First-year College Students, Project Information Literacy, and Embedded Librarianship

December 18, 2013 by

I’ve just been reading the most recent report from Project Information Literacy. Released just a couple weeks ago, it’s entitled “Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College.” It’s of particular interest to me, because together with my faculty colleague Dr. Sung Un Kim, I’m working on a study of the role of librarians in the First Year Experience (FYE) program here at Catholic University of America.

There were many observations in the report that were consistent with my impressions; I found myself nodding in agreement continously. There weren’t any big surprises; just many clear and compelling insights that I sort-of knew, but needed to focus on more clearly. There were echoes of time-tested models and principles of information behavior at work: concepts like the Principle of Least Effort, Mooers’ Law, the human tendency to ask other people we know for help with information needs, and elements of Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process. These are fundamentals that every librarian ought to learn by heart and apply every day anyway.

What I found most arresting was the study’s insight into just how jarring the transition from high school to college is. When it comes to information literacy, the students in the study enter college very poorly prepared for the research environment that awaits them: the resources are much more complex, the expectations are much different, and the skills needed are nothing like what they have learned in their secondary education.

Enter the embedded librarian. As I read, I found passages that just cried out for embedded librarians — observations like “freshmen had little idea about who to ask for help” and didn’t know whom to ask on the library staff — or even that there was anyone on the library staff that would help them (p. 14); or “most students don’t need to ask for help,” “Reference librarians are available only to students who have gotten stuck on their research,” and “A scholarly database(s) recommended by a librarian is the only source worth checking.” (Myths 1, 3, and 4 of 5, p. 19)

Imagine, then, how glad I was to see that in the concluding section, recommendation 2 is “An integrated approach to teaching information competencies”, and the embedded model is cited as a way to achieving that integration. I agree, of course.

So if you’re an academic librarian — especially if you’re involved in reference, instruction, and outreach, I highly recommend that you read this report. It contains great insights, and may help you in developing your own embedded role.

Embedded Librarians: Building Relationships in a Massively Open Educational System

November 18, 2013 by

I’ve posted the webinar presentation I gave for the Amigos Library Council on Slideshare at . Comments are welcome — let me know what you think!

MOOCs and Embedded Librarians

November 1, 2013 by

Next Thursday, Nov. 7, I’ll be participating in a webinar, “MOOCs, Mobile Technologies – Their Impact on Reference Service”, organized by the Amigos Library Council. My topic will be “Embedded Librarians: Building Relationships in a Massively Open Educational System.” It’s been an interesting topic to prepare for, and I’m looking forward to some good dialogue with the audience. I’m told there are still a few seats available, so if you’re interested, you can still register. Hope to see you there!

“Inside Embedded Librarianship” Recording Available

October 18, 2013 by

(Updated October 30)

The link to the “Inside Embedded Librarianship” webinar has been restored! Both the recording and the slides are available via links on the SLA Education Division website at . Thanks to Lesley Farmer and the SLA Education Division leadership for intervening to get access restored.

“Inside Embedded Librarianship” Webinar Soon!

October 11, 2013 by

Sorry for the late posting on this. Simply an oversight on my part.

In a few hours, I’ll be presenting a webinar, entitled “Inside Embedded Librarianship,” for the SLA Education Division. Time is Friday, Oct. 11, at 1:30 p.m.  US Eastern time. (I’m posting on Friday at about 10:00 a.m. US Eastern.)

We’ll review the essential characteristics of embedded librarianship, explore key trends, share practices of successful embedded librarians, and have time left over for questions. It’s free and open to all and (as of now) there’s still time to register.

Register at:

In case you don’t see this in time or have a schedule conflict, I understand that the Education Division plans to make the recording available. I’ll post the link when I have it.

Audacious Goals for Law [and Other] Librarians

October 7, 2013 by

By the way, I’ve posted my presentation (co-authored with Matt Foley) to the Australian Law Librarians’ Association at .

I hope non-law librarians will enjoy it too!

A “Shout Out” to My Friends in Australia

October 7, 2013 by

I recently returned from Australia, where I participated in the annual conference of the Australian Law Librarians’ Association in Sydney. It was a rich learning experience, and a lot of fun. I look forward to keeping in touch with the new friends I made.

After the conference, I also had the opportunity to visit Macquarie University, where I met with Mary Simons, the embedded librarian in the Australian School of Advanced Medicine.  (See Mary’s paper “Time to rethink the role of the library in educating doctors: Driving information literacy in the clinical environment” (Journal of the Medical Library Association, 100(4), 291-296. doi:10.3163/1536-5050.100.4.011) for insights into her work.)

At lunch with members of the library staff, I learned a subtle but important distinction between Australian and American use of the term “shout” that Americans would do well to keep in mind. Where in the U.S. we’ve come to use “shout out” as slang for “recognize” or “acknowledge” (as in the title of this post, which means, “An Acknowledgment to My Friends in Australia”), it turns out that in Australia, to “shout” for someone is to pay for = to pick up the check. So, Americans, when in Australia beware of “shouting out” to your friends — or you may find yourself stuck with the tab for everybody in the pub!

(p.s. to my friends in Australia: I’ll definitely “shout” for a round next time I visit — and I hope it will be soon!)

The Stealthy Embedded Librarian

September 14, 2013 by

This post is inspired by an article I read recently in the March 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review. (I’m always behind in my reading…)

The article is “The Case for Stealth Innovation” by Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg. The authors discuss the advantages and requirements for introducing innovations quietly, not attracting senior management attention until the innovation is well established, “flying under the radar.” While the stealthy approach has its requirements, like finding allies who will support you, it avoids the possibility that by seeking permission, you’ll receive a premature “no” from an executive who doesn’t “get” your proposal.

The stealthy approach resonates with the challenges of initiating embedded librarianship. In the organizations I’ve studied, there are some that have taken the non-stealthy approach, and others that have employed a more bottom-up strategy. To be sure, there are cases in which senior executives push the librarian into an embedded role. That’s great, if the boss is alert and understands the opportunity for the librarian to contribute. I’ve seen examples of that in my research.

But when you don’t have a senior leader like that, finding an ally in middle management may be the best — or only — way to go. I like to think that in healthy organizations, power will be distributed sufficiently that a library manager and the manager of a group that needs an embedded librarian can make it happen without having to get senior approval. Then, they get the opportunity to prove the concept before publicizing it widely.

Librarians in the Intelligence Process

August 19, 2013 by

How I spent my summer “vacation” — well, it wasn’t a vacation, but it was an incredibly busy and productive time.

One of the great opportunities I had was to present a paper, “Librarians in the Intelligence Process”, at the “Understanding and Improving Intelligence Analysis” workshop, hosted by the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies at the University of Mississippi.

The paper was a collaboration with two incredible leaders in librarianship, author and speaker Ran Hock (The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook), and Fedlink Executive Director Blane Dessy.

The presentation is posted on Slideshare at

Collaborate! (Is There Any Other Way?)

July 26, 2013 by

I’ve just uploaded to Slideshare the presentation I gave at the SLA Conference last month. It’s entitled, “Collaborate! (Is There Any Other Way?)” and you can find it at .

Hope you find it helpful. Comments welcome!


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