Embedded Librarians in Academe

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I’ve just finished reading a very interesting article on the future of academic libraries. (Lewis, D.W. (2007, Sept.) “A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century.” College & Research Libraries, p. 418-434.) Dr. Lewis, who is Dean of the Library at IUPUI, proposes a five-part strategy for academic libraries. Here’s item 4 on his list: “Reposition library and information tools, resources, and expertise so that they are embedded into the teaching, learning, and research enterprises.” To me this represents yet another indication that the notion of “embedded librarians” is strong across the sectors of our profession.

The next questions are, what, specifically, does this mean, and how do you do it successfully? I recently saw an announcement from an academic library (which I won’t name) that wandering reference staff would be making occasional, unscheduled visits to various venues around campus: labs, offices, the student center. I don’t predict success for this venture. It’s a laudable attempt to get the librarian out of the library, but without a concerted, top-down effort to embed the librarians into the programs of research and teaching of the academic organization, I don’t think the potential users will know what to make of it.

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