Archive for February, 2010

Information Outlook: Embedded Librarianship Issue

February 24, 2010

I need to catch up on my reading, and posting about, the articles, website updates, blog posts, etc. on embedded librarianship these days. Lots of interesting material is being published.

However, to indulge in a little self-promotion, I think readers of this blog will be especially interested in the January/February 2010 issue of Information Outlook, which I helped to develop. It’s a special issue on embedded librarianship, featuring four articles: three stories and a summary of the research that Mary Talley and I conducted.

The three stories come from Jill Stover Heinze of Affinion Loyalty Group, Deborah Garson and Eileen McGowan of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Jeanne Slater Trimble of the MITRE Corporation. Jill describes the development of her embedded role with the Brand Communications Group at Affinion, and the synergies that have benefitted her as well as her customers. Deborah, a librarian, and Eileen, a member of the faculty, present the origin and development of their collaboration in teaching a research seminar for Ph.D. students. Jeanne presents MITRE’s initiative to leverage and build the subject expertise of information analysts, aligning their services with corporate strategy and the needs of their customer groups.

To cap the theme, Mary and I have distilled the essential findings of our research project. Taken together, I think the four articles succeed in presenting the diversity of settings and approaches, as well as the common characteristics and success factors, in the developing model of embedded library services.

I hope you’ll get a chance to read the issue. Unfortunately, I don’t think SLA makes Information Outlook content publicly available on its website, so you’ll have to beg, borrow, or interlibrary loan a copy, or access it through a digital library subscription. Or, you can join SLA to get it!

In any case, I hope you’ll get to read these articles, and I’d love to see your comments and feedback on them.

Advice from the Heaths: Find a Bright Spot and Clone It

February 11, 2010

Coincidentally, shortly after posting my last item, on the problem of leading the change to an embedded service model, I read an excerpt of the new book by Chip and Dan Heath, “Switch: How to Change When Change Is Hard.” (See Fast Company, Feb. 2010, p. 62). The Heaths’ big idea: find a bright spot and clone it. Small actions can have major impact.

I think that’s great advice and it’s applicable to implementing the embedded service model. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Don’t expect all reference staff and all customers to buy into the model. If you can find, or create, one “bright spot” of embedded service in your organization, understand why it works, then you can leverage it, get others to follow, and create more successful embedded relationships.

I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Managing the Change to Embedded Library Services

February 2, 2010

Last Friday, I presented a 15-minute synopsis of the Models of Embedded Librarianship research at the Second Annual Symposium of the CUA School of Library and Information Science. (The presentation is available on the SLIS website at http://slis.cua.edu/res/docs/symposium/2010-symposium/ShumakerTalleyModels-of-Embedded-LibrarianshipFinal.pdf .)

Afterward, a very thoughtful colleague who manages reference and research services in a large organization expressed some frustration with the pace of change in her organization, and we had a conversation about finding and developing librarians who can build relationships and succeed as embedded librarians.

Managing change is hard, and encountering staff resistance is common. Here are some thoughts on dealing with resistance.

One thing we’ve learned is the importance of relationship building in embedded librarianship. Yet the personality type we might associate with this skill is the outgoing, extroverted type – not the usual librarian stereotype. (“Outgoing” and “extroverted” aren’t really synonyms, I know, but I’ll use them as such for now, just because we tend to do so in everyday conversation.)

So, can librarians be good relationship builders? And do you have to be an extrovert to succeed as an embedded librarian? One of the most successful embedded librarians we interviewed for our research provided the answer. “You know, introverts can do this,” she said. “After all, I’m really an introvert.”

I firmly believe she’s right. Instead, I think attributes like motivation to try something new, to get outside your comfort zone; a desire to contribute; eagerness to learn (especially about your customers and their work) are more important. Oh, and good basic librarian skills – you have to deliver on your promises.

So, step one of the Virtuous Cycle for Embedded Librarianship, “Hire staff who can build relationships” (see the final chapter of the research report) doesn’t mean “hire extroverts.” It means, hire people with good library skills, the motivation to stretch and try something new, an eagerness to learn, and a desire to contribute.

Admittedly, that’s hard enough to do when you’re recruiting new staff. But what of my friend, and other managers like her who are trying to introduce embedded librarianship with the staff in place, and encountering resistance? Here are a few suggestions that might help:

1. Start with the best and most motivated staff: those who “get it” and want to work as embedded librarians. Don’t try to motivate and convert everyone all at once.

2. Use peer motivation; form teams if you can. Let the successful pioneers show the way for others.

3. Have realistic expectations. Occasionally, a candid passage in an article will mention that in the process of introducing the embedded services model, some staff found other roles, or left the organization. I’ve heard this in interviews, as well. It’s common in management that when change is introduced, not everyone adapts successfully. You’re very unlikely to achieve 100% success – don’t expect it.

Do you have other insights and suggestions for initiating embedded library services, or an anecdote you can share? If so, I hope you’ll respond to this post!


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