Embedded Librarians

Embedding in Online Environments

What is an embedded librarian?

Increasingly, contemporary life exists in a digital environment. Embedded librarians are a relatively new, developing concept where librarians integrate “their expertise into content area classes” (Boyer, 2015), primarily in online settings. This shift is taking place in school and academic libraries. Many times, the classes in which the librarians embed are conducted fully online. In these cases, the librarian’s role is even more significant because they may be the only access point a student has to library resources (Boyer, 2015). The students in the course may be geographically removed from access to a physical library comparable to the one belonging to the institution in which they are enrolled. Today’s embedded librarians are most closely aligned with the “hybrid style” described by Li (2015). These librarians incorporate the collaboration that exists between faculty members and staff in a physical academic setting, into the online world. This concept is a non-traditional role of a librarian because they are stepping outside of a library setting and working closely with the faculty and instructors teaching classes. In many cases, they are “co-teaching” (Boyer, 2015). These professionals often contribute to course design and learning management systems (LMS). This is a very exciting new role for librarians to embody. As Bezet (2013) states, librarians are transitioning from “lurking” in distance learning courses, to being “embedded.” Librarians in these roles are helping students to become more fluent in the environment in which they are learning. They are educating students into being responsible with the sources of the data they are utilizing in advancing their education. The role is opening doors to holders of the MLIS degree since many educational paths, from K-12 courses to MLIS programs, exist entirely online.

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Why is the idea of an embedded librarian growing as technology increases?

  • Online classes increase the quantity of time students spend engaged with technology.
  • Many K-12 schools are utilizing one to one learning with laptops or tablets. In theses cases, either entire classes or portion of classes are conducted digitally.
  • Information professionals serve as educators in addition to traditional roles in reference and collections, because one to one can increase the amount of research performed online.
  • One to one is “a golden opportunity to truly integrate and expand our digital resources” (Boyer, 2015).
  • Embedded librarianship often occurs via “librarian-monitored discussion boards within the online courses” (Bezet, 2013).
  • Students need to know the difference between performing Google searches and consulting academic journals.
  • Even in the case of special libraries, the trend is “repositioning information professionals within organizational teams” (Dee, Abram, and Hunt, 2015).
  • Embedded librarianship can go hand in hand with user’s increased dependence on internet, social media, and other digital outlets.
  • Embedded librarians give patrons the tools to meet “expectations driven by a Google world” (Dee, et al., 2015).

Three Levels of Embedded Practice (Boyer, 2015)

Embedded librarians should "seek to reduce, rather than contribute to, information overload" (Bezet, 2013), which is quite common in today's online learning environment.

Benefits and Pitfalls:

Benefits -

1. Studies report that online students produce better work when a librarian is embedded in their course (Bezet, 2013).

2. In a study done at Michigan State University, students' research skills improved after taking a course with an embedded librarian (Li, 2012).

3. Embedded librarians have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty members, sometimes even being designated as faculty by their institution.

Pitfalls -

1. Overstepping boundaries with instructors of online courses.

2. Blurring the lines between library duties and tech duties (Boyer, 2015).

Image credit: http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/what-is-cse/types-of-cse/research-groups/


Bezet, A. (2013). Free prize inside! embedded librarianship and faculty collaboration at a small-sized private university. Reference Librarian, 54(3), 181-204.

Boyer, B. (2015). Designer librarian: Embedded in K12 online learning. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 59(3), 71-76. doi:10.1007/s11528-015-0855-9

Cofrin Library. (2012). What is an Embedded Librarian? retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc3SIy-pE9c

Dee, Cheryl R., Abram, Stephen, & Hunt, Deb. (2015). Information

Centers. In Sandra Hirsch (Ed.), Information Services Today (pp. 82-93). New York: Rowman Littlefield.

Li, Judy. (2012). Serving as an educator: A southern case in

embedded librarianship, Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(2), 133-152.

Image credit for this box: http://www.kcmsolutions.com/three-most-important-keys-to-a-successful-reference-check/

What is an Embedded Librarian?