Archive for January, 2015

Thank You, ACRL!

January 31, 2015

A question that always comes up in discussions of embedded librarianship is, does it work? That is, does it result in improved learning outcomes for students, and / or other improvements in achieving the institution’s mission and goals. Some small-scale assessments and a fair number of positive anecdotes have been published before, but we’ve lacked a large-scale, authoritative study.

Until now.

The Association of College & Research Libraries has just released a report that helps a lot in answering that question. “Academic Library Contributions to Student Success: Documented Practices from the Field”, by Karen Brown and Kara J. Malenfant, is the report of a massive study in which over 70 North American academic libraries participated. If you’re interested in academic libraries, assessment of library services, or both, it’s a must-read.

Here are three of eight project findings listed in the Executive Summary, p. 1-2:

“(3) Students who receive library instruction as part of their courses achieve higher grades and demonstrate better information literacy competencies than students who do not receive course-related library instruction.

(7) Multiple library instruction session or activities in connection with a course are more effective than one-shot instruction sessions.

(8) Collaborative instructional activities and services between the library and other campus units … promote student learning and success.”

These findings beg the question, how do you achieve the ability to integrate instruction into courses, break out of the superficial one-shot approach, and build collaborations across campus?

While there are various options and approaches, my suggestion would be to adopt the embedded service model. It’s by enabling librarians to get out of the library, build relationships, and adopt common tactics with others to achieve institutional goals, that we open up these opportunities for ourselves.

So thank you ACRL, Drs. Brown and Malenfant, for this study!

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Embedded Who?

January 27, 2015

Some say librarians got the “embedding” idea from journalists. Maybe, maybe not. But in any case, the principle appears to be spreading. Witness this “Hachette Book Group CIO Ralph Munsen wants to move IT to the front office. Early this month, he plans to start embedding IT analysts throughout the firm …”. This comes from the Wall Street Journal’s CIO blog, “Publisher Hachette Plans to Embed IT Across the Business”, by Steven Norton, Jan. 6,  http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/ .

To be sure, there are some differences between the Hachette program and what I advocate for librarians, like their plan to force a 6-month rotation cycle.  However, the general idea and the goal are very similar: to supersede transactional processes with strong, collaborative working relationships, shared understanding, and commitment to organizational goals.

It’s another sign that smart organizational leaders are recognizing the value of cognitively diverse, cross-functional teams. It also reminds us that embedding is not just for librarians; it represents a fundamental shift in organizational structure. Embedded librarians should take heart that what they’re doing is consistent with the larger trend.