Archive for July, 2007

How to Start Embedded Services, Part 2

July 31, 2007

My second principle for initiating embedded library services is, “Lead with management contacts.”

Most often, library outreach and promotions are targeted at every working level user in an organization. We assume that the decision to use the library’s information services is an individual one, that employees make this choice for themselves. We can save discussing the general validity of that assumption for another time and place. What I’m suggesting here, though, is that building embedded library services must be a management activity, and it needs to be carried out (library) manager to (customer) manager. There are a couple reasons why.

First, what’s at stake is more than a service transaction: it’s an institutional partnership. The library or information services operation is offering to devote some of its institutional resources — staff time of a librarian, management attention, maybe more — to the customer group. The customer group is being asked to incorporate the librarian as a member, and to take part of the responsibility for making the relationship succeed. That means sharing information, answering questions, providing guidance. The library manager may be asking for other commitments as well — perhaps full or partial funding of the embedded librarian. These kinds of commitments can only be made at the management level.

Second, it’s important to make the management commitment visible. On the library side, staff may have concerns about taking on a new role. Moving to an embedded librarian role may represent a step into the unknown. By leading the way, the library manager eases the transition. On the customer side, a strong, visible commitment by the group’s leader will encourage members of the group to be receptive to this new member with different skills in their midst.

So, if you’re a library manager looking to develop an embedded services model, remember that it’s your job to get out front and personally show the way. Contact the managers of potential customer groups (remember to start with your friends) and build relationships and commitments, then insert the library staff into new, embedded roles.

Next time: Volunteer!


How to Start Embedded Library Services

July 30, 2007

A recent visit to a friend who manages a special library reminded me of some principles that seem to work well in moving information services outside the library walls and embedding them into customer teams and groups. They are:

1. Start with your friends

2. Lead with management contacts

3. Volunteer!

Due to shortness of time, I’ll cover these one at a time in this and my next couple posts.

1. Start with your friends. By friends I really mean your best customers. Analyze who is using your services now. What groups do they represent? A particular R&D lab? A special project team from Marketing? Probably you’ll find an uneven distribution of customers, with a few groups using your services much more heavily than others. Get an org chart and look at the management of those groups. If you find a couple whose managers use your services themselves, and many of the staff do too, then you’ve identified groups that are probably going to be receptive to the idea that a strong relationship with a librarian can be a great benefit to their work, and well worth the time and resources they will need to invest in an embedded library service.

Next time: lead with management contacts!

Next Research Questions

July 15, 2007

Looking at the survey results (see previous post for the link), I’d like to further analyze the data to gain better insights. So, what analyses should I do?

1. Question 5 asks for the organizational context of the librarian’s work.  I’d like to know if there are clusters of factors that might define the “most” or “highly” embedded librarian. For example, I might hypothesize that a truly embedded librarian would work in the following context:

  • Supervised by a member of the customer group, not by a member of central library management
  • More than half of salary is paid by customer group, not from library budget
  • Primary office is with customers, not in a central library space

If there is a cluster of characteristics like the above that tend to go together, then I could identify a set of the respondents who share those characteristics, and compare them to other respondents in terms of the responses to other questions, like what services they provide, and how they do marketing.

 Gotta go — more later…

Research Paper Link

July 10, 2007

For starters, and to provide some background on how I’m approaching this topic, I thought I’d post a link to the research paper that I recently co-authored with Laura Tyler. It’s available (free) from the Special Libraries Association at:

In it you’ll find our working definition of “embedded librarian”, results of a survey of over 240 embedded librarians, and an extensive literature review.

In future posts, I’ll talk about why I think this topic is important, and questions I have for further research.

Hello world!

July 3, 2007

Welcome to The Embedded Librarian blog. This blog is dedicated to exploring and analyzing the trend of embedding librarians in teams and communities of all kinds, in various types of organizations. Future posts will discuss the many dimensions of this trend. I invite you to join me and add your contributions.