Serving Business Distance Education Students a Checklist for Librarians: Business Reference and Services Section. (from Committees of RUSA)

Article excerpt

Business Reference and Services Section

The Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) formed a Distance Education Guidelines (DEG) Committee in July 1999 to investigate whether the challenges of business distance learning students and faculty are similar to, or different from, those faced by students in nonbusiness disciplines. Using a survey of librarians serving business distance education programs, the committee gathered information about library services provided to these programs and determined that some unique aspects of business distance education do exist and are worthy of attention. In response to this determination, the committee developed a checklist to help librarians think through what is needed to offer services to their business distance learning users. In addition, a set of recommendations for future professional action is included to address broader issues such as accreditation standards, information literacy, copyright, and licensing, all of which are critical to librarians serving business distance education programs.

The number of distance learning degree programs in the field of business is steadily increasing. Some cyber-prophets predict an explosive ten-fold increase in the number of virtual MBA programs alone within the next two years. (1) This article explores what the growing investment in distance learning means for libraries and librarians serving a business distance education clientele. What kinds of library support for business distance education programs are currently provided? What is the overall state of library services to the business distance education student? Where do business librarians fit into this picture, and how? What guidelines and recommendations might be helpful to business librarians grappling with the issue of how to serve this population?

The Association of College and Research Libraries' (ACRL) Distance Learning Section's ACRL Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services clearly recognize that distance learning students and faculty face "distinct and different challenges involving library access and information delivery." (2) The DEG Committee investigated whether separate guidelines for providing library services to business distance education programs are needed. Using a survey, the committee gathered information about the library services provided to business distance education programs and determined that existing ACRL library service guidelines for distance education are sufficient, but also that some unique aspects of business distance education do exist and are worthy of attention.

In response to this determination, the committee developed a checklist to help librarians think through what is needed to offer services to their business distance learning users. The checklist items are practical in nature and will resonate with those currently serving a business distance learning population. The checklist should prove particularly useful for those still in the planning stages of this activity. In addition, a set of recommendations for future professional action is included to address broader issues such as accreditation standards, information literacy, copyright, and licensing, all of which are critical to librarians serving business distance education programs.

Literature Review

Although rarely discussed directly, issues relevant to library service to business distance education students and faculty surface implicitly in the business literature, the general press, the library literature, and the education literature.

A recent article by Bowman in Business Communication Quarterly provides a clarion call for librarians supporting business programs. "Distance learning has arrived," he asserts, "and in one form or another it will continue to be here, competing with traditional educational delivery systems for students and dollars. …