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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Last week was busy for me, with 12 class sessions plus a few early research consultations. (Two of those sessions were for my own for-credit class, but I had to prep for those too — accessing Census industry data using the new data.census.gov interface, which I’m not a big fan of yet. At least it didn’t freeze up in class this time.)

My first class last week was the only new one — Retail & Consumer Studies 355: Retail Consumer Research: 

An introduction to reading and evaluating retail consumer data to make key merchandise buying and planning decisions. Analysis of retail consumer data as applied to the development of business strategy.

The instructor, Professor Wood, talked to me about this class last fall when she was creating the syllabus. The industry advisory board for this department (CARS) reported that data analysis had become a vital need but that few new hires had skills in that area. CARS Faculty had additional anecdotal feedback about analytics becoming a big deal, even for a mere internships in the Wal-Mart HQ (which makes a lot of sense for that company).

One of the four student learning outcomes in RCS 355 is “demonstrate how to use retail data to develop customer insights and business strategy through hands-on experience.” One of the textbooks is the new Storytelling with Data: Let’s Practice.

The workshop set-up

We met in the smaller computer classroom in the library. This was a small class, so I asked all the students to introduce themselves and wrote their names down in their seating order. I told them that their instructor and I decided that the goals for this workshop include:

  • Developing some familiarity with professional databases for retailing data;
  • Improving their statistical literacy skills;
  • Getting experience with telling stories and making decisions with data.

I shared my agenda with the class:

  1. Introductions
  2. Warm up with Euromonitor: Discussion — what country drinks the most beer?
  3. Euromonitor Passport data and analytics: explaining a country’s sales forecast for womenswear
  4. Mintel market data and research: making decisions based on a table in a market report
  5. SimplyAnalytics for mapping U.S. demographic & psychographics: map a variable of your choice in a favorite city, block group level

Spoiler: we ran out of time before getting to data mapping. More on that below. That happens sometimes with a new lesson plan focusing on active learning and discussion. Those lesson plans usually take more time than you first predict. 

What happened

Warm-up discussion: what country drinks the most beer?

Box of markers

Box of markers (I used to have more colors — need to replenish)

I asked each student to pick their favorite color from my box of white-board markers. We got up and gathered around one of the big whiteboards. I asked the students to start writing down their guesses to the above question. Lots of ideas. Then I asked:

 “Ok, but how do we define “most beer”? How do we measure that?” 

The students started talking about volume, per person/capita, total money spent, etc. 

After discussing their guesses, we returned to the computers and opened up Euromonitor Passport. Using the “search statistics” box on the Passport homepage, it’s easy to get beer consumption by country on screen. Then I asked the students to start manipulating the data, for example, showing the data for total spending.

  • My question: What is wrong with using this data to compare countries?
  • A: Well, the data is in the native currency for each county. 
  • Q: Yes, good! See if you can figure out how to fix that….
  • A: Ah, you can change to one currency here…
  • Q: Ok, with all country data reported in U.S. dollars now, which country spends the most?
  • A: China. 
  • Another student: But it has the most people too.
  • Q: Ok, earlier, student X wrote “per person” on the board — can you make that change?
  • A: Umm yes, you do that here…wow, none of us guessed that country!

And so on. The students were using different versions of the Euromonitor data to tell stories, each story highlighting a different country that drinks the most beer according to different measurements.

After that warm-up, we focused on apparel for the rest of the workshop.

Second activity: interpreting sales forecasting (more story-telling)

I provided a short introduction to Euromonitor as a research company famous for global consumer data. Retail companies also buy their data, as I demonstrated using marketrearch.com (and noting the prices for a report).

I asked the students to pair up, pick a county, and then look up that country’s “Womenswear” report. 

“Look at the 5-year sales forecast. Summarize the forecast for your country (high growth, low growth, flat, or decline?)” 

“Ok, now please spend 5 minutes looking at both the industry trends and data as well as the macro-environment trends and data in this womenswear report. Based on what you learn, explain that sales forecast. Why does Euromonitor predict growth or decline in their forecast? What’s the story?”

We had an interesting discussion about Canada v. Italy, including the role of birth rates and immigration but also fashion trends and more general consumer trends.

Third (and final) activity: making a strategic decision using retail data

I briefly introduced Mintel as a research company, again showing the per-report prices in marketresearch.com. Professor Wood mentioned that early in her professional career, her company purchased Mintel reports. Back then the reports arrived on paper.

The students opened the recently-updated Luxury Fashion–US report. I asked each pair of students to find one table in that report that interested them. 

“What does that data mean? If you owned a luxury brand or a luxury fashion store, what decision might you make based on this data?”

Student answers (among others):

  • Gotta offer sales and discounts, even for luxury products.
  • Omni-channel is vital. Sell using both online and bricks ‘n mortar.
  • Younger women have less disposable income, so create a separate retailing brand with cheaper luxury goods for that market.

End of workshop feedback

One student said “it was useful to learn how to navigate these databases.” Another volunteered “I don’t like numbers but this workshop was fun.” Professor Wood told me that the workshop was “exactly what they needed.”

Two days later, after their next class session, Professor Wood emailed me to report that the students “felt it was a very valuable session and really liked learning how to find data in the Euromonitor and Mintel. They liked it so much that we discussed having one more session late this semester if you could be persuaded to do so?” 

She suggested we begin the second workshop with data mapping via SimplyAnalytics and end with prepared questions from the students regarding their final projects. Looking forward to that. Hopefully the students will sit in the same seats so that I’ll get their names right.

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sunrise in New Orleans

sunset in New Orleans (hotel room view over Canal Street — tiny bit of river at center-right)

Carol and I returned from visiting my snowbirding parents in Florida on December 31. We enjoyed New Year’s Day at home, went back to work for two days, and then I flew to New Orleans for three nights at USASBE 2020. I’ve never been to a conference so early in the year. A bit of shock.

Alyson Vaaler (in 2018) and I (2017) have written about the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference before. Six librarians attended this year with four of us providing programs. We managed to all get together for drinks in a cozy, literary-themed hole-in-the-wall in the French Quarter. I also encountered two Coleman Fellow director friends (cross-campus entrepreneurship program heads) and got caught up with them. This time though I was the only UNC Greensboro person at USASBE.

As both Alyson and I wrote, USASBE features an interesting mix of programming types [see scan] – not mostly panel discussions. I really like the programming diversity. The ELC 2020 conference will follow their example.

types of programs

types of programs

The “Emerging Teaching Exercises” program Genifer Snipes (U. of Oregon) and I provided ended up scheduled for the final hour of the conference, mid-morning on the Tuesday. Before the full conference schedule was released in late Fall 2019, I had already booked my flights with a convenient direct flight Tuesday morning, with a Tuesday evening church meeting at home in mind. So for the second conference in a row, I abandoned Genifer to the wolves err asked her to speak without me despite planning the program together. And yet she still talks to me and replies to my emails — a generous and forgiving soul.

USASBE 2020 was my last professional travel sponsored by our Coleman Fellows grant. We’ll see if I get back to an entrepreneurship education conference like USASBE, SBI, or GCEC again soon.

USASBE remains an excellent conference for learning about entrepreneurship education, classroom trends, pedagogical research, and (to a lesser extent) campus programming (centers and incubators — but GCEC is better for those topics). It remains useful to me to learn how entrepreneurship professors require (or not) primary and secondary research and how they talk about what we librarians call information literacy. Then I can better talk to my own UNCG profs using their own language — much more effective than using language cultivated in the librarian echo chamber. That’s a big reason I go to these conferences.

Krewe of Joan of Arc Mardi Gras parade

Krewe of Joan of Arc Mardi Gras parade

On the final night of the conference, Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) and I walked over toward Jackson Square for the first Mardi Gras parade of the year. It was sponsored by the Krewe of Joan of Arc and told the story of Joan from birth through her canonization in 1920. It was so much fun and I thanked Nancy for inviting me along.

Here are my highlights from my two full days at USASBE.

Sunday

The librarians congratulated Karen MacDonald (Kent State U) for attaining tenure this school year. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know Sara Ness (Penn State); Sara and I sat together for all the morning and lunch keynotes.

Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons

Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons

The opening keynote speakers were Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons, Founders of Mixtroz. They are African-American female tech entrepreneurs (also mother and daughter), not “techies” but “tech founders” and outsiders in multiple ways in this industry (although upper-income). Their app fosters face to face communication and helps develop communication skills. Schrader and Ammons emphasized the vital role of networking while discussing their experiences developing this company, positive and negative.

“Leveraging entrepreneurship as a tool of empowerment”

Mike Morris (Notre Dame) is well known in entrepreneurship education for running the Experiential Classroom for entrepreneurship instructors in Florida where he used to work. I last heard him speak about entrepreneurship as an anti-poverty strategy at GCEC in Chicago two years ago. He has a new book on this topic focusing on entrepreneurship as empowerment and transformation.

Morris talked about how poverty is a characteristic of one’s situation, not the person. That situation often involves education, diet, housing, single parenting, transportation, and work stresses and scarcities. Needs are often immediate and short-term. A long-term focus is more likely in situations of privilege, and therefore the lean startup and business canvas models don’t work well in the poverty context, he asserted.  So don’t force middle and upper-class attitudes and entrepreneurship techniques. Listen to and support the people on their terms. It’s not unlike what we learned about supporting refugee families resettled into North Carolina.

Performance and success are better measured by growth of skills and competencies plus progress along an entrepreneurial journey. Don’t emphasize the “number of start-ups” and other metrics better applied to entrepreneurs with a lot of time and capital.

Morris talked about the community engagement program in South Bend. Students are involved at every stage and provide lots of consulting. Less than half of the students are business majors — other skill sets are also needed, such as communication, design, and social work.

Reginald Tucker (Louisiana State University) discussed launching the same program in Baton Rouge. He has found the local churches to be effective to build relationships with people in poverty interested in entrepreneurship. That was apparently not the case in South Bend. LSU has not historically been part of the local African-American community, Tucker reported, so working with local trusted partners has been essential for buy-in and engagement.

Monday

Martin Atkins

Martin Atkins

The morning keynote made sure we were all awake and excited. Martin Atkins is an arts administration and entrepreneurship faculty member at Millikin University. My friend Julie Shields, the director of the Millikin entrepreneurship program (and one of those Coleman directors at the conference) introduced him. Atkins was a drummer for Public Image Ltd (Johnny Rotten’s post-punk band), Nine Inch Nails (he’s in the “Head in a Hole” video), and more recently Pigface. He bought Steve Albini’s studio. For the Pigface tour last summer, he created a 3-credit class for a group of students joining the tour on their own bus. Atkins was effective at challenging teaching norms. He also dropped lots of f-bombs and threw muffins out into the USASBE crowd. (Hey, he also provided a chart from Statista on the sales growth of vinyl records. Library database!)

“The Power of Defining the Problem: A New Model for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills”

Summer Krstevska and Nancy Lovas

Summer Krstevska and Nancy Lovas

Entrepreneurship Librarians Summer Krstevska (Wake Forest U) and Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill) presented “The Power of Defining the Problem: A New Model for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills” in an Emerging Teaching Exercises group session. Good attendance for this one, and many questions for the two librarians from the professors in the room. One comment: critical thinking in the classroom is very much like due diligence in industry. Another: too often students jump to the solution without first exploring the problem. I bet Summer and Nancy post something about their exercise at their blog later this year. Keep your eyes open for that.

(At another conference, one prof described their “understanding the problem competition” — instead of pitching solutions, the students are judged by how well they have researched and understood the problem. What an amazing opportunity to teach both primary and secondary research, as well as empathy, active listening, etc.)

Quick takes

From a program on interdisciplinary, cross-campus programs: Penn State’s preferred measure of success is not the number of on-campus startups but rather the number of students who have taken at least one entrepreneurship class.

Another cross-campus program, Eastern Washington University, has an emphasis on telling stories using data — entrepreneurial analytics, they call it. First in their curriculum is a startup research class. Library/database instruction is a core concept and competency for their program among 13 others. Post-Great Recession, the Communications and Music programs at EWU suffered steep declines in enrollment until entrepreneurship classes were added to their curricula. Now enrollments are increasing. Causation? But now students can respond to their parents “See, this is how I can make a living with this degree.”

I attended an experiential education program in which we played with Play-Doh err explored entrepreneurial mindset educational techniques using Play-Doh and play money.

Tuesday morning

“Measuring the Market: Developing Data Driven Estimates of Market Size and Value”

Genifer Snipes (with me in absentia) spoke on “Measuring the Market: Developing Data Driven Estimates of Market Size and Value.” Our issue:

Entrepreneurship students often lack the skills and situational awareness needed to effectively determine the potential market size for their product or service proposals. This is particularly the case when making forecasts for new or niche products & services. Consequently, students often target markets too large to cover or too small to be lucrative, or end up predicting unrealistically optimistic sales, while failing to use & cite authoritative data that can justify their projections.

Snipes & Cramer decision tree

Snipes & Cramer decision tree

After providing some examples (“Market size of the cannabis extraction equipment manufacturing industry”; “Market size for green formal wear (incl. wedding) for women”), we presented our decision tree, covering both B2B and B2C scenarios. Genifer then asked for feedback. One of the best comments was that we really have two separate objectives covered in that flowchart: customer profile (what is the nature of your customer? Your best customer?) and market size. So maybe we need to use a two-chart approach instead.

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NCLA 2019

NCLA, our state library association, holds its conference every two years. There is periodic discussion about holding the conference every year, like Texas and Virginia do. In conference years, the NCLA budget is strong; in the off years, the budget is weak. Some of the quieter sections of NCLA don’t provide much value to their members between conferences, so holding annual conferences would help those members get more out of their sections. Reuniting with old and new friends, seeing former interns now as happy professionals, and making new contacts are always highlights at NCLA.

BLINC (the business librarianship section) has always been quite active at the conference, on top of offering quarterly workshops in both conference- and non-conference years. This year we had four programs plus a vendor-sponsored dinner and a vendor-sponsored happy hour. This schedule reflects BLINC’s emphasis on training and also networking.

Mary Scanlon and Summer Krstevska

Mary Scanlon and Summer Krstevska, BLINC’s past and future chairs

As the outgoing chair of BLINC, I attended a program titled “There’s Space for Us All: An Introduction to NCLA” in which each chair could provide an elevator pitch about their section to the new members. Here was mine:

BLINC is a community of folks who value networking, socializing, mentoring and peer-mentoring, and frequent free workshops. Every time someone joins our Google Group, the chair welcomes that person with a message to the full group, and usually five or six other members reply with their own greetings. That behavior illustrates our organizational culture. In terms of content, we cover small business, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, nonprofits, and economic development.

As in 2017, the conference met in Winston-Salem. I live right on the edge of downtown and so enjoyed being able to walk to the convention center. Downtown W-S continues to grow and I think most of the folks at the conference (900-1,000) enjoy the easy access to many restaurants and breweries, plus the retro arcade, indy arts movie theater, ax-throwing bar, Mast General Store, nonprofit bookstore, arts district, and the newest attraction, a cat cafe (across the street and 3 doors down from the convention center). You can probably tell that I’m proud to live there and have enjoyed the changes Carol and I have witnessed since we moved there in 2001. But I better move on to summarizing what I learned at the conference…

Wednesday, Oct. 16

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Libraries’ Expanding Role as Catalysts of Community Change

Two librarians from High Point Public Library, Mary Sizemore and Mark Taylor, joined EPA Program Manager Chip Gurkin to discuss how this downtown library became a leader in the fight against food insecurity. The library partnered with local groups and the EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program to create several initiatives.

Part of the library parking lot was rebuilt into space for a weekly farmer’s market. Cooking demos and classes happen there now too. Mary, the library’s director, joked that “ I didn’t think I would be running a farmers market when I was in library school.” The library also hosts a community garden, leveraging support from several local organizations: county health department, a local food security nonprofit, the High Point University pharmacy school, the High Point Economic Development Corporation, local churches, Home Depot, and others. A local church provides free, healthy lunches for the local homeless once a week in the library.

I think I was the only academic librarian at this program, which was disappointing since this library illustrated proactive community engagement and creative library-as-place so well.

Make it Stick: Active Learning Techniques for Programming and Instruction

Mary Abernathy and Betty Garrison

Mary Abernathy and Betty Garrison

BLINC members Mary Abernathy (Salem College) and Betty Garrison (Elon University) discussed how active learning helps move learners from passive to engaged learning. After summarizing the core concepts, Betty talked about a one-shot class she taught involving family history and immigration. She asked the students to record the full names and birthdates of their parents and grandparents. One student pulled out their phone to call grandmother and ask. Betty and the professor were ok with that and quickly other students called home too. Then the students began looking up their family in HeritageQuest. At least one student called back the grandmother while in class to report the findings!

General suggestions: find what resonates with your students. Have them fill out or develop ideas using a shared page in Google Drive. Try a digital scavenger hunt. Have them look up a favorite public company in the Morningstar database. Get students to move around — use the white board, form teams, come and get supplies, what have you.

Mary and Betty asked us to share our favorite active learning strategies on poster boards spread out across our room. There was a lot of small group discussion. Betty summarized and some audience members expanded on what they noted, with the microphone being passed around. There was a strong vibe of engagement and sharing in this session.

Comics in the Academic Library: Alienated Superheroes, Feminism Dystopias, and Graphic Memoirs

Steve Kelly and Meghan Webb from Wake Forest University discussed their process for creating a graphic novel browsing collection on the main floor and then creating a comic book reading club. Steve discussed acquisition and cataloging issues. Per book, this new collection is much more popular with students than the long-established general browsing collection. The library expanded the graphic novel collection based on this data.

Slides at http://Bit.ly/ncla19comics

The book club helped the library collect feedback from both students and faculty on the collection. Discussions often expanded into broader social and cultural issues related to the stories in question. Recent titles for discussion include March, Bitch Planet, Black Hammer, and Persepolis. Most meetings attract 10-15 students. Student activities fees are used to buy the books for book club participants.

A lesson learned: synthesizing collections and programming can lead to success.

BLINC dinner

BLINC dinner

BLINC dinner at Spring House

Wednesday night was the BLINC dinner sponsored by SimplyAnalytics at a fancy downtown restaurant in what was an old mansion. Steven Swartz and Juan Vasquez were our gracious hosts. After drinks and appetizers in the former library in the mansion, we dined in a private garden-view room. A handful of BLINC retirees joined a bunch of new members and us older members for a lively time.

Thursday, Oct. 17

2020 Census: Counting on Libraries

Bob Coats is the North Carolina Governor’s Census Liaison, based in our State Data Center. Bob updated us on the Census 2020. Good attendance at this one. He is an engaging speaker and super knowledgeable — BLINC should invite him to workshop sometime.

Bob provide a quick history of census-taking, starting from Rome, pre-empire. He told us the English word comes from “censere” meaning “to estimate”.

No Bob picture so here is the BLINC dinner menu

Besides congressional reappointment, he noted the use of census data in federal funding, to understand our local communities, and as foundational data to many other surveys, models, estimates for the next decade. [We could add here use of each decennial census by the market research companies like EASI, ESRI, MediaMark, and Nielson/Simmons to provide their own demographic and psychographic data.]

MSAs will get redefined in 2023.

NC will probably gain 1 or 2 seats from population growth between 2010 and 2020. However, the urban and suburban areas are getting most of the growth. Most rural counties had small growth, no growth, or some decline in total population. Not unlike other states.

The urban/rural divide is reflected in American Community Survey data on “no home internet access”. Since the Census will no longer be using paper forms, internet access will be an issue next year. Libraries will be asked to help people fill out their online forms. There was much interest in the room in discussing community awareness and questionnaire assistance. Bob mentioned https://census.nc.gov/ and a toolkit at https://www.census.gov/partners/toolkit.pdf

Bob showed us the https://www.census.gov/roam site — “Response Outreach Area Mapper” — areas with higher percentage of no-returns. There is also the Census Engagement Navigator.

Lots of concern and energy in the room.

Finally, Bob talked about how the Census will be masking some data that we used to have access to, due to privacy concerns and ever-growing data processing power by our computers — differential privacy. A big concern for many. Maybe we will have to rely on Census data processed by the market research companies like ESRI and EASI to have access to that level of detail.

Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em: Reinvigorating, Reinventing (and Occasionally Relinquishing) Library Outreach Programs

Hu Womack and Meghan Webb of Wake Forest University discussed some of their outreach programs but also assessment and when programs needed to be revised or simply retired. The “fold ‘em” (yes, they played that song) aspect was particularly interesting since conference programming and articles tend to focus so much on successes.

Most of the innovative and creative WFU outreach programs are documented at the library’s Flickr site, so I’m going to be lazy and refer you to those pictures instead of summarizing all the programs.

Hu and Meghan are outreach librarians. Many of us do outreach as subject liaisons, a narrower scope of activity for a narrower target population. But the encouragement to always consider if a program needs to be reframed, revamped, scaled back, or shut down applies to liaison outreach too.

You’re in business: Four free & NC LIVE resources for non-business experts

John Raynor, Sara Thynne, and Nancy Lovas

John Raynor, Sara Thynne, and Nancy Lovas

Sara Thynne (Alamance Community College), Nancy Lovas (UNC Chapel Hill), and John Raynor (High Point Public Library) provided this training session for librarians who are not business information specialists. Using the frame of “What questions do you need to ask for opening a plant nursery?”, they covered ReferenceUSA, SimplyAnalytics, and ABI-INFORM (all part of our state-wide NC LIVE package).

John rivals Juan Vasquez as one of the best speakers and trainers on SimplyAnalytics. John introduces that database as a tool to “turn detailed, daunting tables of data into colorful and meaningful maps…our human brains have evolved to work better with color, shape, and pattern” rather than tabular, numeric data.

John likens filters to “a series of hurdles [as in track and field, he had a picture of this]: “Your mapped geographies need to clear each hurdle to finish the race and show up on your map.”

Nancy and Sara’s sections were equally useful. At the end, they answered questions regarding ABI v. Business Source, the industry reports within the ProQuest Business suite, and the creation of tables (not maps) in SimplyAnalytics.

BLINC Happy Hour

BLINC happy hour

BLINC happy hour at Small Batch (first wave)

Two years ago after NCLA 2017, John had suggested that BLINC host a happy hour on the Thursday before the all-conference reception. This year, we tried out that idea at the brewery across the street from the convention center with sponsorship from ProQuest (Jo-Anne Hogan and Dawn Zehner). Dawn was able to join us. We had a good time. (Jo-Anne wasn’t at this conference but will be at the Charleston Conference next month.)

Friday, Oct. 18

Developing your personal brand as a librarian

Angel Truesdale and Ingrid Hayes visiting the small groups

Angel Truesdale and Ingrid Hayes visiting the small groups

Angel Truesdale (UNC Charlotte), Ingrid Hayes (Rockingham County Public Library), De’Trice Fox (Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), and I (all BLINC members) did this program. De’Trice ended up double-booked and couldn’t make NCLA but did provide slide content.

Slides and resources.

Angel, Ingrid, and I began by providing our elevator pitches as examples of what we hoped the participants would craft for themselves in this program. Then we covered our slide materials before asking the attendees to form small groups and start drafting their own brand messages. Three brave volunteers took the mic and shared the pitches they wrote.

Raising your Library’s Profile: Making your Community Relationships Work for You

Summer Krstevska and Morgan Ritchie-Baum

Summer Krstevska and Morgan Ritchie-Baum

Morgan Ritchie-Baum (Greensboro Public Library) and Summer Krstevska (Wake Forest University), more BLINC members, profiled community engagement projects they initiated. Both librarians are fairly new at their libraries and have been building their professional networks and growing relationships with local partners.

Slides and a handout with tips and resources.

Morgan’s library has hosted meetings for the local Small Business Center, but the librarians have not really been involved. She asked if she could staff their registration table, which provided her an opportunity to meet everyone. Then Morgan got five minutes in front of everyone to pitch her services and the library business databases.

Later Morgan organized a nonprofit resources fair with the Small Business Center and 14 other partners. Over 80 people (plus local media) attended.

Morgan’s final recommendations: Research your relationship. Begin by just showing up. Promote that your library offers more than just spaces. And document everything.

Before moving to WFU, Summer was the business librarian for the National University in San Diego. This institution has 26 campuses and presence in 56 countries but just one library. That library had a goal of more programming. Summer created an entrepreneurship series: start up stories, business planning workshops, and a business plan pitch competition. The SBDC was an important partner, and Wells Fargo provided a grant. 120+ folks attended. Three student ventures won financial support.

Summer’s best practices: don’t take it personally when folks say no; don’t choose entrepreneurs at random, likewise with community partners. Have a theme, or stick to a local strength, like a local growth industry. Don’t forget to mention what’s in it for them. Be persistent. Name-drop when necessary. Choose entrepreneurs that own businesses that you personally are passionate about and have a connection to.

Friday lunch

The conference wrapped up with a big lunch at the convention center. Afterwards another BLINC member and I slipped away to a brewery to enjoy an adult beverage and conversation about work. And with that chat, our NCLA 2019 ended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wrapping up the semester

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s topic

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

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

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

We agreed to this discussion agenda:

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

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

Measuring faculty research impact

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

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Programming for business students in the library

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

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

Instruction

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

Old Salem scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Salem scene

Old Salem scene

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

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

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

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

What do you do in the summer?

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

Some answers:

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

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

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

Catching up

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

But perhaps also because of this trend:

UNCG business school enrollment trend

UNCG business school enrollment trend

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

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

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

Today’s topic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building your liaison pitch

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

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

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

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

Our liaison pitches can be used in:

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

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

Some examples

For a research workshop:

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

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

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

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

An addition for a team-based experiential learning class:

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

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

Plugging library subscription databases:

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

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

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

For PhD students:

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

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

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

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

To new, untenured professors:

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

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

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

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

Wrapping up

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

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Happy New Year, everyone. Good luck with your winter months and spring semester.

I like to occasionally post on instructional design and teaching tips. Every year there seems to be more demand from business librarians for business instruction tips and strategies, but the opportunities to share on and discuss this topic remain pretty limited. Here is hopefully a worthy if tiny contribution.

Student team planning some research

Student team planning some research

Last fall, I was going to write about planning research workshops for the two sections each semester of CRS 363: Global Sourcing. This is a class in our Consumer and Retailing Studies program. The students research aspects of sourcing clothing from other countries (health of the local manufacturing industries, key companies, country macro-issues like political and business climates, labor policies, trade barriers, etc.) for a pretend corporate client. Pretty challenging research, especially for developing countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Lately in the research workshops, I assign each student team a core source (ex. a database like Euromonitor or a web site like doingbusiness.org) and give the team questions to research. Then the student teams take turns presenting their findings to all the other teams. My assigned questions include “discuss how using this source helps you make better sourcing decisions for your client”, so the students are not just providing basic database orientation. This semester I’m going to have the teams fill out a Google sheet linked from the libguide as a strategy to share team findings beyond the verbal summaries.

But then in October, the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship published “Taking care of business (before class): Information literacy in a flipped classroom” by Natalia Tingle (William M. White Business Library, University of Colorado at Boulder). The classroom activity discussed by Natalia is similar to what I summarized above for CRS 363, but her detailed and thoughtful article is much more useful than what I would have accomplished in a blog post. So go take a look if you have access to JBFL.

Instead I’ll write about instruction for X-Culture

My hardest one-shot teaching situation lately has been the X-Culture sections. X-Culture is an international business experiential learning project in which students work in global teams. A UNCG student might be in a team with students from Finland, China, and India.

UNCG Management Professor Vas Taras created X-Culture around ten years ago or so. He wasn’t happy with his syllabus for the undergraduate Introduction to International Business class (MGT 301). Through the Academy of International Business, he asked if other management profs were interested in the idea of global student teams trying to solve international business problems. Many profs said yes.

X-Culture now has over 5,000 students each year from over 40 countries. There are some summary videos about the project at the above link (they are out of date regarding the number of students involved). Professor Taras recruits projects from U.S. and international companies and nonprofits. Student teams select one of the projects and create a report suggesting solutions for their client’s need. Teams with the same client compete with each other. Each semester, the best teams around the world are identified. Some clients have provided incentives (including intern or job offers) for the best teams.

Once or twice a year, many of the X-Culture professors and students gather for an international X-Culture global symposium. I made some short research videos (center column, under my intro video) by request for last summer’s symposium in Italy. (I would love to attend this symposium sometime, but you know, funding limitations.)

The large scope of X-Culture allows the professors to collect data, conduct research, and publish on international virtual teams, experiential learning, and crowdsourcing.

Example of client projects

The project descriptions live behind a password since they contain some strategic details about each client. So I’ll just summarize here.

  • A U.S.-based cross-cultural management consultancy hosts a summit that only attracts a local crowd. The company wants to attract attendees from around the world.
  • A tea manufacturer in Colombia wants to expand into new export markets.
  • A plagiarism detection company in the Ukraine wants to develop a business model based on personal subscriptions.
  • The chamber of commerce in a large city wants to attract more foreign direct investment to its area. What are good countries and industries to target, and what is an effective sales pitch given the nature of this city and its business conditions?
  • An Indian designer of 5D gaming machines wants to expand to new markets.
  • A Spanish company makes software for NGOs and wants to expand into new markets.
  • A U.S. supplier of organic alpaca poop wants to expand into additional B2B markets such as large commercial nurseries.

There were 13 clients total in Fall 2018.

Why is X-Culture challenging for research instruction?

Well, let’s make a list!

  1. As you hopefully noticed, the client projects are diverse: companies and nonprofits/NGOs in various countries, with B2B or B2C markets (sometimes both), with needs involving industry trends, market and customer identification, competitive intelligence, financial benchmarking, best practices in logistics or operations management, trade barrier analysis, etc. So a wide variety of research strategies and resources are needed each semester.
  2. I only have contact with 1/4 of the student team, namely, the single UNCG team member.
  3. Given licensing terms for subscription databases, UNCG students are not allowed to share database content with their teammates and their clients. Another topic to address in class.
  4. Many of the MGT 301 students haven’t had any significant business research projects yet in their curriculum.
  5. Each semester, there are several hundred of these UNCG students between the on-campus and online sections.

My responses to these challenges

One-shot instruction here requires sort of a triage model. First, distill the client project topics down to the commonalities for all teams. Typically:

  • The client’s industry identification
  • State of that industry (U.S. industry and/or global)
  • Competitors (U.S. and/or global)

Second, ask the students to identify if their client is focusing on B2B or B2C. I ask the B2C teams to research a foreign consumer market and the B2B teams research the business dynamics of a target country. Euromonitor works well for both of these topics, so at least the students are in the same resource.

Below as an appendix are the research questions from my worksheet. The questions could be given to the students on paper or via Google Drive linked from the libguide.

(At the request of the UNCG X-Culture instructors, Prof. Taras and Karen Lynden, I designed the libguide to have value for non-UNCG students as well as UNCG students. Hence the inclusion of “free authoritative sources”. Vas and Karen share that libguide with the other X-Culture instructors around the world. Good for my usage stats.)

Third, in terms of classroom management: I can’t have the students sit together in their teams of course (as I do for almost all of my other instruction sessions). Instead, I ask the students to sit based on their clients (even though the students are competing with each other). That way they can discuss their research findings and learn from each other. And I can visit each client-group by the end of the session. As always, contacting me or seeing me outside of class is emphasized by me and the instructor.

Finally, I do emphasize appropriate use of licensed subscription content in a global project like this. I also try to work in a few words about plagiarism. By request, I made a short presentation for the online sections on this topic. One of the videos made for the annual summit covers this too, since plagiarism might be more of a problem in some other cultures. (Judging from the number of views, the global X-Culture faculty are not showing this video to their students. Of course, it’s only provided in English.)

It also was by Karen’s request that I created a visual guide to “How to cite figures, tables, graphs, and maps in APA”, which I now provide on all my libguides through my master APA page (see upper left).

Assessment is challenging for a global teams research project in which the research needs vary widely. When I check in with each ad hoc client team during my visit, I can get a quick sense of whether the students understand the nature of the research required for their client, and if they understand how to apply the database content to solving some of the problems involved.

I have not used the final reports as a type of authentic assessment, due to the global team aspect and frankly a lack of time on my part. My embedded classes (and my own class, when I am teaching it) are already time-consuming during final presentation and final report season, plus there is the final surge of consultations from other classes. If my library had two business librarians, we could do better with this. (See my recent post on the lean liaison model.)

That’s it. Hope that was useful!

–sc

Appendix: my worksheet questions

1. B2B or B2C?

Is your client primarily B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer)?

2. State of the U.S. industry

Use the IBIS database to identify your client’s industry:

Summarize its industry outlook:

Summarize the key success factors (look in the “Competitive Landscape” chapter):

Summarize industry globalization (same chapter):

3a. for B2C clients: a foreign consumer market

Search the Euromonitor Passport database for your consumer product or service category in any country (ex. “France tea” or “Brazil baby”). Name the report you found:

Summarize the market forecast:

List the top three brands or companies:

Note the related reports.

3b. for B2B clients: business dynamics

Search Euromonitor Passport database for its “business dynamics” report for a foreign country (ex. “Egypt business dynamics”). Name the country:

Summarize its regulatory market:

Summarize its operating risk:

Use the “More Related Items” list near the top left to find one more Euromonitor report that would be useful for your client:

4a. U.S. competitors

Search ReferenceUSA for your U.S.-based competitors, ranked by sales descending.

Note you can download the list, generate a heat map, etc.

You can also use this to identify B2B customers in the U.S.

4b. Global competitors

Use the Company Dossier search in NexisUni to identify, rank, and download international competitors and potential B2B customers.

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