Association of College & Research Libraries

BI for business students

By Aubrey W. Kendrick Administrative Services Librarian University of Alabama in Huntsville

Other librarians might be interested in the experience of the librarians at the University of Alabama in Huntsvile in teaching a required bibliographic instruction course for business students.

The course—Bibliography of Business and Economics (Bibliography 230)—started as part of a general library use course called Bibliography 100. Many years ago, business students could take Bib 100 for four weeks of general library instruction, then take the business track for the rest of the quarter. In this extension of Bib 100, they covered the commonly used business and economic reference sources. As the course became more popular, it was decided to create a separate course.

The faculty in the School of Administrative Science felt that the course was useful for their students, and in 1980 it was made a requirement for business majors. The course now meets once a week for ten weeks and the students earn one credit hour. There are eleven sections of the course offered each year—three in Fall, Winter, Spring, and two in Summer—with each section having an enrollment of about 25 students. Currently, there are about 275 new students entering the School of Administrative Science each year so this schedule keeps up with the demand.

The course is team taught by members of the Library staff. For example, the government documents librarian covers three classes on government documents and statistical sources, one of the reference librarians does a class on the use of the card catalog and a class on periodical indexes, and another librarian covers information on industries and financial and industrial ratios. Each librarian plans his/her own lectures, does handouts and assignment sheets for each class, and grades the assignments when they are turned in. The course coordinator conducts the first class, which is an introduction to the course, as well as class on corporate information, a class on business directories, and the last class, which is a course wrap-up. The coordinator also takes care of class rolls, computation of the final grades, and similar administrative matters. (See the course outline below.)

In eight of the class sessions the instructors hand out homework assignments, which the students complete and turn in at the next class. The assignments are worth 15 points each (total of 120 for the course) and are the basis for the course grade.

Team teaching allows the librarians to teach in their area of interest and permits each one to continue his/her collection development, reference, and other activites. If a reference librarian had to teach three classes each week and grade three sets of papers each week it would be difficult to keep up with other duties. One drawback is that a few students say there is a lack of continuity because of having a new teacher ever}’ few weeks.

The goals of Bib 230 are: 1) to introduce business students to the UAH Library; 2) to show them how to do basic research by using the card catalog and the commonly used periodical indexes in business and economics; and 3) to introduce them to the commonly used business information sources. The students are encouraged to take the course before the end of their sophomore year so that it will help them in their major courses.

There is usually a tendency in bibliographic instruction courses to tell the student too much and to cover too many sources. It is much more helpful in a course like this to cover the card catalog and a few important periodical indexes and basic sources, than to cover a great deal of material that the students will not remember and probably will never use. The assignments are designed to reinforce what was covered in class by using exercises which force the students to handle and use representative samples of the sources. We do not try to cover every possible source, but only representative samples. After Bib 230, students are required to take a business writing course which requires a term paper or project that will make use of library information sources. This serves to reinforce many of the things covered in Bib 230 by getting the students to use them on an actual project.

Of course, a library skills course like the one described here is a practical course and its usefulness can be judged by whether the students actually use what is covered in their research through information gathering in future courses or later in their careers. There has not been a scientific follow-up survey on the students who have taken Bib 230. It would no doubt be informative to question them when they graduate and then about five years later to see how useful the course has actually been. Although we do not have solid data, we are persuaded that the course serves a useful purpose because of the former students who tell librarians that it has helped them both in their school work and later on in their careers.

Bib 230 Class Outline

Class 1: Overview.Discuss the course—its purpose, organization, assignments, grading—and tour the library. Briefly go over the access points for various types of materials—monographs, periodicals, and government documents.

Class 2: Locating books.Discuss using the card catalog and Library of Congress Subject Heading volumes and briefly discuss the Library of Congress classification system.

Class 3: Locating periodical articles.Discuss the materials covered by newspaper and periodical indexes and look at these indexes: Business Periodicals Index, Predicasts F & S Index, The Wall Street Journal Index. Briefly review these indexes: Accountant’s Index, Index of Economic Articles, Journal of Economic Literature, and Social Sciences Index.

Class 4: Locating government documents.Describe what government documents are, how to locate them, and briefly explain the government documents classification system.

Class 5: Business statistics published by the government.Discussion of commonly used sources of statistics which are published by the Federal government, such as: Statistical Abstract of the U.S., Survey of Current Business, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Business Conditions Digest, and census materials.

Class 6: Business statistics published by nongovernment sources.Discuss sources such as: Sales & Marketing Management’s Survey of Buying Power, Editor & Publisher’s Market Guide, and Standard & Poor’s Statistical Service.

Class 7: Corporation directories.Discuss how to locate directory-type information about corporations and how to find out what company makes what products. Sources covered are: Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations, Directors, and Executives, Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Directory, Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, and the Trade Name Dictionary.

Class 8: Corporation research.Discuss the types of corporations, both public and private, listed and unlisted, and how to find information about them. Sources discussed are Moody’s Manuals, Standard & Poor’s Corporation Records, The Value Line Investment Survey, and corporate reports. Also discuss the use of the card catalog and periodical and newspaper indexes for finding information on corporations.

Class 9: Information on industries.Discuss information on industries in general and the commonly-used sources for locating this information; U. S. Industrial Outlook, Standard & Poor’s Industry Survey, industry analysis in The Value Line Investment Survey, and special issues of trade journals. Briefly discuss financial and industrial ratios and the basic sources for locating these: Robert Morris Associates’ Annual Statement Studies, Troy’s Almanac of Business 6- Industrial Financial Ratios, and Dun & Bradstreet’s Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios.

Class 10: Course wrap-up.Discuss basic business and economic encyclopedias and dictionaries, computer database searches, and putting together the research paper.

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