Why Embedded Librarians Are Not Like Embedded Reporters


Sometimes it’s said that the term “embedded librarian” was copied from the Gulf War notion of “embedded reporters”. I don’t know if that’s true or not — I’m a bit skeptical, and maybe someday I’ll dig back through the literature to see when the term “embedded” was first applied to librarians.

But be that as it may, the conversation at the recent SAOIM event (see previous post) got me to thinking about the nature of embeddedness and how the embedded librarian is nothing like the embedded reporter. The SAOIM dialogue renewed and sharpened my appreciation of the embedded librarian as partner or collaborator, and not as service provider. (I am particularly indebted to Colin Darch of the University of Cape Town for this.) I am resolved to expunge “service” from my vocabulary when it comes to embedded librarians!

Anyway, the embedded reporter in a combat unit is there only as an observer, not a participant. Nobody expects her/him to pick up a weapon and start shooting! Not so the embedded librarian — we’re there to pitch in and contribute to the team’s goals and objectives. The embedded librarian who is only a bystander won’t be embedded for long!

So, whatever the etymology, embedded reporters and embedded librarians have very little in common, it seems to me.


2 Responses to “Why Embedded Librarians Are Not Like Embedded Reporters”

  1. Turner Says:

    Thanks for this post!

    I am a library student with Emporia State university (Portland, OR Cohort0, and I just recently wrote a paper on Embedded Librarians.

    As I went through the literature, I also found many reference comparing a embedded librarian to an embedded reporter. I think it is because both are where the action is – a reporter on the front lines and a librarian in a classroom (physically or virtually).

    However, as I wrote my paper, I thought about adding an argument describing my perspective that rather calling the term “embedded librarian,” “participatory librarianship” seemed more descriptive.

  2. Eileen Says:

    Great post!! I am a sometimes an observer, however, but not of the things that directly affect my work. I try to INSINUATE myself in things that fall within the first concentric circle around me, that being what I am specifically asked to do, and then I kind of EMBED myself in things that fall the next ring out. Farther out from that, I LISTEN TO and OBSERVE other organizational movements where I might be able to contribute something.

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