Archive for March, 2012

Information Services, and Embedded Librarianship, at the MITRE Corporation

March 29, 2012

If you’re working on embedded librarianship in a corporate or similar specialized setting, you might be interested a new video from The MITRE Corporation.

MITRE has been a leader in information services for many years. (Full disclosure: I retired as Manager of Information Services at MITRE in 2006.)

A new video highlights the role of information services in the corporation. It covers several different aspects of Information Services, including the work of its embedded librarians.

The full video is about 8 1/2 minutes; the segment focusing on embedded librarians starts around 6:30. The url is .



Embedded Librarians in Law Firms — Survey Results Published

March 20, 2012

The “3 Geeks and a Law” blog has published some results of a recent survey of law firms. It covers the extent of embedded librarianship, duties of embedded librarians, perceived benefits of the embedded model, and more. The survey was conducted by Ark Group.

The results lend strong support to the idea that embedded librarianship is growing rapidly in this sector. It found that over 25% of respondents say they have embedded librarians in their firms. A similar survey I saw a few years ago put the figure at about 10%.

See for details.

Public Libraries, Privatization, Collaboration … and Embedded Librarianship

March 17, 2012

I used to think that embedded librarianship applied to public libraries only in a kind of indirect or metaphorical way. I couldn’t see how it had much to do with the public library reference desk.

I’m changing my mind.

This change is partly the result of a recent talk radio show appearance, and partly due to some recent initiatives that I’ve learned about thanks to Library Journal.

The radio show was the Kojo Nnamdi show, a talk show on WAMU-FM, a public broadcasting station affiliated with American University here in Washington DC. I was asked to go on the show to discuss the “privatization”, or complete outsourcing of operations of public libraries. The other guests were to be a representative of LSSI, which is the dominant vendor operating fully outsourced public libraries in the U.S., and Patricia Tumulty, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association. Unfortunately, LSSI ended up not participating, so the dialogue I had hoped for didn’t take place. Still it was great to spend 40 minutes discussing librarianship on the public airwaves. If you’d like to listen, or read the transcript, go to .

As I was preparing for the broadcast, a recent editorial in Library Journal was very much in my mind. It was “Moving to Outcomes”, from the Jan. 26, 2012 issue. (See The editorial makes two points. One is that library leaders must evaluate their success in terms of their impacts on the community they serve. The other is that they must collaborate with other community organizations in order to achieve meaningful results — the “collective impact” movement.

These points were reinforced in a webinar held on March 6. Participants offered several examples of community partnerships involving public libraries. These partnerships seem to have some of the key features of embedded librarianship: strong working relationships, specialization, mutual accountability for achieving common goals.

As I reflected on the editorial and the webinar, and tried to define what I really thought about outsourcing public libraries, I realized that initiatives at the District of Columbia Public Library also aligned well with these ideas — specialized services like the Adaptive Services Division, or the Teens of Distinction program. (I’d say more about these programs but this post is getting a bit long. Maybe I’ll return to them in a future post.)

I realized that I had been basing my thinking about embedded librarianship in public libraries upon the operations of the traditional reference desk. I wasn’t taking other activities into account. In fact, public libraries have had limited embedded programs in the past, and if LJ and the webinar participants are right, and the “collective impact” movement grows, we can expect them to have more.

The partnering and sharing ownership of outcomes that will take place will cement the library services to the community and raise perceptions of its value. (And as that happens, I think communities will be less likely to entertain the idea of outsourcing.)

So I’ve changed my mind. The reference desk is just the tip of the iceberg. Public libraries have a lot more going on than that. Public libraries and embedded librarianship have a lot to do with one another.

Embedded Librarians at the Symposium

March 1, 2012

Every year, the School of Library and Information Science hosts a day-long symposium. We call it the “Bridging the Spectrum” symposium, because we invite librarians working in all sectors to come and present their research and innovative practices. You can find more about the symposium at .

This year, we had two posters about embedded librarianship. One was my own, co-presented with my research assistant, Alison Makins. It summarizes the latest findings of the Models of Embedded Librarianship research project, funded by the Special Libraries Association.

The second was presented by one of our students, Trevor Riley. His poster was entitled, “‘Our Librarian’: Embedded Librarianship in Government”. While still a student, Trevor has become a successful and highly valued embedded librarian at a government agency here in the Washington DC area. In the poster, he shares insights based on his experiences, and offers his vision of the opportunities and future for embedded librarianship in the government sector.

I hope you’ll enjoy both posters.

Last but not least, you may also want to watch the video of the symposium keynote address by Maureen Sullivan, President-elect of the American Library Association. Her emphasis on librarians working out of the library, in the community, and in collaboration with others lends strong support (to me, at least) to the idea of embedded librarianship.