What I’m Reading Now

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What I’m reading now is a welcome addition to the literature of embedded librarianship: a new book from the Association of College and Research Libraries, entitled “Virtually Embedded: The Librarian in an Online Environment”, edited by Elizabeth Leonard and Erin McCaffrey.

(Full disclosure: I wrote the Foreword.)

Here’s my favorite passage from the chapters I read today. It comes from the chapter “Embedded Librarians in a Military Distance Education Program”, which describes the embedded librarianship program for distance learning at the U.S. Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC), in Norfolk, Virginia. Authors Catrina Whited, Bridget Powell, and Gail Nicula write:

“…a colleague in another public higher-education institution made this comment: ‘We treat all of our students equally. They all get the same services.’ This philosophy was antithetical to the JFSC [Joint Forces Staff College] library goal …”

Here, the authors have pointed out a common misunderstanding among well-meaning librarians. In seeking to fulfill the American Library Association ethical mandate to provide the “highest level of service to all”, they wind up providing “the same services.” They fail to recognize that needs are different, so that “the highest level” means customizing.

But to customize our services and meet the ethical mandate most effectively, we have to understand our communities. And to understand them, we have to build relationships with them, as we work beside them. And that’s the essence of embedded librarianship.

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