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.