Posts Tagged ‘Embedded librarianship’

How I Spent My Summer …

August 7, 2011

I know summer still has a way to go, here in the Northern Hemisphere, but already I am thinking about the Fall Semester which begins in 3 weeks.

Notice I didn’t end the title of this posting with “Vacation”. This summer hasn’t been a vacation, but it has been fun, a lot of work, and above all, interesting. I spent June making research visits to six organizations, three in higher education and three in the private/corporate sector. I recorded 17 hours of in-person interviews and conducted other interviews by phone.

Naturally, then, I spent much of July writing all that up into case study reports that I hope to publish later this year. (I have one more to do plus further editing and correcting.)

I’m still sorting out in my mind what the big lessons were that I want to write about, but a couple of the points that stuck with me make a kind of good news / bad news story.

The good news is that these six institutions all have strong, successful embedded librarianship programs, and they are getting stronger. The librarians are having more influence and contributing more to achieving organizational goals — be they student learning objectives in higher education or business initiatives in the private sector.

The bad news, given the employment situation in librarianship and the U.S. economy as a whole, is that the growth in embedded librarianship is taking place largely by redirecting staff from traditional work to new roles and responsibilities. Some of the organizations I visited have added a few staff, but others have accomplished their embedded initiatives entirely by transitioning staff to new roles.

I realize this is what has to happen. Librarians, like everyone else, have to redirect the resources we have to the uses that are most productive. We have to achieve more with what we have. But I hope that down the road we’ll see more organizations hiring more librarians to pursue the opportunities that we all know are out there.

Meanwhile, my hat is off to the managers and staff of the organizations I visited. They are doing a great job with difficult challenges. Without exception, they were positive, energetic, engaged, effective. I look forward to sharing more details of what they are doing in the not too distant future.


A Commercial

July 22, 2011

I’m delighted to report that I’ve signed up to do a workshop on embedded librarianship for Websearch University, in Washington DC on Sunday, October 2. It will be a half-day workshop, 9 a.m. to noon, entitled “Websearch Meets Embedded Librarianship”.

Updated from a workshop I’ve given several times previously, it will explore what embedded librarianship is, summarize the common threads of success, and offer some techniques you can use whether you’re just getting started or looking to strengthen an initiative that’s already well underway.

If you’re coming to Websearch U, I hope you’ll join me — or maybe this will be your reason to attend! Either way, I hope to see you there.

Details are at .

Another Definition of “Embedded”

July 9, 2011

Last week, I finished reading “Embedded Librarians: Moving Beyond One-Shot Instruction”, the collection of essays edited by Cass Kvenild and Kaijsa Calkins, which I highlighted back on June 6.

The last essay in the collection contains a succinct definition of “embedded” that I really like. The essay is “Embedded Librarianship at the Claremont Colleges”, by Jezmynne Dene. Here’s what she says (p. 225): “We chose to define an embedded librarian as ‘an integral part to the whole,’ based on the geological definition of an embedded element.”

I think that’s exactly right. “An integral part to the whole.” An element without which the whole could not be what it is.

The level of my own geological knowledge being zero, I never heard that definition before. I think it says what I’ve been trying to say, much better than I’ve been able to express it. From now on, when I’m asked what embedded librarianship means, I’ll say it means that librarians become integral parts to the units and groups in which they work.

Thanks Jezmynne!

Embedded Librarianship at the SLA Conference, Part 2

June 18, 2011

I may be getting to the point at which I process everything I read or hear against an “embedded librarianship” filter: how does it relate to embedded librarianship? That’s a bit scary. Still, it did seem to me that the keynote speakers at the SLA Conference, while they certainly weren’t addressing embedded librarianship, made points that align well.

Take Tom Friedman, the opening keynote speaker. Friedman continues to develop his “World is Flat” theme of globalization. Among many other points (I won’t try to repeat them all) he emphasized the importance of imagination and creativity in adding value — in this echoing Daniel Pink, whom he cited. One way to generate creative ideas, he noted is to apply concepts from one domain to another. I think that’s what embedded librarians do: take their knowledge of information and apply it within the domain of the information users they work with. The synthesis achieved through their collaboration is what adds value to the organization — and makes them non-routine, unique contributors.

The day after Friedman spoke, the same point was approached from a different angle by KM expert Lawrence Prusak. His central thesis, ironically for someone known for his KM work, was that knowledge isn’t as important as judgment. He proceeded to discuss factors that lead to good judgment in organizations. Among them: the application of multiple forms of knowledge, the application of relevant cognitive diversity, and the democratization of knowledge. Again, filtered through the idea of embedded librarianship, these are all ways in which the inclusion of librarians in problem-solving teams and processes adds strength and capability. Traditionally, organizations haven’t optimized the value of librarians, because they’ve kept us in a box called the library. But librarians bring different knowledge, different perceptual frames and problem-solving approaches, and as we integrate into the organization (or embed ourselves) we are able to apply what we know and how we think in new ways.

The closing keynote speaker was James Kane, whose theme was Loyalty: what it is and how to engender it. Briefly, Kane asserts that loyalty is created out of trust, shared purpose, and a sense of belonging. Without going into too much detail, I’d say that these attributes provide a good description of the relationship of a successful embedded librarian with the information user group: there’s trust in one another’s capability and commitment; a shared commitment to the purpose of the team; and a network of strong social relationships that cement the business relationship.

All in all, I thought this year’s SLA Conference was strong on substance in many ways — not the least in the  presentations of these speakers. And I was encouraged by the consistency between the characteristics of embedded librarianship and the principles that they articulated.

Embedded Librarianship at the SLA Conference, Part 1

June 16, 2011

I’ve just returned from the Special Libraries Association annual conference in Philadelphia, where the centerpiece for embedded librarians was a panel organized by the Military Librarians Division. The panel featured Michael Moore, of the MITRE Corporation, who spoke about his embedded work for the corporation’s Systems Engineering Practice Office (SEPO), and Rachel Kingcade, who described her approach to embedded information literacy instruction at the US Marine Corps Research Library.

Michael first wrote about his work in an article published in Information Outlook in 2006, so it’s great to see that his embedded role is continuing strong. Michael emphasized the themes of Connections (both connections with his SEPO colleagues and his ability to help SEPO connect with others in the corporation); Energy (identifying passions, issues, and needs of the organization, and addressing them); and Communication (the criticality of multiple modes and purposes of communication to foster a strong embedded role).

Rachel gave the audience a vivid example of customizing her information literacy instruction to her audience — Marine Corps officers. (A previous presentation by Rachel is available here .)

I also provided some comments about the key elements of embedded librarianship and the factors that differentiate it from traditional library services.

The session was well attended — an overflow crowd well above the 60 seats in the room — and very warmly received.

I’ll post more, with some impressions of other sessions and themes that related to embedded librarianship, tomorrow.