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!