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Although officially a lone business librarian based in a general library, I have been privileged to have a business librarian partner for the last four years. This is thanks to the UNCG Diversity Resident Librarian program and residents Nataly Blas and Orolando Duffus. Nataly was my partner from 2012-14, and Orolando from 2014-16 (until last week actually). Both Nataly and Orolando have written about their work embedding into research-intensive business classes as co-teachers and research consultants.

Nataly Blas and Orolando Duffus at ACRL 2015 in Portland, OR

Nataly Blas & Orolando Duffus at ACRL 2015 in Portland.

After her residency*, Nataly became the business librarian at Loyola Marymount University. She is building a reputation for herself as an expert in information literacy and presented at ALA in Orlando on curriculum mapping strategies.

Orolando begins work next week as a business librarian at the University of Houston, working with fellow business librarian Lisa Martin. He has presented posters at several conferences already, with a poster at IFLA coming up next month. Good luck to Orolando!

I really enjoyed collaborating with both librarians on research instruction workshops, outreach opportunities, and interesting research questions. While the liaisons here at UNCG are a friendly and collaborative bunch, it was special to me to have a fellow business librarian to talk to about our specialized world. I haven’t enjoyed that situation at work since my first job at Davenport College of Business. Business librarians who work in business school libraries with multiple staff might enjoy that camaraderie all the time.

We have hired our 2016-18 resident. She wants to focus on public services and instruction, but at this point is very interested in international studies I think. So the streak of UNCG hiring diversity resident business librarians is probably over, sigh.

At least BLINC and BRASS are still here to provide networking opportunities for us soloists, and BUSLIB-L remains a supportive and friendly forum too. It’s really important for liaisons old and new not to feel isolated. Networking and mentoring (or peer-mentoring) are vital to liaison success and well-being, in my opinion.

 

* Nataly actually landed the LMU position early and moved out to L.A. in the spring!

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On Monday, six academic business librarians gathered at the Salem College Library in Winston-Salem, NC for a morning-long discussion of professional writing and speaking opportunities.

Salem College is oldest women’s college in the United States (13th oldest overall), having been founded by Moravians in colonial times. The campus is adjacent to Old Salem and near our condo, so I walked over to meet with friends for our chat. After our discussion we strolled over to what used to be the Winston-Salem Southbound Railway building for a bistro lunch.

Discussion at Salem College

Discussion at Salem College

A few of us have faculty status and so are required to write and speak; one of us is deep into a PhD program and very involved with research and publishing; and others are interested in doing more writing and speaking.

After sharing our summer news and vacation recaps, we decided on this simple agenda:

  1. How to identify topics that are publishable;
  2. Where to publish;
  3. The same but for speaking

I didn’t keep complete notes on my iPad, and some of our talk should be kept private, but here are some points that are hopefully interesting and useful. Sorry if these notes seem too brief. Maybe another general point to make here is the importance of building and using your professional network to explore opportunities.

1. How to identify topics that are publishable

Question: do you start pursuing a writing idea with the topic or the publishing venue? We discussed that it could be both, too. Sometimes we get solicitations or encouragement to write something from a publisher or editor. It can certainly by harder for a newer librarian to benefit like that from a professional network, but partnering with another librarian to write something can help.

There are a few blogs about library writing which often list opportunities:

As for topics? The first question in response is — what are you passionate about? What are you most interested in? Start from those topics. Don’t force yourself to write about something you find boring. If you get rejections on a topic you have passion for, you may need to tweak the main idea but don’t give up on it too quickly.

However, having a unique angle on your topic is pretty important, or having unique or better data of some sort. Look for gaps in the literature (like PhD students are encouraged to do when they are considering a dissertation topic).

Go with your comfort writing, which may be quantitative or qualitative. Consider partnering with a friend who has a writing strength you don’t have.

Offer to write a column (email a column editor about an idea you have) or consider writing a position piece (“Librarians need to start doing….”). It doesn’t have to be a research article every time.

Got a preliminary idea? Write a blog post about it (lots of them accept guest-writing). See if you find the writing interesting and would be interested to write more. You might get some useful preliminary feedback, too. (Just don’t publish your complete manuscript as a blog post – save some writing and ideas for the more traditional publication.)

Regarding rejections from editors, one librarian told of getting an article harshly rejected from a mid-quality journal, getting a no-feedback rejection from a low-quality journal, but later being told by editors of a high-quality journal that it was among the best papers they have ever received. So don’t give up.

We discussed that some editors are supportive and helpful (even when rejecting an article outright) while others are well, less so. The editors for ACRL’s College and Research Libraries have a reputation for being harsh, but they do receive a large number of mediocre submissions that don’t even try to follow its “instructions for authors.”

We discussed institutional review boards a bit. It’s good to make a friend on the board who can provide advice. Sometimes you will submit a proposal to the board and it will declare the research to be exempt from IRB requirements. So don’t fear the IRB. You can usually check with the IRB before running a survey, etc. to get feedback.

2. Where to publish

We talked about good and bad experiences with editors. One of us co-edited a book but received almost no support from the publisher. Two of us wrote a Q/A article but didn’t have our names listed as co-authors until six weeks after publication. Bogus!

I reported on writing a book chapter for an ABC-CLIO book edited by two librarians in Alabama and having an excellent experience.

And one of us wrote a book chapter for IGI and had to use their format, which really didn’t fit the content of the chapter, but otherwise had a good experience with IGI and would write for them again.

We emphasized the importance of researching what kind of articles (editorials, practical pieces, reviews, or research) a journal publishes, and of course what topics it tends to publish. So look at recent articles and table of contents, and read the journal’s scope/author instructions very carefully.

Except for occasional special issues in various journals, the main venues for business librarianship have been the Taylor & Francis Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship and the new Ticker open-access journal, created by some of the ABLD directors.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a short practical article for publications like College & Research Library News or Academic BRASS.

3. On speaking

There was a pretty free-wheeling discussion, since we all had stories to tell from various conferences. We considered ourselves lucky to have lots of high-quality small, annual conferences within a short drive of our homes.

We discussed ACRL a bit too. Alas it has no business section but many business librarians do attend and speak (and party) there. Key aspects when designing a panel proposal to ACRL: uniqueness, applicability to other libraries, and connection to hot trends.

You can submit an excellent proposal for an ACRL contributed paper and not be accepted if there aren’t other related submissions than can be combined with your own to form an hour-long series of papers.

Some conferences invite speakers to contribute to a conference proceedings, which is an easy way to get a peer-review article published as well as credit for your talk. LOEX, the Charleston Conference, and ACRL are examples. Your proceedings could be just a narrative write-up of your slides, or could provide deeper analysis or additional case studies.

Some international conferences can be less expensive than you might think (one of us recently spoke in Dublin). Two of us are now attending and speaking at business professor conferences, which our administrators really like. So don’t limit yourself.

We can’t say with certainty, but we assume that a proposed panel of librarians from different libraries is often more interesting to a conference programming committee than a panel of librarians from the same library. ACRL bears this out we think.

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Yesterday I finished writing another external review letter for a business librarian up for tenure. While reviewing the accomplishments of such a candidate, I usually experience one of these two emotional responses, or frequently both:

1. Hey, that’s a pretty good achievement, not quite the level of engagement I currently enjoy or the quantity I accomplish but still not bad good for you.

Or

2. Wow what a great idea why haven’t I ever thought of that or tried that, am I slacking off??

So either mild condescension or a bit of awe.

More seriously, given the amount of documentation provided to the external reviewer, it is always very interesting to examine such a thorough overview of a librarian’s work. The reviewer gets to read the candidate’s philosophy, goals, accomplishments, usage and assessment data (sometimes), scholarly communication, and testimonials from students, faculty, and other librarians.

Bloggers like the Hedgehog Librarian are writing about their experiences (and sometimes their concerns, frustrations, and pain) writing and assembling these large tenure applications over the course of a year. The Promotion and Tenure Committees and external reviewers do look very carefully at all the documentation. (I spent most of Monday reviewing the materials.) So these big portfolios do matter.

Often when experiencing emotional response #2, I come away with a list of new ideas and things to try here at UNCG. That happened yesterday too.

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Chair on the lake

Chair on the lake

No, I don’t have any juicy stories of bad behavior to tell (hey, we are professionals over here!) but I do have some behind-the-scene information and advice based on chairing many searches. Jump down to “Today’s topic” if you are in a hurry.

Catching up

Exams ended at UNCG on Wednesday, with graduation ceremonies taking place yesterday. Today [when I began writing this] is quiet but the unexpected 70 degree December temps make it harder to stay in the office and be productive.

On Wednesday, we had around 20 librarians from around the state here in Jackson Library for BLINC’s (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) winter workshop. Mary Scanlon (Wake Forest University) and Anna Dulin Milholland (Salem College) talked about some innovations in teaching and assessment; Heather Greer Klein (NC LIVE) updated us on what is new with that organization under its new director; we networked, reviewed ABI-INFORM Complete’s three sub-databases, and reviewed our work at the NCLA conference last October. New BLINC officers Lydia Towery (Charlotte/Mecklenburg Public), John Raynor (High Point Public), and Lauren Poteat (Charles Aris Inc) provided strong leadership. Lots of warm fuzzies from this active group.

Mary, Diane Campbell (Rider University), and I learned this week that our program submission to the 2016 Small Business Institute conference in New Orleans in February has been accepted: “Teaching entrepreneurship research skills to students: best practices from three entrepreneurship librarians”. This is a business professors’ conference, so we are excited to make a pitch for the value of librarians to faculty from across the country. Diane has spoken at SBI many times already.

Last week my colleague Orolando Duffus and I submitted a proposal to create a RUSA interest group on entrepreneurship. The idea came out of the most recent BRASS online discussion. Ray Cruitt (Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center, New Jersey), Sal DiVincenzo (Miller Business Resource Center, Centereach, NY), and other BRASS folks helped us write that proposal. Orolando and I wrote about the increasing number of public libraries without official business librarians being asked to assist entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and local economic development. Hopefully this interest group would support such libraries.

I’m converting my entrepreneurship research class from Blackboard to Canvas for the spring semester.

And I’ve also been busy with another search committee.

Today’s topic

On this blog, I usually avoid trendy topics or well-covered topics like job hunting tips for early-career librarians. (I did write about my department’s previous search, but that was in the context of making our first liaison hire after our liaison reorganization.) For example, Joe Hardenbrook has collected lots of helpful interview information at his blog. At NCLA 2015 two months ago, early career librarians Sarah Crissinger (Davidson College) and Madison Sullivan (NCSU) presented on “Getting Your First LIS Job: Tips, Tricks, and Reflections from Recent LIS Grads” — useful, concise slides and recommendations. Look at their slide notes, too.

But I’m chairing a search again and have some ideas to share based on previous searches. And maybe a few readers aren’t familiar with how search committees tend to function in (U.S.) academic libraries.

Nature of our search committees

The position description usually gets written before the search committee is formed.

Our search committees have five members, including one paraprofessional/staff member. Several library departments are always represented by the committee membership. Folks get asked by Library Administration to serve, starting with the chair, who gives feedback on the others to be asked to serve. Usually the department head does not serve on the committee; nor does the supervisor (if different) of the open position.

Committee members spend a lot of time reviewing applications. They will also spend about an hour conducting each phone interview. Plus usually four meetings:

  • Overview of procedures and a discussion of what characteristics or accomplishments to look for when reviewing the applications;
  • Selection of phone interview candidates, based on the review of applications;
  • Selection of proposed on-campus interview candidates, based on the phone interviews;
  • Summarizing the performance of on-campus interviewees

The searches I’ve chaired used phone interviews, not Skype interviews. There’s less chance of technical problems, and reduced risk of subconscious bias being a factor. The provost requires all faculty search committee members to go through an anti-bias tutorial.

But reviewing applications is the big work. We usually get 40-60 applications, but had 81 for our 2010-12 Diversity Resident Librarian search. Some libraries get a lot more. So the workload is front-loaded for the search team. The chair has additional work.

Role of the search committee chair

The main role of the chair is communication and planning. The chair sets deadlines for the various steps of the search, based on a master timeline established by the provost’s office, UNCG HR, and Library Administration. The chair leads the meetings and updates the department head, supervisor (if a different person), and administrators on the process of the search. The chair emails candidates about phone interviews and later the on-campus interviews. The chair also works with our administrative staff to make sure that travel planning and funding (including the hotel rooms, dinner reservations, and airport pickups) are taken care of. The chair develops the on-campus interview schedule (often a pain to coordinate), and also writes up the topic of candidates’ big presentation or mock teaching scenario to which everyone in the library and other campus stakeholders are invited.

The provost’s office will fund two on-campus interviews. The University Libraries will fund a third interview if one candidate lives close enough to Greensboro to not need a flight. We still offer a local candidate a nice dinner and a night at a local fancy hotel. However, campus interviews are so time-intensive (planning and conducting) that as chair I usually just push to bring in two candidates. Last time I chaired a search, though, we had three top candidates, each with different backgrounds, some of whom lived in the state already. So we brought all three to campus.

And based on feedback from the search committee, the chair writes up summaries of the candidates’ performance and evaluations for the dean to consider.

But who makes the big decisions?

Our dean makes the decision about who to bring in to campus and who (if anyone) gets the job offer. That’s normal in academic libraries.

Seven confessions

  1. We don’t like our time wasted.

Yes, Virginia, cover letters are the most important part of the application. If a cover letter isn’t customized to the position in question, we might not even look at the resume. That lack of customization tells us enough about the candidate.

Joe Hardenbrook (see above) links to lots of good advice about writing cover letters. My quick tips:

  • Give us examples/details/stories of accomplishments and successes – content a resume usually can’t provide.
  • Never include a bulleted list on your cover – that’s for resumes.
  • Keep it serious – no jokes or creative writing.
  • A good cover letter runs a very full page to two pages long. The best are two pages long.

Two pages aren’t hard to write. We have had several strong cover letters from current LIS students that are two pages long: those students had (unlike me) made the most of their library school opportunities (jobs, internships, and volunteering in libraries and other organizations) and had many interesting and relevant experiences to write about.

Here is a suggested outline for a cover letter:

1st  paragraph: first sentence introduction with reference to the position and library, then why you are interested in this particular position as this particular library, followed by a short executive summary of your qualifications

2nd: discuss your experience regarding the primary role of the position description

3rd:  the same concerning the second role of the position

4th: the same with any additional roles

5th: write about your enthusiasm and ability to handle a tenure-track position (provide evidence you could be successful with faculty service, writing, and presenting)

Final paragraph: wrap up

  1. We think we are research-worthy.

The search committee certainly hopes you interested enough in our library and campus to research us. This applies to the cover letter, phone interview, and on-campus interview.

In addition to carefully studying the position description, examine the web site of that library department. Learn about the department head and other folks connected to the position. What are their backgrounds? Can you find any presentations, articles or blogs they have created? Do your current colleagues or LIS professors know any of those folks? And finally, can you find any strategic planning documents? For our science librarian search a few years ago, several candidates had learned about our very recent liaison reorganization and surprised us with excellent questions concerning it. That impressed us.

Then research the greater campus. If you are applying for a business librarian position, for example, what is special about the local business school? What are the biggest programs or initiatives? Any research, community engagement, or economic development projects in the news? What graduate programs exist? Working such details in a relevant manner into a cover letter or interview gets the search committee’s attention.

Try to figure out who the search committee chair is, and address your cover to the chair and the search committee. It doesn’t hurt to include the department head’s name too. Can’t figure out who the search committee chair is? Call the library and ask. If word of your phone call makes it to the chair and the committee, your stock has just gone up as a candidate.

  1. We are vain.

We love when you ask us questions, and we enjoy talking about ourselves. So come prepared with questions based on your research, concerns, and curiosity. Show us you care and are interested. Yes, it’s supposed to be a two-way interview.

  1. We like getting “thank you” notes.

After each interview stage, send a quick “thank you” via email. Then send a “thank you” card through snail mail. We keep those — they become a physical reminder of your good manners and enthusiasm.

  1. We also get frustrated with the slow process.

That’s life in big organizations.

  1. And we also get stressed.

The stakes are high for presenting the dean with good choices — especially at UNCG, where folks tend to stick around despite having to go through tenure. So the reputation of the committee (particularly the chair’s) is kind of on the line. Plus there are all those details and communications to manage. And dealing with differences of opinion in the evaluations.  Yikes.

  1. But we find it exciting.

We like meeting new people. We enjoy discussing the possibilities of our open position, and how you could contribute to the goals of the library and campus. We like offering a nice person the job. And what I learn from chairing a search improves my mentoring skills, keeps me grounded, and even inspires me to keep growing and learning as a mid-career professional librarian.

Happy holidays and New Year, everyone!

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Update:

Professor Welsh’s slides for her 2014 Entrepreneurial Librarians conference keynote address are now online: Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship: Opportunities for Librarians in the 21st Century.

Catching up:

Classes ended on Monday. Yesterday the students cuddled therapy dogs, cats, and bunnies in the library’s`reading room. Today exams began. ENT 300 ended the semester with strong presentations (though too many student teams forgot to add citations to their slides even though they had some good ones – I had reviewed their reference lists). The MKT 426 “Export Odyssey” class wrapped up several weeks ago but Professor Williamson and I hope the student teams continue to work on contacting potential international customers. One of the international students in that class stopped by this afternoon to ask if she could get a letter of reference for her work in the class; she said that only “pass” or “fail” marks get reported back to her Danish campus, and so having a letter on file describing the “Export Odyssey” experience and her performance would be very useful.

And this semester I’ve enjoyed getting to know and collaborate with our newest Diversity Resident Librarian, Orolando Duffus, who like our previous resident Nataly Blas is very interested in business librarianship.

Today’s topic:

Nataly is now in her first year of serving as the business librarian at Loyola Marymount University. In January she wrote a guest post about her experience as co-teacher of an UNCG management capstone class. We chatted a few times since she moved to L.A., and I’m looking forward to seeing Nataly again next March at ACRL.

Orolando is the fourth UNCG resident librarian. Our resident program has had some internship trappings, such as forcing the librarian in his/her first year to change library departments every four months as the MLS student interns at the EPA Library in Research Triangle Park do. Only in their second year were our previous residents able to focus on an area of career interest. However, Orolando doesn’t have to rotate around his first year; instead he is splitting his time between ROI and another library department not relevant to his career goals. But that’s an overall improvement to our program in my opinion: unlike Nataly, Orolando doesn’t have to wait for his second year to pursue his interest in business librarianship.

Orolando is already making a positive impact on UNCG business students. In addition to team-teaching a few business classes, he solo-taught a research workshop for a Business Communications section (I was leading a workshop in an entrepreneurship class at the same time). Orolando received a follow-up question from one of the students and is now serving as a mentor for the student, including attending meetings led by the student (a campus leader) and helping evaluate one of his papers. Orolando has other duties and accomplishments in his first semester at UNCG, but those stand out to me in the context of business librarianship.

In April I wrote briefly about a LIS student and reference intern interested in doing a practicum on liaison work. It actually was an independent study, sorry (the student has maxed out the number of practicums she is allowed to take). She has read a lot on liaison work and trends, created a nonprofits libguide, and worked on research email questions from graduate students. Like Orolando, she has taught with me with a few times this semester, and also led a workshop for another Business Communications section on her own. She has participated in our liaison workshops and subject team meetings, and explored significant some modern collection strategies, like PDA ebooks and PDA steaming videos. She plans on doing one more independent study next semester on something like “advanced library liaisoning”.

I’ve enjoyed working with her and also appreciate the contributions she’s made to business students this semester. This student may not choose to specialize in business librarians after finishing her MLS degree (although she is very interested in entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship programs). But I think she would make a fine business librarian.

Recommendations for Mentors:

I tried to make a list of recommendations for mentoring a new or future business librarian one works with. (Mary Scanlon from WFU and I once wrote an Academic BRASS article about mentoring or peer-mentoring business librarians across different campuses). These could also be considered goals for the mentee:

  1. Help the new librarian build relationships with business school faculty, vendor representatives, and other business librarians (from your local connections, BRASS, or the “new business librarians group” that Ilana Barnes from Purdue has formed).
  2. Provide opportunities for the new librarian to attend classes: either to observe, consult with teams on class work days, or teach and co-teach research workshops.
  3. Share interesting research questions. The new librarian can suggest responses or just practice answering the question.
  4. Invite the new librarian to create or improve libguides, instructional videos, or other online learning objects. In additional to supporting business students, creating such tools helps the new librarian build his or her skills and helps show off those skills (and subject knowledge) to a future employer.
  5. Provide encouragement and boost the confidence of the new librarian entering the specialized and challenging world of business librarianship. For example, introduce him or her to students and faculty as a fellow business librarian and colleague, not as an intern or in-training business librarian.

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One project this summer was to add captions to all my screencast tutorials. Instead of using Camtasia’s tool for captioning, I used YouTube’s instead. I first explored editing the automatically-created captions but decided that typing them from scratch was more efficient.

For one of my very short introduction videos, YouTube provided these lines:

YouTube automated attempt to caption my introduction video

YouTube automated attempt to caption my introduction video

So apparently I was Keen Kramer but now called Larry, will help students smoke in their groups, market premierships and busters, and encourage students to give up their research projects. Such a helpful business librarian!

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Last month I thought a funny blog post would writing a list of “conference programs I would love to attend but will never see offered” or perhaps “conference programming we’ll never see”. You know, a light-hearted parody of some ALA, ACRL, NCLA, or Charleston Conference programs.

In the middle of a dull meeting I began to brainstorm some ideas for fake programs and in a minute or two ended up with this list:

  • How to counsel dysfunctional student teams
  • How to get the attention of MBA students
  • How to break up painlessly with time-hogging BFF patrons
  • Competing with other subject librarians for database subscription money
  • Dealing with change resistors in times of needed change
  • The art of saying “no”
  • How to better remember students’ names

Oops, not exactly parody material, and not even funny. Instead that list reflected stuff on my mind at the end of a busy semester of teaching and consulting. Good old subconscious mind at work.

The parody would still be fun to write, though. Maybe later this summer.

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