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GCEC met in Chicago last week. Librarians Carey Toney, Christina Kim, and I attended and spoken at GCEC last year in Halifax, Nova Scotia (longer review at Ticker) but it looked like I was the only librarian this year. That’s not a big deal, since USASBE is probably more useful for business librarians to attend (2017 and 2018 reviews).

But first, one last Coleman summit

West Loop view from my hotel room

West Loop view from my hotel room

Since the Coleman Foundation is based in Chicago, and many of the Coleman campus directors would attend GCEC, the foundation hosted a final Coleman Fellows summit a day before GCEC began. The UNC Greensboro Entrepreneur-in-Residence (my buddy Noah Reynolds) and I (as associate UNCG Coleman Fellow director) flew up Wednesday morning, joining our director Dianne Welsh in representing UNCG. Nine campuses total were represented, about 40 folks total; we mostly knew each other.

After over ten years of funding the growth of cross-campus entrepreneurship across the U.S., the Coleman board of directors has decided to focus future funding on supporting the local Chicago entrepreneurial ecosystem. We knew this strategic change was coming. So this summit was also a celebration of what each campus has accomplished through its Coleman Fellows program.

We met in a Chicago West Loop hotel for lunch, two breakout sessions, cocktails, and a recognition dinner. In the breakouts, the directors discussed post-Coleman transition plans and met with an ethnographer leading a focus group discussion. Noah and I and others met with representatives from Chicago NGOs to discuss connecting campus experiences with community entrepreneurship organization. This event was a bridge between the past and future Coleman strategies.

Dinner was fun, with fancy certificates given to all the fellows present, and short (often funny) speeches. Dr. Welsh referred several times to the “old Coleman gong” (used at past summits to signal agenda transitions) but we all keep hearing “the Coleman bong.” Hilarity ensued. Poor Dianne.

Dr. Welsh with Coleman Foundation's Clark McCain

Dr. Welsh with Coleman Foundation’s Clark McCain

I owe a lot to Dianne (and the Coleman Foundation) for recruiting me to become a fellow and a year later the UNCG associate director. All of the entrepreneurship education conferences I’ve attended (and blogged about) — USASBE, GCEC, SBI, GW October, and CEO — were funded out of our Coleman grant, plus a few library conferences too. My friend and sometimes co-speaker Diane Campbell from Rider University has attended and spoke at SBI and USASBE for many years. I enjoyed following in her footsteps in promoting entrepreneurship librarians and the use of library business databases to the professors and entrepreneurship center directors at these conferences.  My official library travel budget isn’t big enough to cover attending one of these expensive conferences, so we will see if I can swing another visit to USASBE someday.

Also, I wouldn’t have created my ENT/GEO/LIS/MKT 530 class without the Coleman program, and made friends across UNCG’s campus with fellows in the arts, social sciences, etc. We still get together at the campus bar several times a semester.

Moving day

Look, you can see Navy Pier from my Hilton room! (if you lean over and look hard)

Look, you can see Navy Pier from my Hilton room! (if you leaned over and looked hard)

After breakfast with Noah on Thursday morning, I checked out of the West Loop hotel and walked 1.8 miles east and a little south to the huge and historic Hilton on Michigan Avenue, the official GCEC hotel. The conference didn’t begin until an evening dinner reception at a DePaul University building, so I had a free afternoon. I spent it at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of my favorite museums since I was a teenager living across the lake in West Michigan. The last time Carol and I were here, we focused on the European galleries (a few of you know that I was a Medieval Studies major) so this time I focused on everything else. Such a great collection.

GCEC begins

Last year, I wrote about the unusual nature of this conference:

  • Your campus must be an institutional member for you to attend;
  • A different campus (or campuses) hosts it each year, and takes on all the planning responsibility;
  • Those hosts take on financial risk but can turn a profit on the conference if they recruit enough sponsors and vendors while controlling costs.

This year, DePaul and the Illinois Institute of Technology hosted GCEC. Keynotes, lunches, and the concurrent sessions were held at ITT. Fans of modern architecture know that ITT is closely associated with Mies van der Rohe, who led its architecture program and designed many buildings on campus. (We spent the most time in Hermann Hall, a Skidmore Owings & Merrill building.) I enjoyed the architecture and took lots of pictures. A change of pace from historical styles that dominate U.S. campuses.

Attendees visited one of three downtown innovation centers/accelerators/incubators on Friday evening (1871, mHUB, or Blue1647). I skipped this event — I was getting over a cold and was tired. The Saturday evening reception and conference wrap-up party were at the Shedd Aquarium. It was lovely to be there at night. (Yes, I was feeling better.)

There was ample time for networking and librarian advocacy. Around 600 folks from 250 campuses attended, more than in Halifax, not surprising given the more central location compared to Halifax last year. Next year GCEC will be in Stockholm.

Friday morning

Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall, the IIT architecture school

Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall, the IIT architecture school, with a class in session

As part of the opening session, Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel discussed the rise of innovation and entrepreneurship in the city. He said Chicago has the most diversified industrial base of all big cities in the country. (That would be interesting to research and prove using Census Business Patterns data.) City policies provide strong support of first-generation college students. High school grads with a “B” average or higher get to attend local community college for free. Those students are disproportionately Hispanic, and also include a large number of Dreamers.

Across the two days of the congress, we heard keynotes from four local entrepreneurs, three of whom are women:

I note the gender emphasis given the opening discussion at GCEC last year. But race and income were also common themes this year. These were all good speakers, telling us their stories, lessons learned, their ideas about the future. But the audience had to think about how the speakers’ words applied to running and growing entrepreneurship centers on their own. So a little bit of a disconnect in my opinion.

GCEC lunch in the Hermann Hall (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

GCEC lunch in Hermann Hall (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Our two lunches were buffets. Among the tables were facilitated theme tables. Topics included “Entrepreneurship in General Education and Liberal Arts Education,” “Knowledge Entrepreneurship and the Research Student,” and “Towns with gowns: the roles played by university entrepreneurship initiatives in community and economic development.” I attended the table with that first topic on Friday, but arrived at lunch after a morning talk too late on Saturday to get a seat at a special table that day (I hoped to sit at the second topic listed above.) Lots of good networking at both themed and un-themed tables, however. A friendly bunch of people at GCEC.

Conference tracks for concurrent programs included:

  • Entrepreneurship beyond the business school
  • Social impact and entrepreneurship
  • The center: how, what, where, why?
  • Engaging the community
  • Global entrepreneurship
  • among a few others.

Friday afternoon

Entrepreneurship and the Creative / Engaging the Community Through Performance Learning” 

Amy E. Rogers, North Central College
Brian Hanlon, North Central College
Julie Shields, Millikin University
Thomas Cavenagh, North Central College
Jessa Wilcoxen, Millikin University

This was a well-attended, two-topic program in an hour-long slot. My friend Julie Shields, Coleman Fellows Director for Millikin University, was one of the speakers. Part one focused on arts entrepreneurship (a big thing here at UNCG). According to the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), graduates of arts programs rate “financial and business management skills” and “entrepreneurial skills” as very important, but rarely studied in college, despite artists bring 4 times more likely than the population as a whole to be self-employed or start a business. One presenter summarized that arts students have the ideas but no execution skills while the business students have no ideas but know how to execute!

Millikan has an 8-session certificate program for entrepreneurship as well as its full curriculum. It also has a number of arts-based student-run ventures with faculty mentors. Students get course credit for working with a venture. But the student owners assume the financial risk — “authentic risk and authentic reward.”

Part two focused on design thinking, a hot topic in entrepreneurship education. We were asked to identify an existing course, project, or venture that has interdisciplinary potential and then discuss our hopes, our fears, and the risk factors with neighbors.

“10 Years After: The Coleman Entrepreneurship Infusion Model”

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

Coleman campus directors Dianne Welsh (UNCG), Julie Shields (Millikin University), Gina Betti (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and I discussed our Coleman Fellows program, in which non-business faculty incorporate entrepreneurship topics and student learning outcomes into existing classes. The goal is to foster cross-campus entrepreneurship education. Each of us provided three best practices, three lessons learned, and three suggestions for further implementation.

Not surprisingly, one of my best practices was “Invite your entrepreneurship/business librarian to into your core class to provide research consultations and hands-on workshops.” I also advocated for “establishing desired student research competencies (ex. “identify, segment, and measure a consumer or B2B market”) and determine where in the curriculum your students will develop those competencies”.

Saturday morning:

I rode the bus from the hotel to ITT with an entrepreneurship coordinator from Denmark.

My favorite takeaway from the morning keynotes: entrepreneurship is moving past convenience into substance. So not just another app or service to speed up an existing business model, but new models of thinking, business, and community engagement. We’ll see.

“Has the lean startup failed us? If not, how not? If so, what are we doing about it? / Capturing the attention of the first-year student”

David Touve, University of Virginia (the lean startup discussion)
James Zebrowski, The University of Tampa
Wendy Plant, Florida State University
Mindy Walls, Waynesburg University

David, an energetic discussion leader, asked the full room “has the lean startup failed us?” He argued that there is no data indicating that the lean startup model is more successful than other models. Design thinking and effectuation (a UVA thing) are other models.

Why has the lean startup been popular?

  • Provides focus on customer.
  • Provides a grounding for an approach and common language
  • A business plan is not always accurate anyway (when, then you need to raise expectations for research, I would argue)

Solving a problem versus starting a business = two different approaches and things. (Identifying and describing a problem before beginning to develop a business or nonprofit idea came up a lot this weekend.)

Engineering students love the lean startup model; it matches their tech training mindset, someone asserted.

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

McCormick Tribune Campus Center (Rem Koolhaas)

We worked in small groups (it was really hard to hear each other — a downside of a glass-walled modernist classroom) discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the lean startup, reasons for using it, etc. I was paired with the Yale professor who last year in Halifax unexpectedly joined what had been an all-male panel discussing the state of entrepreneurship education in the opening plenary session.

Part two: Capturing the attention of the first-year student. I was able to take better notes here.

Waynesburg University, a small liberal arts college in rural Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh, has a strong focus on service learning. Mindy, a new hire, is working to help incorporate an entrepreneurial mindset into that service tradition.

ENT mindset  —> creative problem solving –> forming a venture

She uses the Who Owns the Ice House book as a mindset tool. She has to avoid the b-word (business) and the e-word (entrepreneurship) since those words are unpopular among their liberal arts students. But they need an entrepreneurial mindset to succeed in 21st century, Mindy asserts.

FSU just started a new living-learning community of 36 entrepreneurship students. Wendy’s campus also hosts high school day camps in the summer. Her campus has a new ENT school that is independent of the b-school, thanks to a major donor. Students enroll in the school in their junior year.

James is a leader in CEO. He discussed encouraging campus clubs. Our EIR Noah Reynolds (see above) runs our CEO club and takes the officers to the national conference.

Question: why are some frosh not interesting in E?

  • Parental concerns (“you need to work at a real company!”)
  • Young students just don’t know yet what they want
  • Limited availability of curriculum sometimes (have to wait till their junior year?)

Saturday lunch discussion

Train tracks over the McCormick Tribune Campus Center

Train tracks over the McCormick Tribune Campus Center

I sat at a random table with several GCEC old timers. They noted the growth of the conference. They also noted that the same topics are being discussed this year as 20 years ago. A standard problem for growing conferences (like some focused library conferences?)

Saturday afternoon

“Surviving and Thriving in Academia: A Guide for New (and not so new) Non-Academics”

Steven Phelan, Fayetteville State University
Sara Cochran, University of Missouri System
II Luscri, Washington University in St. Louis
Gurpreet Jagpal, University of the West of England, Bristol

The panels discussed the motivations of professors, deans, chancellors, and the system president, and suggested strategies for working with those people.

The majority of the audience for this one was campus entrepreneurs-in-residence or entrepreneurship center directors — folks from “industry” mostly. PhDs and other folks with faculty status were in the minority. Attendance and the energy level were high.

This would have also have been an excellent program for a new academic liaison librarian! Maybe I will steal from it for a blog post sometime, ha.

Professor level:

Like a medieval craft guild:

  • 3 categories: master apprentice system (PhD students); journeyman (tenure track); masters (tenured), which requires a masterpiece
  • Self-governance (shared faculty governance)
  • Charter of rights (faculty governance and documentation; right to control process; representation on decision-making bodies)
brand new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (John Ronan)

Brand-new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (John Ronan)

Professor motivations: 40% teaching (impact measured by student evaluations of scheduled teaching), 40% research (impact measured by citations), 20% service

Q and A about changing positions and/or campuses after getting tenured: Would you retain that rank? What about non-PhDs with faculty rank? (I piped up here.) With whom do you negotiate with in these situations? Lots of questions from the non-academics.

It’s tough to finish a PhD, get hired, and then get tenured. There is about a 50% drop at each of those three stages.

There are now more non-faculty than faculty teaching classes at most schools. There is a subtrend toward hiring more “professors of practice” (typically non-tenure).

Professors don’t have much time for service, but have lots of options to meet service requirements (some do want to do practical service).

Trying to recruit faculty to work with your center? Start with a few willing volunteers and build from there.

Dean level:

Deans are typically academics. On U.S. campuses, fundraising is now their primary function. Turf wars and academic silos are common. For example, deans often don’t like sharing credit hours with other campus units, which can be problematic for cross-campus entrepreneurship programs (true at UNCG).

Things deans list in their annual reports:

  • Rankings
  • Awards
  • Accreditation renewals
  • New programs

Deans on the same campus will have different priorities: new buildings, more scholarships, more centers, etc.

Chancellor level (from a more UK perspective):

  • Income diversification.
  • Student recruitment.
  • Reputation and rankings
  • Awards

Strategies to influence deans and chancellors:

  • Help them climb the ladder;
  • Have a strategy that will make them look good;
  • Donors are easier to find for ENT (but then there is the silo problem);
  • New student demand;
  • Potential for licensing/commercialization income;
  • Metrics
Something with curves for a change

Something with curves for a change of pace (see below for context)

Audience comment: there is a lack of useful metrics for ENT centers. Also lack of consistency. [How to measure the success of ENT education and programs is a big topic at these conferences.]

Build allies in every academic department and unit. There will be meetings of academics on campus where you are discussed but you won’t be there. (True of librarians too!)

System president level:

Nature of:

  • Politicized environment
  • Boards of often political appointees
  • Change of government leads to different priorities
  • Patronage issues

Motivations:

  • Keep key legislators and the board happy
  • The need to balance the interests of multiple campuses and their resource allocation
  • Protect the brand of the system (PR issues)

Strategies:

  • Encourage system-wide collaboration [so much easier said than done!]
  • Link to economic development
  • Appeal to the residents of the state

Question: what about when alumni affairs targets the same funding sources as the center? Replies: can first just invite them to talk to your ENT students. Get to know the alumni affairs folks, help them connect to new potential donors, they love that. Keep alumni affairs informed.

“Designing and diversity and inclusion: why it matters and what to do about it”

Ji Mi Choi, Arizona State University
Rebecca Corbin, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
Ian Grant, University of New Hampshire
Isabelle Monlouis, Georgia State University

This event had the youngest crowd I’ve any I attended at GCEC this year. It was also majority female. Folks were passionate about these topics and stayed late (after this session was the final keynote and awards, see below).

The speakers provided some goals of their programs and best practice ideas for diversity and inclusion. Similar to discussions of diversity and inclusion in libraries.

Another IIT scene

Another IIT scene

Stereotypical VC-funded glamorous entrepreneurship is hard when a student has to work 20+ hours a week to support themselves, on top of classes and pursuing an entrepreneurial idea. Entrepreneurship incubators on campus usually assume economic privilege.

NACCE = National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, with 300-member colleges across the U.S.

The UNH center works hard to attract students from across campus. We are the “Switzerland of campus”, Ian joked.

Other best practices and examples:

  • Importance of role modeling
  • Providing peer and near-peer mentors
  • T-shirts given to students: “Entrepreneurs are everywhere, and I am one of them”
  • Recruit minority and female entrepreneurs to promote the program, and speak to younger and future students.
  • Partner with and design with underprivileged communities, as opposed to doing things for them or to them. (My church calls this a missional attitude.)
  • Importance of going to people, not waiting for them to come to you. For example, go to diversity centers and clubs.

“Entrepreneurship” as a term can turn some people off. Is there a good alternative word? Not really.

An entrepreneurial mindset is a “success mindset.”

Equality (treating everyone the same) versus equity (supporting under-represented or under-privileged groups).

Conference wrap-up

Wrigley Building & Tribune Tower

Wrigley Building & Tribune Tower

I stayed through the bitter end this year. A lot of folks did. One more talk by an entrepreneur. Thank yous to the sponsoring schools. Top nominations and then the winners of seven annual GCEC awards, plus a special legacy award for lifetime achievement in research and service, with pictures taken of each. The legacy award winner gave a speech, but it wasn’t very long. The managing director of NASDAQ announced the “NASDAQ Center Award for Entrepreneurship Excellence,” the top annual award.

I’ve learned from these entrepreneurship education conferences that giving awards is a common and major function of the sponsoring association. Awards seem to be more important to the professors and their departments than they are to librarians and libraries. Is this an aspect of our service (or servant) tradition? However, there are far more academic associations and conferences than we librarians have, providing more opportunities to win awards.

Finally, we had a few words from the University of Stockholm, next year’s hosts of GCEC. It’s only an 8-hour direct flight from Chicago, he said! The Swede told a number of short, bad jokes about Sweden and its culture. A fun way to end the afternoon.

Weedy Seadragons

Weedy Seadragons

The conference wrapped up with the Shedd Aquarium all to ourselves in the evening, sponsored by the Coleman Foundation. It was fun being there after dark.

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Carey Toane, MA, MLIS, joined the University of Toronto as Entrepreneurship Librarian at the Gerstein Science Information Centre in 2015, where she supports nine campus-linked accelerators and numerous entrepreneurship courses and programs across multiple disciplines. She is a co-founder of the North America-wide Academic Librarians Supporting Entrepreneurs (ALSE) online symposium. Her market research expertise is based on her past experience as an academic business librarian, as well as over a decade as a marketing journalist and editor, copywriter, and content marketer at digital agencies and startups in Canada and the Nordic Region. Her current research interests focus on the research habits and needs of various user communities, and on the core competencies for emerging and interdisciplinary areas of librarianship.

Conference review: VentureWell Open Conference, Washington, D.C., March 23-25, 2017

The Open Conference tagline is “Invent the future of innovation & entrepreneurship education” and the audience reflects that mandate. Aimed at post-secondary institutions, approximately 375 delegates attended and around half of those were speakers, making for a small and engaged group. I was one of two self-identified academic librarians who attended; the majority were faculty, entrepreneurship centre directors or administrators, as well as representatives from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The conference was bookended with a welcome reception on Thursday night and a closing gala on Saturday evening. On both days an excellent lunch was accompanied by a keynote speaker: author Daniel Pink on Friday and Perkin Medal winner John Warner on Saturday, to align with the sustainability thread which ran through the conference.

VentureWell Open Conference banner

VentureWell Open Conference banner

Friday and Saturday programming was organized into five conference tracks: Assessment, Curriculum, Early-Stage Innovators, Global [international innovation], and Topics in I&E [innovation and entrepreneurship trends]. Formats ranged from lightning talks – dubbed Open Minis – and panels to group discussions and hands-on workshops. A Whova conference app helped me sort out where I wanted to be and how to get there, and I found myself using it to provide a little ready reference in the halls between sessions for my fellow attendees.

The fun started with an icebreaker-style conference kickoff in the ballroom. Tables were catalyzed into teams and presented with a random collection of costumes and props (think bubblewrap, Mardi Gras beads and pipe cleaners) that we used to create fantastic wearable devices and then present to the group for a fashion show/pitch competition. Sadly, our festival-focused protective device, the Party Crasher™ – inflatable helmet! crowd bumpers! parachute! – lost out to a somewhat impractical but well marketed gadget called the No-Network Network (patent pending). Honourable mention to the on-trend Fake News Filter. But I digress.

After trying out a few options early on Friday, I found the most value in the workshops. One of these, “Creative Problem Session for Identifying and Filling Gaps in Supporting Early Student Innovators,” walked participants through a creative problem solving process of divergent and convergent thinking to identify ways to better support student startups. Having a mix of perspectives in the room made this a rich and impressive conversation, aided by able facilitation.

Workshop post-it notes

Workshop post-it notes

Other active learning sessions that have stayed with me include “Failures, Flops and Frustrations: An Open Exchange on learning from our mistakes” that involved storyboarding a failed course or program initiative; “10 Hands-On Class Exercises to Build Student Teams and Spark Creativity,” for which one of the facilitators hauled a suitcase of oversized iPhone-shaped erasable poster boards in a suitcase; and “Activities to Create Space for Breakthroughs: Mindset, Neuroscience, Entrepreneurship and Worldview,” which started by establishing a safe space and focused on techniques to encourage empathy and creative thinking.

The poster session, scheduled for 5:30 – 7 pm on Friday night, doubled as a cocktail hour in the top floor lounge of the conference hotel. The audience response to my poster topic, “Research habits and needs of campus entrepreneurs,” ranged from interest to puzzlement to mild amusement (“You’re a librarian?”). In other words, it was a great opportunity to practice my elevator pitch on how libraries can and do support startups for our campus colleagues outside the library, with segues into Google Patents, Justin Trudeau, and the proximity of Toronto to Niagara Falls.

Poster: "Research habits and needs of campus entrepreneurs"

Poster: “Research habits and needs of campus entrepreneurs”

The registration fee alone was $884 USD for speakers and higher for attendees, and the DC location makes it one of the more expensive professional development opportunities I’ve come across. However, for content focus and quality of presentations it can’t be beat – and did I mention the food was amazing?

Case in point: The ticket price included admission to a somewhat lavish closing reception at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on the Saturday night. After all day inside a hotel basement, the stroll through cherry blossoms down the Mall was almost giddymaking, as were the risotto station and the dessert table inside. VentureWell E-teams presented their products and competed for a chunk of the $3 million of funny money each guest was given to spend, surrounded by artifacts from hundreds of years of American innovations. If you’re the competitive type, you might like to know that two of the three teams I invested in were ranked in the top four and received a cash prize!

The 2018 VentureWell Open Conference will take place March 22-24 in Austin, TX.

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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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