We recently held a webinar on the topic which covered the different trends in the field of business librarianship. In this blog post, we will cover six key points from Jennifer Boettcher’s presentation “Navigating Business Librarianship: People, Tools and Trends.”   

1. The focus of business librarians
Business librarians are all about providing services. They are responsible for understanding resources, helping researchers find information, and connecting students to resources that will help them outside the library walls and beyond their university years. In addition to helping students find the information they seek, business librarians can act as mentors, providing guidance for students. One way Boettcher does this is to encourage them to take their article written for a scholarly publication and rewrite for trade publications – to increase visibility. She feels that a business librarian is like a research therapist answering all kinds of questions for students in different stages of research from working on a small business plan, to a group project or a job interview.

Information is eliminating risk in decision making.”

2. Business education is taught differently from other fields
Business education is different from fields like the humanities – it is a true social science. It has its own accreditation board, it is an applied field, and business students rely heavily on data and on current information. A lot of business teaching is done through case studies and students are expected to learn complex concepts. That’s where critical thinking skills come into play, which is something Boettcher describes as a key element of business library instruction for first year students. Something to remind students and researchers of is “information is about eliminating risk in decision making.”

3. The important distinction between business and economics students
Business and economics students have different needs and approaches to research, and this is important for business librarians to understand. Business students have a bigger demand for grey materials, such as SWOT analyses, marketing reports, industry reports, etc. They take data as is, often work in teams, and prefer current information less than two years old. The top degree in business is a Master’s degree. By contrast, economics students rely on scholarly journals, use empirical processes and statistical reasoning. They often work independently and use historical information to help prove a point, and the top degree in economics is a PhD.

“A business librarian is like a research therapist answering all kinds of questions for students in different stages of research from working on a small business plan, to a group project or a job interview.”

4. The role of the business librarian in collection development
Business librarians don’t need a business background or an MBA, they just need to know how to answer the questions business students (and others) will have about finding information. They also need to understand the tools most helpful to researchers and students, which is what collection development is all about. It is important for business librarians to know their institution, understand standard sources of business information, and ensure that the collection contains the relevant resources most valuable to students. Some reliable references to check include the BRASS guides from the American Library Association RUSA Business Reference and Services Section. These guides are divided by field including accounting, finance, and corporate social responsibility and they list the key resources needed in each area. Librarians can learn how their collection compares to other collections and review the standards within each field.

5. Trends in business librarianship
Limitations of budgets and consolidation of resources will continue, but it’s clear that print collections are important to business research. There is still a role for monographs, and collections of both print and electronic materials should reflect the strengths of the university and support multiple departments. It’s important to remember that business librarianship touches those different departments and groups across the whole campus. Business librarians can be called upon to assist with career services, writing services, marketing, finance and more. Business librarians can also be mentors to fellow librarians and encourage them to join chapters, exchange ideas in online gathering spots, and access resources such as the BRASS guides mentioned above and SLA’s College & University Business Libraries (CUBL). A notable podcast to check out is the Librarian Linkover.

6. Generative AI in business librarianship
Generative AI will change business librarianship, but it will not replace search. Domain knowledge is still very important and will become even more essential in the coming years. Students and researchers need to be able to depend on and use domain knowledge to evaluate content that has been created by generative AI. The saving grace of librarians is that they are able to teach students critical thinking skills by showing them how to look at the results generated by AI and test that the information is accurate by comparing it to information in the library resources.   

Business librarianship is a multifaceted field that offers different challenges and rewards. For subject librarians, and business librarians in particular, Jennifer Boettcher offers multiple sources of inspiration and information in her bibliography compiled with fellow librarians Celia Ross and Jennilyn Wiley. The trends and tools covered in this blog are from her own personal experiences.

To improve the research experience of your business students, while helping build their domain knowledge, request a free trial of Business Source Ultimate.

Please note: The information expressed in the webinar, and summarized here, reflect the opinions of Jennifer Boettcher.