lead a discussion on these questions. With help from the participants, we will conclude with suggested best practices.”

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So our department heads and administrators are reviewing some statistical policies. (Hooray to those folks for working on stuff like that so liaisons like me don’t have to!) We learned that the current ACRL definition of “consultation” is:

Consultations are one-on-one or small group appointments (i.e., scheduled) with a library staff member outside of the classroom. Include consultations conducted in a physical or digital/electronic manner. Include appointments made with special collections or archives staff. This does not include any walk-up transactions, no matter what the length or topic discussed [emphasis mine]. [Source — PDF]

So all you subject and functional specialists out there, what do you think of that definition?

Scenario 1: a PhD student walks by, sees you are in your office, and asks after a greeting “So I worked on that research strategy regarding my dissertation we talked about last week — that was great advice by the way, thanks! — can I talk about a follow-up problem with you?” And then you chat about this for 15 minutes.

Scenario 2: You get a chat message from a student team working in a computer lab at the other end of the library: “Hey, Steve, our Export Odyssey team has a problem with our shift-share analysis of the trade data — can we come over and talk about it for a few minutes?” And they do, as we examine their Excel formulae for a while.

So according to ACRL, these two scenarios are not consultations. Instead they are just reference questions, equal to “Where is the bathroom?” and “How late is the library open?”

Pretty foolish definition of a consultation IMO.

Library specialists (whether in subject matter, formats like government information, or technology) generate consultations through their special skills, skills their target market learn about through proactive engagement with classes, friendly and inviting library guides, word of mouth marketing, etc.

So a consultation to me is a substantial research session — both scheduled and unscheduled — in which patrons seek out a specific library specialist for his/her specialized knowledge and skills; the consultation can be in person, online, or by phone.

(Yes, we could debate what “substantial” means.)

Ok, not the most elegant definition, but I hope you get my drift there. This ACRL committee needs to get out of its traditional library mindset to embrace and encourage the vital role of library specialists who actively promote their skills and services to students and faculty. The results of such work can be research appointments as well as pleasant surprises.

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Catching up:

This is spring break for the UNC system, and spring-like temperatures have finally arrived. Flowers are budding and pretty birds are foraging the new growth. The library is quiet as expected but there are still some business faculty, graduate students, and one Export Odyssey student team working on their research. It’s been a nice break before some extra teaching next week, and then ACRL the week after that.

Our ACRL program will be “New Models for New Roles: Creating Liaison Organizational Structures that Support Modern Priorities” (#ACRL2015liaisons). I will be introducing the topic and then our three main speakers:

  • Jutta Seibert (Coordinator for Academic Integration and History Liaison Librarian, Villanova University)
  • Margaret Burri (Associate Director for Academic Liaison and Librarian for History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University)
  • Lynda Kellam (Data Services & Government Information Librarian and Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science, UNC Greensboro)

The event is Saturday, March 28 at 9:45 AM in Portland Ballroom 253 of the Convention Center.  UNCG looked at the Villanova and Johns Hopkins models of centralized liaison organization as benchmarks for our own liaison shake-up. Jutta and I met at LOEX last year but Margaret and I have only chatted on the phone. So it will be fun to all meet up in person. We plan on leaving plenty of time for discussions with the libraries who attend. (Look here for a recap by April).

My wife Carol from Wake Forest University is speaking at the same day and time — in the adjacent room! (If we yell maybe we could hear each other through the ballroom’s movable wall.) Her program is “Weed it and Reap: Successful Strategies for Re-shaping Collections“; she is working with librarians from St. Olaf College and Macalester College.

I didn’t read this new article in time to include it in my last post: “Teaching students what we do: A collection management course” by Tony Horava, in the March 2015 issue of College & Research Libraries News. Tony describes a LIS collections class firmly grounded in the modern realities of library collection management. He also describes some very interesting active learning assignments for the students.

I took advantage of today’s quiet to finish work on…

Today’s topic:

Sort of an epilogue to our recent liaison reorganization. Our AD of Public Services, Kathy Crowe (also a liaison) asked us to define our liaisons roles as a tool for planning, evaluation, assessment, and recruitment. Creating our liaison roles document proved to be quick and easy compared to our long reorg process.

Now this is not innovative work on our part – other libraries have worked on and published very thoughtful strategic planning documents on liaison roles. The main theme seems to be liaison work moving from a focus on collections to a focus on engagement. The published history of this theme was discussed in the RUSA Quarterly article “Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons” by Isabel D. Silver (see last post, item 3).

Examples:

Three of us –colleagues Mark Schumacher, Jenny Dale, and me – volunteered to start the process of creating this document. We reviewed the Minnesota, Duke, and Washington documents. We really liked Duke’s use of best practices. Washington provided similar examples if you click through to the “More information at…” pages.

Within an hour, we came up with five roles:

  • Outreach & Engagement
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Research Services
  • Collections
  • Scholarly Communications

We decided our document would include defining aspects of each role as well as best practice examples.

A few weeks later we met with most of the liaisons at one of our monthly, hour-long liaison workshops, where all subject and functional team members are invited to a discussion on prearranged topics. Folks knew we were gathering to draft our roles document. Afterwards Mark, Jenny, and I would clean it up and email it out for further suggestions and edits.

We divided the assembled folks into five groups and gave each group a sheet with one of the five roles on top. The sheet had two sections: one labeled “define this role”, the other “best practices for this role”.

Each group spent 15 minutes working on their definition. Then we shared. The most interesting idea came from the “Outreach and Engagement” team, who said they struggled to define that topic independently of the other four. (Jenny, Mark, and I had discussed that problem earlier.) That group proposed we remove “outreach” as a role and instead cover that topic in the introduction of our proposed document.

Then we had the five groups pass their sheet to the next group clockwise, and work on some best practices for the role listed on their new sheet.

We concluded with a discussion of some of the best practices. The workshop went well: lots of energy and collaboration and no philosophical objections. (I thought we would have some word-smithing discussions about the roles, like “teaching & learning”.)

Then Mark, Jenny, and I typed up the ideas on the five sheets, standardized the verb tenses, and wrote an introduction. You can see below how we handled “outreach & engagement”. We received a few suggestions after emailing out the first draft. Today I emailed the second draft to library administration for final approval. I’m guessing the admins won’t ask for significant changes.

Liaison Roles
UNCG University Libraries
March 2015

Introduction

The roles of library liaisons (subject specialists assigned to academic disciplines) continue to evolve. This document describes both ongoing and new roles in order to assist with planning, evaluation, assessment, and recruitment. Best practices for each role are included to provide concrete examples of effective work.

Four functional roles of liaisons

Liaison Roles Matrix


Central nature of outreach & engagement

The ethos of liaison work is a mindset of outreach to and proactive engagement with UNCG students, faculty, staff and administrators. Liaisons might also work with alumni, other researchers, and community members. This outreach mindset permeates all four functional liaison roles described below.

General responsibilities of liaison work

  • Develop strong working relationships with faculty
  • Seek opportunities to collaborate and establish partnerships in research, teaching, advocacy, etc.
  • Monitor trends in teaching and scholarship in assigned disciplines
  • Promote library services and resources
  • Assess both user needs and liaison services
  • Engage in continual education in librarianship and assigned academic disciplines

1. Teaching and Learning

  • Provide information literacy and research instruction to distance and residential classes via guest instruction, teaching or co-teaching credit-classes, online learning objects, etc.
  • Work with instructors to integrate information literacy and research skills into the curriculum
  • Create and maintain effective library guides, subject portals, tutorials, videos, and other learning objects
  • Design graded and ungraded research assignments in collaboration with instructors that incorporate information literacy goals
  • Assess student learning of information literacy concepts using the University Libraries’ “Student Learning Outcomes” and via multiple assessment methods
  • Identify core classes and curricula that would benefit from research instruction and/or learning objects, and contact the teachers involved

Best practices

  • Developing teaching and assessment skills through conferences, workshops, team-teaching, observing others teach, etc.
  • Discussing teaching experiences and ideas with other librarians
  • Reading new and revised syllabi
  • Reading students’ research projects or observing final presentations for assessment
  • Examining other libraries’ research guides, tutorials, videos, etc. for fresh approaches and new ideas

2. Research Services

  • Provide customized reference and research services through email, phone, chat, and individual and group consultations
  • Help staff the Information Desk and AskUs online service
  • Make referrals to other librarians, SCUA, campus units, etc. as appropriate
  • Seek opportunities to extend services through embedded work
  • Understand database interfaces, citation management tools, and other research tools used on campus
  • Support the Reference Intern program through training and mentoring
  • Understand the research process of students and faculty

Best practices:

  • Monitoring information desk and liaison queues in LibraryH3lp
  • Applying reference interviewing strategies to research services
  • Following up with users after the initial research session
  • Investigating the research interests of faculty and graduate students in preparation for providing future research service
  • Learning new interfaces and tools through training, webinars, and self-directed learning
  • Analyzing LibStats, web logs, and other methods of data tracking to better understand user behavior and to make recommendations on how to improve our services or interfaces

3. Collections

  • Communicate with users regarding collection and research needs
  • Develop and maintain print and electronic collections for assigned subject areas
  • Manage collection funds effectively and efficiently
  • Monitor research and publishing trends in assigned subject areas
  • Contribute to accreditation reports and “new program” applications
  • Remain knowledgeable about SCUA collections and collaborate with SCUA as needed
  • Support donor connections as relevant to liaison subject areas

Best practices:

  • Discussing collection, budget, and licensing issues with faculty, administrators, and graduate students in meetings and one-on-one conversations
  • Examining UNCG-authored papers for research interests, trends, and use of research sources
  • Promoting use of Gobi alerts
  • Investigating and offering trials to new or cheaper databases
  • Supporting NC LIVE and the Carolina Consortium

4. Scholarly Communications

  • Keep current with general trends in scholarly communications, and monitor subject-specific trends
  • Educate and inform faculty, graduate students, and campus administrators about scholarly communication issues, copyright, author rights, etc.
  • Investigate and promote new avenues of scholarly communication such as open access publishing, institutional repositories, journal hosting, etc.
  • Encourage and support the writing of data management plans
  • Discover and recruit UNCG scholarly output for inclusion in the open access digital initiatives

 Best practices:

  • Encouraging faculty to submit their work to NC DOCKS
  • Attending workshops, webinars and forums sponsored by the Scholarly Communication Team, ACRL, etc.
  • Encouraging faculty to attend such workshops, webinars, and forums
  • Referring users to the Scholarly Communications Officer when appropriate

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