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Embedded librarianship: A breakout strategy for your future


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Presented to the Virginia Chapter, Special Libraries Association, Nov. 30, 2012.

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Embedded librarianship: A breakout strategy for your future

  1. 1. This presentation is for the Fall Program Meeting of the Virginia Chapter, SpecialLibraries Association, which was held Nov. 30, 2012. In it, I suggest that embeddedlibrarianship is indeed a new and different (“breakout”) strategy that enableslibrarians to align with their organizations and increase their value dramatically. 1
  2. 2. Librarians spend a lot of time discussing who we are as a profession, and where theprofession is going. Is all that discussion justified? What’s really going on here? 2
  3. 3. An image of Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg’s invention of the movable-type printingpress in the 15th century led to an information revolution that (among many othereffects) made modern libraries and librarianship both possible and necessary. 3
  4. 4. Marc Andreessen (left) and Sir Tim Berners-Lee (right). Their creation of http andhtml (Berners-Lee) and the graphical web browser (Andreessen) helped ignite thegreatest information revolution since Gutenberg. 4
  5. 5. . Libraries are still working through the disruption to traditional operations caused bythis new information revolution. As SLA CEO Janice Lachance puts it in her forewordto my book, The Embedded Librarian, “today we carry pocket-sized and paper-sizedlibrarians around with us wherever we go.”Our profession has been disrupted. There’s good reason for us to question anddiscuss its future. 5
  6. 6. Michael Stephens (“Stuck in the Past.” LJ Apr 15, 2011, p. 54) puts it this way.Libraries used to be “the only game in town”, but now we have competition – lots andlots of it. 6
  7. 7. There’s lots of evidence of the disruption to traditional libraries. Here’s one exampleto illustrate. As shown in the chart, the total reference transactions reported bymember institutions of the Association of Research Libraries declined by about 45%in the first decade of the 21st century. Imagine if Starbuck’s or McDonald’s reported adecline like that in their sales. It would be headline news! 7
  8. 8. Clearly new approaches are needed. We need to do something – but what? 8
  9. 9. SLA’s “Alignment Project” has been one important response. As Jill Strand and I wrotein the Oct./Nov. 2009 issue of Information Outlook, “it’s up to each of us to identifywhat our employer needs from us, determine how our unique skills and strengthsmesh with the direction our organization is heading, and learn how to talk so ourboss will listen.” (p. 41) 9
  10. 10. This chart from the Alignment Project presentation shows the disconnects betweenwhat librarians thought they should be doing and what employers valued. 10
  11. 11. The Alignment Project data are good indicators – but still each of us has to do ourown alignment project. The needs in our organization might be different. 11
  12. 12. The way to do your own alignment project is to build relationships and talk to people.You can memorize the organization’s mission statement and read the strategic plan –but you’ll only get to true alignment through dialogue. 12
  13. 13. That’s where embedded librarianship comes in. Embedded librarianship starts withbuilding relationships. 13
  14. 14. Here’s my definition of embedded librarianship. 14
  15. 15. Just to expand and restate it. 15
  16. 16. Some may ask, what’s really different about this? This section is for you! 16
  17. 17. These 5 characteristics distinguish embedded librarianship from traditionallibrarianship. 17
  18. 18. Actually, I’ll start with what it isn’t, and then talk about what it is. 18
  19. 19. Embedded librarianship isn’t cosmetic changes. It’s not getting an account in thelearning management system, or moving the library instruction session from thelibrary to the classroom.Embedded librarianship is fundamental strengthening of our relationships and mutualcommitment to goals with the teams we are embedded in and the organization wework for.It may even mean working ourselves out of a job. Yet don’t be afraid of this. I haveseen examples of embedded librarians working themselves out of a job – only to behanded new, more important responsibilities. 19
  20. 20. What will the future hold? It depends on what we do now. I suggest startingconversations and building relationships. Embedded librarianship needs to be acollaborative effort.And here are 2 principles that I like to keep in mind. 20
  21. 21. Our colleagues all around us are helping to create bits and pieces of the future. Let’slearn from each other. 21
  22. 22. … and let’s invent the future we want. 22
  23. 23. That’s our breakout strategy for our professional future. 23
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