August 21, 2011
Drowning By Numbers, Part II
In 1993, I had a great opportunity to write an article in Pittsburgh History, the journal of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania where I worked at the time. The article was called
“Drowning by Numbers: The State of Baseball History (full text)” and it bemoaned the fixation (as I saw it) with numbers in baseball history. My goal in writing the piece was to encourage baseball historians to see the social significance of sports – rather than just “recounting and re-recording the numbers baseball players assembled over time.”
While the numbers-driven approach can remove the context of sport in American Culture, the appeal of this approach does make sense. Every action and reaction in baseball produces a number. Almost like a business has a balance-sheet recording revenue and expenses, a baseball team has numbers for everything – making this type of historical approach logical.
In the 18 years since I wrote that piece, I am not sure baseball history changed all that much, but I certainly have. As the director and librarian of the Kresge Business Administration Library of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, I am working with numbers all the time. I want to revisit this concept and see where I can apply it in two of my key areas in librarianship. As a director, I am focused on ensuring that we share our work with the school via annual reports. These are driven by numbers, some with more value than others. I am working on a Charleston Conference session on using Annual Reports for marketing purposes. So I will talk more about that later.
But I want to write today about my other world at Kresge Library. Even though I am the director of the library, I still have an active role in helping the Ross Community with library reference. I think this is a critically important part of my job to help faculty and students with reference. I believe this for a few reasons. First, it is a tremendously grounding part of my job. It allows me to know what the other librarians and staff are going through. If I am working on reference as well as the other librarians, I have a better sense of the ebbs and flows of the work.
So thinking about the baseball world when every action and reaction has a number associated with it, many see business the same way. At Kresge, we get questions from faculty, students and community members that ask for numbers that seem like they are tracked – but are hard to find. This represents one of our biggest challenges at the library – being asked a question about numbers that seem like they should be kept – but are nowhere to be seen. Or possibly the data is not kept in the fashion that the person wants. We have been asked all sorts of questions, like “how many shrimp are served by Red Lobster in a year?” Some have answers and others do not.
From a librarian point of view, we work hard on trying to figure out what they are hoping to do with the data, so many we can find proxy information. Maybe you do not get the exact count of how many shrimp are served at Red Lobster, but you get information (maybe anecdotal) on much money people spend on shrimp there. That is also a tough number to get, but sometimes it is available.
So where I am going with this is a question I got on Friday. What is the size of the “total retail product selection in the United States.” It is a cool question, and a tricky one. Basically, if I wanted to buy one of everything available in the retail marketplace in the US, how many things would I have…. What I was able to provide to this patron is some industry reports on the US retail sector, information from the BLS, and (later that weekend) , information about UPC barcodes. According to the UPC Database, there are 1,387,455 unique numbers. While that does not include everything sold, it is a pretty good start.
But in thinking about this question, I was wondering if Barry Schwartz’ Paradox of Choice” had any number. The examples in the excellent book all focused on products – like 85 different jams – rather than all the products available to consumers. But I did find this in searching via Google.
Now that is ironic…the "Paradox of Choice" is one of almost 1 million books you can get for your Kindle...talk about having a hard time making a decision...
I will be playing with this some more – but I wanted to get the conversation started.
June 12, 2008
Spanning the Straits of Business Information: Kresge Library’s Embedded Librarian Program for MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Program) - Presentation and Paper for SLA
Embedded librarian programs have successfully been used to bridge the divide between libraries and distance learners, teaching faculty and lab researchers. The Kresge Business Administration Library (Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan) has created a unique approach to the embedded librarian model by having librarians work directly with in-residence student teams charged with solving ‘real world’ problems through Michigan’s signature action-based learning program, MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Program). With MAP, corporate and nonprofit organizations work with teams of 4-6 students charged with solving a problem or providing recommendations on very specific aspects of the sponsor’s work. This paper will describe the Kresge Library’s support of MAP and other action-based learning programs at the Ross School of Business. Topics will include how we work and communicate with MAP teams, examples of research and reference requests from the students, an assessment of our services, and how this changes the librarian relationships with students in their second year of study. This unique program offers exciting challenge to Kresge librarians, building bridges between the Kresge Library and the students and faculty participating in MAP, as well as between the overwhelming amount of business data, statistics and research available and the world of business practice.
June 08, 2008
Haiku for Today (Writing Book Reviews)
Cut, tighter, tighter
One seventy five in reach
Still much left to say
For all those who are writing reviews for Library Journal!This entry was posted in the following categories: Completely Off Topic! , Haikus of the Day , Other Library Work , The World of Libraries
May 22, 2008
Haiku for Today (MeLCat)
Colder than normal
When no students are about
Better use MeLCat
Was going to walk to Borders to get a travel book to Michigan's Thumb (Lake Huron). But it was too cold, so I turned back and ordered it on MeLCat. In a few days...I should get the book!This entry was posted in the following categories: Completely Off Topic! , Haikus of the Day , Integrated Library Systems , Other Library Work , The World of Libraries
April 28, 2008
IUG Presentations on Milstats (Milstats 101 & 102)
Milstats Presentations given at IUG 2008 in Washington, D.C.
Program Title: Milstats 101: Introduction to Milstats
Program Coordinator: Corey Seeman
Coordinator Institution: Kresge Business Admin Library, University of Michigan
Millennium Statistics is a very powerful tool that enables libraries to create statistical reports with ease. MilStats is available in each Millennium program and offers the ability to save queries, save results, search by different types of records, re-run searches, and export reports easily into Excel or other programs. This session will give an introduction to Milstats and how libraries can utilize this powerful tool. This session will serve as a introduction to the program and showcase many basic features (with examples) to help people get started.
Program Title: Milstats: 102: Beyond the Basics with Milstats
Millennium Statistics is a very powerful tool that enables libraries to create statistical reports with ease. But it can do more than just count up records. In this presentation, we will look at Milstats beyond the basics and focus on some of the advanced functions that libraries can undertake, including: scheduling reports, working with periodic reports, running collection development queries, projecting budget increases, and fun with SCAT tables. This session will serve as a complement to "Milstats 101" and showcase some more powerful tools available to users.
February 21, 2008
How Everyone Contributes
If you ever wonder about the way that an organization works, you need to look at the way that people behind the scenes operate. At the Kresge Library, we have twenty positions. It is easy, in a library, to focus on the number of "professional positions" that you have, or how many librarians you have one staff. We have 8 (myself included).
But the way that I look at the library is that we all have a role to play and we all contribute to the general success of the operation. While it is sometimes hard to articulate this, one example came over the radio this morning.
Morning Edition's Susan Stamberg did a piece on the Script Supervisor this morning. When a movie is made and acknowledged during the awards shows, like the Oscars, we have awards for actors, directors, pictures, cinematographers, art directors, etc. But there are critical roles in the making of a movie that rarely shine in the light.
For a library to be productive, you need great people doing professional work. You need to convey to everyone that their work is critical to the operation of the unit. This is true if we are working with faculty on a research project, with students on a MAP team, and with staff as well compile course packs. It is also true when we collect the mail, when we check in periodicals, when we update web-pages. I hope I convey that. I guess it is something that we always need to work on.This entry was posted in the following categories: Business Librarianship , Management Philosophy , Movies & Popular Culture , Other Library Work , The World of Libraries
February 05, 2008
For Marketing, the Most Valuable Player Might Be YouTube
From the New York Times
For Marketing, the Most Valuable Player Might Be YouTube
By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: February 5, 2008
The Internet, digital video recorders, mobile devices and other technologies are giving a strong postgame presence to the annual roster of Super Bowl commercials.
With more and more advertising available via YouTube and other resources, it is easier than ever to find and use advertising in your research.
The trick is getting the file so you can use it on your desktop when you are not connected to the Internet. Previously, I wrote about a great web application that you can use to grab YouTube videos and convert them to MP4 files.
It has the amazingly logical name of: YouTube to iPod and PSP Converter and it is a small program that will download and convert into an MP4 file format among others. Good for your iPod, your PowerPoint, your...well, whatever. This is from DVDVIDEOSOFT.COM and is free.
For students and faculty at the Ross School of Business, there is also Adforum. This database provides access to over 35,000 advertisements in all media. The focus is international. The database has audio and video capability. The source also provides access to news and other information relating to the advertising industry, including agency information. Be sure to log off as directed on the password sign on screen.
August 02, 2007
LJ Talks to John Elder Robison
Reviewed the first book by John Elder Robinson, Look Me in the Eye. This book is Robinson's autobiography of living with Asperger's Syndrome and not really knowing it. Robinson is the brother of Augusten Burroughs, the author of Running with Scissors.
This is the intro to the interview -
We think of Asperger’s syndrome (considered a milder form of autism) as a disability that prevents someone from leading a full life. But can it be a disability if you don’t know you have it? John Elder Robison, older brother of Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors), was self-diagnosed with Asperger’s in his forties but not before he built a successful business, designed pyrotechnical guitars for KISS and had a family. All this and more are chronicled in his satisfying biography, Look Me in the Eye (see the review in LJ 8/07). LJ reviewer Corey Seeman (Kresge Business Administration Library University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) sat down with Robison to discuss how Asperger’s has affected his life.
To catch the questions and answers, please to the Library Journal Site.. I think the review will be up later. It was a great book.