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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.

Top 5 Articles on Reference Services & Information Literacy, July-September, 2018

Compiled and annotated by Kim Wobick and Beth Tumbleson, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

Fall is here, the semester has begun and our thoughts revolve around reference and information literacy! These articles report on some great ideas and research on different ways to meet with students and raise awareness of your library’s resources that you can try out.

Bezet, A., Duncan, T., & Litvin, K. (2018). Implementation and evaluation of online, synchronous research consultations for graduate students. Library Hi Tech News.

Librarians at Northcentral University (NCU) identified the opportunity to assess their online synchronous research consultations for students, to both distinguish these consultations as a distinct library service as well as to measure the impact of these consultations on students’ learning and success. Almost 100% of the research consultations are provided to students at the graduate and doctoral level, with students actively working on their dissertations. Users requesting this type of appointment fill out a form on the library web site, with the option to choose a specific librarians. It is also required that all students view or attend the Searching 101 workshop before the appointment, so that the focus of the meeting is more advanced searching techniques. To assess the quality of the instruction and value of the information in these sessions, a post-survey was sent to both the student and their dissertation chair. The results of these surveys indicated high levels of satisfaction from both the student and faculty members.



Top 5 Articles on Accessibility, April – June, 2018

Compiled and annotated by Lindley Homol, Stephanie Weiss, and Denyse Rodrigues

Happy spring/early summer! It is the time of year many of us work on projects that take a bit more time and thought than typically available during the fall and winter terms. To inspire your work, we offer you a selection of articles on the accessibility of library tutorials, library websites, learning environments, and accessibility conversion processes for library collections.


Clossen, A., & Proces, P. (2017). Rating the accessibility of library tutorials from leading research universities. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17(4), 803–823. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/672185

The authors selected a random sample of public-facing library tutorial materials from 71 public universities with the Carnegie Classification “Highest Research Activity” or R1. They describe the state of accessibility of these materials and identify common pitfalls in library-related accessible design. The team classified the materials into two categories – videos and web-based tutorials (continuous play vs. click-through) – and assessed them using a rubric focused on usability from the perspective of a disabled person. The team manually evaluated videos for five elements – type, captions, screen-audio coordination, link context, and length. With the help of two tools, AInspector and Functional Accessibility Evaluator, they evaluated web-based tutorials for six elements – headings, alternative text for images, skip-to-content links, tables, text chunking, and findability. Although guides such as Springhare’s LibGuides and similar in-house creations were excluded, the authors suggest that such reviews would be welcome additions to the literature.



Top 5 Articles on Teaching and Learning, January – March 2018

Compiled and annotated by Hui-Fen Chang and Beth Tumbleson.

Abrizah, A., I., Samaila, & Afiqah-Izzati, N. (2016). Systematic literature review informing LIS professionals on embedding librarianship roles. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(6), 636–643. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2016.08.010

The authors presented a systematic literature review of LIS literature on the roles of embedded librarianship.  Fifty-six articles were selected for review.  A significant proportion of the literature reported embedded librarians’ experiences in distance and online learning, including offering access to electronic resources and virtual reference services, conducting online information literacy instruction, monitoring a discussion board, among other services. Embedded librarians also played an important role in information literacy instruction, in particular, the librarians’ partnership with academic departments to design writing assignments.  Several papers reported academic librarians serving as collaborators with the academic faculty on research projects.


This paper offers an excellent reference list of selected articles on embedded librarianship. The various roles reported in this paper offer valuable insights to inform practicing academic librarians who are considering embedding practices. This paper also serves as an example of using a systemic literature review as a method in analyzing LIS literature, and thus is recommended to those who are interested in using the same method to conduct a literature review.


Becnel, Kim, M., Robin A., & Pope, Jon C. (2016). Powerful Partnerships: The worth of embedding masters level library science students in undergraduate classes. Journal of Education for Library & Information Science57(1), 31-42. doi:10.12783/issn.2328-2967/57/1/3

All three authors teach at Appalachian State University, NC and were involved in a teaching and learning LMS embedded librarianship project. Online library science graduate students, preparing to be school media specialists or public librarians, embedded in undergraduate composition classes in Moodle for six weeks.  During that time, they provided reference and information literacy instruction to five students each.  Composition undergraduates needed six to eight sources for an essay assignment, while the LIS students needed to build 2 bibliographic instruction tools and provide reference services.  The LIS students gained real-world experience while the control group of graduate students relied on role play.



Top 5 Articles about OER

by Erin Cassity and Rebecca Renirie

Happy New Year! As open educational resources (OERs) continue to gain traction in distance and online education, we chose to take a look at the top five recent articles covering these resources from a library perspective. This is an emerging topic, so we expect to see much more research exploring OERs in distance librarianship in 2018.

As a reminder, to view the entire bibliography the Research and Publications Committee has assembled so far (2014 to present), please visit our Zotero library.


Elliott, C., & Fabbro, E. (2015). The Open Library at AU (Athabasca University): Supporting open access and open educational resources. Open Praxis, 7(2), 133-140.

Librarians at Athabasca University (AU), an institution in Canada that focuses on online and distance education, describe how they developed a stand-alone open-content website called The Open Library. The article begins with an introduction on openness in higher education, including the use of open access materials, OERs, and the advent of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). MOOC users in particular, who generally do not have a login to the institution hosting the course, would greatly benefit from a library website that is both easy to navigate and has resources accessible to them. The librarians would benefit from this arrangement as well, not only because of the cost savings of using open and free materials, but also in the opportunities to teach information literacy to users – to stress to both faculty and students the need to analyze and evaluate the resources they find.

To that end, librarians created a website distinct from the main library homepage featuring content that was exclusively open or free, and could be used by any user whether affiliated with AU or not. As the main library site was based on a modular display and tagging system, this Open Library site was able to exist as a sub-site of the main page that uses only that content tagged as “open” (the main website also contains the library’s licensed content). In addition, the website features not only open and free resources but tutorials instructing users in finding and using these materials. At the time this article was published the site was still being created, so it may look very different today; however, providing not only access to OERs but creating an entire website based around them shows the library’s dedication to helping its distance students succeed and reducing the cost of research materials.


  • The use of open and free resources helps not only students of an institution, but also anyone out there who would like to learn.
  • Use faculty suggestions for adding open and free content to a library’s suite of resources, to be sure it is aligned with course goals.
  • Beyond simply providing a list of resources for students to use, adequate description of those resources and other metadata is essential both for discoverability of the content and its evaluation by users.
  • Information literacy instruction matters with OERs, to help users find the resources they need and to understand what to look for in a quality source.

Miller, R., & Homol, L. (2016). Building an online curriculum based on OERs: The library’s role. Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning, 10(3-4), 349-359. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2016.1223957

This article discusses a project from University of Maryland University College (UMUC), in which librarians took part in a team process to embed OERs and library materials into the undergraduate curriculum. (more…)

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