BLA winter conference 2015

In December, I had the pleasure of attending the Business Librarian’s Association winter mini conference. The Business Librarian’s Association (or BLA) is comprised of institutions in the UK and Ireland that teach Business and Management at a Masters level or higher.
The one-day mini conference was held in Birmingham at the magnificent Library of Birmingham and happened to coincide with a visit from Prince William, which of course, caused the morning’s talks on Open Access and Jisc Collections to be backed by the music of a children’s choir.
I attended the event on my own but found many familiar faces from the summer conference and the apparently ‘small world’ of academic libraries, including a certain Welsh colleague who once worked with me in the evenings and weekends at Cass and up until January 2016 worked at Middlesex University.
Among the day’s presentations, as usual, the members’ talks stood out. BLA did conduct a members’ survey recently, but have not yet published the results because they decided to run the survey again. I expect they will be reported in their July conference.
My colleague from Middlesex and her manager, Jamie Halsted, reported on recent activity that the library has undertaken in conjunction with the business school to monitor student uptake of library resources. Together, they have begun to utilise online observation tools to view students’ observable behaviours (SOBs). SOBs included things like accessing reading lists and finding, accessing e-books, registering with the FT.com. Monitoring SOBs allowed them to create a framework for student progression and saw student attendance increase.
We heard from Craig Moran of Jisc Collections in the middle morning. His presentation, which focused on Jisc’s role in HE institutions’ negotiations with vendors, was especially timely as Pearson’s price rises were on everyone’s minds. Moran argued that academic institutions are in weak positions when negotiating with ‘must-have’ suppliers, and he asked delegates to feed back to him vendors Jisc could work with in the future.

Negotiating with suppliers can be extremely daunting for an individual university library can be daunting. When a delegate told the anecdote of an unsuccessful attempt to lower the cost of a Thomson Reuters database, the following image was tweeted.

Thomson Reuters

Pearson’s steep price increase for e-books was the hot topic of the day. Avtar Natt of the University of Bedfordshire reported that in 2014, 15% of all e-book titles were published by Pearson. We continued to talk about the price rise over lunch and the reactions our institutions had to it.
Following Neil Infield’s presentation on the Business & IP Centre National Network (BIPC), the importance of access to key business resources felt less like a luxury and more like a right. I was personally surprised by the uptake BIPC has experienced since it started 3 years ago. It came out of the BL Business & IP Centre, but it seems that individuals in London still have a large advantage for starting up their own businesses, compared to others not located in the capital.
We ended the day with a brainstorm about how BLA could help to train new Business Librarians. A new Business Librarian myself, I had a few ideas, for instance training on functions of business and key terms (SWOT analysis, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow and Income statement , for example) Teach Meets could be useful for things like this, but perhaps online training would be beneficial as well.
Unlike the conference this summer in Liverpool, I did not take any photos this time in Birmingham. However, I can leave you with a song that seems now quite appropriate for the day, if only for its name.

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