The story is legendary: Business librarians gathered in March 2020 for what would turn out to be the last conference for a long while. Before the closing keynote on Friday, March 13, 2020, there were phones going off and email alerts. “All travel is canceled.” “The NCAA tournament is canceled.” Some attendees had to leave early. Needless to say, attendees of the 2020 SOUCABL (Southern University and College Academic Business Librarians (https://soucablconference.mozello.com)) conference had no idea what they were going home to.
Three years later, on March 9, 2023, (mostly academic) librarians who work with business information gathered from across the Southeast U.S. for what for many was the first conference “back” since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Under the program’s theme of “Expanding Visions,” attendees, presenters, and vendors spent a full day at the University of Georgia considering how business librarianship has changed and stayed the same since the last time we saw each other in person. Amanda Kraft (attendee) and Nancy Lovas (presenter) are here with a recap and write-up.
Opening Keynote: “From the outside in: An industry hire comes to academia” - Doug Olsen (Boston College)
Doug Olsen (https://libguides.bc.edu/prf.php?account_id=307390) (Boston College) spent many years working for consulting and financial services firms before starting his current position about 15 months ago. In the talk, Olsen (2023) shared how his previous work experience does and does not transfer to academia, similarities and differences between the realms, and what he’s learned since becoming an academic business librarian. Primary themes were reference and customer service, data content technology, talent, and institutions.
During his journey from the corporate world to academic libraries, Olsen created “a network and support system for actionable feedback” by working with executive coaches and reaching out to academic librarians in the Boston area for informational interviews. While networking can feel “slimy,” (Green, 2018) Olsen’s example is an excellent reminder that asking a fellow professional a question or for advice can be the start or continuation of a mutually enriching relationship. Olsen commented on a few of the differences between corporate and academic hiring processes, including maintaining a CV versus a resume, long drawn-out timelines, and lengthy interviews. The “weirdness” of academic libraries is another great reminder of how helpful and important it is for academic business librarians to support and mentor LIS students and early career professionals through what can be a grueling experience.
Olsen continued his reflection on the culture differences in academia, and between business schools and libraries. He included a handy jargon-translating table in this section. A few excerpts from our notes:
Of primary note is the focus in academic libraries on collaboration, working on many projects with lots of partners. A few of the opportunities Olsen has begun exploring are active learning for library instruction, getting a handle on the collections budget, learning more about digital scholarship (especially data manipulation), and developing relationships in the library and across campus.
To close out, Olsen offered a few reflections. While professional reinvention is hard, it is worthwhile and takes humility to learn the culture and traditions of the new sector. In libraries, collaboration is emphasized instead of competition. Similarly, the business value is not always greater than the social value. Finally, one way to achieve success is by figuring out how to align your interests and capacities, while also strategically connecting them to the university’s priorities.
Like any good librarian talk, we got a research tip in the Q&A: Use posted job descriptions as a source for some information about private companies, including sometimes hints about organizational structure.
“Learning from the experts: Building workshops with vendors to enhance student business intelligence” - Nora McKenzie (Emory University)
Nora McKenzie (https://libraries.emory.edu/contact/staff-directory/nora-wood-mckenzie) (Emory University) works as part of the Goizueta Business Library team, which was well-represented at SOUCABL 2023. Her presentation (2023) focused on the Business Essentials Workshop Series offered to juniors just starting in the Business School at Emory University (1,100 FTE). Some of the workshops offered are for credit (leading to a Business Research Certificate) and others are not, and the series includes both live and asynchronous offerings. As the pandemic started, McKenzie and her team began experimenting with interactivity in Zoom and at this point also started working with external partners, specifically vendors.
When considering potential partners, McKenzie and her team prioritized databases that aligned well with existing class projects, are often underutilized albeit highly valuable to student projects, are typically licensed by corporate clients, and do not require an additional fee to offer training. Ultimately, they partnered with Mintel, SimplyAnalytics, and Pitchbook. They currently offer a total of five workshops in which the vendor leads a demonstration, and the librarian leads an instructional activity or activities.
There’s more to facilitating the series than the instruction. Regarding logistics, McKenzie detailed several considerations including marketing and registration, in-class announcements, workshop timing, managing activities, student engagement, feedback, and attendance. McKenzie specifically mentioned having to set “ground rules” at the beginning of each workshop, telling participants that to earn credit, they must stay for the whole workshop, be engaged, and keep their camera on.
McKenzie ended her presentation with a summary of the series’ successes and challenges and shared some lessons learned. The series has increased in popularity as many workshops have over 30 student attendees. Also, McKenzie and her team have received great feedback from students attending from all over the world. Initial assessment has demonstrated student intent to use the resources in both the short- and long-term. Challenges include “level setting,” i.e. differentiating instruction for experience levels, choosing what to cover, monitoring student participation, coordinating schedules, and getting students to provide feedback. Takeaways and tips include keeping on top of planning, sharing all the content creating in order to avoid technical issues, applying a full cycle of instructional design after assessment and reflection on how students’ needs were or were not met, and offering beginner and expert-level workshops for databases in order to “level set.“
During the Q&A, attendees learned that Forrester was one of the vendors who intended to charge for training. Paige DeLoach (SAGE Publishing) asked about the process for incorporating vendor training as part of certification at the Business School, and the response was basically that it was all about good relationships. There was also interest in how the series was marketed. McKenzie shared that all the usual methods were used (newsletters, website postings, print and digital signage, etc.) and commented that they eventually started moving workshops closer to the end of the semester to help junior students still needing to meet specific requirements for entering the Business School. There was also a question about whether a “solo” business librarian could do something like this on their own. McKenzie shared that while she manages vendor workshops, other workshops are managed by her colleagues. She recommended just starting small. Finally, there was a question about how the Goizueta Business Library team determined which vendors had corporate partners, and the answer was simply to reach out and ask the vendors.
“Expanding within, to expand without: Expanding the vision of what’s relevant in business research & instruction” - Summer Krstevska and Morgan Ritche-Baum (Wake Forest University)
Summer Krstevska (https://zsr.wfu.edu/directory/summer-krstevska) (Wake Forest University) is a full-time business librarian and, since 2019, a full-time startup founder. Morgan Ritche-Baum (https://zsr.wfu.edu/directory/morgan-ritchie-baum/) was hired at Wake Forest in 2021, after working as a public business librarian, as the university was moving “back” to in-person work. It was an opportunity for each to “start over,” with a new colleague (for Krstevska) and a new professional chapter (for Ritchie-Baum).
The session (2023) opened with audience engagement via PollEverywhere: “What were your COVID revelations?” Many replies centered on REST and PEOPLE/CONNECTIONS. The follow up centered our attention on instruction: “How has COVID changed how we think about or conduct instruction?” Folks mentioned group work, shorter online sessions, and taking breaks for creativity.
As Krstevska and Ritchie-Baum began to work and teach together, they recognized the themes of ambiguity and uncertainty in research and saw opportunities to create and facilitate connections amongst their students and the community. Reflecting on experiential learning, they considered these questions: What is “allowed” in the library classroom? What experiences are possible? How can we overcome teaching research as a linear process?
They put their reflections into practice by designing three business research classes. At Wake Forest, librarians teach one-credit, half-semester library classes. “Renegade Research” introduced ambiguity and uncertainty to the research process as students learned how to use non-traditional resources in a startup consulting context. “Breaking Down Bad” asked students to research and decide, is a company good or bad (what makes a company “good” or “bad”)? Finally, Krstevska pushed the question of possible experiences into designing and leading a study abroad library class to Rotterdam about entrepreneurs enacting social change. In the process of designing and teaching these classes, Ritchie-Baum and Krstevska made positive connections across their campus and in the wider community.
After doing this work, they learned a few things! First, doing business research is about making connections between information and people, communities, and culture. Second, ungrading (Krstevska 2022) is ambiguous and hard. Finally, targeted outreach, focus on non-traditional resources, and opening the courses to all academic disciplines got a more diverse group of students than is typical of library classes. After all, the entrepreneurial mindset and creativity is broadly applicable! Also helpful was making the classes more topical and using regular language rather than library-speak. The talk wrapped up with an audience reflection activity, closing the circle.
“Training the next generation of business librarians” - Nancy Lovas (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Nancy Lovas (https://library.unc.edu/about/staff/nancy-lovas) (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is a business and entrepreneurship librarian but also recently became a business librarianship field experience site supervisor and instructor of a for-credit graduate course (INLS 709 Business Information). These experiences led her to reflect on the education of new librarians, and her presentation focused on ways in which current business librarians can positively affect training and professional development (PD) opportunities for those entering the profession.
Lovas started her presentation (2023) by asking attendees to think, pair, and share on their first experiences with business information and reference and what were the most useful things they learned early in their careers. Brittany Champion (Furman University) shared that her very first business reference question was intimidating, but she worked through it with the student. She felt that the experience helped the student understand that librarians aren’t “random magicians”, and that research requires their participation. Jennifer Horne (University of Kentucky) then shared that she is very upfront with students that she does not have a business background and emphasizes that she is a specialist in our field (LIS).
Emphasizing the importance of this topic, Lovas pointed out that she has counted (and collected) more than three dozen business librarian job postings on BUSLIB-L in recent years. She also commented on the small candidate pools for business-related jobs and shared her observation that LIS programs are offering fewer specialized classes that might prepare candidates for discipline-specific roles. Lovas ended this section of her presentation by asking attendees: “What, if anything, are we to do?”
Lovas then detailed her recent work with experiential learning, as a field experience site supervisor, and teaching and learning, as a library school instructor. The field experience provided opportunities for the students to teach, provide reference, develop/maintain library guides, learn about common professional development activities, e.g., networking, drafting cover letters and CVs, etc., and publish. So far, Lovas’s business librarianship field experience has led to two insightful blog posts by student authors: The Mind of a Beginner (Murphy & Lovas, 2022) and A BizLib Field Experience (Lovas & Sun, 2022). Since INLS 709 Business Information had not been offered as a three-credit course since Spring 2013, Lovas spent a lot of time redesigning it. Early on in the process, Lovas wondered how the basics of business information could be taught meaningfully and, ultimately, chose to focus on practical application of skills as they have become necessary in her career and everything she wished she had learned in library school.
Lovas ended her presentation the same way she began it: Asking attendees to reflect and contribute. Specifically, she wanted to know how library schools could do better and what current business librarians felt they could do individually or as part of their respective professional organizations. In response, SOUCABL co-founder and Board of Directors member Trip Wyckoff (Florida State University) asked how we grow diversity in business librarianship? Brittany Champion (Furman University) offered that we should partner with state-wide organizations, e.g. the North Carolina Library Association’s Roundtable on Ethnic and Minority Concerns (REMCo) (https://nclaonline.org/remco). Other attendees were interested in how we better engage interns and graduate assistants. Some suggestions were to have them do more “real work,” allow more opportunities for mentorship, invitations to casual conversations or even conferences, and working with career centers.
Vendor Round Robin
After lunch, there was an hour-long “vendor roundup,” in which each of the sponsoring vendors in attendance (Business Expert Press, Data Axle, Mintel, PrivCo, Sage, Statista) took up residence in one of the fourth floor study rooms of the UGA Miller Learning Center in order to allow the business librarians to visit with them in a timed rotation managed by SOUCABL Board of Directors member Jean Clenney (University of South Carolina). The following prompt was provided:
SOUCABL tries new ways of working and partnering with our vendors. We try very hard to include vendors as part of the conversation and to build partnerships.
This year we want to encourage discussions among all attendees about how our vendor supporters can help librarians with challenging issues. This year’s Round Robin will be trying targeted questions to start a conversation with small groups of librarians and vendors.
We have developed a few questions as conversation starters and not an end of the conversation.
How does your product help specifically our undergraduate students doing research?
Is there anything we need to convey to our students about your product that makes it unique?
How have you partnered with customers to provide training?
How does your product deal with experiential learning projects?
Please share any suggestions for product changes or express challenges you are having with students or faculty that vendors might be able to help with.
“Swimming with the sharks” - Chelsea Jacobs (West Virginia University)
Chelsea Jacobs (https://directory.lib.wvu.edu/employee/286) (West Virginia University) briefly presented on librarian support of Shark Tank-style pitch competitions and how information literacy instruction can positively benefit “competition scores.” Jacobs emphasized in her presentation that entrepreneurship is essential for local economic and social development and commented that pitch competitions encourage an entrepreneurial mindset amongst participants even if they do not ultimately become entrepreneurs.
During Q&A, Jacobs clarified that while the public is involved, the competition participants are primarily students who are supported by library staff. In response to a question about intellectual property searches, Jacobs explained that she relied heavily on the engineering librarian who is most efficient with that type of research. Finally, there was a question concerning funding, and Jacobs shared that the competitions were funded primarily by local entrepreneurship organizations.
“Promoting the popular business collection to the business school and beyond” - Jennifer Horne (University of Kentucky)
In the age of ebooks, Jennifer Horne (2023) (https://libraries.uky.edu/people/jennifer-horne) (University of Kentucky) addressed the question, “why provide popular business/economic/government titles?” Her reasons are twofold: first, her existing book budget must be used for books–it cannot be switched over to anything. Second, there is demand: the people want them! TV and film media based on these titles are being created.
Horne shared her multipronged approach to marketing the popular collection to library users. She maintains a Business Books (n.d.) page on her Introduction to Business Resources guide. As well, a link to this page was included in the library newsletter. Encouragingly, the LibGuides statistics show that newsletter readers engaged with the page! Finally, Horne set up a pop-up library, tabling on location with a sample of print books from the collection. At the end, audience members made many encouraging comments regarding pop-up marketing.
Wrap-up - Trip Wyckoff (Florida State University)
As in past years, the day wrapped up with a real-time feedback session led by Trip Wyckoff (Florida State University). All agreed how invigorating it was to network with colleagues over the day, building new and rebuilding old connections. Important conversation was begun about diversifying the speaker and presenter line-ups for future gatherings. After reflecting together, most attendees reconvened for happy hour. Overall, SOUCABL 2023 was a great conference full of fantastic networking and content.
Many thanks to the SOUCABL Board of Directors for their work in making the conference happen: Sheila Devaney (University of Georgia), Jean Clenney (University of South Carolina), Judy Geczi (Saint Louis University), and Trip Wycoff (Florida State University). As well, many thanks to the vendors who sponsored meals, the opening reception, and closing happy hour: Data Axle, Business Expert Press, Mintel, SAGE, Statista, Richard K. Miller & Associates, and PrivCo.
Green A. (2018, March 13). I hate the idea of networking—It feels slimy. Ask a Manager. https://www.askamanager.org/2018/03/i-hate-the-idea-of-networking-it-feels-slimy.html
Horne J. (2023, March 9). Promoting the popular business collection to the business school and beyond [Conference presentation]. SOUCABL Conference, Athens, GA, USA. https://soucablconference.mozello.com/; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1AXcciRB6-X9gaiN9kACAGCXAm9E4Wr6f/view
Horne J. (n.d.). Business Books [webpage]. Introduction to Business Resources [website]. UK Libraries, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA. https://libguides.uky.edu/BE/books
Krstevska S. (2022, September 8). 2 new classes & ungrading! BizLibratory: Academic Business Librarianship, Instruction, Research Strategies and More. https://bizlibratory.wordpress.com/2022/09/08/2-new-classes-ungrading/
Krstevska S. & Ritche-Baum M. (2023, March 9). Expanding within, to expand without: expanding the vision of what’s relevant in business research & instruction [Conference presentation]. SOUCABL Conference, Athens, GA, USA. https://soucablconference.mozello.com/; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ilzyvCU6x0eV0D30oEdRwI-W5ZHLAxI0/view
Lovas N. (2023, March 9). Training the Next Generation of Business Librarians. [Conference presentation]. SOUCABL Conference, Athens, GA, USA. https://soucablconference.mozello.com/; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nQt__0NWvbzIn_xyN9zW5p63SNJ3u_Ao/view
Lovas N., & Sun X. (2022, December 19). A bizlib field experience: LIS student and librarian perspectives. BizLibratory: Academic Business Librarianship, Instruction, Research Strategies and More. https://bizlibratory.wordpress.com/2022/12/19/a-bizlib-field-experience/
McKenzie M. (2023, March 9). Learning from the experts: building workshops with vendors to enhance student business intelligence [Conference presentation]. SOUCABL Conference, Athens, GA, USA. https://soucablconference.mozello.com/; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nnifS6-PK7FnKxL_0_xskGEE6tJdAYwI/view
Murphy A., & Lovas N. (2022, May 3). The mind of a beginner: Librarian and LIS student perspectives on a business librarianship field experience. BizLibratory: Academic Business Librarianship, Instruction, Research Strategies and More. https://bizlibratory.wordpress.com/2022/05/03/the-mind-of-a-beginner/
Olsen D. (2023, March 9). From the outside in: an industry hire comes to academia [Conference presentation]. SOUCABL Conference, Athens, GA, USA. https://soucablconference.mozello.com/; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tt8anHMjqG5o_0dV6KYKgEocCvVye31t/view