“But I Can’t Go to the Library:” Embedding Librarians in Online Courses
“But, I Can’t Go to the Library:” Embedding Librarians in Online Courses
Natalie L. Browning
Thoughts from the students:
Key Components to the Embedded Librarian Program:
• collaboration with faculty and other librarians
• commitment to virtual availability
• consistency in posting content
What does Canvas look like?Definitions:
A librarian that provides tailored information literacy resources and facilitates library-related discussion in a
specific course’s virtual classroom.
The Embedded Librarian Program:
The Greenwood Library at Longwood University piloted an embedded librarian program in Fall 2016.The
program consisted of librarians embedded with an online course in Longwood’s Learning management system,
Canvas. The librarians informed the teaching faculty about the program, and then the faculty could request an
embedded librarian at their discretion. The librarian and the faculty would then discuss the librarian’s level of
involvement in the course such as having a librarian discussion board or information literacy module or pages
within the course. The librarian role within Canvas is similar to that of a Teacher's Assistant.
For my portion of the program, I was embedded into a hybrid half-semester long nursing course from the RN to
BSN program. The hybrid course was chosen so that students would have the opportunity to see me in person
as well as have me in the course online.
Before starting the course, I had a meeting with the professor of the course. We decided together that I would
attend the first in-person meeting of the course to introduce myself. The in-person sessions were not required
for the students, but the session was recorded for students to stream live or watch at their own convenience.
I also posted my introduction on the course’s introduction discussion board. I described my purpose for being
there which was to be easily accessible for their research needs. I also posted a short biography, my hours of
availability, and my contact information.
The content I created for the course included a discussion board entitled “Ask the Librarian” (Figure 1). When
students were not regularly interacting with me by the middle of the term, I began to post research tips and APA
citation style information within the discussion board with the hope of starting a discussion. I also posted
various Course Announcements to remind students that I was there and that they could use me as a resource
I finished by asking students to fill out an anonymous survey at the end of the course to get some anecdotal
evidence of the success of the program (Figures 3 & 4). 11 out of the 16 students responded to the survey. The
results showed that more students chose not to contact me, but those students offered feedback with
sentiments suggesting that they wished they had contacted me or that I should have been available in an
earlier, perhaps freshman level, course. The anecdotal feedback from the professor of the course was also
positive. She also spoke with her colleagues about the embedded librarian program, and several of the nursing
professors reached out to me as a result.
Since my involvement in this first course, I have been embedded in 5 more Nursing classes and 1 Psychology
course. I have had various levels of involvement in these courses. In some courses, I only manage a
discussion board while in others, I incorporate information literacy modules with APA information and research
tips. Some professors have even required that the students ask me research questions for points on
All of the Longwood University librarians are participating in the Embedded Librarian Program now as well.
Again, we are participating at various levels; some librarians even provide feedback on annotated
bibliographies in order to improve students’ resource evaluation skills.
The embedded librarian program can be adapted for various courses and institutions. At Longwood, we are still
learning the best ways to insert information literacy skills into these virtual courses. We still provide in-person
information literacy sessions as they have proven to be most effective, but the embedded librarian program is
proving to be another effective way for us to teach students those skills.
At this point, collaborating with faculty has been one of our major objectives. The librarians offer suggestions to
faculty, but we ultimately participate at the level the course professor is most comfortable with. Moving forward
as we collaborate with more faculty and continue to receive positive feedback from them, we will participate in
more courses and be able to better assess the successes of the program.
What is an embedded librarian?
“I did not contact the librarian because I did not need to. However, after receiving grades for our papers close to the end of class, I realize I did need help from her. I didn’t
know where I needed to improve until after the fact.”
“I’m sure if I had chosen to interact more I would have gained more useful insight”
“Having a librarian that will have a quick response and very helpful with questions is awesome and less stressful.”
“I believe that having a librarian embedded in class will be very helpful to students, especially at the beginning of their program of study while they are learning the system. In
the RN-BSN program I believe this is even more important as many of the students are adult learners who have been out of school for long periods of time and were taught
to do research using books and not electronic resources.”
“I found knowing you have a librarian willing to assist locate documents to help with assignments and one that knows a bit about medical terminology is rare and a huge
“Great having a librarian!!”
Figure 1 Figure 2
Figure 3 Figure 4