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.