What’s an Embedded Librarian?


I’ve returned to this question in the past month in connection with the SLA-sponsored research project I’m working on with Mary Talley. We have been reviewing and re-defining the variables that are associated with “embeddedness”.

Here are the ones that seem relevant:

1. location: where’s your office? With other librarians, or with your customers?

2. Funding: who pays your salary, and other costs? Do they come out of a general purpose library budget, or from a budget that pays for other expenses of your customer group?

3. Management and supervision: who writes your performance review? If you left the organization, who would interview and hire your replacement?

4. Participation: do you go to meetings of your customer group? Meetings of library staff?

There are more details, but in a nutshell those are the factors that I associate with “embedded librarianship”. What would you add or change?


6 Responses to “What’s an Embedded Librarian?”

  1. Another E.L. Says:

    You and I have talked about being “content neutral.” I wonder if there is a way to operationalize this definition into something concrete that could be included in your survey. For example, does my place on the content-neutrality-spectrum have a correlation with my degree of embeddedness? I know it’s a hard thing to measure, but one of the things that I feel distinguishes me from a “traditional” librarian is that my work is not as separate from the content specialists around here as I perceive it would be at a larger organization with an entire library staff. I attend the same meetings, both internal and external, as my content counterparts, and this is one of the things, for better or worse, that reminds me I am “embedded.”

  2. davidshumaker Says:

    It would be good to define “content neutral” in this context. What would your definition be?

    I agree with your statement that “I attend the same meetings, both internal and external, as my content counterparts, and this is one of the things, for better or worse, that reminds me I am “embedded.” ” That’s what was intended by point 4, “Participation”, in the post. How might we sharpen that up? What other kinds of activities highlight that kind of relationship, or differentiate it from traditional roles?

  3. jozee fix Says:

    I am a librarian working for a large corporation. I have been asked to describe the “next generation” corporate library and define what it would take to be considered a “world class” operation. I visited many corporate libraries in the New England area as part of our benchmark. Embedded librarians (or Informationists…) are increasing in numbers and fans. I found them at pharmaceutical companies, defense contractors and in the beverage industry working at desks, in labs or the manufacturing floor. I think it’s a huge opportunity for the growth of our profession.

    I am now writing my descriptions and definitions alnog with an outline of goals and measurable action steps. I think I’ve read all available literature on the subject and feel like I’m sailing without a compass. I would love to discuss this with other librarians beginning an embedded program and would be interested in writing about it for one of our trade journals.

    I do have a rather specific request for next week. Do you know of anyone who has created an outline on writing a specific information plan for a specific group within a corporation?

    Thanks for listening to my babble. Keep up the good work!

    I am now writing up my descrition and definitions and I find myself

  4. davidshumaker Says:


    Thanks for your post. I’d be interested to hear more about your study. I hope you write that article!

    I wonder if the “information plan” you refer to would be like a marketing plan. Very briefly, you might start with mission / vision; do a needs assessment of your customer group; and develop goals / objectives and an action plan to address the needs.

    Does this help?


  5. someone else’s blog: 3 Geeks and a Law Blog « studiumlibrarios Says:

    […] librarians are defined by, well, that blog here.  It seems to pertain to what someone does in the library and in the community at large, though […]

  6. The importance of user engagement — how embedded are you? « Kevin the Librarian Says:

    […] into an embedded role at the Arizona Health Science Library. What is an embedded librarian? The Embedded Librarian blog defines the role using the following […]

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