Archive for March, 2008

Coming May 22: The Embedded Librarian Workshop

March 12, 2008

If you’re in Chicago — or feel like visiting — you’re invited to attend a workshop I’m leading on May 22. Entitled “Embedded Librarianship: What Is It, and Is It for Me?”, it will cover the concept and defining characteristics of embedded librarianship and how to know if it might be a model for you to follow. I’ll offer some ideas on approaches for starting and sustaining the embedded library service model, and participants will have a chance to develop their own assessment and plan.

The workshop is sponsored by the Metropolitan Library System. For more information and to register, go to:


“Dangerous Liaisons?” — An Article Worth Reading

March 5, 2008

Even if you’re not an academic librarian, you might want to read “Dangerous Liaisons? Defining the Faculty Liaison Librarian Service Model, Its Effectiveness and Sustainability”, by John Rodwell and Linden Fairbairn, in Library Management 29:1/2, 2008, p. 116-124.

Rodwell and Fairbairn, who are both at the University of Sydney, trace the concept of the academic “liaison librarian” role in the professional literature since the 1970s, and identify the shortcomings in the typical practice of liaison librarianship.

They rightly (I think) call for a new type of partnership between librarians and their “customers”, which will require the librarians to jettison old duties and practices (for example, spending a lot of time on acquisitions and collection development; doing general reference work).  They call for a new emphasis on marketing to guide the changes: “In reorienting liaison, with rhetoric about building partnerships, embedding librarians in the work of the faculties and generally raising the library profile and relevance within the University, it would be useful and constructive to know if this is what potential partners and clients want.” (p. 122)  They conclude with some musings on the sustainability of the new liaison model.

I think almost everything they say can be applied, with limited translation, to the world of embedded librarianship in non-academic settings: corporations, government agencies, NGOs, etc. The trends and the opportunities in front of the profession of librarianship are similar because they are driven by the same factors. Information technology has freed us from some of the drudgery of the past, which should be cause for rejoicing! The need for general, ready reference services is declining (in U.S. academic libraries at least). Content of all kinds is more freely available than ever. Now we have an opportunity to move up the value chain, becoming more valuable by delivering highly customized and targeted services. Rodwell and Fairbairn have done an excellent job of providing some pointers to the future for academic librarians and all of us.