Author Archive

Self-Directed Work (Why Embedded Librarians Have More Fun…)

October 1, 2009

Here are a few examples of how we see embedded librarians direct the work they perform as a result of the relationships they build. Each is from our research on embedded programs and each shows just how important relationship- building is in expanding roles and value….and fun, too.

In a small academic institution, a professional is hired to expand outreach to faculty and students; but isn’t given any strategies, or even guidelines, to achieve her goals. What does she do? Volunteers to serve on a newly formed task force to establish a required, freshman seminar. She builds relationships (and credibility) with faculty members on the committee and is able to introduce embedded information literacy instruction into the new freshman class.

An embedded professional in a science-based company insists to a business acquisitions team that she can’t work on the project if she doesn’t “have a seat at the table” with the project leaders during their teleconferencing meetings. She gets her seat and goes on to institute a “best practice” for routinely including an embedded professional on all business acquisition projects.

Sometimes the opportunities embedded librarians discover are outside the traditional role of an information service provider. Information professional we know is embedded in both a scientific institute and a science academic department on the campus of a major university. She has taken on the role of organizer for the institute’s frequent seminars, has since strengthened the seminar offerings (not to mention her own visibility and credibility). Now, she’s frequently invited to participate in new initiatives and grants and is chair of the institute’s annual symposium for 2010.

This same professional initiated her relationship with the academic department by attending faculty meetings and presenting her library’s liaison program. From there she was invited to attend the department’s Journal Club and went on to actively contribute to the faculty’s discussion of important scholarly articles. Today, she provides bioinformatics instruction and is considered a member of the department’s faculty. Not a bad return on the initial effort of attending faculty meetings.

I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the picture. Actually, you can help us enlarge the picture. Tell us some of your stories about building-relationships and directing the path our work has taken as an embedded librarian.


Do Embedded Librarians Have More Fun….cont.

September 30, 2009

Are embedded librarians really more satisfied in their jobs than other information professionals?  I’ve asked the question and here’s a qualified answer:  yes, we believe so.   Our research didn’t include a study of job satisfaction levels among embedded and non-embedded librarians.  Job satisfaction is certainly not exclusive to embedded librarians; plenty of information professionals of all types love their roles and their jobs.   But, we continually observe the unique role of an embedded librarian leading to an extraordinary sense of job satisfaction.    Here are some of the reasons why.

Embedded librarians are great at relationship-building.  Our  research shows embedded librarians engaging in multiple interactions with customer groups  – interactions they are as likely to initiate as the customer  – that give them an intimate knowledge of the group’s work and related challenges.   We see them regularly participating in their customers’ work meetings, taking advantage of the same learning opportunities, and meeting with all levels of group members to discuss challenges and solutions.  These are game-changing tactics that put embedded librarians on the ground with their customer groups  – and in a very advantageous position.

This may all sound very exciting, but how does it translate into greater job satisfaction?  When embedded librarians drive interactions with their customers, they change the dynamics of the service provider and customer roles –  and, put themselves in a position to control more of the work they perform.  What we’ve witnessed is a cycle in which the closer embedded librarians work with a group, the more they know; the more they know, the more they can take part in the group’s conversation; and the more they actively participate in the conversation, the easier it is to spot opportunities to apply their skills and expertise to problem solving.  This is truly expanding your own capabilities and directing your own work.

What is job satisfaction about if it isn’t the ability to direct your work and expand into more interesting, challenging and responsible roles?

(In my next post, I’ll give some real-life examples of how embedded librarians are directing and developing their own work.)

Do Embedded Librarians Have More Fun?

August 21, 2009

Take a look at the slides from my presentation as part of a panel for the program, “The New Face of the Special Librarian: Embedded Librarians,” at the SLA Conference this summer and see what you think  It’s a light-hearted take on what we think is an important factor in being an embedded librarian – job satisfaction.

SLA2009_Do Embedded Librarians Have More Fun?

PDF Version

Science Fiction Writers, Homeland Security and Embedded Librarians?

June 1, 2009

As an avid science fiction reader (starting at age 10 with Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars), I was caught by a headline in Friday, May 22nd’s Washington Post  that read “U.S. Mission for Sci-Fi Writers: Imagine That.”  Reading it, I kept seeing interesting parallels between what Homeland Security is doing to get researchers to think more creatively and what one innovative institution is doing to embed librarians in an academic program.   

Homeland Security introduced sci-fi writers to their conference participants (mostly researchers) to help them imagine future risks and solutions.  Interacting with the sci-fi writers pushed the researchers outside their comfort zone and away from their datasets into a new a new territory of possibilities.

Dave and I recently visited an academic institution with a dynamic embedded program that uses a not-so-different technique to introduce embedded instructional services.   

This university mixes students and faculty from the soft and hard sciences on teams to tackle an issue facing a local population (50% of the projects are in foreign countries).  The success of student/faculty teams depends on well-crafted project proposals with context-dependent, imaginative, approaches. Research in unfamiliar areas is critical to understand the culture, the problem, and what might and might not work.  Successful proposals are followed by onsite implementation.  One project of these dealt with seasonal flooding and destruction in Africa and proposed an effective dam constructed of old tires.   

Everyone is working outside their own disciplines; everyone is outside their comfort zone.   

Into this mix comes an embedded librarian, incorporated as a team member, briefed on all project team issues.  Like the science fiction writers at the conference, the librarian opens up new worlds to the students.  The librarian introduces new research strategies, new, resources, and new information – leading the teams to broader perspectives.  Students learn how to research in unfamiliar areas, use the literature and, finally, to be self-sufficient researchers in the field.   

Pushing everyone outside their comfort zone and onto inter-disciplinary teams facilitates acceptance of the embedded librarian as a project team member and an integral part of the curriculum.   

The university has metrics to show the benefit from working with a librarian at this level.  Students on project teams that included an embedded librarian perform significantly better in researching and analyzing data than those on teams without these innovative members.  The Dean of the program believes the work of the embedded librarians has made the difference.