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How would you define the term “embedded librarian” ?

July 19, 2013

The librarians at The University of Scranton’s Weinberg Memorial Library are collaborating with faculty in the Computing Sciences and Communication Departments to plan the curriculum for a new course INTD 184 – Elequentia Perfecta. We will be teaching two sessions of information literacy and facilitating a research lab for the course. We have created a Research Guide for the course and will be listed as a Course Assistant with the Title of Librarian in the ANGEL component of the course. We will also be involved in the assessment of the course.

Because of this collaboration we have been having a conversation amongst ourselves about what it means to be an embedded librarian.  One librarian thinks the notion of embedded is a two-way street, “myself as the librarian being fully cognizant of both the expectations of the professor and the interpretations students might make of assignments. . . You are a tour guide who is helping them to navigate the road to the destination. You need to know where they might run into problems and need sign posts. . .”

In her article, “The embedded librarian: strategic campus collaborations,” which was published in 2004, Barbara Dewey defines the term “embedded librarian.”

The metaphor of “embedded librarian” is inspired by the recent phenomenon of embedding journalists into various military sectors during the Iraq war and its aftermath. The concept of embedding implies a more comprehensive integration of one group with another to the extent that the group seeking to integrate is experiencing and observing, as nearly as possible, the daily life of the primary group. Embedding requires more direct and purposeful interaction than acting in parallel with another person, group, or activity. Overt purposefulness makes embedding an appropriate definition of the most comprehensive collaborations for librarians in the higher education community.

Dewey gives examples of various ways that librarians can collaborate across the university campus, and states that,

“The embedded librarian, who is truly integrated into the academic, administrative, athletic, cultural, research, teaching and learning arenas of the university, provides quality and depth to the total campus experience.”

“To be truly integrated throughout the teaching and learning activities of our campuses is the core of being a truly embedded librarian.”

Matthew Brower, a Business Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Colorado at Boulder, describes the characteristics of embedded librarianship in the first chapter of Embedded librarians: moving beyond one-shot instruction. According to Brower, they

–        collaborate with their users, e.g. incorporating information literacy into class assignments, partnering to provide specialized research assistance to students over a semester, helping a faculty member find resources supporting their research

–        form partnerships on the department and campus level

–        provide needs based services

–        offer convenient and user-friendly services outside of library settings

–        become immersed in the culture and spaces of users

–        understand the discipline including the culture and research habits of their users

How would you define the term “embedded librarian” ? Let’s continue the conversation…

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