The Life And Times Of An Embedded Librarian Outline
The Life and Times of an Embedded Librarian Galadriel Chilton
o What is an embedded librarian?
o What I did and what my colleague Jen Holman is doing.
o An embedded librarian: Why or why not?
o Tools for embedding
o Your thoughts & questions
What is an embedded librarian?
It depends on who is embedding…
Inspired by the phenomenon of embedded journalists during the
Iraq war, but embedded librarianship has taken on a variety of
forms. First I‟ll give you a few examples of embedded
librarianship, and then explain what I did.
In 2004, Steven Bell and John Shank proposed the concept of a
„blended librarian‟ as a “blueprint for redefining the teaching and
learning role of academic librarians” (p. 372) by taking skills of
traditional librarianship and blending them with the tools and
skills of an information technologist‟s hardware/software abilities
and an instructional designer‟s “ability to apply technology
appropriately in the teaching-learning process” (p. 373).
Barbara Dewey from the University of Tennessee and Knoxville
describes embedded librarianship as a concept that
“…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” (6).
In her article, Dewey sees embedded librarianship as a means
through which academic librarians become more integrally
involved in strategic campus development and growth: through
faculty senate, strategic planning committees, space/campus
design involvement, collaboration with faculty research, etc.
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However, in most academic libraries, the embedded librarians
tend to support information literacy instruction and to virtually
embed, focusing on support of distance and online students,
students who were missing campus info lit sessions.
I‟ve also read about „field librarians‟ or embedded librarians that
go to the physical space of their users to provide support.
In Health Science Libraries, embedded librarians appear to be
known as “informationists” and provide medical staff w/
research/reference support in a clinical setting for specific
medical teams. NIH began using this model in 2004.
At the University of Rhode Island, Pulaski Technical College, and
the Community College of Vermont, embedded librarians are
embedded librarians provide online students with library
instruction experiences that were not previously available.
Though not referred to explicitly as an embedded librarian
program, librarians at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar
have a service objective to “infiltrate the curriculum in such a
way that librarians become part of the student and faculty
workflow”. In this example, one librarian was the liaison for a
single course and the librarian met with at least one student from
the students‟ working group each week at the
recommendation/endorsement of the professor.
At Penn State, Erie, Russell Hall‟s experience as an embedded
librarian for a freshmen speech class is completely face2face. He
attended every class session and provided two library instruction
sessions: one on library databases and one on web evaluation.
At Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire, embedded librarian
Michael Hearn teaches 3.5 information literacy sessions and grades
students‟ bibliographies for a general education English course.
For me, being an embedded librarian is a means of significantly
enhancing information literacy instruction and incorporates
Dewey‟s definition as well as Bell and Shank‟s concept of a
blended librarian. I‟m blending librarianship as well as technology
and teaching skills, and also blending/embedding into the
student-teacher interactions that occur during a semester.
What I Did and What My Colleague Jen Holman is Doing
First I‟ll give you a little background:
UW-L is located in La Crosse, Wisconsin; population 52,000
2,305 first year students came to UW-L in fall 2008
79% of these students were in the top 25% of their class
Description of CST 110: Public Oral Communication
Required element of UW-L‟s General Education Curriculum
# of CST110 sections: 46 in Fall 2007; 36 in Spring 2008. 43 in
Fall 2008; 37 in Spring 2009.
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The Communication Studies Dept. has a history of
collaboration with the library – their learning outcomes for this
freshman class include information literacy – and all CST110
instructors bring their classes to the library for an instruction
Established, and positive relationship with Joseph Van Oss, the
instructor the classes I was/am the Embedded Librarian.
What I did:
Refer to PPT for Fall and Spring comparisons
What Jen did or is doing:
Refer to PPT for Fall and Spring comparisons
In Fall 2008, I was out of the office on extended leave and my
colleague Jenifer Holman, Acquisitions and Periodicals
Librarian, kindly agreed to be the embedded librarian for Van
Oss‟ classes (3 sections each semester). Then, when scheduling
prevented me from being an embedded librarian for Van Oss
this semester, Jen happily stayed on.
An embedded librarian: why or why not?
Why? To match what I know…
Word of Mouth is Very Powerful
Human Nature: “78% of global consumers say they trust and
believe other people's recommendations for products and services
- more than any other medium, including newspapers,
conventional and online advertising.” (Brand Strategy)
Undergraduate Library Use: According to Ehtelene Whitmire‟s
study of undergraduate library use, two top factors contributing to
undergraduates‟ use of the library during their first 3 years of
college include high school library experience and interactions
with/recommendations by their college professors.
UW-L Students: As part of a Marketing class, 5 students conducting
a study of our newly opened Library Café. Part of their work
included a survey where they found that 95% of student
respondents were aware that Murphy‟s Mug existed and that “the
top two ways students heard about Murphy’s Mug were by
word-of-mouth and by seeing in the library.”
My thought was that if word of mouth is so powerful, then perhaps
the professor‟s endorsement of me as a librarian for their class
would encourage students to seek research assistance.
Then we have Today’s Students
At the beginning of each semester, Joseph Van Oss, the CST110
professor with whom I‟m working asks his students
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Do you see yourself as fully an adult, or still getting there?
Vast majority say they are definitely still getting there.
This suggests that a little more hands on, a little more
hand-holding may be helpful to students
Raised by Helicopter Parents
Results of 839 parents surveyed by the College Parents of
America indicates that 74% of parents communicate with
their children 2-3 times a week, and that one out of three
talked to their kids daily! (Rainey, A., 2006).
In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article reporting
survey results of students‟ views on helicopter parents, it
was noted that students want the parental hovering and
that in college students don‟t trust anyone as much as
their parents. (Hoover, E., 2008).
Students seek help with their college work, often asking
their parents for help editing their papers (Marshall, A.,
Burns, V., and Briden, J., 2007).
So, it‟s not that students don‟t seek help with their
academic work, it‟s just that they are used to very close,
personal, relationships with an established trust
Which brings us to the question - Who do they trust?
In his article on the “Good News Generation” John Leo
cites a 2003 Gallup poll saying that “90% of teens say they
are very close to their parents” and also notes that
“Millennials are apt to trust their parents, teachers, and
police…and are likely to trust presidents too” (Leo, 2003).
Note how “librarians” didn’t make the millennials trust
Yet, as Curzon-Hobson writes in “A Pedagogy of Trust in Higher
Learning”, “…trust is a fundamental element in the pursuit of
higher learning for it is through a sense of trust that students will
embrace an empowering experience…” (p. 266). “…without this
sense of trust, the dialogical learning experience will be
restricted…” (p. 276).
So, if word of mouth is powerful, students trust their professors,
and trust is essential for higher learning such as information
literacy skills, then perhaps being an embedded librarian would
help students gain trust in librarians and libraries and this trust
would enable them to learn a foundation of library skills that
would be with through college and beyond.
Establishing Trust Now = Established Library User
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Benefits of Embedded Librarianship for…
It appears that when there is an Embedded Librarian, students are more
apt to reach out for research help:
I‟ve always added my contact information to PPTs and worksheets used in
information literacy instruction sessions. Yet rarely would I hear from
In one year for example – August 2006 to July 2007, 24 students
contacted me for research help.
During my first semester of being embedded in Fall 2007, 61
students contacted me.
In spring 2008 I heard from 74 students asking for research help.
After each speech, Joseph Van Oss gives his students a self-
reflection questionnaire. When I was embedded, he added the
“Did you work with Galadriel Chilton (or any other library staff on
your research for this speech? If so, please describe how you
worked with her and what help you received from her. Do you
have any suggestions or comments about improving the research
In Fall 2007, 83 Responded:
28 said yes.
“I used all of the sites she suggested, it helped a lot!”
“Yes, she sent me some websites I would be able to
use for my speech, she was very helpful. I even
asked her for sites for my friend and she was again
“She helped me with different keywords to help find
“The help she gave on the research day was extremely
“She sent some valuable sources.”
“She helped me to figure out keywords I should use for
“Yes, I made an appt. w/ her and she helped me find
lots of good info on EBSCOhost and other Internet
41 said no w/o further explanation.
7 said no because they used they referred back to what they
learned in the library instruction session and the class
worksheet and PPT and didn‟t need further help.
5 said no, but said that they were familiar with using library
databases due to instruction received in high school.
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9 said no, but that they should have and that they planned to
do so for the next speech.
Very positive collaboration with professor
Increased interaction w/ students
Endorsement by professor helps establish student trust in the
reality that librarians can help them (word-of-mouth
Greater understanding of students‟ assignments and abilities,
Greater insight into students‟ perceptions of library resources
(i.e. “sites” “EBSCOhost” rather than name of databases, etc.)
Serendipitous discoveries through conversation with professor
led to improvements in instruction session contents:
Need for students to have visuals as part of their
How two speeches related to one another
Students‟ lack of knowing/understanding “what is an
article database?” (use of title lists and vehicle
Flexibility to follow-up on instruction session instead of
rushing and trying to cram everything into one 55 minute
Take Out Box Handout
Concrete information about what students know after
library instruction session: quiz data!
The Spring 2008 midterm for the three classes I am
currently working with included four questions
specifically about library resources and information
literacy, these questions drew directly from the
content covered during the class‟ information literacy
Students‟ responses are very insightful to their
knowledge and provide info for me to think about how
to improve/refocus instruction sessions and to
illuminate discussion points for professor and I to talk
about what is important to both of in terms of
Gaining concrete user experience knowledge that informs practice of
librarianship (e.g. E-resource management, etc.).
Gaining overall knowledge of where information literacy skills are
really lacking. (e.g. I had been beginning information literacy sessions
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by giving students time to brainstorm about their topics; however, I
believe that this is not enough. In recent conversations with Van Oss,
we‟ve come to the conclusion that students need far more help
refining and defining their topic first.
Direct library referral for students instead of “go talk to a
Direct connection with a librarian who can provide feedback on
what students are seeking help with research and tip-offs for
students needing extra assistance
Comments on the benefits:
“Students are significantly more likely to ask for guidance or
assistance. They are also more likely to use library resources
instead of relying on unvetted, free resources.”
“…I believe that students see CST 110 more positively and as
more valuable when there is an EL. I do believe that EL is part
of the reason SEI scores (student evaluations) jumped up last
EL expands info-lit component of my course: “A few years
ago, information literacy was a matter of making an
appointment for 55 minutes of dreadful material that was not
knit into the fabric of the course at all. Now our EL is so
tightly integrated into the course that I see signs of something
new: Information literacy is part of CST 110 almost from
beginning to end.”
Comments on Challenges:
“I can't really say that there is any downside at all. For the
instructor, there is a little bit of extra time spent on
communicating with the EL, but that's a small investment that
pays enormous dividends.”
“For example: When our EL sends a student an email, I am
copied. It takes a little time to go over each of those
messages and sometimes I'll follow up with the student
individually. That level of attention and personalized coaching
is highly valued by students and practical only when sustained
over the semester in an EL relationship.”
Differences in Speeches for Students w/ or w/o EL?
“EL seems to bring the greatest benefit to middle achievers.
In this segment I definitely see more consistent, thoughtful
use of higher-quality resources.”
“For extreme high and low achievers, EL makes a little less of
a dent. The high achiever may perceive that she/he does not
need research help, and the low achiever sometimes fears
asking anyone at all for help lest his/her deficit or delay come
“However, even in these groups, we've seen that EL does serve
some students far better than an ordinary
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instructor/course/librarian relationship. Some high achievers
do ask for help, and students who need research help in a
remedial manner are much more likely to ask for it. Several
times I've told a procrastinator to quot;run, don't walkquot; over to
Murphy [Library], and the EL relationship has made it far
easier to get those people back on track.
Other Thoughts on EL?
“Ego has never been an issue in the relationship with my EL
colleague. But there are some egos on campus and I can
imagine that an instructor's ego could easily strain an EL
“In the second semester of EL, we dramatically increased the
level of integration of EL into the course. We both saw that
this made sense. To any other instructor contemplating taking
on an EL, I would recommend this: Regard your EL, and
present your EL to your students, as a co-instructor.”
“I do think EL demands a librarian who thinks like a teacher
and is dedicated like a teacher. Under EL the
student/librarian relationship is a real pedagogy that
deserves to be taken seriously.”
What Jen Thinks
Here‟s what Jen says about her embedding experience…
Helping students help themselves vs. spoon feeding
Mitigating (use technology):
Jing for short hot topic segments
Take out box handout
Instruction session worksheet where students work
through exercises and make discovers
Forwarding static links to search results and/or search
strategies rather than just sending articles
Scheduling office hours
Working with professor to refer students during office
hours and already scheduled reference time
Answering all e-mails at once rather than upon arrival;
answering e-mails while at the reference desk
Recycling/reworking replies for similar topics
Referral to other librarians (e.g. government docs
However, embedded librarianship does take time, more time
than a one-time classroom presentation on how to use the
library. But for me, being embedded is by far a higher quality
approach to information literacy instruction and it gets to the
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heart of what I believe is important for librarians in this
Google age: understanding users, analyzing their needs and
skills, and then providing very personal guidance to them.
o Course Management System (D2L)
o Remaining visible, posting quick tips, follow-ups
o Primary means of interacting w/ students
o Where is your embedded librarian?
o Point-of-Need contact via Database pages
o Short how to clips (i.e. finding a book in the library catalog)
o Understanding students‟ world (tagging photos, like article
„tags‟ subjects in databases
o Alternate communication point
o Customized course pages with integrated learning objects.
Attendee Thoughts & Questions?
Bell, S. J. & Shank, J. (2004). The blended librarian: a blueprint for redefining the teaching and
learning role of academic librarians. College & Resource Library News, 65(7), 372-375.
Cmor, D. & Marshall, V. (2006). Librarian class attendance: methods, outcomes and opportunities.
IATUL Annual Conference Proceedings, 16, 56-61.
Consumer trust: Word of mouth rules. (2007, November). Brand Strategy, 40-41. Retrieved March
10, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database.
Corson, A., Hurdis, S., Miske, T., Putnam, S., & Woida, E. (2007). Coffee Shop Conundrum.
Unpublished manuscript. University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, La Crosse, WI.
Curszon-Hobson, A. (2002). A pedagogy of trust in higher learning. Teaching in Higher Education,
Dewey, B.I. (2004). The embedded librarian: strategic campus collaborations. Resource Sharing &
Information Networks, 17(1/2), 5-17.
Hall, R.A. (2007). The “embedded” librarian in a freshman speech class: information literacy
instruction in action. College & Research Libraries News, 69(1), 28-30.
Hearn, M. R. (2005). Embedding a librarian in the classroom: an intensive information literacy model.
Reference Services Review, 33(2), 219-227.
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Hoover, E., & Supiano, B. (2008, January 24). Surveys of students' views complicate spin on
'helicopter parents.' The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from
Leo, J. (2003, November 3). The good-news generation. U.S. News & World Report, 135(15), 60.
Retrieved December 17, 2007, from Academic Search Premier database.
Marshall, A., Burns, V., & Briden, J. Know your students. Library Journal, 132(18), 26-29.
Matthew, V. & Schroeder, A. (2006). The embedded librarian program: Faculty and librarians partner
to embed personalized library assistance into online courses. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 29(4), 61-
65. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm06410.pdf.
Rainey, A. (2006, April 14). Survey provides further evidence of high parental involvement with
college students. Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(32), A39. Retrieved December 17, 2007,
Ramsay, K. M. & Kinnie, J. (2006). The embedded librarian. Library Journal, 131(6), 34-35.
Shumaker, D. & Tyler, L. A. (2007, June). Embedded Library Services: An Initial Inquiry into
Practices for Their Development, Management, and Delivery. Presented at the Special
Libraries Association Annual Conference. Denver, Colorado. Retrieved March 10, 2008 from
Stewart, V. D. (2007). Embedded in the Blackboard jungle: The embedded librarian program at
Pulaski Technical College. Arkansas Libraries, 64(3), 29-32.
Whitmire, E. (2001). The relationship between undergraduates‟ background characteristics and
college experiences and their academic library use. College & Research Libraries, 62(6), 528-
540. Retrieved February 28, 2008 from
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