Archive for August, 2007

The Embedded Librarian: Captive or Agent?

August 24, 2007

Hi, I’m just back from a fun and relaxing week traveling out West, andm ready to get back to the theme of this blog.

Not long ago I exchanged some correspondence with Kim Dority ( ;, and she raised the question whether embedded librarians could be members of a central organizational library operation, or must they be employees of their customer group.

That’s a great question, and I’d like to label it the “Captive or Agent?” question.

You’re a “Captive” as an embedded librarian if you are funded and report to a manager/supervisor in your customer group. You’re an “Agent” if you are a member of a centralized organizational library or information service operation, but assigned to work with a specific customer organization, full or part time.

In the survey I conducted last spring, there seemed to be something of a split between corporate and academic sectors. In the corporate world, there were more “captives”, and among the academics, there were more “agents”.  This result surprised me. I had expected to find more “hybrids” — neither pure “captive” nor pure “agent”.

Here’s an example of what I mean by a hybrid model: suppose that the library / information service organization of a corporation, government agency, or university makes an agreement with a department, bureau, or School. The library will supply and manage a dedicated, “embedded” librarian (with backup, training, etc.) to serve the unit, and the unit will pay the costs of the service. The customer manager will provide specific tasking and direction, and the library manager will handle performance evaluation, service quality evaluation, and other tasks. This is really just a special case of a matrix management arrangement — nothing new in organizational design.  I think there are many reasons why an organization should consider the hybrid model  — and that’s why I was surprised that it didn’t seem to show up in my survey very much.

Next time, I’ll continue with some thoughts about the pros and cons of the “captive”,  “agent”, and hybrid models.


2 New Resources

August 10, 2007

Today I’d like to mention two interesting opportunities to explore embedded librarianship.

First, the SLA San Diego Chapter will be devoting its Fall Seminar to the topic. I love their title: “The Library as Velcro: Embedding the Library into the Larger Organization”. If you’re in San Diego or can get there on Oct. 12, this sounds like a great meeting to check out. See more details on their website.

Second, you might be interested in an article from the Journal of the Medical Library Association, “Librarian-perceived barriers to the implementation of the informationist / information specialist in context role.” If you’re not in the biomedical information field, I think you’ll still find much of interest in this research report. It’s available on PubMed.

How to Start Embedded Services, Part 3

August 7, 2007

Idea no. 3 is “Volunteer!” Perhaps another way to say this is, be out there, be visible in your organization. Volunteering might take the form of getting involved in social and recreational activities in your workplace — anything from the company softball team to the lunchtime Pilates group. It might mean volunteering to lead a charitable campaign like United Way that’s sanctioned by your company, or volunteering for an inter-departmental task force (even if it has nothing directly to do with information services). It might take the form of sending the CEO, or another appropriate senior executive, a note offering the library’s services with an important corporate initiative. (Always keep your immediate supervisor informed, of course!) In all of these ways, you’re getting known in your organization. You’re showing that you’re someone who cares about the organization and wants to be involved — even be a leader in it. That way, when you start to promote your idea of embedded services, you’ll have credibility — you’ll be a known quantity — and you improve your chances of getting a serious hearing!

 So, those are my three ideas for starting embedded services. There’s much more to say, of course. What are your insights on this?