Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Business and Workplace Information Literacy: Three Perspectives

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Business and Workplace Information Literacy: Three Perspectives

Article excerpt

Businesses want workers who are critical thinking problem-solvers, who know how to find, evaluate, and use information to address work-related issues, and communicate effectively regarding those issues, (1) much like the information literacy (IL) or media and information literacy (MIL) efforts worldwide recently described in this column. (2) In businesses at all levels and in the workplace, IL/MIL is not a familiar phrase. Undaunted, however, librarians in many types of libraries try to help their users with these very issues. Those librarians face challenges, including constant and rapid change in directions and needs, little or no grasp of the availability of data (or lack thereof), especially on emerging topics, and the need to address and communicate work-related issues speedily, yet with valid evidence. The challenge for librarians in all types of libraries is how to support each other through sharing materials and approaches, perhaps in a new repository for workplace-related IL. The discussions that follow take a first step in that direction. Next steps could include analyzing the contents of such a repository and developing sequential supportive curricula and materials for librarians and for their users to extend and expand their business and workplace IL.--Esther Grassian, Co-Editor


Elizabeth Malafi

Elizabeth Malafi is coordinator of the Miller Business Center at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, New York. She coauthored Small Business and the Public Library (ALA Editions, 2011), and the forthcoming book Supporting Local Businesses and Entrepreneurs in the Digital Age: The Public Librarian's Toolkit (Libraries Unlimited). She also coauthored a peer-reviewed article for Reference Services Review, "Engaging with Entrepreneurs in Academic and Public Libraries." In 2014 she was part of the team that wrote Financial Literacy Guidelines for the American Library Association. She is a member of the BRASS Publications and Communications Committee, serves as editor of BRASS Notes, and is a former member-at-large for the BRASS Executive Committee. Elizabeth was awarded the BRASS Mergent Excellence in Business Librarianship Award in 2017 and the BRASS D&B Public Librarian Support Award in 2008.

Anyone who has been to more than one public library in their lifetime knows that they are all very different. Sure, most public libraries offer the basics--circulating books and media, educational programming, and public-access computers--but content and delivery vary widely depending on the library and its community. Public libraries know that first and foremost they must reflect the needs and wants of their community. The same is true for business services in public libraries. These services must reflect the local business community.

Miller Center's Focus

The Miller Center is part of the Middle Country Public Library (MCPL) and is located on Long Island, an area with more than sixty public libraries. Each of these libraries is run independently and truly reflects its community. Following feedback from the local business community, MCPL began offering programming and resources to businesses and entrepreneurs more than twenty years ago. In 2003, funding from philanthropist John D. Miller allowed us to brand ourselves as the Miller Center and to expand our reach. Since then we have grown and enhanced services to meet the needs of the people we are serving.

Currently five MCPL librarians focus half of their time on the Miller Center. This team plans more than thirty programs and two trade shows each year. Each librarian also attends at least one outside networking event each month. Much of their time is spent on the more than fifteen hundred reference inquiries the Miller Center receives each year.

On any given day the Miller Center gets a wide range of questions from the public. The most popular questions from these patrons are related to careers, finances, and law. …

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