5 Solutions to Simplify Embedded Librarianship

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.


5 Library Resolutions to Make in 2014

One of my favorite things to do in January is to read predictions about the ed tech trends for the year. What’s hot and what’s not. It’s fun to do because predictions almost always reflect professional perspective. IT experts vs. educational technologists vs. teachers. You get the picture.

So, I decided to come up with my own set for libraries for the coming year. But, instead of calling them trends, I’m calling them resolutions. By resolutions, I mean resolving to learn about, explore and really think about how these technologies and practices can (or should) be utilized in libraries. I believe that taking a thoughtful approach will lead to more successful adoption.

Here are 5 resolutions I think libraries need to consider making for 2014:

Learning analytics.

Big data is being hailed as a hot trend by many this year. This is definitely a long term trend. I say that because education is not the only industry interested in big data. Business, health and government are also diving into it. So it is worthy to note that in other industries, a big data gap is becoming increasingly recognized. The big data gap highlights the need to strongly examine issues such as how data will be accessed, stored, and manipulated; and even more importantly, who will be doing it. Analytics (including learning analytics) absolutely requires a level of expertise that only training and experience can provide.

Here’s where I see a very unique opportunity for the library and information science field. Considering that informatics is related to analytics, and is a central part of information studies (e.g. health informatics), programs that focus on learning analytics would be a great asset to the information studies discipline, resulting in new avenues of career opportunity for information professionals and librarians. Right now, Columbia University offers a Masters degree in Cognitive Studies that focuses on learning analytics. I’d love to see schools of information studies also begin to offer this type of degree.

I believe that learning more about learning analytics is a resolution that school and academic libraries should be taking on in 2014. How will big data impact library instruction, library services, purchasing, and hiring decisions? And I think institutions that house schools of information studies should be taking an even greater interest in learning analytics this year in terms of what they can do to support the training of it.

Mobile computing.

PC sales have been declining for some time. Mobile devices are taking over. In fact, mobile Internet browsing has taken over desktop browsing. Tablets are driving that trend. Thanks to Steve Jobs, we are seeing a very real shift in technology habits. It’s a shift that is very much impacting libraries. And I think 2014 should be the year that more libraries start examining their technology needs and purchasing decisions. How will BYOD (bring your own device) and 1-to-1 programs impact libraries? How will shifts in library users’ technology habits impact technology purchasing decisions? How will it impact the library’s web site? Are database vendors adequately keeping up with this trend? How will shifting to mobile technology impact the physical library space? These are all questions to ponder in 2014.

Cloud-based applications.

With mobile technology comes the need to adopt more cloud based applications. How does moving to the cloud impact the library and library users? How does it impact the budget (e.g. fewer site licenses?)? What concerns need to be addressed in order to move into the cloud? What is already in the cloud? What training would be needed for both library staff and library users in order to go cloud-based? The cloud is where we’re headed, so it’s time to plan the move.

Gaming in libraries.

I’m not talking about badges and gamification here. I’m talking about exploring how and why libraries should support gaming, gaming collections and gaming events. Why should libraries make this resolution? Because games support the new literacies in the same way that books support traditional literacy. 2014 should be the year that more libraries resolve to learn more about the gaming-literacy connection. A good place to start is James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. After that, start playing some video games and see if you can identify the learning principles that Gee lays out in his book. This is a fun resolution, and will lead to a better understanding of game-based learning and gamification.

Embedded librarianship.

Embedded librarianship is still evolving, and as an instructional designer I can tell you that there is so much more that can be done with it beyond having a presence in an online course and leading discussion forums. However, there are also practical issues surrounding it. How effective is embedded librarianship? How can learning analytics be used to improve it? Can it be done on a larger scale? Is it a ‘right fit’ for students’ learning needs? How are students responding to it? Can it be streamlined in any way? These are issues I plan on exploring in future posts on embedded librarianship. In the meantime, Embedded Librarianship: What Every Academic Librarian Should Know is an excellent source that really delves into the topic. Is embedded librarianship worth it? The answer will surely depend on the library, but I think it’s an issue that deserves close examination in 2014.