Archive for June, 2012

Embedded Librarians in Higher Education

June 24, 2012

I just checked back a couple years and found that not once have I posted anything specifically about embedded librarians in higher education. I’m way overdue!

On June 5, I was on a panel at the OCLC Research Forum “Libraries Rebound” meeting (http://www.oclc.org/research/events/2012-06-05.htm). My theme was that in higher education, embedded librarianship is often equated with embedded information literacy instruction, far overshadowing embedded collaboration in research. This view is based on an analysis of the Models of Embedded Librarianship survey research, which will be published in my contributed paper for the SLA 2012 Annual Conference, and on my assessment of the professional literature. In my talk, I advocated that academic librarians should explore opportunities to strengthen their engagement in research.

You can see a copy of my presentation on the meeting site or on Slideshare at:

http://www.slideshare.net/DShumaker/embedded-librarians-rebound

Earlier today, I was reading a new white paper commissioned by Sage Publishing and written by Claire Creaser and Valérie Spezi of Loughborough University, which pretty much says the same thing. The authors advocate more emphasis on what I would call embedded librarianship, and especially development of librarians’ engagement in research projects with subject faculty.

Quoting from the executive summary, “Embedded information literacy instruction is highly valued by teaching staff. Increasingly, this is developing into integrated teaching and curriculum development activities. Support for research appeared less well embedded, but there is evidence of successful partnerships between librarians and research staff in the areas of literature reviewing and data curation, in particular. “

The Sage report is available at  http://libraryvalue.wordpress.com/report .

Thinking Waaay Outside the Box: Embedded Librarians and Emerging Roles

June 17, 2012

It all started when a member of an email list I’m on posted a link to a Forbes magazine blog item that billed the Master’s in Library Science as the “worst” Master’s degree to get in today’s U.S. economy. (You can see the post at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/06/08/the-best-and-worst-masters-degrees-for-jobs-2/ )
Several people responded to this, I among them. In my response, I made the following points:

  1. The article isn’t exactly a rigorous study.
  2. The sources used probably don’t take into account new, nontraditional roles for librarians, which is where some of us think most of the growth in the profession will come from.
  3. Traditional jobs aren’t going away; they are changing and have their own set of challenges and opportunities. They can be richly rewarding in many ways.
  4. Don’t choose a career based solely on growth and salary. Love what you do; do what you are called to.

After I posted my response, an MLS grad from a few years ago sent me an off-list reply about her job search. After obtaining her MLS, she has gotten into the specialty of writing proposals and managing the proposal process. Her note included the following (quoted with permission):

“I have just accepted a position as a proposal manager/writer for another … company and they wanted me because (1) I have lots of experience in proposal writing/management AND (2) because of my MLS – they want me to set up an answer repository and organize their information. The MLS made the difference between me and the other candidate.”

Meanwhile, in another dialog, a different but related question came up: what about embedded librarians, when there is no central library in an organization? Just a bunch of dispersed librarians, all employed by different units that need their skills? What skills do they need, how can they best operate in the organization? My immediate answer is that they would probably be performing some mix of the information- and knowledge-related roles that other embedded librarians perform. Further, they are likely to have many common interests and challenges, so it would really be to their benefit to network with each other like crazy. They would be like any other community of interest in this regard.
As I reflect on these two discussions, it seems to me that the embedded librarian employed by a (more or less) traditional library unit, the embedded librarian employed directly by an information user group, and the person like the graduate I quoted, with a Library Science background whose librarianship duties are only part of her job, all represent points on a continuum of career possibilities for librarians. As librarians become more integrated with the organization, and more focused on using information management skills to help achieve enterprise goals, it seems likely that we’ll see more growth at the “part time librarian, part time something else” end of the spectrum.

Further, I think  that individuals across this spectrum will probably continue to draw on core competencies and values of librarianship, to perform some mix of similar tasks (at least for the part of their time that they are wearing their “librarian” hats), and will need to network with one another. They’ll continue to want to share problems and solutions, to collaborate on obtaining tools and resources, and building solutions to common problems. In many cases, a central library organization will be the best focal point for them. In other cases, informal networks and communities of interest will need to play this role.
What are your thoughts?

New Book: The Embedded Librarian

June 6, 2012

I’m proud to announce that Information Today is now taking advance orders for my forthcoming book, “The Embedded Librarian: Innovative Strategies for Taking Knowledge Where It’s Needed.” See http://books.infotoday.com/books/Embedded-Librarian.shtml for details.


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