The May 2013 issue of American Libraries, the official magazine of the American Library Association, carries three mentions of embedded librarianship, and taken together they provide an interesting range of perspectives.
In his article, “Defining Transformation”, ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels provides a brief survey of the transformative changes taking place in all sectors of librarianship. I couldn’t agree more with his premise. I have come to believe that we’re living in the midst of the greatest information revolution since the printing press, and that embedded librarianship is one of the new, emerging models for our profession. Fiels writes, “Increasingly, librarians are now embedded in the community as a way to better serve groups such as seniors or small businesses.”
As if to confirm Fiels’ point, Evie Wilson-Lingbloom’s personal narrative, “Retired, but Embedded” describes her volunteer work with Hedgebrook, a writing residency program for women. She describes the ways that her skills as a librarian have contributed to the group and made a difference to its participants — and also how she has used her affiliation to benefit the local public library. She concludes, “Working as a librarian embedded in this venue enables me to continue effecting change myself — for libraries and for people.”
Finally, Meredith Farkas elevates embedded librarianship to the status of a hot, hyped-up idea. She leads off her article “Spare Me the Hype Cycle” with the following example of hype: ” ‘Every academic librarian worth her salt is embedded.’ ” In a way, this is flattering for me as someone who has both studied and advocated embedded librarianship. I wouldn’t have said we had reached the peak of inflated expectations yet!
I do try to mention, as I did in my presentation to the New Jersey chapter of SLA last week, that embedded librarianship isn’t the only future for librarians. However, I do think it’s an important element of our professional future. In the end, I agree with Farkas’ closing sentence, “Focusing on the needs and priorities of those we serve helps to ensure that we are embracing — or not embracing — new tools for the right reasons.” And the embedded model is a good way — perhaps the best — to attain that focus.