A Year in the Life: Business Librarians Report on 2008–09

Roye Werner, Guest Columnist

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Academic Business Library Directors (ABLD), an association consisting of the directors of libraries at the preeminent business schools in the United States and Canada, comes together each year to discuss issues of interest. Prior to the meeting, members are asked to respond to a questionnaire on what has happened in their libraries in the previous year. This survey results in the Annual Review, a collaborative report on new initiatives, organizational changes, space and collection issues, business school events, and the budget situations in their libraries. Roye Werner compiled this year’s Annual Review. This article contains the highlights from that report, which were also presented at the latest ABLD meeting, held at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, April 21–23, 2009. These trends will be of interest to many RUSQ readers because they relate to broad concerns that affect libraries of all types.—Editor

When I switched from being a public business librarian to an academic one three years ago, I thought I should get my collegiate bearings by studying some relevant journals. I spent some time perusing, among other publications, the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, which turned out to be right on target for that purpose—and it was there, through references in various articles and reports, that I learned about the Academic Business Library Directors (ABLD) association.

ABLD is a small, specialized association, consisting of the directors of libraries at the preeminent business schools in the United States and Canada. The first meeting—which was inspired by discussions at the College and Universities Business Libraries Roundtable at the Special Libraries Association—was held in May 1987 at the Columbia University’s Watson Library at the invitation of their business librarian Jane Winland. It began with less than a dozen members; today, membership is limited to fifty. As described in the charter (www.abld.org/charter.html), ABLD provides

a forum for directors of academic business libraries to discuss mutual concerns and share information. Interests include: managerial and administrative issues and trends; cooperative initiatives to preserve and provide access to unique collections in business; opportunities to influence development of new products and services for the academic business library market and to influence contract development (vendor relations); and opportunities for informal collaboration and networking.

The organization has frequent contact and occasional meetings with sibling groups overseas, such as the European Business Schools Librarians’ Group and the Asia Pacific Business School Librarians’ Group, and recently has communicated with the newly formed Agrupación de Directores de Centros de Información in Latin America.

Lucky for me, I soon became a member, and have since made good use of the group’s accumulated wisdom and collegial support through their e-mail list, statistics compilations, conference sessions, website, and professional contacts. Perhaps the most extensive and revealing form of information gathering takes place a few months before the annual meeting, when the Annual Review is compiled. An editor sends a questionnaire to all members, who are asked to describe and record their reflections on what has happened in their libraries in the past year. The results are combined and distributed, and the editor then tries to make sense of the collected responses—finding common themes, shared concerns, and standout events and ideas—to report on at the conference.

This past year, I had the privilege of being that editor, and saw the process through, from distributing the questions to presenting the synthesis. For this latest Annual Review, we asked the members to report on the following:

  • new and ongoing initiatives
  • library organizational changes and new staff
  • physical space
  • collection and vendor issues
  • business school issues, organizational changes, and new initiatives
  • effects of the current economic situation
  • other

Detailed and thoughtful reports came in from forty-three of our forty-nine members (an 88 percent response rate!), resulting in a sixty-four-page compilation. What follows are the highlights of those contributions.

First of all (with apologies to Star Trek), space is indeed the final frontier. In response to lively student demand, group study rooms are being built by the dozens, as are scores of seats in quiet study areas. Learning labs, interactive classrooms, presentation rooms, and lounges are being added. Collaborative workstations are popular. In a representative case, the Schreyer Business Library at Penn State is installing new collaborative workstations for group projects and planning, and equipping a group study room as a “presentation practice room,” complete with a high-definition screen, projector, and a podium. The William C. Gast Business Library at Michigan State has created the Collaborative Technology Learning Lab, equipped with an interactive whiteboard, videoconferencing capabilities, a DVD player, plasma screens, a projector, and a laptop. Boston College’s O’Neill Library redesigned their formerly solo business workstations to allow two users to sit and work together.

In conjunction with this, reference print materials continue to be moved to the stacks or offsite—also weeded and downsized, often drastically, and making intense use of compact shelving. Some reference collections are being moved almost in their entirety. Print serials and journals also are being cancelled and relocated. Naturally, the concurrent move is to e-books and databases, both in reference and the general collection—which continues apace. At the Howard Ross Library of Management at McGill, the collection policy has a new guideline to order e-versions of books whenever possible. Several reports mentioned making a special effort to enhance user access to electronic texts and data, which is not as intuitive as it should be.

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