In part one, I summarized what motivated us to pursue a liaison reorganization in 2012-14, and what the new team structure looked like. The Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force has spent much of this school year gathering feedback from liaisons and other liaison team members on the state of the teams. We have also asked about liaison trends. Here in part two, I will summarize that feedback and discussion. (In part three, in a month or two, I’ll write about our recommendations.)

We began in fall 2017 by re-asking survey questions written in early 2013, back when we began to explore liaison reorganization. In 2017, these liaison questions weren’t very relevant to the non-liaisons serving on our subject and functional teams. But we added new questions relevant to all:

  • From your perspective, what aspects of the team structure and associated activities are working well?
  • From your perspective, what aspects of your team structure and associated activities are not working well?
  • Do you have recommendations on what could be done better or differently in relation to the team structure?
  • What suggestions do you have for our current mix of subject and functional teams?

After collecting survey responses, members of the task force led discussions with all but one of the subject and functional teams (see below regarding the missing team), to discuss common themes from the surveys and solicit additional feedback. Next we shared the themes from those meetings with larger groups of liaisons and team members, asking them to respond with more details on the issues as well as possible solutions.

Our able task force leaders, Anna Craft and Karen Grigg, recorded much of the feedback. Task force members Kathy Crowe and I contributed notes too. Below is my summary of all the feedback covering what is working well, what is not working as well, and the main issues in more detail. The task force hasn’t written its final report yet, so any typos or lack of clarity below are on me.

What is working well

  • Organizing relevant, specific, and practical discussions on our work as liaisons;
  • Peer-mentoring and professional development; sharing our skills and experience in workshops or more informally around a table;
  • Having a welcoming and supportive small group for brainstorming and discussing new ideas;
  • Discussing subject-specific and upper-level research instruction;
  • Discussing support of graduate students;
  • Teammates helping each other, like co-teaching large classes or helping cover during illness or a conference;
  • Getting subject liaisons, functional leaders, and folks from other departments like Special Collections, Archives, Technical Services, and the Digital Media Commons together to share, discuss, and collaborate.

What is not working so well

  • Finding time — making time! – to meet and work together;
  • Lack of accountability for the work of the teams;
  • Lack of accountability for the team leaders — but also lack of support system and rewards structure for serving as a team leader;
  • General coordination of the teams and communicating across teams;
  • Need for clearly defined purpose of both subject teams and functional teams;
  • The goal of functional teams supporting a subject liaison with a challenging situation or new idea or opportunity doesn’t happen often – while all teams are often invited to a workshop sponsored by one team, we don’t have much inter-team collaboration.

Main issues

Here is more detailed coverage of major themes that have come up concerning liaison work as well as the nature of our subject and functional teams.

Liaison workloads always increasing

Quotes from UNCG liaisons:

“Collections work & reference desk have lessened [since 2013] but everything else increases.”

“There is always the issue of too much to do and too little time to accomplish everything. I think learning from each other is the best support we can give – if there is ever time to do that.”

“Maybe we could have careful discussions about how to prioritize when you have an overload or what to do when you can’t do something that needs doing.”

I feel like I need more time for all of [our liaison roles]. Not sure about what kind of support would help. Cloning?”

Yes, all librarians are busy, but the number of students, faculty, research centers, graduate programs, and online programs at UNCG keep going up, as do the number of liaison roles (see below). Yet the number of subject liaisons has been basically flat. (See the end of part 1).

There is also strong interest in having more dedicated writing time, or release time for writing and research. We are tenure-track and so are required to write and present. In the summer, most of us have more time to pursue that work. But in the fall and spring semester, it can be hard to focus in our offices, where interruptions from patrons and colleagues are to be expected, and where we are usually expected to be logged into chat reference to support that service channel.

Liaison work continues to be very much solo work. There has been a lack of contributions of staff and student workers to supporting liaison work. This was mentioned as an opportunity back in 2013. That this largely hasn’t happened is the fault of liaisons (and perhaps liaison teams and leadership), not the fault of staff and student workers.

The ongoing expansion of liaison roles is a factor in how busy we feel. Busyness is also a problem with getting some teams together. But one issue at a time…

Expanding roles

What’s new or growing since 2013?

  • Data curation/management;
  • Open education resources (promotion of);
  • Copyright and licensing questions and training for faculty (well, this is not new, but happening more often; related to the above, also to open access publishing);
  • More online classes and programs (so new tech tools to learn and use, and increased need for outreach). “Online take a lot of time to do well”, someone wrote for the task force’s survey;
  • Teaching of credit courses (ex. LIS 200: Information Use in a Digital World) with no work release time or compensation for;
  • Community outreach (ex. more high school programs connected to UNCG);
  • Embedded and outreach opportunities;
  • Importance of creating and using assessment tools.

As noted above in one of the quotes, our liaison reorganization has resulted in much reduced time and obligations for collections development work, especially book and e-book selection and also weeding.

Our reference desk obligations have been low for many years, but is still an issue with many liaisons. There is concern that reference staffing expectations are creeping up (creeping back, really).

Team sizes

Also related to busyness, some teams have rarely met due to how busy its members are. For example, Karen and Anna were never able to meet with the largest team (the Humanities Team) over a five-month period because there was no time when all the team members could meet. So that team is basically too big to meet during the fall and spring semester. Also, too big to function? (But the members of the Humanities Team had opportunities to give feedback in other meetings or with other teams.)

Smaller teams seem to do more workshops and collaborate more.

There will be some interesting recommendations regarding team size as we wrap up our task force report.

Functional teams helping subject liaisons with specific needs

The final org chart from last time suggests that the functional teams will be connected to the subject teams, helping subject liaisons with specific functional needs or goals. There are a few examples of such collaboration, but in general this hasn’t happened much. There is still a lot of old liaison behavior: liaisons working by themselves, not partnering with others as often as they could.

Functional teams v. working groups?

All the functional teams (Collections, Scholarly Communications, Reference Desk, and Instruction) have a functional leader. Those leaders have their functions in their job titles (ex. Head of Collections; Information Literacy Coordinator). So they are team leaders for life, basically, and that makes good sense. But some of the teams, like Collections and Reference, behave more like working groups. They take care of routine tasks, such as making sure reference services are running smoothly, or weeding the book collection. Only the Instruction Team provides regular programming for liaisons.

In contrast, subject teams have rotating leaders and instead focus on discussions and workshops.

Do we really need the functional teams anymore? We created them in part because we proposed ended the large Collections Management Committee and needed to deemphasize reference services as a liaison function. Creating a Collections Team and Reference Desk Team helped insure that those functions would continue, and, frankly, hopefully helped reassure a small number of liaison/reference librarians who were very focused on selection and reference. (The Instruction Team predates our liaison reorganization.)

On the other hand, the functional teams help us connect across departmental lines. That’s important.

Communication issues

Communication within teams has been good, but communicating across teams has been a challenge. This connects to the time issues (see above) and to leadership issues (see below).

Team leadership

We need to do a lot of work with team leadership. Their roles, expected workloads, and the credit or rewards they should earn for serving need to be defined and written up. The rotation of leaders needs to be clarified too.

We haven’t had a summer all-teams retreat in years.

More generally, the goals of both subject teams and functional teams are unclear. The lack of clarity is increasing as the time since our reorganization increases. The initial enthusiasm and investment in our teams – responses both emotional and intellectual to the structural issues we mostly fixed back in 2013 – have faded over time. The teams have become the new normal, and we hired many librarians since we reorganized. Team leadership and the teams in general need redefining and recharging.

There’s also concern about the workload of expecting the head of the Research, Outreach, and Instruction Department (ROI) to also serve as our liaison team leader, making sure that all the teams are functioning well and communicating with each other. Since the teams cross departmental lines, the liaison leader role covers more ground than ROI. Is that fair to ask and doable? But we do really need that liaison leader role.

That’s it for feedback. By exam week, I’ll post part 3 – recommendations to solve all these problems forever! Haha.


Happy Valentine’s Day! I just saw a male student walking to class with a cluster of big shiny balloons. Was he a giver or receiver?

Catching up

Thanks again to Alyson Vaaler for writing her review of USASBE 2018. It’s important to support librarians taking their skills and knowledge to business conferences, educating faculty and promoting the value of business librarians. We can’t just preach to the choir at library conferences. USASBE will be in St. Pete Beach early next year, GCEC in Chicago in October.

Ilana Stonebraker, fearless business librarian at Purdue, has started a blog on “Teaching on Purpose” and other issues: http://ilanastonebraker.com/. Recommended. A number of interesting posts on teaching strategies, including some active learning lesson plans.

CABAL and BLINC are working on a joint one-day workshop in Richmond, VA this summer, probably a Friday in July. It’s still in the early planning stages, but the event will probably focus on both sources and services (including business research instruction), with dinner and partying afterwards. We will promote the event on BUSLIB in case you aren’t a member of one of those groups but would be interested in making the trip. Thank you to Howard University’s Tommy Waters, CABAL chair, for the suggestion that we do something together!

Professor Nick Williamson and I have finished writing our Export Odyssey e-textbook. Publisher Kendall Hunt is editing and processing the book. This is my first book, so hooray! Hopefully some classes will use it and help some local SME manufacturers make their first export sales.

Today’s topic: update on our team structure review

Four months ago, I posted on the creation of our Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force. That structure is around five years old. We need to periodically review how well it is serving our needs, and indeed, there are some significant issues with our liaison work that need attention.

Progress has been slow, mainly because it’s hard to get the teams together (more on that in part 2). But we are getting there. Our chairs Karen Grigg (Science Librarian) and Anna Craft (Coordinator of Metadata Services) are providing excellent leadership. The task force is summarizing the feedback we have received from individuals and teams, and has begun debating recommendations. I will post on our work in three parts:

Part 1: backstory on our liaison reorganization (2012-14) (see below);
Part 2: summary of feedback on our team structure and recent trends in liaison work (I will post that one over spring break, hopefully);
Part 3: recommendations for changes (by final exams week).

Back in 2012-14, I posted many times on the work and ideas of our liaison reorganization task force (tagged with “liaison organization”), largely wrapping up that thread with our 2015 ACRL program with Johns Hopkins and Villanova.  But as part of the current task force, I wrote a two page summary last week of what motivated us to pursue liaison reorganization back then and what the results were. Here is that summary.

Part 1: backstory on our liaison reorganization

Origins of our liaison and functional team model

In spring of 2012, Dean Bazirijan commissioned the Liaison Collections Responsibilities Task Force. The task force description begins with this observation: “the enhanced responsibilities of our liaisons have created some very real issues regarding the amount of time that can be spent on collection development.” The charge of the task force included:

  1. Define the collection development, instruction, outreach, and newly defined and enhanced responsibilities of our liaisons.
  2. Define the ways that collection development has changed over the years.
  3. Benchmark with other libraries to see how they are handling the complexities of liaison responsibilities in new, creative and innovative ways.
  4. Recommend an organizational model for collection development and other liaison responsibilities that will allow us to give the proper attention to both areas in a sleek and efficient way. More than one organizational model should be recommended providing alternatives to choose from.

While collections work dominates that charge, many liaisons had also grown frustrated with the increasing disconnect between evolving liaison roles (for example, an emphasis on proactive engagement with teaching and research support) and the lack of opportunities for discussion and training regarding those roles. Most meetings of the Reference & Instructional Services department continued to focus on collections work and reference desk staffing and policies. These issues were also considered by the task force.

A July 2012 retreat of the Administrative Advisory Group modified the goals of our liaison program: liaisons would spend much less time providing collection development and reference services, while focusing more on providing proactive support of research across campus. The task force was asked to incorporate these revised liaison goals into its work, expanding the scope of its final recommendations.

At this time, liaisons were based in a number of UL departments (including Music, missing from the below graphic). Liaisons met via the large Collection Management Committee. There was no central liaison coordinator. Some liaisons had other full-time roles in the UL; their liaison role was primarily handling collections questions from their academic departments.

Circa 2012 liaison organization

Circa 2012 liaison organization (the “before”)

Through the spring and summer of 2012, the task force organized many discussion and brainstorming sessions (including once with WFU liaisons), examined the (scant) literature on best practices in liaison organization and leadership, and interviewed liaison coordinators from the small number of libraries that had recently reorganized their liaisons away from the decentralized, collections-centered model. The task force then presented several new organization models to the liaisons and other stakeholders for final feedback. Finally, the task force submitted its report to the Dean in August 2012.

In December 2012, Dean Bazirijan formed two implementation task forces. The Collections Implementation Team had the goals of “Define the role of collections as it relates to other responsibilities of library liaisons; streamline collections decisions prior to sending projects/requests to library liaisons; reduce the involvement of liaisons in collection development activities, thereby freeing them up to spend more time on instruction, outreach and direct faculty support.”

The goal of the Liaison Implementation Team was to “strengthen the roles of liaisons in the areas of teaching, faculty support and consulting and outreach and reduce the collections responsibilities to the extent possible.” The charge of the liaison team included implementing these two models of liaison subject teams and cross-departmental functional teams:

Liaison teams and leadership

Liaison teams and leadership (proposed “after”)


Functional teams

Functional teams

The Liaison Implementation Team created a two-year timeline (2013-14) to implement these subject and functional teams. As part of the process, members of the Special Collections and University Archives and the Digital Media Commons become team members. The Reference and Instructional Services department was rebranded as Research, Outreach, and Instruction [long overdue]. The ROI department head become our liaison coordinator, who oversaw the teams and organized monthly all-liaison discussions. Some liaisons whose main role was collections work retired their liaison roles. The UL created a Science Librarian position for the first time; that liaison joined our existing Health Sciences Librarian and a SCUA member to form the Science Team.

Liaisons rewrote the UL’s official description of liaison roles. Teams began providing peer-training (often inviting other teams to participate). In general, meetings seemed more useful and more interesting to liaisons. However, communication across teams and through the UL proved challenging.

While collections work is now much less demanding on liaisons’ time, liaisons still struggle with workload issues. UNCG expanded student enrollment and the number of faculty dramatically in the 21st century. Some liaisons have experienced a large growth in their target population (one liaison is now responsible for over 4,000 students). A new liaison position to serve the School of Education was created in 1998, but was later redefined with a non-liaison focus. The creation of the dedicated Science Librarian position in 2014 restored the UL to the 1998 level of liaison staffing.

Online education, scholarly communication advocacy, and data management have joined instruction, collections, and more traditional research support as liaison roles. The UL has hired more functional liaisons to serve these roles, including two new positions planned for 2018-19. Hiring more functional liaisons doesn’t necessarily result in more manageable workloads for subject liaisons. (However, some of the functional liaisons also have liaison assignments, which certainly helps.)

In Fall 2017, the Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force was formed to examine and reassess the 2013-14 changes and their intended outcomes.

Blog post postscript

Those last two organizational charts were illustrative examples. We never really had a scholarly communications team, for example. (We may get one eventually: we are hiring our first dedicated ScholCom officer next year, apparently.) But overall those images do reflect what we ended up with by 2015.

In part 2, what continues to work well with our liaison teams but also a discussion of old and new struggles

Alyson Vaaler is an Assistant Professor and Business Librarian at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. She works with the management department in the business school, which encompasses entrepreneurial programs and centers on campus. Prior to Texas A&M, Alyson worked as a Circulation Supervisor at Eastern Illinois University.

She earned a B.A. in music history and literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Alyson also holds a M.M. in music history and literature, as well as a M.L.I.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Review of USASBE 2018

This year, I attended and presented at USASBE 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. The conference was held  at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood, January 10-14. Wednesday and Thursday were pre-conference days, so the main full conference days were Friday and Saturday, ending at noon on Sunday.

Logistics: Very close to Hollywood Boulevard and the Chinese Theater. The immediate area around the hotel was nice, but the farther you ventured the more dodgy it got. I didn’t wander off on my own and didn’t have a lot of time to play tourist.

Food: We were fed very well at this conference. There was a continental breakfast each morning with a sit down plated lunch. During lunch there was a presentation or award given. I would have preferred to socialize with my tablemates during this time because some of the lunch presentations were hard to hear. Several people ate and left during them.

Cost: Expensive. I paid $725 because I was waiting to find out if our presentation was accepted before I registered. The early bird was $675. I applied for an ACRL VAL Travel Scholarship (which I didn’t end up getting), but it’s a possible source of funding for a conference like this. The travel scholarship is specifically for librarians presenting about the value of libraries at non library conferences.

Size: The conference used the Whoova app and it listed 512 attendees. I suspect this includes exhibitors.

Exhibitors: Representatives from Sage, Emerald, and Business Expert Press. The exhibitors were small in number, a lot of individual entrepreneur programs had booths, as well as companies that sold market simulation products.

From reading Steve’s blog post about his experience with USASBE 2017, it seems the conference structure has changed. This made submitting to the conference a bit confusing, as some of the proposal examples and instructions were not updated to reflect this. Nevertheless, the new structure included three tracks:

  • Teaching Track (experiential exercises, case studies, emerging exercises, sharing modules or courses)
  • Research Track (papers, panels, workshops, emerging research)
  • Programming Track (share best practices in running centers, incubators, competitions, training programs, etc.)

Terence O’Neill (Michigan State University) and I presented our “Emerging Teaching Exercise” on Friday morning. I would almost describe these as “lightning talks”, quick ideas that were meant to spark conversation. Some other ideas that were presented alongside ours focused on idea generation, conducting design sprints, and using virtual reality to aide in business observation. We presented in a two hour block with six other presenters. Each presenter had 15 minutes to talk about their idea and comments were held until the end.

Part of Alison Vaaler & Terence O’Neill's Emerging Teaching Exercise

From Alyson Vaaler & Terence O’Neill’s Emerging Teaching Exercise

Our presentation “Connecting Market Sizing to Business Intelligence Resources” discussed how to identify and use data found in library resources to calculate market size. I’m actually using the lesson plan that we developed for this exercise, so it was a very practical presentation to prepare for. People in the audience were engaged and we received very thoughtful comments about how best to integrate this idea into the classroom. I was most surprised that throughout the conference, people tracked me down and asked me questions about my presentation. That generally never happens at library conferences!

One of the things I disliked about this conference (and I suspect this is part of the new structure) were the two hour programming blocks. [Yes, this wasn’t the case last year –Steve] The large blocks of time made it difficult to see different programming within the tracks. I tried to duck in and out of a couple sessions, but the audience would ask questions or reference an earlier presentation that I had missed. I quickly found it easier to just sit it out in one session for two hours. This was a long time to sit in one session, especially during the research heavy sessions.

My favorite track (and the one most worthwhile to me personally) was the teaching track, particularly programs where faculty led the audience in experiential exercises. As a librarian, I typically don’t get to sit in a classroom and see the different problems and issues students struggle with. It was enlightening to see how faculty approach these problems and have developed exercises to engage students in the entrepreneurial process.

I was struck by how comfortable these teachers were in front of an audience and how well they connected with an audience. This is probably something that is second nature to them, but I was impressed by it all the same. The audience also had very constructive feedback and questions at the end of the sessions. I truly felt as if the audience were engaged and were eager to have a dialogue about these presentations.

From another USASBE program

From another USASBE program

The conference as a whole felt like a large community of practice. I think this was a reflection of the variety of attendees. I talked to faculty, staff members, lecturers, all with varying degrees of experience and involvement in their entrepreneur programs. It was a refreshing mix of people that kept the conference from being overly academic or stuffy. Overall, this made for a very accessible conference. People were very friendly and eager to learn.

USASBE also has several special interest groups that met during the conference. I attended the special interest group meeting for “Creative and Arts Entrepreneurship”. I have an arts background and think this would be an interesting avenue for future research. Attendees talked about ways to bolster the involvement of arts entrepreneurship topics overall in USASBE. I also learned about an adaptation of the Business Model Canvas for arts called the “Creative Canvas”. I’m working with a student group “Business in the Arts” later on in the semester and I think I’m going to integrate this somehow into my discussion with them.

I attended one research session block because I was curious about the research field in entrepreneurship. I get the sense that entrepreneurship is a relatively young field and it is still “fighting” for recognition as a scholarly, academic research field. The research was very high quality (in my opinion), but several people I talked to indicated that they don’t go to this conference for the research programming. What most people expressed appreciation for were the programming sessions and the teaching sessions. I would agree that these were the most valuable parts of the conference to me as well.

Overall, this is a worthwhile conference for librarians involved in entrepreneurship. For me, it served as another venue for presenting, which I’m trying to do more of. Proposals also do not need as much future casting as library conferences. (Our proposal was due October 15th, 2017 and we were notified late November of acceptance).

USASBE 2019 will be in Tampa, FL, so at least it will be a warm location again!

Last day of work in 2017! The campus closes at 5pm today for the winter break. Despite the campus being quiet all week, I’ve been pretty busy: training an Economic prof on Zotero as he begins writing his next book; creating promotional videos for a couple of entrepreneurship classes switching to online format; preparing to teach my 530 class next semester; and working on BLINC projects as its new chair.

We formed BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina) in 2003 as an independent group representing public, academic, and special libraries. BLINC joined the state library association, NCLA, a few years later as a new section. However, we have continued our tradition of offering quarterly workshops that are free and open to all. Workshop locations rotate around the state.

We have sadly noticed a slow decline in attendance in our workshops in this decade. Based on our discussions with librarians, we attribute that slow decline to:

  • Reduced staffing of public service points (making it harder for some librarians at smaller libraries to be away for the day);
  • Reduced travel support;
  • And the declining number of librarians with a focus on outreach and service to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and small businesses.

That last trend is particularly disturbing. Wake County Public Library is our poster child for that one. Wake is the second largest county in population in the state; it includes Raleigh, Cary, and the southern edge of Research Triangle Park. Normally the public library systems in larger counties have a business librarian. Wake once did (Susan Wolf Neilsen, a 2016 winner of the BRASS Public Librarian Support Award sponsored by Morningstar, and co-founder of BLINC, now recently retired; Kathe Rauch was another Wake County public librarian involved in BLINC –Kathe recently retired too). But apparently the library administrators there have a strong focus on children now, not proactive engagement with entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and small businesses to support economic development. Wake Co. is also unusual for not having a central or headquarters library, which is where a business librarian would normally be based.

In strong contrast is the High Point Public Library (a city-based, not county-based library, which is uncommon in this state). HPPL has three business librarians (Cassie Ettefagh, Vicki Johnson, John Raynor) charged to build connections across the city, provide support in economic development and job hunting, and promote the value of the public library to community stakeholders.

There are also academic business librarians (or liaisons assigned to business programs among other programs) who are not very engaged with BLINC. This is sometimes due to geography – it’s a long drive from the coast (UNCW) or the mountains (WCU) to the center of this state.

Another issue is the recent emphasis in many academic libraries on functional liaison roles over subject liaisons. In this decade, the liaisons covering the business schools at UNC Chapel Hill and NCSU have also been assigned many social science programs, a huge workload that makes business information one of many foci for those business librarians. UNCCH is hiring its first entrepreneurship librarian very soon, so BLINC will invite that person to get involved with us like BLINC founding member Rita Moss (a past UNCCH Business Librarian, now retired) was. (However, David Ernsthausen remains a BLINC member. He is the Faculty Teaching and Research Support Librarian for the UNCCH business school. We appreciate David’s continued involvement.)

And that brings up what could have been a fourth bullet point above, so I’ll add it now:

  • BLINC needs to put more energy into recruiting and welcoming new members.

So at our winter workshop two weeks at the Greensboro Public Library, a dozen BLINC friends spent two hours after lunch brainstorming some strategic planning, including marketing and promotion. Our discussion included what are the trends with our own positions and professional needs, not just trends in BLINC, since BLINC needs to remain relevant to our own needs.

the value of BLINC, or, how would you describe BLINC

the value of BLINC, or, how would you describe BLINC

Our first question was:

“What is the BLINC value proposition; or, how would you describe BLINC to a prospective member?”

We had fun with post-it notes and came up with this list:

  • Developing/professional growth
  • Learning
  • Getting feedback
  • Networking
  • Consulting
  • Collaborating
  • Amplifying the capacity of business librarians
  • Turning outward / Supporting economic development
  • Sharing
  • Training / teaching / educating
  • Mentoring
  • Caring (about each other)

The next question:

“What are your individual needs as a business librarian (or as a librarian who supports business/entrepreneurship/nonprofits among other roles)?”

Responses (with some overlap, as you would expect):

  • Teaching — examples, learning from other experiences, best practices
  • Resource sharing: new, free sources
  • Inspiration, what others are doing, getting me out of my bubble; real life uses of business databases
  • Affirmation: need to know what others are doing, thinking of doing
  • Big topics in business education
  • How to be a better educator
  • Learning about emerging/big topics in business (ex. A.I., crypto-currency)
  • Need to build relationships/network: with business and nonprofit service providers
  • Opportunity to collaborate with other business librarians: conference presentations, publications, etc.
  • Networking: getting out of office; looking for expertise
  • Getting help evaluating business collections and resources; what is still core resources and reference sources; sharing resources (ex. gov docs)
  • Getting help with a tough question.
  • Evaluating NC LIVE business collections
  • Promoting NC LIVE business collections
  • Developing training
  • Collecting success stories
  • Data skills: finding, collecting, interpreting, how to teach making decisions

Then we transitioned to discussing BLINC itself. Question three:

“What are BLINC’s needs as an organization?”

blinc as a group -- SWOT analysis

blinc as a group — SWOT analysis

Being business librarians (or just smart and effective thinkers, haha), we organized this discussion around a SWOT analysis, making sure to limit the S and W to internal factors (BLINC) while O and T focused on the external:


  • Our diversity (roles, experiences, work situations)
  • Our energy (interest and enthusiasm for networking and training and collaborating, and in service to our communities)
  • Esprit de corps
  • Professional experience and knowledge
  • History of professional development
  • Pride


  • Our diversity [yes, listed twice – John said, very thoughtfully]
  • We have been getting smaller
  • Fewer business librarian positions in the state
  • Our name – too business focus? There’s also nonprofits, entrepreneurship, job/career services, economic development. Some folks who are not full-time business librarians might be scared off by the emphasis on the B-word.
  • Lack of marketing and promotion of BLINC
  • Limited time and attention
  • Not collecting success stories enough and sharing


  • Google (need to provide more advanced training on)
  • New professionals we can recruit
  • Awareness could grow
  • Provide broadcasts of our quarterly workshops and/or webinars
  • Partnering with groups (GRS and STEM [NCLA sections], CABAL, Azalea, SBTDC, etc.)
  • Increasing focus on data (big data, data analytics, data visualization, new sources for data)
  • Cal Shepard (State Librarian for NC)
  • Telling stories
  • Collaborating with NC LIVE on training that has already been asked for


  • Google
  • Competition
  • Fear (and misunderstanding) of business research
  • Travel budgets in decline
  • Travel time allowed in decline
  • Lack of economic development mission/focus in public libraries (maybe some campuses too)
  • Our bosses out of touch with community needs, possible roles of libraries in communities.

Finally, we discussion action steps based on the above:

“What can we do to meet those individual and group needs while living out our value proposition; or, what should BLINC do in 2018-19?”

  • Recruit new members:
    • Make a list of prospective members and contact them
    • Also prospective LIS students (there are several LIS programs in this state)
  • Develop a marketing strategy; rebranding: our focus, titles, roles
  • Professional development, learning, sharing
  • Partnering with other groups (see above in SWOT – Opportunities)
  • Online workshops/Webinar trainings (have an N.C. focus at first)
  • NC LIVE training package / toolbox
  • Quarterly workshops — possible topics:
    • Business service support / promoting economic development using NC LIVE and government data (Census, BLS…)
    • Learning more about emerging business topics, such as AI and cybersecurity
    • Learning the needs of city/metro planners (ask one to talk to us)
    • Data sources
    • Teaching and training techniques (on business research topics, not common info lit topics).
    • Trends in embedded librarians and liaison librarians

We have begun to work on some of those ideas already, with more work to come in 2018. My fellow officers for the next two years are the amazing Sara Thynne of Alamance Community College and Arnetta Girardeau of the NCCU Law Library (very recently the business librarian for Greensboro Public). The three of us will try to leverage the full BLINC membership to identify potential new members (or former members) and reach out to each person individually. Time consuming, but more effective than a blanket emails to NCLA-L.

We also plan on targeting messages to library system directors, with the angle that “if your library has a goal to be more involved in your community, then you need a BLINC representative” (something like that).

We also need continued programming, attractive and convenient, promoted effectively. We have had that every year since 2003, although not always promoted as well as could be. But there are some other types and formats of programming, alone or with other groups, we could consider adding to the mix.

Wish us luck!

Oh, and happy holidays!

This year, the Charleston Conference on collections, publishing, and scholarly communications moved from a Wednesday-Saturday schedule to a Tuesday-Friday schedule. I preferred the earlier schedule since now I had to miss my Tuesday co-teaching class, and it’s hard to avoid the terrible rush-hour traffic in Charlotte on the return drive home on Friday afternoon. Oh well. Maybe next year if I go, Carol and I will splurge on a Friday night stay and play tourist after the conference wraps up at Friday lunch time.

dinner group

dinner group

A growing number of business librarians and business information vendors attended and presented in Charleston. Some of those programs overlapped, which was disappointing but can happen at any conference. The business librarians also enjoyed a cocktail social sponsored by InfoUSA, and many of them attended a “dine-around” dinner Thursday night. So we continue to expand our unofficial business information track after last year’s “lively lunch” discussion. (Cynthia Cronin-Kardon from Penn is already working on a great programming idea for 2018 and has recruited a couple of business vendors to be co-speakers. Cynthia also worked with InfoUSA on the social this year.)

We would be happy to find a business vendor sponsor for a 2018 dinner. It might just be 10-15 folks, so not a huge group.

Critical business collections

On Wednesday, Heather Howard (Purdue University Libraries), Katharine Macy (IUPUI), Corey Seeman (University of Michigan) and Alyson Vaalar (Texas A&M) presented “Critical business collections: Examining key issues using a social justice lens.” Great topic. I couldn’t make this one (see below) but Corey sent me the URL ahead of time (http://tinyurl.com/CHS17CritBiz). Their topics included:

  • Business Librarianship Basics
  • What is Critical Librarianship
  • Open Access & Evaluation of Collection Resources
  • Database Licenses & Practical Business Activities
  • Making Business Resources Available for Walk-in Users

Among the issues specific to business information: Is market research and survey data being collected using bias-free methodologies? Is there a binary representation of gender (and other demographic variables)?

Can student teams working on experiential learning projects (ex. working with or consulting for local entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, and large businesses) use business subscription databases under the terms of the licensing for academic customers? Is experiential learning compatible with “non-commercial use”? (There has been more discussion of this issue lately.)

What about walk-in use of business databases in a library? This is a particularly important issue for public universities increasing expected to support the people/taxpayers in our states. Most vendors allow walk-in usage (and usually that traffic is a very small percentage of all use) but some do not.

Data & mapping

Charles, Steve, & Kevin

Charles, Steve, & Kevin (speaking)

At the same time as “Critical business collections”, Kevin Harwell (Penn State), Charles Swartz (SimplyAnalytics), and I presented And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Library and vendor perspectives on mapping, data visualization, and geographic analytics.” [Does anyone recognize the italicized part?] This is another topic that hasn’t been covered in Charleston before. Kevin and I enjoyed speaking with Charles, the VP of Technology of the company and a PhD.

Charles Swartz


Charles began with an overview of raster versus vector spatial data and then listed the many examples of attribute data available (including “Tree data — species, height, health rating, etc.”– cool). He provided examples of how mapped data can be used, such as “A public library in NC used Hispanic population data in their decision to hire a bilingual librarian” (thanks to NC LIVE being an early subscriber to SimplyMap). The lone examples of SimplyAnalytics Charles provided compared ownership of Chevys in the U.S. to Honda ownership at the county level. Midwestern countries had high ownership for one brand, and coastal states had high ownership for the other – try to guess which ones. Quite a striking difference.

Kevin identified various web applications (vendor databases and ArcGIS Online) and desktop applications like ArcMap, MapInfo, Manifold, QGIS, and GRASS GIS. He then compared characteristics of web applications (ex. “Easy to use, but less advanced functionality”) to those of desktop applications (“Oriented to using your own data”).



I concluded with selection issues, such as which units on campus might pay for the data, limitations on access, and limits on concurrent users. I used WRDS at UNCG as a quick case study. In evaluating web applications, look for the level of geography provided (down to the Census block group?), the level of NAICS coverage (down to 6 digits?), currency (recent American Community Survey data?), and the availability of proprietary psychographic data (from MRI, Simmons, Nielsen, etc.). Finally, try to explore the level of vendor support provided, and the nature of usage data provided. A librarian can easily spend an hour working on a single variable & map with a patron, so we should also collect success stories (ex. for economic development and entrepreneurship projects).

We finished our slides in 25 minutes and then had a solid 15 minutes of discussion with the audience until our 40 minute block ran out. The audience had many questions for Charles, a first-time attendee at the conference.

Career services

On Thursday, Heather Howard (Purdue), Lauren Reiter (Penn State), and Nora Wood (U. of South Florida) presented “Landing the job: Tips and tricks to prepare students for the job hunt.” Heather began by discussing the uncoordinated funding of career databases by several campus units at Purdue, including the library. She worked with several centers to create a more efficient, joint payment plan for those databases. Now the campus has access to more resources for the same amount of spend. She has talked to the 35 campus centers and offices providing some type of career assistance about linking her master library guide on the subject. Heather teaches career research in three core classes using active learning. The workshop concludes with students discussing how the research tools can “help them start conversations, write cover letters, interview, etc.”

Heather, Lauren, & Nora

Heather, Nora, & Lauren

Lauren discussed how she coordinates with her Career Services Center, which has its own librarian. She teaches career research in the first-year seminar for business students, as well as an English class on business writing taken by juniors and seniors. The assignments vary by instructor, but can include writing persuasive letters on “why I am pursuing career ABC in field XYZ.” She also helps train student mentors in financial education. Those mentors provide financial literacy support to fellow students.

Nora described providing services on her large, new campus with little funding support. She co-teaches a number of workshops with catchy names:

  • ResuMe—How to Get Noticed (on creating a resume)
  • Map Your Major to Your Future (career exploration and sources)
  • Tips and Tricks for Acing Your Interview (including company and industry research)
  • Building Your Brand with a Custom Resume (using Adobe InDesign)
  • Using Internships to Kickstart Your Career
  • Networking—Why and How You MUST (and Can!) Do It!

During the Q/A, Heather (if I remember correctly) showed us https://datausa.io/, which aggregates and visualizes useful career data using the BLS and other sources.

Alumni resources

At the same time as the career services discussion, Corey Seeman and Jo-Anne Hogan (Publisher, Business, ProQuest) discussed “What’s past Is possible: Opportunities and perspectives for library alumni resources.” From their abstract:

A growing number of colleges and universities are offering alumni a suite of electronic resources that are either bundled as part of their existing package, negotiated or purchased separately. The value to the vendor may be as an additional revenue line or exposure to a larger population. This might be especially true in business where the need for information and news resources is ongoing. The value to the library may be as a connection to a mission of lifelong learning that can partner with other aspects of the school. Even in a time of tight resource budgets, this can be a good investment by the library.

Other Charleston programming

fall color in Charleston 2017

fall color in Charleston 2017

The Tuesday vendor showcase (the one day of exhibits – otherwise librarians, publishers, and vendors attend programs together) took place in the larger Gaillard Center for the first time. Everyone liked the extra elbow room.

Of course, the conference also had plenty of programs not provided by business libraries. A morning session on “Publication Ethics, Today’s Challenges: Navigating and Combating Questionable Practices” was very interesting. A Wolters Kluwer director discussed the increasing challenges of dealing with fraudulent article submissions and the publishing industry’s efforts to fight back without limiting submissions by legitimate authors.

The “Long Arm of the Law” session once again kicked off the final morning with analysis (plus the usual sing-along) of legal developments in fair use and copyright. This panel and the “Legal Issues” section of Against the Grain are my favorite ways of keeping up with the legal issues in our industry.

Finally, I also got to hear my wife Carol Cramer (Head of Collections at Wake Forest University) present a lightning round on “A Tempest in a Teapot? Comparing Same-Publisher Sales Before and After DDA Withdrawal”. She addressed the questions “Did individual librarian selectors start buying more print from this publisher, offsetting any savings? Did the publisher make more sales from WFU before or after the change?” It was fast-paced and interesting, and Carol drew the biggest laugh of the hour.

Catching up: NCLA 2017

Sunrise from my Halifax hotel room at GCEC 2017 (I didn’t pay extra for a harbor view)

This school year, I am attending three conferences. Two were back to back, ending on Friday, and the third begins two weeks from today. So no conferences next semester unless something local and cheap pops up.

The biennial conference of the North Carolina Library Association met in downtown Winston-Salem last week. So I was able to walk to work for three days! That was great. Many members of BLINC (Business Librarianship in North Carolina, a section of NCLA) presented. Topics included researching grant opportunities, outreach to local small businesses and entrepreneurs, NC LIVE databases for business, researching local market data, and data visualization and data literacy.

We also had a fun BLINC dinner sponsored by SimplyAnalytics. Thank you, Steven and Juan! Steven said this was really Juan’s conference, since NC LIVE renewed its subscription to S.A. for another three years and so everyone at NCLA is a customer.

I also attended a packed program by friends Jo Henry, Joe Eshleman, and Richard Moniz on “Addressing the Problem of Incivility in the Library Workplace”, a talk based on their latest ALA Editions book, The Dysfunctional Library: Challenges and Solutions to Workplace Relationships.

But equally important at NCLA 2017 was the networking and socializing and sharing experiences with librarian friends from across the state. Smaller conferences are so good for that.

Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres 2017

Break during a plenary session at Dalhousie University

Three days before NCLA 2017 began, I returned from Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres 2017 conference. Around 300 entrepreneurship program coordinators and professors plus two entrepreneurship librarians from Ontario and one from North Carolina attended. Around 40 folks attended the “New Conference Attendee” orientation. There were no graduate students, since this conference doesn’t have a research track.

(In comparison, NCLA 2017, which I just called “smaller”, had around 920 attendees. The five entrepreneurship conferences I have now attended have all been very small by library conference standards, although USASBE came close to 900 people last winter.)

An organizational membership in GCEC is a prerequisite for individuals to attend this conference. There are 250 campus members. The conference registration fee for individuals, $450, was not high compared to other business education conferences.

Member campuses apply to host the annual conference. The host school(s) are responsible for all conference expenses, but retain all the conference registration fees as well as any sponsorship money the school is able to recruit. An interesting model. So a school could in theory make some money by hosting. GCEC usually has met in the U.S., but University College London hosted in 2014, and the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship will host in 2019. 2018 will be co-hosted in Chicagoland by DePaul University and Illinois Institute of Technology (a Coleman Fellows campus like UNCG).

This year, Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, and the University of New Brunswick were the hosts. The main conference days were Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14. We met at Dalhousie on Friday and Saint Mary’s on Saturday. We enjoyed visiting a different campus each day. There were conference buses, but some folks walked since both campuses are downtown. The official conference hotel faced the historic harbor. Breakfasts and some socials happened in the hotel.

In December when the semester is over, I will submit a formal conference report to Ticker for its consideration. But here are some more personal notes and observations.

Lunch on Friday

First, wow, the free drink tickets! We had four a night for three nights. Very nice. (No, I didn’t actually use all of mine. For one thing, I had to get up early Sunday morning to catch a flight to Toronto!) The first evening social (Thursday night) was at Pier 21, the national immigration museum of Canada. The second was at a local brewery, while the final evening social was at the local science center, which had a crazy special exhibit on quantum physics. On the top floor, we made giant soap bubbles. There was also a late evening hospitality room back in the hotel each night.

Some aspects of communication and scheduling with the conference presenters were dicey. This is perhaps a consequence of this conference floating around different campuses each year – the organizers are different each time, may have no experience with conference planning, and might have a full time job to do in additional to the GCEC planning work. Participants submitted programs for 50 minute slots, but most of us ended up paired with another speaker or panel within the 50 minute slot. We got that news of that pairing pretty late. Awkward after having a 50 minute program accepted months in advance to have to make it a 25 minute program with only 3 weeks to go. Most of the program titles were apparently written by the conference organizations after the mergers of accepted submissions. On the other hand, having 2-in-1 50 minute programming slots resulted in brisk presentations and panels with lots of idea-sharing.

Since this conference focuses on entrepreneurship centers, most of the programs concerned the creation and support of accelerators and educational programs. Experiential learning, collaboration and engagement with local entrepreneurial ecosystems, mentoring and counseling programs, creating cross-campus programs, and how to measure and assess successful programs were common topics.

As usual for entrepreneurship education conferences, the attendees at GCEC were happy to have librarians in attendance. The profs consider us partners in entrepreneurship education and most know who their own entrepreneurship librarian is. There were a number of questions after each of the librarian panels, and the comment “I which you had more time to talk” was expressed at both.

On Friday, as part of a program given the title “Learning from Being on the Ground and Asking for Help from Those Who Know”, Carey Toane, Entrepreneurship Librarian at the University of Toronto, and I presented on “Teaching Entrepreneurship Students to use Regional Industry and Market Data to Make Better Decisions and Reduce Risk” (the title we submitted).

Carey provided data from a survey she conducted on “campus entrepreneurs’ research habits and needs.” The survey helped describe the information seeking behavior of University of Toronto entrepreneurs. I talked about the roles academic libraries and entrepreneurship librarians can perform for entrepreneurship programs and centers, and emphasized faculty’s key role in making sure students utilize high quality research sources (including data) and utilize their research consultants (us librarians). Carey concluded our talk with a walk-through of a Toronto-based case study in which students did make some significant decisions using data (including Canadian consumer data via SimplyAnalytics).

Carey Toney and Christina Kim speaking on how librarians support campus entrepreneurs

Carey Toney and Christina Kim speaking on how librarians support campus entrepreneurs

On Saturday, Carey and librarian Christina Kim (Senior Manager of Market Intelligence of MaRS Discovery District, cross-appointed from the University of Toronto) spoke on “How Librarians Support Campus Entrepreneurs and Build Culture.” Carey discussed how she supports students and startups across three campuses, nine campus accelerators, and courses that span from Music to Medicine to Computer Science at her campus of almost 89,000 students (whew!). Chris coordinates the provision of research databases and datasets to the MaRS accelerator program, but also supports regional innovation centres across several provinces as well as other campus-based accelerators in Ontario. Carey and Chris concluded with recommendations to faculty (“Your homework”) to reach out to their business or engineering librarians, provide links to their guides, and invite librarians to class to support students’ research.

The conference began and ended with plenary sessions. The opening plenary featured a debate on “education versus acceleration” – which should be the focus for an entrepreneurship? The debate was pretty good (the Hyde Park debates at the Charleston Conference are more entertaining) but the plenary got much more interesting when the first attendee to ask a question, a prof from Yale, pointed out that the moderator and the four debaters were all males speaking to a conference that was about 50% female. (My neighbor complained to me that all four guys were from the U.S., despite GCEC meeting in Canada for the first time.) In response, the moderator invited the female prof from Yale to join the group on stage as they fielded more questions. But sexism in entrepreneurship (both education and the world of start-ups) remained an unofficial theme for the rest of the conference. We even discussed this in the Halifax airport Sunday morning as we waited to fly out.

Privilege came up less often. Getting students to work 20-40 hours a week in a campus incubator on their business idea while also taking a full load of classes is only a possibility for well-off kids who don’t need to work a job to pay for their education (or support their families, since sometimes students are also parents). In contrast, UNCG is an urban, regional state school with many first generation college students (as I was at the U of M), and almost minority-majority.

Diversity came up a few times, as did the vital role of immigrants in creating jobs and supporting the economy. Canada continues to out-complete the U.S. for recruiting immigrants who start companies, create jobs, and grow the economy.

I really liked this conference for the exchange of practical ideas and the ample opportunity for networking. Ok, yes, for the socials too.


In 2013-14, my library finished a discussion of how to reorganize our liaisons. I blogged about this process under the tag ”liaison reorganization.” Our process was easy to write about because each brainstorming session, workshop, and internal survey produced a document that was easy to turn into a blog post.

After we submitted our proposal, Library Administration charged us to implement the proposed cross-departmental subject and functional teams. We also redefined our official liaison roles, and rebranded the Reference & Instruction Department as the Research, Outreach, and Instruction Department (ROI). ROI is now in effect our liaison department, since we largely ended the practice of having librarians in other library departments serve as liaisons with a primary focus on collection development. All liaisons now focus on R, O and I.

[The first proposed departmental acronym was RIO but our business librarian mentioned the financial acronym of ROI and folks apparently liked the implied connection. If we worked at UNC Wilmington out at the beach and not UNC Greensboro, maybe we would have stuck with RIO.]


This fall we have a new task force to review and rethink our liaison teams. I’m excited about this. After three years of working in these liaison teams, it’s time to step back and discuss how this structure is working out for us. There have been many successes with our team structure, but we created it in part to enable us to be nimble and flexible in response to changing opportunities and needs on campus. So our liaison organization should be reviewed every few years, even if we remain happy with it.

We also have new liaisons, a new dean, and a new ROI department head, Amy Harris (although Amy served on the reorganization task force with me). And some teams have been more active than others lately and so could use a little recharge.

My colleagues Anna Craft (Coordinator of Metadata Services and member of our Scholarly Communications team) and Karen Grigg (Science Librarian; Science and Collection Management teams) are co-chairing the task force. I’m a member and have been providing historical documents. The charge of the task force is below.

Our task force report will provide recommendations on the teams we need (subject and functional), how they are organized and led, and their activities. Amy asked that we consider the question “If we started from scratch in 2017, what teams would we propose?

Regarding leadership, we need to discuss the process for team leaders to give feedback to supervisors, as well as the time commitments team leaders should be expected to make (and should there be any sort of credit or workload allowance made for that service?).

We also need to consider the terms for serving on each functional team: do the current memberships still make sense? Which folks should basically be permanent members?

The task force will begin by surveying all the team members on team aspects and also surveying the liaisons on liaison roles and workload issues. The latter survey will be a repeat from one conducted in 2014. I will be interested to see how the results on that one will be different after having a few retirements and new hires since then.

I will keep you updated on any interesting developments or findings as we have these discussions this school year.

Charge: Liaison Team Structure Review Task Force

Goal: Examine the liaison functional and subject team structure implemented in 2013-14 to determine how well it is functioning and what changes should be made in response to evolving needs and University Libraries’ strategic priorities.


  1. Review weaknesses identified in our earlier (pre liaison team) organizational model to determine what challenges still exist.
  2. Identify new liaison opportunities based on Libraries’ priorities and campus needs.
  3. Assess and review current team structure and team activities. How can cross-communication be improved?
  4. Make recommendations on the team structure to address challenges and new opportunities.