New from ACRL – “Teaching Business Information Literacy”

ACRL announces the publication of Teaching Business Information Literacy, edited by Genifer Snipes, Marlinda Karo, Ash E. Faulkner, and Lauren Reiter. This prescriptive book features more than 40 practical, classroom-proven lesson plans for one-shot, embedded, and credit-bearing library classes.

Learn more about Teaching Business Information Literacy in this excerpt from the Introduction by the editors.


Introduction

Business is currently one of the most popular degree programs among both graduate and undergraduate students, producing more than 500,000 degree-holders in 2015–16,[1] a statistic that becomes even more significant when you consider that this number doesn’t include the vast number of non-business programs integrating business training into their curriculum in the name of interdisciplinarity and improved job placement. Common programs integrating business into their curriculum include engineering and design as well as pure sciences, all of which are interested in innovation, commercialization, and marketing.[2] The continued popularity of business degrees, combined with the ongoing integration of business into other disciplines, is a strong indication of a sustained and growing need for libraries to effectively support business information literacy.

At the same time, librarians familiar with the subject agree: business research is a unique and sometimes intimidating topic to tackle, particularly for those without a business background. In their 2019 publication Business Research Competencies, the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) articulated that librarians looking to support those conducting business research “must understand the inherent characteristics of information sources and content, as well as their relative availability.”[3] The resources, research techniques, and assignments business students need to master often have little in common with those of a traditional research paper, and librarians may be tasked with providing guidance in areas such as competitive intelligence, market research, financial analysis, economic and regulatory issues, advertising campaigns, accounting and auditing, and more.[4]

Librarians unfamiliar with these subjects may struggle to teach them with the same effectiveness as other disciplines; however, given the popularity of the degree and the continued integration of business topics into other disciplines, even non-business librarians may be asked to teach business research competencies in relation to their own fields. Even experienced business librarians may need to expand their instructional repertoire in order to teach emerging subfields of business research, such as supply chain management and business analytics. The foundational research support texts for business librarianship include Celia Ross’s Making Sense of Business Reference: A Guide for Librarians and Research Professionals and Strauss’s Handbook of Business Information: A Guide for Librarians, Students, and Researchers by Rita Moss; however, texts dedicated to the instructional side of business librarianship have been rare.

Having all been new business librarians at one point in their careers, the editors of Teaching Business Information Literacy conceived this collection as a way to provide guidance to new business specialists, generalists, and subject librarians in other disciplines being asked to teach business research classes for the first time. Featuring more than forty practical, classroom-proven instructional activities and strategies for one-shot, embedded, and credit-bearing library classes, the book provides a variety of options for librarians to build their instructional skillset. These chapters can be viewed as a set of fixed instructions for those new to teaching business information literacy or as inspiration for more seasoned librarians seeking out new ways to conduct instruction.

Scope and Structure

Although integrating information literacy into library instruction for business students is much discussed among business librarians, including how to utilize the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, the term “business information literacy” has not been pinned down to a single, consensus definition. The 1989 ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report explains that “to be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” Based on this definition of information literacy, Martha Cooney described business information literacy instruction in her 2005 survey as “specific programs and practices that your library utilizes to help business students ‘recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.’” While this definition is practical in its focus on abilities, it does not fully address the complexities of the business information environment and related research skills. The recently published Business Research Competencies sheds light on these challenges:

When knowledge workers understand the structure of business information and the nature of its environment, they can ask appropriate questions, utilize efficient and ethical search techniques, and responsibly leverage the best-fit information in order to develop informed recommendations and decisions that support their organizations’ success.[5]

While Business Research Competencies does not land on a definition for business information literacy, nor even use the phrase “business information literacy,” it highlights the abilities needed for business research as well as the purpose and the context, all of which are essential considerations when teaching business information literacy in the classroom.

As practitioners, we understand that business information literacy can be broken down by subject, course, research competency, application/end use, audiences, and myriad other ways. With this in mind, we opted to organize this book around the mix of business disciplines and related instructional needs we find to be most common in academic library settings.

Instructional Activities and Strategies

When we solicited proposals for this book, we asked the authors to submit classroom-tested activities that could be taught by a librarian with little or no experience in business without requiring hours of preparatory study beforehand, and they delivered beautifully.

Each of the chapters guides the reader through the background of the topic and activity being taught, pre-class planning and preparation, a step-by-step lesson plan, and how to adapt the activity for other contexts.

Given the diversity of topics covered, the tone, length, and level of detail vary by chapter, but each chapter includes learning outcomes, information on the size, length, and audience for the activity being taught, a full teaching outline, and any other details the author thought were necessary for teaching success. In addition, many chapters discuss ancillary materials, such as slide decks, worksheets, game boards, and other materials, which obviously can’t fit in a book. All these supporting materials are freely available in the ACRL Sandbox (sandbox.acrl.org) and findable with the tag “#bizinfolit”.

As you read, you’ll note that the activities are clearly informed by the type of and size of institution at which each author works as well as the specific programs and student groups they work with most. Recognizing that not everyone’s needs are the same, each chapter includes a “transferability” section that offers readers suggestions for adapting the activity to their own classes, including substitute business research tools (paid and free) and moving in-person activities online (and vice versa). Finally, before taking any of these activities into the classroom, we recommend that teaching librarians consult with their campus or state-level Office of Accessibility to ensure their lesson conforms to current best practices for instructional design and equitable provision of education.


[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2017 (NCES 2018-070), Chapter 3 (2019).

[2] Mark Crawford, “Engineering and Business: A Combination for Success,” The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, August 21, 2012, https://www.asme.org/topics-resources/content/engineering-and-business-a-combination-for-success.

[3] Annette Buckley, Rahn Huber, and Shana Gass, “Business Research Competencies,” Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), 2019, http://www.ala.org/rusa/sites/ala.org.rusa/files/content/resources/guidelines/business-research-competencies.pdf.

[4] Buckley, Huber, and Gass, “Business Research Competencies.”

[5] Ibid.