Ilana Stonebraker is Assistant Professor of Library Science and Business Information Specialist in the Parrish Library of Management & Economics, Division of Humanities, Social Sciences, Education & Business, Purdue University Libraries. She also serves on the BRASS Executive Committee and co-founded the New Business Librarians Group.

Steve asked me to share on his blog the impetus and beginning stages of my new course: HONR 299: Greater Lafayette Greater. HONR 299 came out of a themed version of MGMT 175: Information Strategies for MGMT Students, a class I have been teaching for nearly four years. MGMT 175 is a flipped course focused on information literacy that makes heavy use of problem-based learning. The aims of MGMT 175 are simple, yet deceptively challenging for students: “solve problems using information”. Students are given information-rich situations aided by library databases, and must find ways to generate insights.

First, some background. Purdue University is situated in West Lafayette, Indiana, which is bordered  by Lafayette, Indiana. The whole area is called “Greater Lafayette” or Greater Lala, if you must. West Lafayette is a college town, specifically a college town filled with engineers. Lafayette is a manufacturing town. The big employers are Subaru, Caterpillar, Tate and Lyle’s corn syrup plant, and Evonik. Greater Lafayette is surrounded by corn and soybean fields. The Wabash River runs through both cities, somewhat the boundary between the two of them.

In Fall 2015, I had started meeting regularly with a particularly excellent group of business librarians on Google Hangouts: Kenny Garcia, Caitlan Maxwell and Jessica Jerrit. This group, formed loosely at ACRL 2015, was focused on practicing what it called critical business information literacy (CBIL), defined as the application of social justice to business information literacy. What does it mean to be an ethical business person, and how does an ethical business person find, evaluate and use information?

Figure 1 Making Greater Lafayette Greater installation

Figure 1 Making Greater Lafayette Greater installation

The work I did in MGMT 175 was affected by CBIL thinking. More specifically the cases I used in class were affected. Many of the cases were focused on individual aims: more profits for one company, stakeholder or investor. Why was business information always about increasingly the success of the individual and not the community? After all, business people often work for communities, often think of themselves as being grounded in civic responsibility. What if students weren’t trying to solve the problems of a company, but rather the problems of a whole community?

Thus, the course theme “Making Greater Lafayette Greater” was shamelessly stolen from an art installation in Lafayette. Jason Tennenhouse, known locally for founding Greyhouse Coffee, created a website where people could submit ideas and they would be scrolling at the old gas station at 6th and State in Lafayette. It should be noted that at the time there were no political connotations to making something great.

I switched the four cases used in the class to be more civically focused.  Student investigated demographics, learned about best practices and considered local competitive strengths. They went on field trips to startup incubators, coworking spaces, and city beautification projects. As a final project, students were given a hypothetical 4 million dollar budget (the budget of the state street project, which had a call for proposals at the time) to fix something in the community. The problem they focused on had to affect not just students. In the final project, students proposed art filled bus stop shelters, day care centers, community gardens and ambitious development plans.

I liked teaching the course and I think the course had value. It led to me getting the “Exceptional Event Planner” award from Purdue’s Learning Community Office. But I felt rushed. MGMT 175 was a one-credit- eight week course. I had to balance multiple content needs of other things I felt I need to cover in the class (evaluation of sources, citation) with my more civically-minded approach. More specifically, my students, all lovely people, had not signed up for this adventure I had thrust upon them. It was the common teaching trap: teaching things which had had value in the abstract, but weren’t always valuable to my students in their lived experiences.

At Purdue, the Honors College is in an ambitious and new undertaking. Their mission to create “well rounded, global leaders” through four pillars: interdisciplinary academics, leadership development, undergraduate research, and community/global experiences (website). In Spring 2016, they put out a call for new courses. Teaching the Greater Lafayette class within the Honors College appealed to me because I could teach it as a three credit course, was given professional development funding, and also was guaranteed a class half the size (20 v. 40). It seemed to me to be the best place for further development of the Greater Lafayette course.

As it was once explained to the Von Trapp family, starting at the very beginning is a very good place to start. What do I want students to gain from the class? What’s the meaning of it all?

  • Student will articulate and empathize with the diverse group of struggles the Greater Lafayette area faces at a local and global level across economic, cultural, and administrative dimensions.
    • Students will find, organize, and evaluate information about the Greater Lafayette area.
    • Students will identify sources to learn more about problems that are important to them.
  • Students will apply concepts of economic development to create an action plan for either the Lafayette or West Lafayette city governments to implement change in the community.

The course is a triple challenge for me: I have not taught a three credit course, I have never taught in the Honors College, and I am also not an economic development expert, though I have had a personal lifelong fascination with its messy science. However, this is not the first time as a librarian I have had to do something I’ve never done before, and I doubt it will be the last.

My concern is whether my desire to teaching economic development will envelope my information literacy roots. I believe that a course is not information literacy just because a librarian teaches it. My roots are always in how students use information to inform their decisions, and that includes frank discussions of bias as well as moments for students to show empathy. My colleague Megan Sapp Nelson defends our role in data management by highlighting the unique group of skills that librarians bring to the table. Librarians, by the nature of their work and perspective, are system thinkers. Librarians think of things in terms of inputs and outputs in a larger scholarly communication cycle. I would characterize system thinking information literacy as how I approach HONR 299: from a high level. I hope students can solve problems by thinking in information literate ways.

Catching up

As Cynthia Cronin-Kardon from the University of Pennsylvania announced on BUSLIB recently, a group of librarians are working on creating business librarian programming every year at the Charleston Conference. This year, Cynthia, Betsy Clementson from Tulane, Corey Seeman from the University of Michigan, and I are facilitating a “lively lunch” on the topic of “Why business content subscriptions can drive us crazy, and what to do about it: A dialogue with business librarians, business vendors, and the audience on best practices and solutions”.

Also joining us will be John Quealy from S&P and Dan Gingert from PrivCo. As I’ve posted before, this is the best conference for discussion of trends in collections, publishing, licensing, and open access. Publishers and vendors participate in many panels and discussions, as opposed to being banished to the exhibit hall all conference long. And Charleston is a wonderful city for history, art, strolls along the rivers, and enjoying fancy food and drink. So we encourage business librarians, business vendors, and anyone else who has to work with business content as part of their job to join us.

Congrats to Orolando Duffus for being named ACRL member of the week!

Segue to today’s topic

For so many of us, search committees are a year-round concern. My department (Research Outreach and Instruction) recently hired a new department head, the amazing Amy Harris, who was our internal candidate and so there will be another search next year to replace her old position. But first we will have a search for an Online Learning Librarian based here in ROI. This is great news. After budget cuts a few years ago, we ended up with one of those dreaded Frankenstein positions — Electronic Resources & Distance Education Librarian — formerly two full time jobs.

Long-time readers know this blog don’t usually get into negative stuff (I’m not a very annoyed librarian I guess) but creating that kind of unsustainable position was pretty sad and probably reflected a momentary lack of leadership. When resources are scarce, we need to prioritize and consider making a difficult decision about staffing, or maybe consider if a team approach would work using existing staff. Anyway, Kate Hill, whom we hired for that Frankenstein position, is highly skilled and is working extra hard to try to keep up, but it’s simply not feasible for one person to handle that workload. Hence the new position. Kate is looking forward to “just” being an ER librarian (and pursuing tenure, etc.). I really like how the DE librarian will be based in our liaison department, emphasizing the public service focus of that kind of position and how this person will work with us liaisons supporting DE classes within our subject areas. My colleague and office neighbor Karen Grigg, Science Librarian, was asked to chair this search since she did such a good job chairing the Frankenstein search.

And one more bit of somewhat related news: I’ve been asked to serve on the search committee for the business school’s next professor of international marketing. My long time teaching partner Professor Nicholas Williamson is finishing his phased retirement this year. His department, Marketing Entrepreneurship Hospitality and Tourism (ok, yes, another Frankenstein thing! but MEHT is full of strong library supporters) wasn’t slated to get another position to replace Nick (not sure why). But the business school dean told the provost that the Export Odyssey project might be finished after this year, and the provost replied “We can’t have that.” So she gave MEHT an extra position. Since I co-lead that project, the MEHT department head asked me to serve on the committee. This is my first time serving on a search committee for a prof. I’ll write a post later about the experience and how it was different from librarian searches. Does anyone have experience with professor searches and would like to share?

Today’s topic (finally)

This is kind of a sequel to my “Confessions of a search committee chair” post from last winter. This spring, a librarian emailed me to ask for advice on interviewing for a business librarian position for the first time. She was particularly interested in how to make the mock research workshop stand out. I waited a while before sharing this here, removing any identifying information. Hopefully this is useful to others.

To make a mock class on business research information literacy stand out, I would suggest three areas of emphasis:

  1. Demonstration of specialized subject knowledge. Market research as a topic would certainly give you an opportunity to do this, especially if you demonstrate comfort with and knowledge of statistical data (ex. demographics, spending data, psychographic data). The Economic Census or other financial data benchmarking too. I guess trade data would be another example, although that’s maybe too specific/rare a research need for many campuses.
  1. Related to that, demonstrated familiarity with specialized business research tools. Most librarians are comfortable with the catalog and Ebsco and ProQuest databases. No big deal. But far fewer are comfortable with American FactFinder and the BLS.gov tools for finding statistical tables, let alone SimplyMap or DemographicsNow or Business Decisions or Euromonitor Passport (depending on what subscription tools for market data would be available). Lots of professors don’t know data tools well either. I see evidence of that at the business professor conferences I’ve started attending.
  1. Active learning exercises, tied to the needs of the research project/assignment of a particular class. So leading a discussion about how the Census is conducted (the decennial version as well as the American Community Survey — most students know something about the decennial census at least, which helps get the discussion going) as opposed to just lecturing, and then looking up some basic tables to highlight the main points (ex. “note the data from 2015 – so is that from the decennial Census or ACS? — also note the margins of error provided – why is that there? Yes, right, it’s a survey…”). Then later asking the students to find some information or data and then reporting back what they found and how they might be able to apply that to the project at hand (for example). So to do this you would really need to come up with a fake project to teach to. I would be happy to share one with you from UNCG if you would like (of course you could change details to fit your local situation).

[Follow-up suggestions:]

A few suggestions about SimplyMap (sorry if you are already aware of these issues!): most campuses have simultaneous user limits in their SimplyMap subscription (it’s 10 users here), so that may impact access to your mock students. I would suggest emailing Steven Swartz asking for more concurrent seats at that campus for your day there. I’m sure he would be happy to help. Also consider if you want everyone to create their own accounts (which requires checking their email to confirm) or using the S.M. guest access.

I agree that AFF, BLS (ex. the CEX data), and SimplyMap make an excellent progression of sources — if you have time for all three– for example using the much more detailed consumer spending data in SimplyMap, or ending with the psychographic data (if the MRI or SimmonsLocal modules are provided at that campus).

Good luck with the interview!

BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) met at the High Point Public Library yesterday, the 3rd day of classes at UNCG. This should be an interesting school year. with some new experiences to write about. I’m not sure yet how some of them will turn out!

High Point Public business librarians John Raynor and Vicki Johnson sponsored us in their sharp-looking library. We had 17 librarian present: mostly public and academic, but also one community college, one corporate, and one special librarian (a Senior Research Analyst at the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Raleigh.)

BLINC at High Point Public

BLINC at High Point Public during a break

After networking over breakfast snacks, Dan Maynard from Campbell University began the workshop with a presentation “What if you couldn’t scare me? Engaging your fourth sector community: high-impact educational experiences and a very different spin on financial literacy.”

The “4th sector community” phrase was new to me. Dan explained it basically as companies with a social entrepreneurship focus (ex. on local food, the environment, or social issues). We learned that Dan is a Sullivan Foundation Fellow at Campbell! He is the only Sullivan Fellow who is a librarian. Very cool.

As a fellow, Dan works with 3 classes in the business school, all required for business students in (generally) their first, second, and third years.

He framed his introduction to the 4th sector as “finding good work” (identifying a local need) and “funding good work”. Dan led us in a discussion of the ecosystem (including regulatory issues) in our state for nonprofits and 4th sector.

4th sectors companies in Dan’s rural Harnett County include mainly lifestyle companies: a bicycle shop, dairy farm, green/sustainable organic farm, a river adventures service outfit, a golf development/training company for “juniors”, a video production company, and the new Arts Council.

Moving into the funding good work aspect, Dan played for us a video about Detroit SOUP and talked about similar efforts in North Carolina. Some of his students are working on a SOUP project in Harnett County.

Dan concluded by getting into aspects of financial literacy. Instead of investing in multinational public companies via traditional investments, what about investing in local start-ups? He play a portion of a TEDx Piscataqua River talk by North Carolinian Carol Peppe Hewitt titled “What if you couldn’t scare me?” Hewitt is founder (I think) of Slow Money NC and has worked with Dan. The point of her TED talk title: we are scared into investing in big corporations as being necessary for our financial solvency and retirement savings. Instead, we should invest in local small business doing good work locally.

We ended the morning with a discussion of library services to nonprofits and 4th sector companies. Lydia Towery (Charlotte Public and Foundation Center coordinator) talked about how nonprofits are just another kind of company, and so the market and financial planning to start a nonprofit is much the same. Deanna Day, the SBTDC research analyst, and Heather Stanford from Mauney Memorial Public Library, Kings Mountain provided some interesting stories about working with social entrepreneurs/dreamers brimming with passion to start something up but not doing their feasibility homework first. It’s always reassuring to hear other business librarians discuss challenging consulting situations! A memorable quote from John: “Some dreams need to die.”

Business Center at High Point Public

Business Center at High Point Public

After lunch at a downtown Asian bistro, we looked at the library’s new business center. High Point Public just created this attractive and flexible space to support the library’s economic development work: workshops, consultations, and connecting entrepreneurs with other local support centers. The space is part of the library’s response to the city’s strategic goal of keeping more young business owners in High Point and not moving to the bigger cities in the state. Virginia Lewis, their department head, discussed their funding efforts to get the room and its tech set up. John, Vicki, and Casie (a community liaison librarian) will be leading this initiative. Creating more partnerships with other organizations is one of the outcomes that will be measured by the library and reported annually to the city and other stakeholders like the local chamber. Impressive, proactive work.

Inside the Business Center

Inside the Business Center

Back in our conference room, Heather described her trip to Omaha to attend the ReferenceUSA User Conference for public librarians in May. She attended as our NC LIVE rep, our state-wide database provider. I assumed this was mainly a focus group event, but Heather reports that the event instead focused on training the librarians and explaining in detail InfoGroup’s data collection and quality control practices – still certainly worthwhile.

Heather told us that InfoGroup wants ReferenceUSA to be closer associated with entrepreneurship research. The company is also promoting the database as the best source for closed businesses (part of the U.S. Businesses module). Social media links are being added to the establishment records.

Business Center again

Business Center again

We then got into an interesting discussion of SimplyMap versus ReferenceUSA U.S. Consumers/Lifestyles module for market data research, and where the data comes from in each product. Or course, SimplyMap is a collection of datasets with different methodologies, so we had to break down our discussion a bit into Census data v. survey data (ex. MRI and Simmons) v. the subscription and online purchase data used heavily by InfoGroup. This topic, the nature of the data, and how to make conclusions (ex. what is my local market size?) using these tools would be an interesting future BLINC workshop.

We ended the BLINC workshop with Lydia providing an update on the Foundation Center and then asking us for possible dates for our next workshop. NC LIVE has asked BLINC once again to review the NC LIVE business database mix and make recommendations for its 2018-2020 subscription package. BLINC has provided this service to NC LIVE every three years since 2008 or so. Always an interesting discussion for us, as we compare and debate the needs of our patrons (not necessarily the same needs!) and the best databases to serve those information needs. That will happen in November and December, with our report due to the NC LIVE officers on New Year’s.

Last week 90 Coleman Fellows gathered at a conference hotel near O’Hare Airport for the 2016 Coleman Fellows Summit. This was my fourth year attending [reports for 2013, 2014, 2015] but this summit was different. Usually the majority of attendees are new fellows, recruited to add entrepreneurship elements into an existing, non-business school class (or create a cross-listed class from scratch, as I did).

Big group of fellows discussion of assessment

Big group of fellows discussion of assessment

This year, however, there was a smaller group of new fellows joining a larger group of campus directors and veteran fellows, plus a new group: the first Coleman “Entrepreneurship in Residence” cohort. Their participation reflects a new strategic shift in how the Coleman Foundation is promoting cross-campus entrepreneurship. Rather than a continued focus on funding ongoing and new cross-campus classes, the foundation now expects the campuses to fund those classes themselves. A new focus features the Entrepreneurship in Residence as local entrepreneurs who will be providing teaching, consulting, and general support to many classes each semester. A second new focus is assessing the value and impact of the Coleman Fellows program. These changes are responses to the Coleman Foundation board’s concerns about the sustainability of the fellows program.

The residents program reminds me, frankly, of us business librarians. We are also nontraditional faculty charged with serving the needs of entrepreneurship students and classes across campus, which we do as guest teachers and research consultants. Outreach strategies for the residents are similar to our own outreach strategies I think. However, the residents’ focus will be only on entrepreneurship education. Tech transfer is not included in their charge.

Veteran Fellows prioritizing our needs and opportunities (Joe, Chris)

Veteran Fellows prioritizing our needs and opportunities (Joe, Chris)

The UNCG Entrepreneurship in Residence is my friend Noah Reynolds, an amazing guy who is a CPA, has started a number of businesses, serves on several corporate and foundation boards, and also teaches ENT 300 each spring. Noah and UNCG Geography Professor Keith Debbage hit it off right away by discussing mutual economic development interests in our “Triad” region of North Carolina. Also with Hospitality and Tourism Management Professor Bonnie Canziani.

We spent all of Friday morning working in small groups on assessment, developing rubrics and assessment methodology. Joe Roberts, the national Coleman Fellows coordinator, asked me to facilitate the small group on the so-called “infusion model”, Coleman’s term for adding entrepreneurship to existing non-business classes. A dozen profs and I proposed some pretty significant changes to the set of draft rubrics for our topic, but were energized by the great discussions we had. So our several hours before lunch together talking about assessment (not a topic that normally interests me much) went by fast.

After lunch, veteran fellows Julie Shields (Millikin University), Chris Broberg (Wichita State) and I led two hours of discussion with 35 or so veteran follows. We had the folks form small discussion teams around topics of high interest (we began with a post-in note poll) and then report back in the final 30 minutes. A lot of the ideas were pretty specific to the fellows program, but one professor mentioned working more with librarians at conferences (!). There was also a series of recommendations about fellows connecting by visiting neighboring campuses, and having mentors from the same subject disciplines (like an arts prof mentoring newer art Coleman Fellows at other campuses).

Veteran fellows getting ready for break-out discussions (Julie)Veteran fellows getting ready for break-out discussions (Julie)

So this summit didn’t have a focus on Entrepreneurship 101-type training this time, and therefore I didn’t do an “introduction to entrepreneurship research” type workshop. We did have one short big group discussion Thursday evening about data mapping tools, and I piped up to check with your library to see if you have access to tools like SimplyMap (and later posted a new SimplyMap screencast video to the fellows’ newsfeed).

UNCG Coleman Fellows 2016-17

UNCG Coleman Fellows 2016-17

But I was pretty involved wearing my assistant director’s hat, under the excellent leadership of Professor Dianne Welsh, the UNCG Coleman Fellows director. As the only librarian fellow, I noticed I was more likely to be named as “Steve the Librarian,” as opposed to “Steve from UNCG”.

Finally, there was some unusual service provided. A fellow had a zipper problem in the bathroom during a morning break and asked me if I could loan him a pair of pants. (He had only brought one pair for the 3-day summit.) We had a similar height and shape, so I said sure. I got those dress pants back (freshly washed and pressed, and with the button that came off on Saturday restored) on Monday. That was funny.

As usual, not long after a long post summarizing summer readings, I learn about one other interesting article or presentation. This topic is too rarely covered in more general information literary/teaching librarian conferences. I mixed in a few observations of my own, but hopefully not too much.

Being ‘In The Room Where It Happens:’ Supporting Information Needs of Students in Experiential Learning Programs
By Angela Horne (UCLA) and Corey Seeman (Michigan)
Leaders of Experiential Project-Based Education Conference 2016 (June 22)


  1. Introductions
  2. Information Needs of Business Students (Case Method vs. Experiential Learning Method)
  3. Library Support for Experiential Learning
  4. Working with teams (for librarians)
  5. Administrative Issues (for the library)
  6. Collection Issues
  7. Closing Thoughts

Angela and Corey provided mini-cases to the participants in order “to frame the discussion and get people thinking about information needs.” Interesting approach! — especially since this program compared students’ research needs for case study pedagogy versus experiential learning projects.

A case usually provides all the information a student team needs, and provide a controlled situation with an official “answer”.

In contrast to the passive information environment of cases, experiential learning requires active information gathering, the needs for which often evolve as the project develops. Both primary and secondary research is usually necessary. The complex research needs of these student teams can be challenging for business librarians to handle, especially for solo business librarians (like me).

Angela and Corey discussed how the librarians at their libraries consulted and communicated with their experiential learning student teams. Some observations:

  • “Information ambiguity is a common issue in most experiential learning projects we support”. [Also sometimes unanswerable questions!]
  • Since the research needs of teams in the same class can be very different, a one-shot instruction session isn’t really useful. Instead, librarians should provide an introduction session and then later have consultations with teams on their specific needs [my interpretation of slides 30-31].
  • In some classes [at Michigan, I think], the librarians get 30 minutes with each team at the beginning of the project. [This is a neat, very specific form of embeddedness, different from my co-teaching roles in which I’m in class most days but have to try to schedule team meetings outside of class, schedules permitting. Sometimes a team ends up with a “Cramer liaison” who becomes my official, solo in-person communication channel to a team].

Angela and Corey next provide interesting examples of research questions from teams. When a project needs to change direction is where the close connection with the librarian really pays off. Then the student teams really benefit from having the librarian “in the room where it happens.” Both UCLA and Michigan have surveyed student teams at the end of the semester and received student testimonials on the value of their librarian team member.

There’s a slide about potential licensing issues of using subscription databases on experiential projects.

And there is a short discussion about workloads and balancing time devoted to these experiential learning students versus those with more general, academic needs. This gets at the common and important topic of the sustainability of types of embedded work and also the value of that work. Corey notes:

“At Michigan, we have 440 students in MAP [Multidisciplinary Action Projects] (out of around 3000), but they take up the majority of time.”

Likewise, I spend much time with ENT 300 and MKT 426, both centered on experiential learning and required with their majors. That work leaves me with less time to be available in the library for random, walk-in questions from other classes. But I have always argued that the high value of my heavy involvement in those research-intensive classes justifies the time commitment, and my local library leaders have agreed. There have been a number of positive spin-offs and publicity resulting from that work (recent example).

Angela and Corey conclude that

“librarians always want to figure out how their work connects with students. This is the room where it happens – and is the best way to demonstrate and provide value to the enterprise.”

One of the PDF file provided at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/120937 includes a short list of additional readings, including an upcoming book about experiential learning.

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!

A summer goal continues to be getting caught up on professional readings since last winter break. Blogging about readings helps me not rush through them. Hopefully these summaries and occasional responses are useful for other folks too. Topics relate to liaison work and business librarianship.


Connect, build, develop: Forming effective liaison strategies through peer mentoring and partnership.
Cayce Van Horn. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 89-94

From the new business librarian at Auburn University. But the article is very useful for any subject liaison new to the job.

Cayce “became the business and economics liaison at Auburn University during the summer of 2015. It was an unexpected change in focus [business is not her background], and my initial reaction was a feeling of fear.” But she benefited from having a mentor:

“Bridget Farrell, the current marketing liaison and previous business and economics librarian at Auburn University, has served as a peer mentor as I make the transition from instructor to liaison, and together we developed a plan to help me connect with faculty and students in my subject area, build effectual and productive relationships with them, and develop my own skills and knowledge in this new role.”

(In 2013 Farrell wrote “New Kid on the Block: The Troubles and Triumphs of Being a New Business Librarian” — see https://liaisonlife.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/reading/).

Cayce discusses planning (“the importance of reaching out to subject-area faculty was immediately noted as a top priority”), collection development (book ordering & weeding), and subject training. Cayce and Bridget drafted a learning plan for Cayce that included taking Celia Ross’s Business Reference 101 class, reading Ross’s Making Sense of Business Reference, attending webinars, and getting involved in BRASS.

Through the mentoring relationship, Cayce gained much confidence in her skills. Lessons learned:

  • Non-business research and teaching skills can be applied to business liaisoning.
  • It is ok for business librarians to need some time to explore and research a difficult research request, and get back to the patron later.
  • Yes, some questions are unanswerable.

Once the fall semester began, Cayce and Bridget implemented an effective outreach campaign to faculty. They began with an associate dean of the business college, which led to attending an executive meeting of the college (deans and department heads), which led to meetings with departments and department heads. By the end of this series of meetings, Cayce was entertaining faculty research questions and requests for instruction workshops for classes. She also targeted new faculty via email and had many fruitful responses.

Cayce concludes:

“As a result of this peer-mentoring experience, I have learned to draw upon my own strengths while benefitting from the expertise of others, a process that embodies the true spirit of collaboration and support while fostering an environment of successful and engaging librarianship”


Business librarians and new academic program review
Kerry Wu & Heidi Senior. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 114-134.

This article is also useful for any subject liaison. It provides excellent suggestions for outreach and relationship building for any liaison initiative.

These Portland-based librarians have been busy supporting new program reviews and surveyed the profession on such involvement. From the abstract:

“Although more than 60% of the respondents thought that librarians should play a part in the proposal process, more than 65% of them indicated that they were never involved….The authors held in depth interviews with [nine] survey participants reporting higher-than average involvement to find out about their strategies for success.”

They identify a challenging (but common?) situation:

“The implied expectation is for the librarian to provide an affirmative statement that ‘library resources are adequate.’ Sometimes librarians are caught in an awkward position when the expected statement is not true.”

The article provides a literature review, survey methodology, and findings. There is discussion of library funding limitations and having to “make-do” with existing resources to support the new subject area.

Based on the nine interviews, the authors provide a list of success factors for getting very involved with new program applications. Examples: being held in high regard by the business faculty; and having strong existing relationships with the faculty. The “strategies to improve librarian participation” focus on building trust and relationships with faculty and certainly apply to any kind of liaison work, ex. teaching, consulting, and scholarly communication advocacy.

One interviewee emphasized proactive engagement, as the authors summarized:

 “Insert yourself wherever possible,” one participant advised, “I was pretty good in terms of pushing the envelope…. I always try and make the library sticky.” He was willing to negotiate and the following summed up his philosophy:

But often it is very definitely [sic] you cannot wait for them to come to you, you have to go to them and be willing to be “insertive” and make some suggestions going, “You know, I think the library can help you or we could help you with this, let’s talk about it…”

Ah, some new synonyms for embedded librarianship?

  • Sticky librarian
  • Insertive librarian

Hmm wouldn’t recommend an unfiltered web search for those phrases! Haha

Another good suggestion from an interview: “gave [faculty] a talk on ‘these are things that you can use me for’”.


Using rubrics for assessing information literacy in the finance classroom: a collaboration
Elizabeth M. Mezick & Lorene Hiris. (2016). Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 21:2, 95-113.

This article presents rubrics to assess ACRL info lit standards (not the frameworks) through a company and industry information assignment that uses a handful of popular business databases. The full assignment is provided.

Transition to the great ACRL controversy of summer 2016…


Framework or Standards? It doesn’t matter
Blog post by Lane Wilkinson

A calm discussion about the current frameworks v. standards brouhaha. Refreshing.

Another thoughtful response but in a different tone: http://betterlibraryleaders.com/2016/06/30/reframing-our-standards-initial-thoughts-on-information-literacy-in-a-post-standards-framework/


Why the “Research Paper” Isn’t Working
Blog post by Barbara Fister

Yes, this post is old, but I reread it in May after returning from LOEX. I get tired of hearing librarians only discussing the “research paper” as an outcome of student research work.

From near the end:

“If you want students to learn about a topic and be able to synthesize information effectively, fine – but don’t call it research. Turn it into a presentation, an informational brochure, or a Wikipedia article. If you want students to make an argument, start from something they know and care about, something that matters to them and about which they can hold an informed opinion. If you want them to read and understand scholarly material, focus on close reading and have the class jointly prepare an annotated edition. If you want them to write academic prose, wait until they know enough about the discipline to know what they’re talking about and how to ask a meaningful question about it.”

We could add a sentence like “If you want your students gain experience working in teams, as so many grownups have to do in their professional and volunteer work, structure the project to be done within teams.”


Small changes in teaching: the minutes before class: 3 simple ways you can set up the day’s learning before the metaphorical bell rings
James M. Lang, Nov. 15 2015. Chronicle of Higher Education

Excellent suggestions! Yes, it’s easy to spend all your time before class begins getting the libguide and Canvas on screen, and writing notes on the whiteboard. The “create wonder” suggestion is certainly one I should be using more often, like a new Statista infographic, or interesting results from a SimplyMap map.


Don’t get married to the results: managing library change in the age of metrics (presentation)
Corey Seeman, from the ABLD-EBSLG-APBSLG Joint Meeting 2016 in Singapore

Corey is the head of the University of Michigan business school Library (Kresge Library). His library has gone through a major physical change, which had impact on the nature of metrics collected by the library. He makes an important point about our complex customer base:

“Library challenge [with assessment] is that we have multiple stakeholders and they have different needs:

  • Faculty needs –scholarly journals, articles, books , datasets
  • Student needs –articles, company & industry information, market reports
  • Community –Mostly similar to student needs”

He warns that “Numbers have no intrinsic value –they can show just about anything you want.” Also: “And while your indicators might be fine –it might not reveal the threats that are all about you.”

There’s more about library change, and telling your story (be proactive, talk to your stakeholders, and rewrite your mission as needed.)


A Response to “Embedded Librarianship: A Critical Perspective”
Blog post by Robert Farrell

A thoughtful rebuttal of a polemic piece about the limits of embedding as a co-teaching librarian. Robert notes that the proposed alternative is clearly another type of embedded librarianship – proactive involvement with the curriculum, utilizing strong relationships with faculty. A bit ironic.


Rejection burnout–a guest post
by Kaitlin Springmier

A guest post from a resident librarian at the University of Chicago. (I’m a little concerned about why a resident librarian fresh out of library school would be writing on this topic). She presents “5 tips I’ve learned that can greatly reduce the rejection of new ideas or the burnout you feel after hearing ‘no.’” Interestingly, tip #4 goes against recommendations made in other posts at this blog, ex. maintaining work-life balance and enjoying “me time”.


Some interesting articles in the journal Against the Grain: Linking Publishers, Vendors, & Librarians from the Dec 2015-Jan 2016 & February 2016 issues

Negotiation Skills 101: Where Is That Course Given?

Since no one gets a chance to take a negotiation skills class in library school, consultant Michael Gruenberg lays out a 4-point preparation plan involving objectives, timetable, team, and strategy. Gruenberg authored the 2014 book Buying and Selling Information: A Guide for Information Professionals and Salespeople to Build Mutual Success (Information Today).

Cooperation is Key:  How Publishers and Libraries are Working Together to Achieve Common Goals

Michael Arthur (University of Alabama) and Stacy Sieck (Taylor & Francis) discuss their two organizations working together to provide workshops on open access and how to get published. Favorite quote:

“More recently, however, there’s been a gradual shift away from publishers being seen as adversarial to libraries, and there’s now a stronger sense that improving these relationships is important, if not imperative, to the success of both parties…But developing these relationships doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that starts with building trust and creating open and honest lines of communication.”

Give the People What They Want — or What They Need?

The often provocative and always interesting Rick Anderson (University of Utah) wrote on this old debate. He contrasts using data to learn what users actually want (which he calls “science”) versus what our patrons should want according to us librarians (“religion”). Providing what they want is our old service model, while advocating for what they should want is our education model. He asserts that

“the first option kind of grates on us as professionals; the second is fraught with frustration (since changing people is notoriously difficult) and political peril (since the people we’re trying to change are also people whose support is essential for our professional survival).”

The education route also risks “alienating our stakeholders”.

I don’t usually get into philosophical writing on librarian issues, but I was thinking about how these ideas might apply to a business librarian working with business faculty and students. Maybe a future post…


Dread data no more: crash course in data visualization for librarians (presentation)
Liz Johns. LOEX 2016.

Liz is the Librarian for Education at Johns Hopkins University. This presentation is a good introduction to the topic. It includes polls in which the audience is asked to pick the better representation of the data, which we readers can also participate in by reviewing the slides. Nice interactive touch.


BusinessDecision: demographic and expenditure data for small business owners [product review]
Trevor L. Winn & Steven Assarian. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, (2016, May) 21:2, 175-181.

A detailed, expert review of this database by two business librarians in Michigan. The Michigan State Library provides both DemographicsNow and BusinessDecision to libraries in the state. This review well illustrates two really important aspects of database reviews: talking about the source data, and comparing the product to competing products. It usually frustrates me when a shorter review in a publication like Library Journal makes no mention of competitors. That really reduces the value of the review to me, since due to our flat budgets (in a good year), we only get new subscriptions by cancelling existing ones.

But be careful making the comparisons:

“With its extensive consumer data, business and people directory, and mapping features, DemographicsNow is the prime competitor to BusinessDecision when considering the needs of small business owners. Although SimplyMap most closely resembles BusinessDecision’s scope and map-centric interface, DemographicsNow offers more data points relevant to entrepreneurs.”

No, SimplyMap offers data points just as relevant to entrepreneurs as DemographicsNow, and even much more so if you subscribe to SimplyMap modules like MRI and SimmonsLocal. That’s in part why NC LIVE has provided SimplyMap to this state for 8 years now (although not the SimmonsLocal module). My new 3-minute SimplyMap video uses entrepreneurship examples.

13 (last one):

Transitioning to 100% Business E-Books: The Case of a Large University Business Collection
Wahib Nasrallah. Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 1:2 (2016)

Wahib is the Senior Business Librarian at the University of Cincinnati. I’m not sure if I’ve read an ebook study before that focused on business ebooks. He writes of his library’s successful transition to mostly ebook purchasing. Regarding why the business school was happy with this change, he writes:

“In many ways, we forget that we are in the knowledge business, clinging to old formats while the world around us requires adaptation and change….Book publishing is a slow process, and the transporting of a physical book to a patron isn’t always feasible…The practice of housing print books in mammoth structures with very little circulation statistics to show for is neither efficient nor effective and has not served the goals of business research.”

The library worked with YBP to create notifications of new e-books only. He notes that some publishers have crazy ebook pricing strategies, and presents data on the number of ebooks on business topics published by core business publishers (see the table on p. 3).

Wahib asserts that “Librarians have always shown a preference for selecting books rather than leasing collections from aggregators (Vasileiou, 2012)” but I don’t think that’s true. We like the Safari package for updating its collections of tech books every year, keeping the collection fresh and relevant.

Their library began using DDA in 2012. There has been an increase in titles triggered for purchase and total spending since then. But the library is not using DDA-only:

“The DDA plan is supplemented by minimal print book purchases from those publishers who resist e-publishing. It is also supplemented by a few e-book purchases for books not available on the DDA platform. We are also retaining our publisher-based e-book collections…In 2013/2014, the e-book collection totaled 1,710 DDA titles and 2,937 titles from other sources.. In the same year, we purchased [only!] 89 print books from publishers who do not supply electronic copies for libraries.

Wahib concludes that their “transformation has received much praise and little to no complaints.” A useful case study.