In a recent email exchange, the question came up whether embedded librarians would be better off losing the “librarian” label. After all, if you’re an embedded librarian you’re almost certainly spending most, if not all, of your time away from a “library”. And the term “librarian” still carries a lot of baggage for many people: shy, retiring, risk-averse, reads all the time, hair in a bun — you know.
This debate has been going on for longer than the 30-some years I’ve been in the profession, and I’ve held opinions on all sides of it. A few years ago, my views crystallized, and I have to thank Stephen Abram, now immediate past president of SLA, for the insight.
In an article in Information Outlook, Stephen pointed out that librarians do not have to work in a library, and they don’t have to have the job title “Librarian”. He used the analogy of accountants. Accounting is a recognized profession. Its members share a common educational background and professional skills. And they have jobs like “Manager of Accounts Receivable” or “Chief Financial Officer”.
So it is, or should be, with librarians. Librarianship is a profession. Its members share a common educational background, and skills like information organization, information services, knowledge of information resources, ability to manage information systems and information-related organizations. They can hold jobs with titles like “Information Analyst”, “Knowledge Manager”, or “Chief Information Officer”.
Seems to me this is a much more satisfying definition of “librarian” than “someone who works in a library”.
What we take with us as embedded librarians, when we leave the library, are our skill set and professional values that distinguish us as Librarians, and which we can put to work anywhere we go, anywhere we are embedded.