I’m writing a chapter on the ethics of embedded librarianship for an ABC-CLIO book on embedded librarians. Specifically the chapter will focus on the ethics of co-teaching required research intensive classes. Much of the ethical considerations comes from the “triangle of communication” (as the book’s editors from LSU frame it) between the professor, librarian, and students.
The core dynamic here is what happens when a librarian changes his/her status in a class from outsider to insider. So far, the ethical considerations seem to be twofold:
1. What are the pros and cons of the librarian helping grade class deliverables?
For example, can an impartial, supporting public service librarian remain fully impartial when now helping assign grades? If you do help grade, are the students as likely to come to you with their questions or problems with the research projects or the class itself?
If the professor expects me to help assign grades, should I stop offering to give feedback and suggestions on student teams’ draft work? (The students usually love getting feedback on drafts.)
David Shumaker addressed related issues recently regarding the “evaluation of information literacy outcomes” by embedded librarians. He certainly makes some good points in favor of librarian-led assessment. There may be some ethical considerations in there too, but there is a big difference between librarians assessing information literacy and grading class deliverables like final presentations, reports, and exams in research-intensive classes required by the major.
2. How does co-teaching a class change a librarian’s potential role as a counselor or advisor to the students?
I’ve had discussions with students in my office before in which the students said they found it very useful to talk to an outsider about what was going on in a class of theirs I was familiar with but wasn’t heavily involved in. Sometimes those discussions were venting sessions for the students; sometimes the students were looking for encouragement; once an upset student came in to cry. Can a class insider still serve as a counselor in such cases?
The literature review for my chapter will include librarians’ involvement with research-intensive classes, communication and collaboration with professors as co-teachers, and any other ethical aspects of embedded librarianship that have been written about already. (There may not be much out there on any of this.) I’ll also interview the two professors whose research-intensive classes I’m helping with regarding what kind of role they really hope the co-teaching librarian can serve.
I’ll probably post a few ideas and discoveries on all this through the fall semester. Onward!