About Dave Shumaker

David Shumaker has served as clinical associate professor at the School of Library and Information Science, Catholic University of America, since August 2006. Dave’s teaching interests include the present and future roles of librarians in society, the management of libraries and information services, marketing, information systems, and library public services. His research and writing explore the changing roles of librarians in organizations of all types. He and his co-investigator, Mary Talley, were awarded the 2007 Special Libraries Association (SLA) Research Grant for their project, Models of Embedded Librarianship. Project documentation is available on the SLA website, and related articles have been published in Library Journal, Reference & User Services Quarterly, and Information Outlook. Dave is a frequent speaker and panelist on embedded librarianship.

Author Archive | Dave Shumaker

Embedded Librarianship in the SLA Conference Program

It was pretty hard to find embedded librarianship on the formal Special Libraries Association conference program this year. There weren’t any programs at all with “embedded” in the title. Apart from my contributed paper (co-authored with my research assistant Alison Makins) I don’t know of any individual presentations about embedded librarianship at all.

Ruminating on this odd gap in the program, I went to visit two poster sessions this evening, and I found that embedded librarianship is alive and well among SLA members after all!

First I went to the All Sciences poster session. The first three posters I studied were related to embedded librarianship, even though none used the term. Two presented initiatives to embed information literacy instruction – one in a First Year Experience program, the other in a science laboratory course. The latter was especially exciting because the initiative included assessments of student work before and after the librarian got involved in the course – with a dramatic jump in student performance. The third was about an innovative effort – still in progress – by a liaison librarian to understand how research lab teams seek and use information, and to become more “embedded” (my term, not hers) in the research process. This is much like what I advocated to the OCLC Research Forum last month, so I was excited to talk with an academic librarian who had already begun.

Next I went across the hall to the room where the joint poster session of social sciences and humanities groups was in progress. There, I encountered yet another initiative in which librarians are collaborating on different development initiatives of a social science professor and his graduate assistants.

Besides the fact that these posters were great examples of innovative embedded initiatives, a couple points struck me. First, all these posters, and most of the others in these sessions, came from academic librarians. I understand the reasons for this, but I wish we could get more contributions from the corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors. We need to hear stories from all sectors! Second, all these librarians knew the term “embedded librarianship”, but none identified what they were doing as fitting it. I think of embedded librarianship as a continuum, not an “either-or” condition, and I think all these initiatives relate well to the embedded model. I think we need to continue developing our consciousness about the process of embedding: developing relationships; sharing responsibility for team goals (not library goals); and delivering highly customized, high-value, sophisticated contributions. If you’re doing that, you’re somewhere on that continuum of embeddedness.

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Signing and Learning

I had the pleasure of signing copies of The Embedded Librarian for purchasers at the Special Libraries Association Conference.  And while it was truly a pleasure, it was even more, because it was also a great learning opportunity.

The pace was perfect. I was busy almost continuously for the entire 45 minutes, but it wasn’t rushed. There wasn’t a line of people waiting so I had a chance to talk with everyone who approached – and that’s how I learned so much.

For example, there was a librarian for a major entertainment company, looking at the embedded model as a way to take a successful library operation to the next level of value … and the research institute library manager who needs to assess the readiness of the institute – both librarians and information users – in order to develop a strategy for piloting the embedded model. I talked with a law firm librarian embedded with a practice group of the firm about how her work is evaluated (it’s not, in any regular, formal way), and with the library director of a medical research institute who felt her librarians’ embedded relationships could be made stronger than they are now.

Each one of these librarians gave me new insights. They reinforced my belief that embedded librarianship has to be tailored to the organizational context and culture. However, the more stories we share, the better the chance that someone else’s experience will give us clues about what to do in our own situation. I’ve tried to share as many stories as I could in the book, and I hope to go on sharing them in the Embedded Librarian blog.

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Embedded Librarianship: It’s Everywhere!

It may just be my own peculiar perspective, but it sure seems like embedded librarianship is everywhere these days! This has been going on since the spring and now well into the summer. Here’s what’s unfolded so far:

  • In March, Library Journal offered a webinar on the opportunities for public librarians to form partnerships with other organizations to achieve positive community outcomes – building on a series of articles they’ve run on the same topic.
  • In April, the Texas Library Association conference featured posters from academic and school librarians on embedding in the instructional mission of the institution, including one from the University of Houston libraries on a partnership with the Athletic Department to provide information literacy instruction and counseling to student athletes, and another from a middle school librarian who is deeply engaged in collaborating with classroom teachers.
  • In May, the Medical Library Association continued its longstanding commitment to embedded librarianship with a meeting of its Informationist Special Interest Group.
  • In June, the OCLC Research Forum meeting in Philadelphia featured a lively panel and discussion on opportunities for embedded academic librarians to contribute to the research mission of their universities.
  • In July, the Special Libraries Association and the American Association of Law Libraries have back-to-back programs in consecutive weeks on the topic.

I’m hoping that my book, The Embedded Librarian, will help everyone interested in this growing phenomenon, and serve as a resource for librarians of all types to develop and sustain it in their own settings. The most important thing about embedded librarianship, of course, is that it unlocks the potential of librarians to contribute more fully to the mission of their organizations. But another point is important, too. The breadth of embedded initiatives – in diverse public, school, academic, and specialized libraries – highlights the fundamental unifying principles of librarianship, which we too often have lost sight of, in our focus on working within our own institutions. I think we will all be stronger if we can emphasize the fundamental professional characteristics we hold in common.


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