Academic business librarianship provides many outreach, consultation, instruction, and collection development opportunities for those who choose it as a career path. There are many of us who are fortunate to work in an environment that supports a departmental business library on campus. Likewise, there are many more who work as a solo business librarian within a larger library system in either a liaison or subject specialist capacity. To highlight this, within the Academic Business Library Directors (ABLD) organization nearly 29% of current members operate as a solo business librarian, a number that has grown over the years (Academic Business Library Directors, 2023).
For those of us who work as solo business librarians, the demand and growth of the business school (and even entrepreneurship activities) create bandwidth challenges that can lead to negative consequences and potential burnout. However, there is also an opportunity to push for additional roles that can help fill these needs from the library perspective. In this article, two former solo business librarians from Carnegie Mellon University and Yale University will discuss their unique scenarios that ultimately led to the hiring of an additional librarian who works in the areas of business and entrepreneurship. This article will build on a panel presentation that was given at the 2023 ABLD Conference and will focus on the demographic makeup of each author’s business school and the larger university, the factors that led to receiving buy-in for a second librarian, and outcomes of these efforts (Buckley, Splenda, & Wachowicz, 2023).
The authors would like to acknowledge Annette Buckley, Research Librarian for Business & Economics at the University of California, Irvine, who was a co-panelist for this presentation at the conference.
About Carnegie Mellon University and the Tepper School of Business: Background & Context
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private university whose main branch location is in Pittsburgh, PA. As of Fall 2022, CMU enrolls 16,779 students, consisting of 7,447 undergraduates, 7,031 Master’s students, and 2,175 Doctorate students (Carnegie Mellon University - Institutional Research and Analysis, 2023). The university comprises 7 schools/colleges: College of Engineering, College of Fine Arts, Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Heinz College of Information Systems & Public Policy, Mellon College of Science, School of Computer Science, and the Tepper School of Business (Tepper). There is also an undergraduate branch campus in Doha, Qatar: Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) (Carnegie Mellon University - Academics, 2023).
Degree Programs and Enrollment at Tepper
Like CMU, Tepper offers degree-granting programs for all three levels. As of 2022, the FTE for Tepper is 1,928 total students with 713 undergraduates, 1,139 graduate students (MBA), and 69 PhD students. A further breakdown of programs for all three of these levels is as follows (Tepper School of Business, 2023):
Undergraduate: Tepper offers two main undergraduate degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Sciences in Computational Finance. In addition to these, a minor for Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship is offered. Undergraduates can also earn various bachelor’s degrees in economics (a total of 5 options) as well as a minor in economics.
Graduate/MBA: At the heart of Tepper are the graduate MBA programs. Tepper has shifted the modality offerings of the MBA over the past 7 years, and the effects of COVID have further accelerated these changes. Currently, Tepper offers the following MBA programs: Full-Time, Part-Time Online, Part-Time Accelerated (designed for those who already have business coursework or an undergraduate business degree), and Part-Time Flex (designed for Pittsburgh’s working professionals). There are also specialized masters programs in the following areas: Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA), Master of Science in Product Management (MSPM), Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services (MIIPS), and Master of Science in Computational Finance (MSCF).
PhD: The PhD program at Tepper includes the following program areas: accounting, business technologies, economics, financial economics, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior and theory, and operations research. There are also four joint PhD program offerings: algorithms, combinatorics and optimization (joint with the Department of Mathematical Sciences within the Mellon College of Science and the School of Computer Science); behavioral economics (joint with the Department of Social and Decision Sciences within the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences); behavioral marketing and decision research (joint with the Department of Social and Decision Sciences within Dietrich); and economics and public policy (joint with the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management).
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem at CMU
Like many universities, CMU and Tepper devote ample space, programming, and resources to the area of entrepreneurship. These efforts have grown over the last 7 years and include several independent units on campus, including the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship (housed within Tepper) and the Center for Technology Transfer & Enterprise Creation (CTTEC). Both of these units cater to the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem and are not solely focused on those that are primarily located within the business school. Swartz consists of several programs and sub-units including the Corporate Startup Lab, NSF I-Corps HUB, and the Project Olympus Incubator (Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship - Education & Resources, 2023). CTTEC focuses on facilitating and accelerating the transfer of intellectual assets to the commercial marketplace (CTTEC, 2023). In addition to these units, several entrepreneurship-focused competitions, makerspaces, programs, and institutes function within the 7 colleges and schools and at CMU at-large.
CMU Libraries operates with a staff of approximately 75 employees working across 5 locations, including the CMU-Q Library in Doha, Qatar (Carnegie Mellon University Libraries - People, 2023). While there is no departmental library for business, Hunt Library supports teaching, research, and learning in the social sciences, arts, architecture, humanities, and business and economics. CMU Libraries employs a liaison librarian system in which individual librarians serve as primary contact for individual departments or entire colleges/schools on campus. To date, as of August 2023, there is one liaison librarian for the Tepper School of Business.
Making the Case for a Second Position: Liaison Coverage & Business/Entrepreneurship Growth
Liaison Coverage Areas and Growth at Tepper/Swartz
There are several factors that led to support for adding a 2nd business librarian role at CMU Libraries. First, some context into my liaison areas and how this has changed over time. When I first joined the Libraries in 2016, my primary liaison responsibilities were to the Tepper School of Business and the undergraduate Economics program that is housed in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. At CMU, undergraduate economics majors enter the program in Dietrich and then transfer to and graduate from Tepper by the time they are finished as seniors.
In subsequent years, more liaison assignments and responsibilities were added to my portfolio, including the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship; the Engineering & Technology Innovation Management (E&TIM) program, housed within the College of Engineering’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP); CTTEC; the Integrated Innovation Institute (III); and MSCF. These additional assignments made sense, either because Tepper had an administrative role in several of these units or the nature of the unit is heavily business-focused. However, all of these programs continued to grow over time, resulting in bandwidth issues. Using Tepper alone as an example, since fall of 2016 the undergraduate student population has grown by 30% and the graduate/MBA population has grown by 59% (Carnegie Mellon University - Institutional Research and Analysis, 2023).
Quantifying and Breaking down Consultation and Instruction Support
As programs and my involvement with them continued to grow, I collected and maintained detailed reference/consultation and instruction statistics. This had a two-fold purpose: first, I could monitor which areas I worked with most frequently and which others might require further outreach, support, and collaboration efforts. Second, it allowed me to benchmark activity in these areas to demonstrate the need for another role to help with these efforts as they continued to grow. For example, an analysis of the reference/consultation statistics showed that I was handling 41% of the total reference activity in the libraries and 19% of instruction-related activities. It should be noted that this data is from 2019 to present, when we started to systematically collect data within Springshare’s LibAnswers platform.
A deeper dive into reference and instruction activity proved that there was significant activity coming from other non-Tepper communities on campus. For example, 71% of reference activity came from Tepper, but another 12% came from Swartz, 5% came from the College of Engineering, and 4% from the School of Computer Science (SCS). Likewise, the instruction data breakdown was very similar: 60% from Tepper, 12% from Swartz, 7.5% from Engineering, and 4% from SCS. The data proved that plenty of interdisciplinary business and entrepreneurship-related activity was occurring on campus and helped justify the conversation around adding a 2nd business/entrepreneurship librarian.
The Turning Point: Adding CMU University Advancement to Portfolio
The turning point in the conversation came when I agreed to add CMU University Advancement to my liaison portfolio. I had already been working with various members of the Advancement team because many of them have business-oriented questions and research needs. There are several departments that comprise CMU University Advancement, including ones that focus on business research like Business Engagement and Foundation Relations (Carnegie Mellon University - University Advancement, 2023). Once I agreed to add this unit to my portfolio, bandwidth issues were reaching a maximum point. In addition to the practitioner portion of our liaison roles at CMU Libraries, librarians are also charged with maintaining a research/scholarship profile. These efforts can take significant time depending on the nature of the research that we choose to pursue. Therefore, the combination of liaising to 5 different areas, maintaining a required research/scholarship portfolio, and maintaining research, teaching, and outreach efforts to my primary responsibility (Tepper), culminated in the need for a second librarian in the areas of business and entrepreneurship.
Outcome at CMU: New Entrepreneurship Librarian!
Since a significant portion of the reference/consultation and instruction-related activities that I participated in centered around entrepreneurial efforts outside of the Tepper School of Business, it was determined that the most effective route was to hire an Entrepreneurship Librarian. CMU at-large operates within a highly focused entrepreneurial mindset. All seven colleges/schools have an entrepreneurial-focused course or set of activities that aim to prepare and motivate students to employ this mindset. Consequently, it was decided to initially have an Entrepreneurship Librarian with liaison responsibilities to the Swartz Center, CTTEC, and III. There will also be growth opportunities for this position in the School of Computer Science and various departments within the College of Engineering. A successful search led to the hiring of CMU Libraries’ first ever Entrepreneurship Librarian in November of 2021.
Initially, the Entrepreneurship Librarian and I have worked as a dedicated team on all areas related to business, economics, and entrepreneurship. Although we have primary and well-defined liaison responsibilities, we find ourselves working together on many consultations, instructional and workshop sessions, outreach efforts, and resource and collection development evaluation projects. The addition of this role has led to a new collection development budget line for the area of entrepreneurship, which has eased the burden of monitoring and fulfilling these requests.
The largest positive outcome is that this has freed up significant time for both of us to provide the concentrated and dedicated time needed to be effective liaisons to our areas. For example, before the Entrepreneurship Librarian started, I did not have the bandwidth to attend and present at various pitch competitions, meet and greets, and other networking opportunities that were sponsored by the Swartz Center and others on campus. This crucially important void where the libraries weren’t present has now been filled and is flourishing. I am also pleased to say that I am now able to reach more Tepper faculty, staff, and students and focus efforts on business and economics-oriented classes that were previously not possible.
In addition to increased liaison efforts within Tepper, I have also increased engagement and outreach activities with CMU University Advancement, specifically with the Center for Business Engagement (CBE) team. Because I have more time to devote to this unit, I have been invited to participate in their monthly “Corporate Partners” meetings. These meetings gather staff from all of the colleges/schools on campus and other important units that focus on engaging CMU research efforts with the larger corporate community. It is an important way for me to learn and participate in these various efforts with campus stakeholders that I had not worked with in the past. It also presents an opportunity to connect our liaison librarians with the staff members dedicated to these efforts within each college/school. I plan on presenting to the CBE team in the near future about the many resources and specialists that the Libraries’ employs and the possible collaborations that can unfold.
The addition of the Entrepreneurship Librarian has significantly increased the number of consultations and instructional activities in our areas of liaison expertise. From November 2021 to date, we account for 53% of reference (12% increase) and 28% of instruction-related activities (9% increase). Our success in these areas has led to initial rumblings about the possibility of exploring the need for a 3rd business librarian.
There are also early coordination efforts with one of our recently hired Engineering Liaison Librarians around forming a small working group that will focus on building a new service that focuses on various entrepreneurship needs for all at CMU. This service would include research support, resources, and expertise in the areas of customer discovery, competitive intelligence, primary and secondary market research, patent research, and more. Forming such a dedicated team has been a goal of mine since joining CMU Libraries. There is still plenty of work and strategic planning that needs to take place, but there is positive growth and momentum towards this outcome.
About Yale University and School of Management: Background & Context
Yale University is a private research university with 14,806 students: 6,950 undergraduates and 5,314 students enrolled in graduate and professional schools. The university is comprised of Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and 16 professional schools and programs, including the Yale School of Management (SOM). (Yale University Office of Institutional Research, 2023)
Degree Programs and Enrollment at SOM
Yale SOM offers a range of full-time graduate degree programs, including a two-year, in-residence MBA; the MBA for Executives; the Master of Advanced Management for students with an MBA from a global business school; a Master’s Degree in Asset Management, designed for early career students with a STEM-eligible course of study; a Master’s Degree in Global Business & Society, providing advanced training for MIM graduates of top business schools around the world; Master’s Degree in Systemic Risk, for early and mid-career employees of central banks and similar agencies; and a Master’s Degree in Public Education Management, a 14-month, tuition-free program for K-12 school leaders working in large, urban school systems offered through The Broad Center at Yale SOM. SOM also offers joint degree programs with other professional schools at Yale, including Environment, Global Affairs, Medicine, Law, Public Health, Architecture, Drama, and Divinity. The Doctoral Program at SOM includes specializations in Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Operations, and Organizations and Management.(Yale School of Management. Our Programs, n.d.) In the fall 2021 semester, there were 1068 students enrolled in SOM degree programs. (Yale University Office of Institutional Research, n.d.)
Yale University Library
Yale Library is a large organization with a staff of approximately 500 working across more than twelve locations. The Marx Science and Social Science Library supports teaching, learning, and research in the sciences, social sciences, and interdisciplinary fields at Yale University and is the closest library to the School of Management. Marx Library is home to 23 staff members, including 11 librarians who serve as liaisons to 26 departments and four professional schools, including the School of Management. (Yale Library. Staff Directory, n.d.)
Feeling the Effects of Growth and the Case for a New Position
Growth at the School of Management
2014 was a significant year in the history of Yale School of Management (SOM). In January, the school moved from its previous footprint of classrooms and offices scattered across ten different buildings to Edward P. Evans Hall, had an enrollment of 724 students (Yale University Office of Institutional Research, n.d.), and would see its largest graduating class ever. Coincidentally, I had my first day as a research support librarian for SOM that very same month. By 2017, enrollment at SOM had expanded to 875 students (Yale University Office of Institutional Research, n.d.), and the school introduced a one-year Master of Management Studies (MMS) in Systemic Risk. In the fall of 2021, a record-breaking number of students enrolled in 7 Master’s degree programs. This growth trend could also be seen in the number of faculty and staff at SOM. In the 2013–14 academic year, SOM had a faculty headcount of 85. By fall 2017, that number reached 99 and in 2021 grew to 109. (Yale University Office of Institutional Research, n.d.)
A growing emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation at Yale
Like many other universities during this time, Yale saw a significant interest in entrepreneurship across campus. Several new centers, programs, and initiatives to support entrepreneurship were launched between 2012 and 2014, including the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, presently known as the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (CITY); the Program for Entrepreneurship at SOM; and the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design. In fall 2015, new goals for the university were published on a website titled “Thinking About Yale’s Future: Goals for the University” and centered on the ideas of a “unified,” “innovative,” and “accessible” Yale, including a “critical ambition” to “provide an unsurpassed campus learning environment that cultivates innovators, leaders, pioneers, creators, and entrepreneurs in all fields and for all sectors of society” (Thinking About Yale’s Future, 2015). As of June 2023, there are ten innovation centers on campus for students, three faculty incubators, and three additional programs to support faculty innovation under the Yale Ventures umbrella. (Yale Ventures at Yale University, n.d.)
Growing demand for business reference and research support services
The continued growth of SOM, and of entrepreneurship and innovation activity across Yale, both directly and indirectly led to a growing demand for business reference and research support. More students, faculty, and programs also resulted in additional collection development work as a selector/bibliographer for business. The existing liaison librarian model widely used at Yale Library was based on the one-librarian-to-one school or department concept. While this works for many departments, the number of active library users with an interest in business-related information became a tremendous amount of work that was leading to burnout. This did not go unnoticed by the Director of Research Support and Outreach Programs that supervised the librarians at Marx Library and the Associate University Librarian for Science and Social Science. Previous proposals for a second librarian to support business and entrepreneurship were initiated but not approved. With input from myself as Librarian for Business and Management, a third attempt was made, this time using a data-driven approach.
Making the case
To demonstrate growth over time at the School of Management, we used student enrollment and faculty headcount data from the Office of Institutional Research and documented the rise of new research programs and centers. A critical fact that surprised many key decision makers: In 2014, SOM had become the largest graduate professional school at Yale, based on enrollment. (Yale University Office of Institutional Research, n.d.) According to statistics obtained from LibInsights at Yale Library, research consultations and questions answered by the SOM or Business and Management Librarian at Yale Library represented 22% of all research support interactions from 2012-present. In the 2017–2018 academic year, this figure climbed to 35%. We shared a Yale Daily News article stating that the number of non-SOM students that took courses at SOM in the 2014–15 academic year ballooned to more than 1000. (Kimmelman, 2015.) This was viewed as a contributing factor for the increased number of business reference questions from non-SOM students. The business librarian also had the highest percentage of research activity serving university staff, ranging from the Office of Cooperative Research, Advancement and Alumni Affairs, Organizational Effectiveness, and Library Administration. Finally, we examined requests for librarian-led sessions on entrepreneurship-related topics and documented growth over time.
In the spring of 2018, a new librarian position was approved for the Science and Social Science Library, with the title of Librarian for Finance, Accounting, and Business Data. The idea of two librarians covering a shared subject area while simultaneously acting as liaisons to SOM was a paradigm shift and attempts were made to shoehorn the new position into our existing research support service model. We briefly considered expanding on the traditional liaison model in place at Yale, giving each business librarian a set of subjects for which they were responsible for. In reality, this model presented a number of service challenges for our users. While the science and social science librarians at Yale have always strived to be collaborative, we needed a new, team-based approach to provide streamlined and practical support to the School of Management and the greater Yale University community. To meet this challenge, we created a team model with workflows that could evolve with the changing needs of our users. Due to a staff departure in 2021, we had the opportunity to make adjustments to the role and changed the title of the second position to Librarian for Business and Management. We updated the job description to emphasize the team-based model.
Some examples of how the Business & Management Librarian team works:
The team has shared responsibilities for research consultations and reference questions. We established a shared email address to provide the Yale community with a single point of contact for requesting assistance with business research. This decision was made with our users in mind. We never want a researcher to ask themselves, “Which librarian should I send this to?”
We use a schedule for monitoring emails and responding to questions as they come in, similar to work at a reference desk. This approach allows for faster response times and helps to eliminate duplication of efforts. We collaborate when more than one perspective is helpful and debrief with each other after responding to complex questions.
We also share responsibilities for outreach and instruction. We co-teach, whenever possible, to promote our team-based mode and collaboratively develop lesson plans for most instruction sessions.
We divide our communications and outreach efforts by departments or units and we both monitor and contribute to our research guides and Yale Business Answers Now (our FAQs in LibAnswers). We also both write announcements and news items for blogs and other websites.
Finally, the team has shared responsibilities for developing and maintaining collections that support business and business-related research. One team member focuses on books and journals, manages the approval plan, and reviews purchase requests. The other team member focuses on databases and other e-Resources. We routinely consult with each other and discuss changes to our collections.
The business and management team-based model requires continual communication and significant planning, but it has paid off in many ways. Our agile approach and flexibility allow us to work more efficiently and have improved our services and the user experience. The team-based model allows us to expand our reach and support more users through more consultations, classes, and other engagements while maintaining a balanced workload for both librarians. We are continually learning from each other and developing our own knowledge and skills. We also have greater capacity for collaborating with our Yale Library colleagues to advance interdisciplinary research and support the library and university’s goals.
When considering that many libraries are regularly tasked with maintaining services with shrinking staffs, it might seem absurd to discuss the challenges associated with creating new models for expanded staff. However, adding new library staff can be as complicated as reducing staff. Convincing library leadership to add positions is no small task and there are several considerations. Understanding the need for the position requires deep exploration of existing organizational structures and functions. Reviewing the mission and goals of a college or university is also necessary, while creating roles and structures that align with organizational objectives and support the greater vision is essential for getting the necessary buy-in from leadership. In the cases of Carnegie Mellon and Yale, data played a pivotal role. By quantifying growth and need, both librarians were able to build a more compelling case for additional positions. Remaining flexible and continually assessing user needs along with the functions of new and existing roles can support additional expansion of staff, and in some cases, help avoid reductions.
Buckley, A., Splenda, R., & Wachowicz, E. (2023, May 11). From solo to duo-”business” librarianship: Challenges and success stories [Conference panel presentation]. 2023 ABLD Conference, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, United States. https://doi.org/10.1184/R1/22942445.v1https://doi.org/10.1184/R1/22942445.v1
Kimmelman, P. (2015, April 8). More students take courses at SOM, University-wide. Yale Daily News. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2015/04/03/more-students-take-courses-at-som-university-wide/https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2015/04/03/more-students-take-courses-at-som-university-wide/
Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship. (n.d.). Education & Resources. Retrieved July 26, 2023 from https://www.cmu.edu/swartz-center-for-entrepreneurship/education-and-resources/index.htmlhttps://www.cmu.edu/swartz-center-for-entrepreneurship/education-and-resources/index.html
Yale University. (2015, November 8). Thinking About Yale’s Future: Goals for the University | Office of the President. https://web.archive.org/web/20151108130919/http://president.yale.edu/goalshttps://web.archive.org/web/20151108130919/http://president.yale.edu/goals