Archive for September, 2009

Do Embedded Librarians Have More Fun….cont.

September 30, 2009

Are embedded librarians really more satisfied in their jobs than other information professionals?  I’ve asked the question and here’s a qualified answer:  yes, we believe so.   Our research didn’t include a study of job satisfaction levels among embedded and non-embedded librarians.  Job satisfaction is certainly not exclusive to embedded librarians; plenty of information professionals of all types love their roles and their jobs.   But, we continually observe the unique role of an embedded librarian leading to an extraordinary sense of job satisfaction.    Here are some of the reasons why.

Embedded librarians are great at relationship-building.  Our  research shows embedded librarians engaging in multiple interactions with customer groups  – interactions they are as likely to initiate as the customer  – that give them an intimate knowledge of the group’s work and related challenges.   We see them regularly participating in their customers’ work meetings, taking advantage of the same learning opportunities, and meeting with all levels of group members to discuss challenges and solutions.  These are game-changing tactics that put embedded librarians on the ground with their customer groups  – and in a very advantageous position.

This may all sound very exciting, but how does it translate into greater job satisfaction?  When embedded librarians drive interactions with their customers, they change the dynamics of the service provider and customer roles –  and, put themselves in a position to control more of the work they perform.  What we’ve witnessed is a cycle in which the closer embedded librarians work with a group, the more they know; the more they know, the more they can take part in the group’s conversation; and the more they actively participate in the conversation, the easier it is to spot opportunities to apply their skills and expertise to problem solving.  This is truly expanding your own capabilities and directing your own work.

What is job satisfaction about if it isn’t the ability to direct your work and expand into more interesting, challenging and responsible roles?

(In my next post, I’ll give some real-life examples of how embedded librarians are directing and developing their own work.)


“Models of Embedded Librarianship” Final Report Published

September 15, 2009

The final report of our research project, Models of Embedded Librarianship, has been published on the Special Libraries Association website.


SLA has not yet published the appendices to the report, and we’re checking on that.

Update: SLA has posted a new version that includes the Appendices: a total of 196 pages. Still at the same URL.

For background on the SLA Research Program and other reports of SLA-sponsored research, visit

Alignment and Embeddedness, Part 1

September 14, 2009

As an active member of the Special Libraries Association, I’m thinking a lot about “Alignment” these days. SLA’s Alignment Project has focused on both helping members “align their value and contributions with the strategic goals of their organizations” and develop communications that executives and employers will understand, so that what the librarian does will be recognized and valued by their bosses.

(If you’re not an SLA member and would like to know more about the Alignment Project, visit .)

Alignment is a laudable goal and I completely agree with it. The question is, how does a librarian achieve it? How do we ensure that what we’re doing really matches up with the needs of the organization — and that we talk about it in terms that leaders of the organization understand?

It seems to me that Embeddedness has something to offer. The Embedded Library Services model has to do with getting close enough to others in the organization — whether physically, by locating your office in their area; organizationally, by transferring supervision from the library manager to the customer group manager; or operationally, by forming a strong working relationship — to understand their information needs and develop specialized solutions that meet those needs. Our research (see Executive Summary posted on the blog last month) has shown that successful embedded librarians are good at building relationships, and either bring a good knowledge of the customer’s domain to the organization when they arrive, or work diligently to develop it as they begin work.

The second half of Alignment is communicating in terms that the organization’s management understands and values. Managers of successful embedded services do just that. Among the attributes we’ve found associated with the management of successful embedded programs are that they evaluate their programs in financial terms and through stories, as well as using more traditional activity statistics. Also, they communicate their evaluations back to customer managers.

Ultimately, successful embedded librarians transcend the traditional library operational model of providing services in response to requests, and become partners with their “customers” — sharing the responsibilities and the rewards for organizational outcomes.

What could be better aligned than that?

(In part 2, I’ll share some thoughts on what can go wrong.)