Photographer: Patrick Traylor
Mar 12, 2012
By Lena Chapin
Chad Boeninger is head of reference and business librarian at Ohio University Libraries. He is also an internet sensation. Not in the aspect of Justin Bieber or Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel, but in the distinguished and useful way that Ohio University Libraries can be proud of.
Boeninger has been an integral part in the modernizing of the libraries through technologies that help expand the library resources.
"I've always tried to keep an eye out for things that are happening in the mainstream and adapt that to library services," said Boeninger.
Thanks in large part to Boeninger and his team, students now have access to librarians both inside and outside of the library through online chat, instant messaging, email and texting.
While studying information science at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in the late 90s, Boeninger thought he might be an IT guy. But his true calling became clear while working in the nursery at Lowe's.
"I was a reference librarian in a red apron," said Boeninger. Though plants aren't necessarily his forte anymore, he still gets enjoyment out of being the expert and helping others.
One of his most successful innovations is the Business Blog on which Boeninger provides tips, tricks and tools for business researchers at Ohio University.
The blog provides business research guides for specific industries, links to databases, helpful videos, regularly-updated content and a place to ask questions. The site is very popular among students and professors.
"Chad has been an incredibly devoted resource for the students and faculty in the College of Business," said Chris Moberg, chair of the Marketing Department at OHIO. "Perhaps his greatest strength is his recognition that today's students are different and his willingness to use a variety of communications tools that fit the expectations of Millennials. His Business Blog has provided a one-stop shop where students can discover and use a variety of resources to make their client projects and industry analyses much better."
During fall quarter, OHIO's business cluster classes participated in a project researching the feasibility of bringing a popcorn franchise to Athens, Ohio. Boeninger spoke in all of the classes, teaching more than 200 students how to research the popcorn industry.
In class, Boeninger used videos, some of which he created and uploaded to YouTube about 20 minutes before the first class, to help illustrate the process of research through different databases. Having these guides proved useful to OHIO students who were able to revisit the videos after class and throughout the duration of the project.
Dillon Leary, a junior accounting major in the cluster class said, "I used [Boeninger's] database videos for my class earlier this quarter. They had all of the information I needed."
The videos on the business blog and throughout the Libraries' website do not just teach how to research popcorn. Students have seen Boeninger on the Libraries' website giving advice on how to locate books, find reference information or how to use EBSCO.
One thing that all of Boeninger's videos have in common, no matter the topic, is face time. Most research websites and even online tutorials from other libraries are composed of screenshots and a disembodied voice, but Boeninger believes that seeing his face on the screen adds something for viewers.
"It serves as a branding element," he said. "They see me as the expert and a resource, and it builds a certain level of trust."
Boeninger also begins each video establishing that he is from Ohio University Libraries, showing not only that he is reliable, but establishing a broader reputation for the University.
The primary audience for this blog is students and faculty of business and economics at Ohio University, but many others not affiliated with the University have found the content useful.
"The videos are clear, to the point and easily understood. That's why we contacted Chad to use a few of them for a business resource website we are currently developing, and hope to deploy later this year," said Jamie Coniglio, head of reference at George Mason University.
Boeninger's videos are found on the OHIO Libraries' website, Blip.TV, YouTube and iTunes. In the past six months, his videos have had more than 7,800 views with more than 50 percent coming from YouTube searches, which are unrelated to Ohio University. The Business Blog had 111,000 hits in 2011, and just broke the monthly record of more than 19,000 hits last month.
Despite the success of the Business Blog and his instructional videos, the reference department is still Boeninger's priority.
As supervisor, his latest project in the library is looking for ways to make the in-person service and expertise more inviting and better utilized.
"Libraries are not just the resource data, journals and books," he said. "Emphasis needs to be placed on the people with expertise to help [students] find [information] and guide them in their research."
Chad emphasizes the importance of librarians working as a team in a free and respecting environment to create progress.
"I had room to experiment and fail and that's the kind of environment I want to keep as an employee of the Libraries and as a supervisor," said Boeninger. "I want to encourage experiments and learning through trial and error."
With the new technologies and great reference librarians, Chad Boeninger and his team are helping Ohio University Libraries reach its full potential.
To check out Chad Boeninger's videos, visit: