In the age of online learning, embedded librarianship is a neat solution to the ongoing problem of how to meet the library instructional needs of students who never set foot on campus, let alone the library. The problem is that embedded librarianship is often time-consuming and resource strapping. When individual librarians embed themselves in online courses, this becomes glaringly obvious.
Never fear! With a little instructional design and technology know-how, there are some simple solutions that make embedded librarianship much easier on the library team. Here are five of them:
1. Embed the library, not the librarian. Much of embedded librarianship takes place in the same courses in which one-shot sessions are given. Of course, in the one-shot session, you typically have a single librarian doing instruction, hence the movement to embedded librarianship tackled by an individual librarian. That makes no sense. Embedded librarianship should mean an embedded library, not an embedded librarian. The entire reference team can work together to take on embedded librarianship by sharing in its various duties such as research consultation, discussions, presentations, etc… The benefit of this approach is that students become familiar with library services holistically rather than seeing the face of the library as a single individual.
2. Take advantage of library technologies. Library technologies allow you to embed a wide array of library content within a course page, such as widgets. Take advantage of this. You can embed a database widget so that students can find what they need at their point of need. Or a chat widget for reference help. Springshare’s LibAnswers product is especially useful for this purpose.
3. Modularize instruction. The great thing about learning management systems is that you can create reusable learning objects. For example, you can create separate library tutorials for various aspects of the research process and have them available for classroom instructors to use and add to their course pages as needed. In creating reusable learning objects, make sure that each learning object is only addressing a single learning objective (e.g. finding the right database, basic search strategies, citing sources). Reusable learning objects allow you to relegate the procedural part of library instruction to tutorials, and focus your live presentations (e.g. web conferencing) on more complex topics.
4. Train the teachers. In order to streamline embedded librarianship, teacher training is absolutely essential. Librarians can take on the teacher leader role here by offering professional development and other training sessions to classroom instructors on how to embed reusable library content into their instruction, how to create an interactive syllabus that scaffolds information literacy instruction, or how to embed remote library services in their course pages. The reality is that some classroom instructors still would prefer not to include the librarian in their course – they may feel like they can go it alone. Work with this (you have no choice) by showing them the tools they need to be self-sufficient and still provide library instruction to their students. Ultimately this benefits the library because the library services will be embedded even if an individual librarian is not involved. It also benefits students because they will be receiving library services, regardless of whether they’re on campus or online.
5. Connect with students through social media. Go where the students are. To connect to students via social media as part of embedded librarianship, you can encourage classroom instructors to make sure their students are following the library on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media tools your library utilizes. This allows the library to communicate more efficiently with students across the board, and prevents the need to replicate information from one course to another.