Responding to Marginalization in an Academic Business Library Context

Introduction

The World Wide Web has provided a plethora of information that is readily available to the academic business community with a click of the mouse. Does this make the business librarian irrelevant? Is there no longer a need for interaction between business librarians and faculty or students? On the contrary, the accessibility of information on the internet has increased the need for business librarians to build a strong relationship with faculty and students. A lack of understanding of the academic business library’s role within the academic business community may have hindered the perceptions of students and faculty. However, there are some strategies to counter unawareness including creative marketing and persistent communication through proactive liaison initiatives.

Business Students

Information literacy and research skills remain an important issue for business students. Smith and Reynolds (2008) discuss the term “infobesity”, coined by James Morris of Carnegie Mellon University, “to describe the outcome of Google-izing research: a junk-information diet, consisting of overwhelming amounts of low-quality material that is hard to digest and leads to research papers of equally low quality” (p. 146). How can the business library encourage business students to attend workshops or visit the reference desk?

Visibility

The business library needs to market their image and services more effectively by becoming more visible to students. Grunenwald (2002) writes, “librarians are generally not interested in taking positions in sales. Not only do they find the techniques of selling unattractive and uncomfortable, but the constant seeking of customers and the continual requirement to convince them of the value of the product or service is an unnatural act” (p. 266). However, in order for business students to change their perceptions of the business library, business librarians need to be more proactive in the library. For example, business librarians can walk around the computer areas every hour, thus becoming more visible and approachable. In addition, the business library can display information about services at every computer station in the library and in the business school building. Another effective method is speaking with faculty and visiting undergraduate and graduate classes to provide an information session about the business library’s role in the academic community.

Collaboration with Students

Another effective strategy is aligning with the students and student organizations. Grunenwald (2002) writes that “beginning with issues surrounding information literacy and moving toward efficient retrieval and analysis of data and information involves training and takes time. Librarians can and must begin at this elemental stage of partnership to build relationships” (p. 264). In one particular case, Muelemans and Fiegen (2006, p. 20) utilized business students as consultants, during a course of a summer, the business students developed recommendations and marketing research through surveys. Although Muelemans and Fiegen (2006, p. 29) noted the disadvantages of the experiment such as lack of experience and time. Perhaps librarians could work together with business student organizations to understand their information needs through focus groups and attending student organization meetings.

Business Faculty

Business faculty may perceive business libraries as a place for students to find materials. However, business libraries offer more than just books and journals. Fiegen, Cherry and Watson (2002) write that “business faculty and librarians have a long history of collaboration with library research orientations, courses, and curriculum planning” (p. 308). Promotion through publishing or media and communication are two important strategies in bridging the gap between business librarians and faculty and maintaining a positive relationship.

Promotional Publishing and Media

Business libraries can market their services to business faculty, so that they have an understanding of what the business library and librarian offer to the academic community. Black, Crest and Volland (2001) write, “librarians can also take advantage of opportunities to publish on information literacy topics, perhaps considering submitting to journals outside the library literature that may attract the attention of teaching faculty” (p. 216). In addition, librarians can provide or contribute to monthly departmental newsletters. More importantly, librarians can offer faculty informational and instructional sessions through workshops and seminars to educate and inform faculty about the role and services of the business library and librarian.

Communication with Faculty

In order to provide business students with a quality education, business faculty and librarians must collaborate to educate the students. Collaboration can be successful when there is effective and good communication between the librarian and faculty. Black, Crest and Volland (2001) suggest establishing a good relationship through informal and formal communication by keeping in contact with the faculty. In addition, business librarians can attend department meetings as well as invite business faculty to library meetings to encourage dialog and discussion. Private meetings are also an opportunity for the librarian to understand the specific needs of the faculty for a business course.

Conclusion

In the past, access to resources such as books, periodicals and other business-related literature made the business library a significant part of the academic business community. However, the role of the business library has shifted as the World Wide Web is inundated with resources and it has become increasingly difficult for business students to distinguish reputable sources from ones that are poor in quality. Thus, the needs of the academic business community have changed over time and in turn, the shift has altered the role of the business librarian and library. In a shifting and ever changing environment, it is vital for business librarians to take an active role in communicating and collaborating with business students and faculty.

References

Black, C., Crest, S. and Volland, M. (2001). Building a successful information literacy infrastructure on the foundation of librarian-faculty collaboration. Research Strategies. 18, 215-225.

Fiegen, A. M., Cherry, B. and Watson, K. (2002). Reflections on collaboration: learning outcomes and information literacy assessment in the business curriculum. Reference Services Review. 30(4), 307-318.

Grunenwald, J. P. (2002). Marketing the business library. In S. Karp and B. S. Schlessinger (Eds.), The Basic Business Library: Core Resources (pp. 259-268). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Meulemans, Y. N. and Fiegen, A. M. (2006). Using business student consultants to benchmark and develop a library marketing plan. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship. 11(3), 19-31.

Smith, M. M. and Reynolds, L. J. (2008). The street team: An unconventional peer program for undergraduates. Library Management. 29(3), 145-158.

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