New project connects first-year Smeal students with University Libraries

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A new project in Management 301: Introduction to Management is providing first-year students with some extra incentive to fully utilize business resources available through Penn State University Libraries — a connection that will benefit students throughout their college careers and beyond.

Led by Ron Johnson, instructor in management and organization, the new project requires students to complete a two-page company and industry research analysis, and is designed to provide students an opportunity to explore library databases like Hoover’s, Standard & Poor’s NetAdvantage, ABI/Inform and Business Source Premier.

In past experience teaching upper-level courses, Johnson noticed that students were not engaged enough with the library. When he began teaching Introduction to Management, a required course for all Smeal students taken in the first year of study, he saw an opportunity to change that.

“Because this course touches every first-year Smeal student, in four years all our business students will have been connected to the library.”

-- Ron Johnson, instructor in management and organization, Smeal College of Business

“In business, there is an expectation that students can deal with authoritative business information,” Johnson said. “Because this course touches every first-year Smeal student, in four years all our business students will have been connected to the library.”

According to Diane Zabel, head of the Schreyer Business Library and the Louis and Virginia Benzak Business Librarian, a familiarity with library resources is a great benefit to business students.

“Students have the perception that everything is on Google, but the databases provide information that cannot be found for free,” she said. “Penn State students have access to a wealth of information. We are among the top 10 research libraries in North America.”

To add to the assignment and reinforce students’ understanding of how to use library resources, Johnson added an extra-credit component: to meet with a librarian — or research consultant — to discuss how to access and search the business databases.

“Students have an old stereotype of librarians as someone focused on books, but today’s librarians are so much more than that,” explained Johnson. “They are focused on online databases of information, helping students quickly find authoritative information, and teaching them how to use our more than 600 databases —for both college and on the job. So, for this project, Diane and her team of business librarians have changed their names to 'research consultants.’”

“Research skills are essential in business and industry. Students can use the skills they learn on this project and apply them to future coursework, case competition preparation, and research for internships and jobs.”

-- Diane Zabel, Louis and Virginia Benzak Business Librarian

For several years, the Schreyer Business Library has made research consultants — librarians from University Libraries — available in the Business Building Atrium several days a week. According to Zabel, the research consultants were mostly utilized by master of business administration students or other graduate students and faculty.

The assignment in Johnson’s class — including the extra credit component to meet with a Research Consultant — introduces students to the basics of researching companies and industries using library resources, and does so in the students’ first year at Penn State.

“Research skills are essential in business and industry,” said Zabel. “Students can use the skills they learn on this project and apply them to future coursework, case competition preparation, and research for internships and jobs.”

A major feature of this project is its scale. According to Johnson, the assignment in his class has connected the research consultants with more individual student appointments than the rest of the librarians combined.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done anything to this large of a scale,” said Zabel. “We’ve been delighted to work with professor Johnson on this project. It’s really invigorating to work with students.”

About undergraduate education at Smeal
The Smeal College of Business offers undergraduate majors and minors that span the business spectrum, preparing students for a business world that is complex, global and diverse. Smeal undergraduate students have access to dozens of student organizations and involvement opportunities, study abroad partnerships around the world, and personalized career planning and academic advising services to help them thrive at Smeal and in their careers. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/uge.

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Last Updated May 28, 2014