The Embedded Model, the Future of Librarianship, and What to Do at Work Tomorrow!

May 19, 2013 by

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I visited New Jersey on May 7 at the invitation of the SLA New Jersey Chapter, to deliver the 36th annual Alice Rankin lecture. I had a wonderful time, and thank everyone in the chapter for their hospitality.

The lecture was entitled “The Embedded Model, the Future of Librarianship, and What to Do at Work Tomorrow!” and it’s available on Slideshare:

Embedded Librarianship in American Libraries Magazine

May 13, 2013 by

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.

Next Stop: New Jersey

April 19, 2013 by

I’ll be delivering the 36th Annual Alice Rankin Lecture for the Special Libraries Association, New Jersey Chapter, on Tuesday, May 7. I’ve chosen to title it “The Embedded Model, the Future of Librarianship, and What to Do at Work Tomorrow.” I’m really excited about this and looking forward to some great conversation with the folks in the New Jersey Chapter! If you’re located in New Jersey or nearby Pennsylvania or New York, please join us. We’ll be at the Rutgers Inn and Conference Center, and details are at . See you there!

Models of Embedded Librarianship Final Report

April 13, 2013 by

Earlier this week, I learned that the final report of the Models of Embedded Librarianship research project, which was funded by the Special Libraries Association, has been temporarily taken off the SLA website. I’m told it will be restored, but because I’ve had a recent request for it, I’ve decided to go ahead and post it here.

The full documentation includes the following:

  • The Final Report (2009)
  • Four Appendices (2009)
  • A supplement to the final report (Corrected version Nov. 2011)

I’m omitting the original bibliography, because I previously posted an updated bibliography on this blog last summer.

How Not to Reach Out

April 11, 2013 by

I’ve spent the last 3 days at the annual Computers in Libraries Conference, which was excellent! I’ve heard a number of thoughtful and thought-provoking presentations and picked up some great tips and ideas.

However, it’s a couple ideas I heard that I don’t agree with that are the subject of this posting. (I’ve heard them before, so I think they’re fairly widespread among librarians, and need some serious discussion.)

At a session this afternoon, there was some discussion of tactics for reaching out to faculty (the context was higher education) who are not using the services of the librarian. One suggestion was to send periodic email inquiries, or drop by someone’s office, to ask if there’s anything you can help with. Another was to send unsolicited information items, saying that you know the person is working in a particular field, and believe they might be interested.

The first approach is empty, and perhaps a bit lazy. It’s a shortcut for the work of relationship-building. The job of the faculty/researcher isn’t to figure out how to use the librarian, and the answer is likely to be “no, thanks.” Rather, it’s the librarian’s job to figure out how to be useful. This approach violates the marketing principle that the service provider needs to understand the customer, and not start by pushing what you think they need.

The second is all the above, plus potentially annoying. It may come across as spam.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a 15-minute conversation with the person, learn a little bit about their interests, and ask for permission to feed them updates from time to time? That way, you get the beginning of a relationship.

Even better is to become so valuable to other faculty/researchers that you get word of mouth working for you, and the non-users seek you out.

What do you think? What outreach tactics have worked for you?

Embedded Librarianship at the Computers in Libraries Conference

March 20, 2013 by

I’m looking forward to the Computers in Libraries conference coming up here in Washington DC in April!

I’ll be presenting a workshop, “Embedded Librarianship: Digital World Future”, on Thursday afternoon, April 11. The workshop presents a model strategy for initiating, developing, sustaining and evaluating embedded librarianship, with ideas you can adapt to your own situation and stage of development. I’ve just updated it with my latest insights on problems and pitfalls that can threaten embedded programs, and how to address them.

Also if you’re attending the conference, please stop by the Information Today exhibit and say hello during the Monday afternoon reception. We’re having a book signing, and I’ll be there.

If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, there’s still time! Go to . See you there!

Para-librarians and Embedded Librarians, Part 3

February 19, 2013 by

Way back on Nov. 21, I promised there would be a Part 3 to my discussion of Para-Librarians and Embedded Librarians. I can’t believe that was almost 3 months ago. It’s time to get it done!

The question is, if librarians (generally with the Master’s degree, in the U.S.) stop staffing the library reference desk, and paralibrarians take over, with strong service skills but presumably less background in complex search strategy and advanced knowledge of information resources, then what happens to those challenging, in-depth research projects that do find their way to the reference/information service desk?
The obvious answer might seem to be, “well, they get referred to the librarian.” To be sure, we can’t rule that situation out – it’s bound to happen sometimes. But I think that with an effective embedded librarianship program, it will be rather unusual. Instead, people will turn first to their embedded librarian for help, and those complex projects will never get to the reference desk.

With effective embedded librarianship in an academic or organizational setting, two things are accomplished. One is that information seekers are self-sufficient for many tasks, because the embedded librarian is providing instruction and otherwise helping them maintain their skills and knowledge. The second is that they know their librarian, understand that the librarian is accessible, and already has a good grasp of what they are working on. So, following the principle that people turn first to other people they know when seeking information, they turn first to their embedded librarian.

In this scenario, instead of the reference desk serving as the intake point for tasks referred to the embedded librarian, the embedded librarian serves as the information project coordinator, relying on reference desk and other centralized library staff for backup and support (like document delivery) when executing complex research or information management projects.

This is exactly what happened in my own past management experience when we implemented a strong embedded model. I thought the reference desk would be a key intake point for referring tasks to the embedded staff, but it never materialized. I’ve also observed this in my research.

For my next post, I think I’ll extend this point a bit and compare Help Desk management to reference services management. I promise to take less than 3 months to follow up with that!

Disruption, Alignment, and Embedded Librarianship

January 25, 2013 by

I’ve posted the slides of the webinar presented Jan. 23 for the SLA Leadership & Management Division, “Disruption, Alignment, and Embedded Librarianship”. They’re at .

Jan. 14 Webinar Available

January 19, 2013 by

I’ve posted my webinar presentation, “To Evaluation and Beyond: The Evolving Role of the Embedded Librarian” in Slideshare at  .



Two Webinars Coming Up This Month

January 3, 2013 by

Happy New Year!

To start off the new year, I’ll be doing two webinars in the month of January. Both will discuss embedded librarianship, of course, but the focus and emphasis will differ significantly. They won’t be the same presentation.

First up, on January 14 at 1:00 p.m. US Eastern I’ll be discussing “To Evaluation and Beyond: The Evolving Role of the Embedded Librarian.” The focus will be on higher education and and the evaluation of embedded librarianship initiatives — especially on evaluating embedded information literacy instruction. This webinar is sponsored by Credo Reference through its “Libraries Thriving” program. See for a description, or go to to register.

Coming later in the month will be a presentation entitled “Disruption, Alignment, and Embedded Librarianship: Connecting the Dots, and Avoiding the Traps.” It’s sponsored by the Leadership and Management Division of the Special Libraries Association, and will take place on January 23 at 2:00 p.m. US Eastern. The goal will be twofold: first to explore how the embedded model can be an effective response to the disruption that our profession has been experiencing; and second to identify some of the traps and pitfalls that can cause embedded initiatives not to live up to their promise. Details are at . I think this will be applicable to librarians in a wide range of settings.

I hope you can join me for one of both of these presentations.


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