Archive for August, 2010

Why Embedded Librarians Are Not Like Embedded Reporters

August 20, 2010

Sometimes it’s said that the term “embedded librarian” was copied from the Gulf War notion of “embedded reporters”. I don’t know if that’s true or not — I’m a bit skeptical, and maybe someday I’ll dig back through the literature to see when the term “embedded” was first applied to librarians.

But be that as it may, the conversation at the recent SAOIM event (see previous post) got me to thinking about the nature of embeddedness and how the embedded librarian is nothing like the embedded reporter. The SAOIM dialogue renewed and sharpened my appreciation of the embedded librarian as partner or collaborator, and not as service provider. (I am particularly indebted to Colin Darch of the University of Cape Town for this.) I am resolved to expunge “service” from my vocabulary when it comes to embedded librarians!

Anyway, the embedded reporter in a combat unit is there only as an observer, not a participant. Nobody expects her/him to pick up a weapon and start shooting! Not so the embedded librarian — we’re there to pitch in and contribute to the team’s goals and objectives. The embedded librarian who is only a bystander won’t be embedded for long!

So, whatever the etymology, embedded reporters and embedded librarians have very little in common, it seems to me.

Embedded Librarianship at the SAOIM

August 17, 2010

I’m just back from South Africa, where I gave a presentation and workshop on (what else?) embedded librarianship at the Southern African Online Information Meeting (SAOIM). The SAOIM folks have posted the presentation, and you can find it here, along with other conference papers.

The paper was well received, and comments indicated that many South African university and specialized libraries are at various stages of implementing embedded librarianship.

I hope to return someday and learn more about the innovations taking place in South African libraries!

Embedded Law Librarians

August 2, 2010

A law firm librarian of my acquaintance tipped me to the American Lawyer’s annual survey of law firm librarians. You’ll find it at (free registration required).

The 2010 survey includes a question “are any librarians embedded in practice area groups?” Nine percent said yes; 91% no.

Apparently this is the first year the American Lawyer has asked the question, as (unlike other questions) no comparable 2009 data are provided.

So, it sounds like embedded librarianship is gaining mindshare at least in the law firm world. Here’s hoping we’ll continue to see that percentage go up!


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