Archive for January, 2014

MOOCs, the Gartner Hype Cycle, and Embedded Librarians

January 31, 2014

I’ve been preparing for the 6th Annual “Bridging the Spectrum” Symposium here at CUA, which took place today. My research assistant, Anita Kinney, and I gave a talk entitled “Embedded Librarians: Building Relationships in a Massively Open Educational System.” It’s a further development of the theme I spoke about in my webinar for the Amigos Library Council back in November.

One of the points we’re making has to do with the Gartner Group’s Hype Cycle. (If you’re not familiar with the Hype Cycle, see .)

We think that MOOCs need to mature, and go through a process in which we discard the hype around them and focus on what their real role is in education. We see an opportunity for librarians to influence their development by advocating for and figuring out how to integrate information skills in them.

Since all this has been on my mind, I was particularly interested in the release earlier this week of reports by Harvard and MIT about their MOOC experience. I haven’t read the full reports yet, but my reading of the summaries is that MOOCs seem to be meeting a need — but not as a replacement for formal education.

Moreover, in a news report on the studies by Campus Technology, interviewer Rhea Kelly places the same question we have asked: where are MOOCs on the Hype Cycle? And the answer from Harvard professor Andrew Ho is substantially the same as ours: somewhere between the peak of inflated expectations and the trough of disillusionment.

The bottom line for embedded librarians is this: we have an opportunity to influence the development of MOOCs as they mature. Now’s the time to lobby for a voice in your institution’s strategy!

Little Things Mean A Lot

January 5, 2014

One of the principles of embedded librarianship is that librarians are  important whether they work in libraries or not. In exploring the landscape of embedded librarianship, I’ve encountered embedded librarians who are part of library organizations (but spend a lot of time away from a library space), and others who are not part of a library organization at all.

My focus on this principle makes me hyper-sensitive to rhetoric that over-emphasizes the institutions and minimizes, de-values, and depersonalizes the professionals. I think this happens a lot, subtly, in our professional literature.

A case in point is the headline “Libraries Applaud Dismissal of Google Book Search Case” on p. 10 of the Jan-Feb 2014 issue of American Libraries. Why “Libraries” and not “Librarians”? The source of the applause mentioned in the article is the Library Copyright Alliance, a coalition of ALA, ACRL, and the Association of Research Libraries. The first two of these three have individual, not institutional members. The only person quoted in the article, other than the judge, is ALA President Barbara Stripling, who is presumably speaking for all those individual members.

So, again, why not “Librarians Applaud …”? Substituting the institutions for us professionals lends subtle credence to the old stereotype of librarians a self-effacing mice, and implies that our opinions as professionals don’t count, only our institutional identities count.

On the positive side, a better balance is struck in Barbara Stripling’s President’s message in the same American Libraries issue, p. 6. It’s entitled “Advocating for School Librarians: The Peril and Promise of School Libraries.” As the title implies, it addresses both the need for professional teacher-librarians, and the role of the library as space in the educational setting.

Getting this balance right is critical. Emphasize only “libraries” and we’ll get just rooms full of books (and maybe computers), passively administered, possibly by staff members who lack the professional skills to embed themselves and their resources into the educational mission. Such libraries won’t deliver value, and will play into the hands of those who might like to cut them out altogether. Instead, we need skilled and motivated professionals who can demonstrate in their work day to day why  they are essential to the education of our children, and that cutting them out jeopardizes our future as a society.

(By the way, you can read both these articles and more at .)

New Year’s Resolutions and Reflections

January 3, 2014

Generally, I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog recently, though, and I’m inclined to make an exception and articulate a couple resolutions for The Embedded Librarian for 2014.

First, I resolve to publish more frequently. This is the standard kind of “I resolve to be a better person” resolution. I am always trying and wishing to publish more frequently. Nothing new in this. And by the way, don’t worry about being inundated. I doubt I’ll ratchet up as high as once a week. I’ll aim for 2-3 times a month instead of 1-2. Achieving this, however, may depend on resolution 2:

Second, I resolve to broaden the scope of the blog. While not losing sight of embedded librarianship, and its importance for the profession, I’d like to comment on wider issues of librarianship that may not always relate directly to the embedded model.

There are several reasons for Resolution 2, growing out of my reflection on the blog’s history, the progress of embedded librarianship, and what’s going on in the field these days:

1. Embedded librarianship is maturing. I won’t say it’s mature, but maturing. There’s still work to do in spreading the word among librarians. Not everyone “gets it” who needs to “get it” – but we’ve made lots of progress. We’ve begun to see a proliferation of books and webinars about the embedded model. I’ve been heartened to have more companions in the work of writing about, talking about, and doing embedded librarianship. Without attempting a review of the past year, I’ll just note that there’ve been several books either published, or announced and about to be released. I used to try to read everything that was published on the topic, and that’s getting harder and harder to do. And as the embedded model becomes more widely known, it’s time to work more on putting it in context.

2. The tag line of the blog says, “exploring new, embedded roles for librarians in organizations of all types”. I think the time has come to place more emphasis on “new roles”. I’ve come to realize more clearly that not only the “where” and “how” of librarianship have to change – the “what we do” has to change as well. It’s not enough to think we can perform the same tasks as we embed ourselves. Our skill sets and our contributions will change as well. Others are writing about some of these changes. I’d like to comment on new skills and new roles as they relate to the embedded model.

3. Related to the previous comment, I’m a bit frustrated by what I see as the over-emphasis on libraries as institutions and the absence of discussing librarians as professionals in our literature. We need a better balance, more attention to us as professionals, and not only the institutions in which many of us happen to work. Maybe my contributions can help provide that balance.

So, those are my resolutions and reflections as we enter 2014. The blog and the concept of embedded librarianship have come a long way since I started the blog six and a half years ago. With this refresh, I hope to keep things going for at least another 6 and a half!