The new issue of the open access journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice includes the article “Embedded Academic Librarianship: A Review of the Literature”:
The author is Stephanie J. Schulte (Assistant Professor and Education and Reference Services Coordinator, Health Sciences Library, Ohio State University).
It is a very interesting lit review. Schulte had to deal with the many meanings of embeddedness (or “polysemantic nature of embedded librarianship” as she puts it). She does identify the service philosophy that ties these examples together, even if loosely:
Librarians’ willingness to investigate their customers’ needs and tailor services is common among these cases. They are not passive bystanders, but rather, proactive partners filling information gaps.
Business librarians seem to be disproportionately represented in the examples discovered by Schulte. (Good job, folks!)
Schulte notes that “very few quality research studies using the conceptual phrase ‘embedded librarian’ exist.” She found only seven. Part of the problem is the broad definition of the term. Another problem conducting such a literature review is that some aspects of embedded work, like co-teaching classes for the whole semester, can be written about without having the word “embedded” in the article or the controlled vocabulary describing the article in an indexing database.
The research studies may also be in short supply given the difficulty of assessing certain kinds of embedded work:
Overall, there is a lack of formal, systematic processes to quantify outcomes demonstrating embedded librarian impact. Only two studies analyzed artifacts of learning and another two studies attempted to directly measure practical skills through free responses or quizzes. No study evaluated an embedded librarian who was physically and culturally integrated into an academic or business unit. Despite this, results suggest that librarians embedded in online and face-to-face course settings have positive effects on student learning.
But Schulte suggests one technique from medical librarianship that perhaps could help us access such work:
Embedded librarians who are physically and culturally integrated within their customers are akin to clinical librarians. Brettle et al. (2010) suggested clinical librarians utilize the critical incident technique (CIT) to connect their work to important customer outcomes, which may also be appropriate for programs embedded to a lesser degree. CIT studies can be conducted by collecting in depth customer stories about positive and negative incidents or by presenting specific critical incidents followed by questions about their perceptions and behaviors following the incidents (Radford, 2006).