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Top 5 Articles on Embedded Librarianship

Compiled and annotated by Lindley Homol and Elena Bianco, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

As 2019 begins, our top 5 articles focus on embedded librarianship. The authors of the articles below provide overviews and examine best practices of embedded librarians at a variety of institutions. The articles examine how embedded librarians can integrate with programs, provide instruction, reference assistance and more while keeping scalability in mind.

Abrizah, A. and Inuwa, S. and Afiqah-Izzati, N. (2016). Systematic literature review informing LIS professionals on embedding librarianship roles. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(6), 636-643. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2016.08.010

Embedded librarianship currently receives renewed interest worldwide, seeks to bring the library and the librarian to users in their work environment. This paper identifies and documents embedding librarianship roles as reported in the Library and Information Science (LIS) literature. Method: A systematic literature review was conducted using methods promulgated by the Center for Reviews and Disseminations but adapted to the particular needs of this review. Various online databases were used. The search phrases used were: embedded librarianship, embedded librarians, blended librarian, integrated librarian, liaison librarian, information consultants, knowledge managers, and subject librarians. For inclusion, an article needed to contain a substantive description of the identified role and/or activity performed in embedding library practices. Papers that did not describe an actual (rather than proposed) embedding librarianship role were excluded. In total 102 articles were retrieved, 55 were found suitable for the review.

This article provides a comprehensive literature review of embedded librarianship roles. The various literature cited identified the roles of embedded librarians in academic libraries. Successful embedded librarianship incorporates functions such as information literacy instruction, reference services, assistance with research and other scholarly activities, distance and online learning as well as embedding in classrooms.

Connoly-Brown. M., Mears, K. & Johnson, M.E. (2016). Reference for the remote user through embedded librarianship. Reference Librarian, 57(3), 165-181. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2015.1131658

Embedded librarians serve an important role in assisting remote users. Despite the varying degrees of embeddedness, all maintain the goal of ensuring the same high-quality reference and instruction services that users have come to expect from the traditional library setting. Embedded librarians select and use technology that most effectively meets the needs of this unique user group. This technology can include the library Web site, course management systems, research guides, lecture and screen capture software, remote reference (including telephone, chat, and email), web conferencing, online survey tools, citation management, and social media.

This article provides an introduction to several different technologies librarians can use to support embedded reference and information literacy instruction for online and distance populations. One of the biggest challenges to embedded librarianship is scalability, so the authors helpfully provide both examples of how each technology could support an embedded librarian program and also important considerations to keep in mind. These tips should help new embedded librarians–or experienced embedded librarians interested in adopting a new technology–make an informed decision about which options are best for a given program.

Lysiak, L., Mross, E., & Raish, V. (2018). Across the campus and around the globe: Reaching online learners through high-level embedded librarianship. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 12(1-2), 13-34. https://doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2018.1502717

The authors discuss an embedded librarian pilot project undertaken at an R1 university with a large population of online learners. In this model, librarians aimed for a more engaged approach by working with faculty and instructional designers in three upper-division online undergraduate political science courses over two semesters. The embedded librarians took an asynchronous online course developed by their online learning librarian to prepare them for the embedded role, and they were each given a librarian role in their university’s learning management system. At the end of the semester, the pilot was assessed through survey responses from instructors and students, as well as student coursework. Although student-librarian interaction varied across the pilot, all instructors believed that the embedded librarians helped to improve their students’ papers and citations and would want librarians to be embedded in their courses in the future.

High-level embedded librarianship can be a way to provide equivalent library services and support for distance or online learners. Student engagement with the embedded librarian can be encouraged through the design of graded library activities, though this extra engagement should be weighed against the extra time involved in grading and the librarian’s workload. Due to the asynchronous nature of the many online courses, it is important to count students’ engagement with learning objects or course guides into assessment, rather than just traditional student reference interactions with a librarian.

Olesova, L. A., & Melville, A.D. (2017). Embedded library services: From cooperation to collaboration to enhance student learning in asynchronous online course. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 11(3-4), 287-299. https://doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2017.1404546

The authors present a case study of a long-running embedded role for a librarian with an online graduate course in instructional design. The embedded librarian was able to work cooperatively and then collaboratively with the course instructor to design the library interaction with the course, relying on a framework that considered learners, content design and organization, instructional strategies, issues in using the LMS for teaching and learning, and an evaluation of the embedded library instruction. Students’ performance on course assignments demonstrated a marked improvement in using citations, copyrighted materials, and reliable sources after the librarian was embedded.

This faculty-librarian collaboration was successful because it began with a cooperative approach in which the librarian determined which embedded resources to include. Once both the instructor and librarian are more aware of the resources students need, the relationship can evolve into a more collaborative one. Timing is key for embedding librarians into courses and should include significant planning time for outreach to online faculty and for the embedded librarian to develop or edit library content for the course.

Raish, V. (2018). Librarian role and embedded librarianship. Library Technology Reports, 54(5), 24-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/ltr.54n5

The article deals with the best practices derived from coordinating embedded librarians in the online environment regardless of school size and online presence based on the experiences of Penn State University. Such best practices included starting at the program level, valuing collaborations, and respecting one’s limits and expertise. The importance of asking questions related to the learning management system (LMS) is also cited.

It is important to recognize the strengths and limitations of the library in terms of being able to embed librarians in online courses. Recommended steps: Begin conversations with programs early. Discuss levels of access to courses, and determine which areas within a program’s curriculum are the best fit for embedded librarians. In addition, it is important to determine the interest and capacity of fellow librarians for embedding into programs. Assessments should be continuous with a focus on improvement.

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