Week 10: Embedded Librarianship in Urban Communitities

The reading for this week concentrated on non-traditional forms of education and embedded librarianship. Chapter 7 from How People Learn discusses the balancing act teachers must make between their deep knowledge of a particular subject and their understanding of the process of learning and the activities that support that process. When this balancing act is mastered, students are able to achieve deep understanding of the subjects their studying. Though this chapter was very specific to teaching and traditional subject areas, the principles and examples discussed in the chapter provide really great ideas of how as librarians we can find ways to support that kind of teaching as well as teach the skills and knowledge that we have to offer to patrons.

The other reads for this week were two journal articles from Public Service Quarterly. The articles discussed the role of embedded librarianship, mostly in the academic setting. Two types of the embedded librarian are discussed in the Matos article. The traditional form of the embedded librarian defined by Matos et al. is where a librarian is placed into a specific department in order to give them specialized help. The non-traditional embedded librarian is one who offers a hybrid of library services to a department that did not necessarily receive a lot of library support in the past. (p. 131)  My understanding of the non-traditional embedded librarian is that he/she flows between a more general library institution and the specific department serving as a reference librarian, instructional librarian, collection manager, etc.

Much of the discussion of the embedded librarian focused on academic libraries and how the role of the embedded librarian has functioned and changed in universities. As I have expressed previously, I am interested in public libraries broadly, but more specifically in outreach, and children and young adult services. Though our readings concentrated on academic libraries, I think that this type of library role would be very successful and useful public libraries in urban communities. On of the workshops that I heard last week discussed developing community partnerships. The embedded librarian could make a big impact on non-profit organizations who lack resources or money for information services they may need. Community gardening groups or Urban agriculture organizations could use an embedded librarian to find more information about soil testing, organic gardening, or winter crops. Already existing partnerships with child care providers and senior centers may benefit financially from having an embedded librarian in their center to have story time or workshops on online computing.

The biggest thought that stuck me while completing these readings was the possibly of public librarians embedded in public school systems that may lack library staff due to funding. The embedded librarian could offer expert services to the, likely overwhelmed and overworked, school librarian. A partnership like this could benefit the school librarian, the teachers and the students. In addition, this kind of partnership could  help bring awareness to the community and school administrators about the importance of library service in the school system and hopefully lead to greater financial support of school libraries in the district. Though this partnership may be difficult to carryout and may have logistical road-blocks, I think that it has potential to be a great service to the community as a whole.

  1. I really liked the ideas you had about how the concept of embedded librarians could be translated to public library outreach programs. I personally am interested in working in academic libraries, so I honestly didn’t give much thought to how this might work or not work in public libraries. I really like the ideas and connections you made, I think your idea of embedding librarians in schools or local organizations in order to provide support sounds really cool and would be an amazing way for the library to further their involvement in their community.

  2. Amy S. said:

    Thanks for mentioning how embedded librarians could function in a public library! I was stuck on the academic model, so the articles didn’t seem as relevant as they do now. I like the idea of embedding a librarian in a public school or other organization. I wonder if a “virtually” embedded librarian might make more sense in this case, where the librarian just travels to the site when necessary and provides other support remotely. It might be necessary in a school where space is limited or where they would otherwise require you to have a teaching certificate for some reason.

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