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Takeout from the Knowledge Café at the SLA 2017 Conference

A highlight of Embedded Librarians Day, June 18, at the SLA Annual Conference was our Knowledge Café. About 23 attendees participated. They represented a diverse cross-section of organization types:

  • 7 Academic
  • 9 Corporate
  • 7 others, including Federal, Law, nonprofit, and Health Sciences

In terms of experience, the largest group were those with 3+ years’ experience in an embedded role:

  • 8 people – no experience
  • 3 people – 3 years or less experience
  • 12 people – more than 3 years experience

Suggested topics for small group roundtable discussions included:

  • How do we onboard new embedded librarians? Do you have innovative tips, best practices, lessons learned, or “special sauce”?
  • How do we market what we can do as embedded librarians to our non-librarian colleagues, many of whom profoundly misunderstand what we can do?
  • How do we convince our non-librarian colleagues to move from a service to partnership orientation towards us as embedded librarians?
  • Is embedded librarianship a sound survival strategy? Has embedded librarianship strengthened your job security?
  • What organizational/reporting structures do you experience as embedded librarians and what challenges have you experienced with them?
  • How do you assess your embedded librarianship programs and initiatives?
  • How are embedded librarians consultants, and how do we communicate our potential?
  • How is embedded librarianship funded at your organization?

There were two rounds of discussion. At the first, groups were randomly assigned to provide diverse perspectives on the topics. For the second round, groups were re-mixed by organization type. At the end of the session, each participant was invited to leave written comments.

The comments have been transcribed and grouped into three categories: basic issues and questions; specific success strategies; and key competencies for embedded librarians, as follows:

Basic issues and questions:

  • There are different definitions of “embedded librarianship”
  • There are many different ways to “embed” as a librarian
  • Embeddedness is institution-specific
  • Sustainable embeddedness
  • How do you start up as an embedded librarian?
  • Strategic embedding in curriculum
  • Challenge for all librarians – being seen as professionals versus secretarial staff
  • Embedded librarians rise and fall with, and follow the norms of, the groups and departments they’re in

Success strategies:

  • Strategic embedding in curriculum
  • Have a long term plan to go more deeply
  • Embed yourself into your clients/patrons social information sharing networks, i.e. email lists, department meetings, slack group
  • Ask your customers, “what are they doing?’ instead of “what can I do for you?” to find out what their needs are
  • Sometimes you need to go to your superiors and tell (remind) them why your skills are needed and what you can contribute to the company
  • Hold “office hours” in or near various departments
  • Have an open house
  • Get involved in curriculum planning
  • Look into the students and faculty “Point of Need”
  • Co-teach with faculty/advisors
  • Brown bags with library patrons (staff/faculty/students)
  • Use reference interview opportunities to help/partner with colleagues
  • Regular communication and meet with other departments
  • Never turn down a job (data/opportunity)

Key competencies:

  • Challenge for all librarians – being seen as professionals versus secretarial staff
  • Outreach/Inreach
  • Leading from below
  • Training – clear writing
  • Self-initiative, curiosity, and self-confidence can go a long way
  • Build relationships!
  • Be flexible!
  • Become the wizard – let people think you can find anything!
  • Find a way of organizing your clients and information in a way that works for you – email folders by people/topic/company names, etc.
  • Being very flexible – never refuse a request (helps to make yourself indispensable)
  • Analytical skills to show your value as well as your cost

See you next year in Baltimore!

SLA Embedded Librarians Caucus     SLA Connect: Embedded Librarians Caucus (open)    Twitter: @SLAEmbedded

Convener: David Shumaker,

Communications: Nadine Anderson,

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Embedded Librarians Knowledge Café: What do you think of these discussion ideas? Any other suggestions?

This Sunday(!), we’re having the Embedded Librarians Knowledge Café at the SLA Conference, with roundtable discussions centered around various issues and topics. You can see the ideas Dave and I have received so far below – what do you think? Do you have any other ideas or suggestions which you’d like to discuss at this Sunday’s Knowledge Café? Dave and I will be compiling takeaways from these discussions to share with Caucus members, so even if you’re not coming to the SLA Conference, please feel free to share your ideas and suggestions with us.

  • Innovative tips, lessons learned, best practices, and “special sauce” for onboarding new embedded librarians
  • Organization/reporting structures that embedded librarians experience and the associated
  • Prospering over the long haul and avoiding burnout
  • Assessment and evaluation of embedded librarianship initiatives and programs
  • Embedded librarians as consultants, and how to communicate your potential
  • Budget and funding models – who funds embedded librarians?

Take care, and happy travels to Phoenix!

Nadine Anderson

Communications Chair, SLA Embedded Librarians Caucus

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Join Us for Embedded Librarianship Day at the SLA 2017 Conference!

Are you going to this year’s SLA Conference? Join the SLA Embedded Librarians Caucus for our Embedded Librarianship Day on Sunday, June 18th at the SLA 2017 Conference. First up in the afternoon will be our Knowledge Cafe, round table discussions about embedded librarianship topics, issues, and experiences. Let us know if you have any suggestions for topics of discussion. We will continue the discussion over dinner in the evening. This is a free event, but ticketed, so make sure you sign up for it ahead of time. Here are instructions on how to sign up for ticketed events at the SLA 2017 Conference.

Email David Shumaker ( or Nadine Anderson ( with your questions and suggestions for topics of discussion. We look forward to seeing you in Phoenix!

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SLA Professional Competencies at Library 2.017 Conference

On Wednesday, March 29th, the SJSU School of Information and ALA are holding a free online mini-conference: Library 2.017: Expertise, Competencies, and Careers. Our Embededded Librarians Caucus Convenor David Shumaker will be one of the panelists at this mini-conference, discussing SLA professional competencies.

Click here for more information and to register for the mini-conference (it’s free!).

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Get to Know…Elizabeth Kavanaugh and her Embedded Librarianship Study at Misericordia University

Elizabeth Kavanaugh: Embedding the Frames of Evidence-Based Practice – Intersections in Librarianship

Poster Presentation at WILU 2016

One of the popular poster presentations at the Workshop for Information Literacy Use (WILU) 2016 was presented by Elizabeth Kavanaugh from Misericordia University Library. It describes the embedded librarianship initiatives at Misericordia University Library, their methods for assessing these initiatives, as well as their results, conclusions, and recommendations. Embedded librarianship at this library combines the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, a campus-wide assessment strategy, and librarian/faculty/student preferences to make library instruction more meaningful across campus and across disciplines. Positive findings reflected the flexibility embedded librarianship gave librarians in working with faculty and students, and in the breadth of options that could be tailored to a specific department’s needs, course expectations, and student preferences.

Get to Know…Elizabeth Kavanaugh, and more about this study

Q.1. What is your job title? 

Elizabeth: I’m the Information Literacy and Assessment Librarian, with liaison duties to the College of Health Sciences here at Misericordia University.

Q.2. Where do you work and how long have you worked there?

Elizabeth: I work at the Mary Kintz Bevino Library, Misericordia University, in Dallas, Pennsylvania.

Q.3. What are your main job duties and how are you embedded?

Elizabeth: My primary responsibilities are to provide reference, instruction, and library services that reflect the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, at the reference desk and in the classroom with CHS faculty, staff, and students.  I think making the connection back to our library’s mission of “welcoming all in the tradition of Mercy and guide those who gather information, raise inquiry, and embrace discovery” also connects us to the bigger picture of helping to develop well-rounded, critically-thinking students.  Embedded librarianship helps us meet the student where they are in their preferred space and preferred means of communication, too.  Our team of librarians came together to define “embedded librarianship” for our instructional purposes on campus as: “providing information literacy instruction and traditional library services to a targeted audience outside the confines of the library building or reference desk;” for us, this primarily means being added to classes via our CMS, Blackboard, with the role of “Librarian.”  Specific embedded activities may include a/synchronous instruction (including videos), announcements, discussion boards, assignment consultation, research appointments, Reference On the Go (roving), drop in hours (on campus, or online), and reference questions asked in person, email, phone, and/or chat.  (Our definitions and the ilk were added to our Resources for Faculty LibGuide under Instruction & Collection Development/Embedded Librarians,

Q.4. What advice would you give to new embedded librarians?

Elizabeth: Experiment, collaborate, and be flexible!  Whether it’s with other librarians, faculty, departmental meetings, or deans, involve as many people as possible to explore new avenues for instruction.  What works for one course, department, librarian, or student cohort may not work (or work in the same way) for the next embedded experiment, so working closely with what the faculty, students, and department asks for will need to be incorporated each time. Embedded librarianship, by its very nature, will take more time out of the day, but it has been for us, at least, a more holistic and organic instructional experience.

Q.5. Did you find differences in SAILS improvement between departments?

Elizabeth: Yes!  One of the aspects that I want to explore more are the direct connections between traditional instruction, embedded librarianship, library services (overall, workshops, roving, etc.), and SAILS to find the “perfect” combination of activities.  SAILS is one of the tools, and we’re hoping to expand its use by more seniors.  At this point, we have a sampling of senior-level students across ten departments (2014-2015, n=174). Ideally, we’re planning to expand the use of SAILS to all seniors to get a better picture of growth over their time here at Misericordia.  There are definitely outlying factors; students who graduate in a particular major may have received information literacy instruction or an embedded librarian in a different program, during a combination of years, in different subject areas than what comes through in just the outgoing SAILS test, so we’re trying to capture as much information as possible.  We’d like to see improvement over time rather than a discrete number or grade assigned to a particular student; I think it speaks better to instruction to see growth rather than a single number at face value.

Q.6. Did any of these differences correlate with differences between embedded and one-shot instruction?

Elizabeth: Since our pilot year (2014-2015), we’re still working through instructional activities, one-shots, embedded programming, workshops, roving, FYE, self-reflection data, and SAILS evaluations to see where the lines of practice affect change in student learning outcomes.  I started a trend analysis from 2014-2015 versus 2015-2016, and was able to compare data across five departments that continually use one shot, embedded, and SAILS for outgoing seniors: History, Medical Imaging, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, and Healthcare Management (Business department).  Since we’re just in year two, I’m hesitant to say there are trends arising just yet, but one shot instruction decreased in HCM, HIS, MI, and NSG, while embedded instruction decreased slightly in OT (also reflective of lower overall engagement in embedded and one shots, combined).  HCM and MI were also lower in total instructional activities (embedded plus one shots) from 2014-2015 to 2016, while SAILS scores remained the same or increased across all departments except for NSG.

One area that I would like to explore more is students’ self-perception of library instruction.  During the SAILS test for seniors, we ask students to reflect on their time at Misericordia and indicate whether they recall having received library instruction during FYE, freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior years (just a little extra data to see if they even remember seeing us, even if we record that we’ve seen them!).  In 2014-2015, most students indicated seeing a librarian during their senior year, with an overall average of seeing a librarian in the classroom or embedded 2.82 times during their academic career (min=1.71 times HIS, max=4.21 times MI).  However, in 2015-2016, more students indicated seeing a librarian during theirFYE experience, with an overall average of seeing a librarian in the classroom or embedded 3.51 times during their academic career (min=3.03 times HCM, max=3.88 times MI).  Going forward, I’d be interested in seeing if this trend continues in expressing student engagement preferences in the classroom versus embedded, and how those skills translate into an overall assessment of information literacy at different points throughout their careers even if instruction doesn’t come from their intended major per se.  I think this could instead speak more to our overall instruction offerings also outside of the classroom, and I’d be interested in exploring more long term effects of embedded librarianship in and outside of the majors’ context, and with SAILS as a requirement for all seniors regardless of major!

End of interview

Thank you Elizabeth!

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Caucus Meeting Minutes

SLA Embedded Librarians Caucus

Annual Meeting May 24, 2016


1. The virtual meeting was opened by caucus convenor Dave Shumaker at 3:01 p.m. US Eastern time, with approximately 20 members in attendance. He announced that the meeting would be recorded in order to help compile minutes, and acknowledged the contributions of the Communications Team over the past year.

2. Year timeline: Dave reviewed highlights of the past year, including programs and activities, gradual growth in membership. Currently, membership stands at 88.

3. Communications update: Communications team members Laura Williams and Nadine Anderson reviewed communications activities. Laura appealed for volunteers to contribute posters, be interviewed for the website, and write up reports from the SLA Annual Conference. Nadine reminded everyone that our Twitter handle is @slaembedded and hashtag #embeddedlib and encouraged followers and tweeters to join in.

4. Finance and Organization: Dave reviewed the fact that the caucus, in line with SLA guidelines, has no money of its own, and doesn’t have any mandated officers other than the Caucus Convenor. He mentioned that we should be thinking about succession planning. He will continue to serve for the coming year, but he doesn’t intend to be Convenor for life.

There was also discussion of whether the caucus should aim to become a division. The consensus was that we should not do that, at least at the present time. In ensuing discussion of membership and growth, Marydee Ojala suggested creating whitepaper on the caucus website explaining what is embedded librarian. In further discussion, it was suggested to have additional papers on embedded librarians in different sectors.

5. SLA 2017 Program Planning: Dave currently serving as de facto program planner. He appealed for anyone who is interested to take over the job or work with him.

6. Program and Activity Initiatives

Current program ideas:

  • Organization/reporting structures that embedded librarians experience and the associated challenges.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of embedded librarianship
  • Prospering over the long haul: lessons learned from veteran embedded librarians

Other ideas were suggested, including:

  • Ruth Kneale’s experiences in close to 20 years of being an embedded librarian in engineering teams, either as webinar or interview
  • Michael Gelman – how embedded librarians can “sell themselves” as consultants
  • Tara Breton: embedded librarian panel held at Pharma Division meeting in April 2016 (, unfortunately slides are not available; discussion of promotional strategies in the corporate sector
  • Teresa Powell: budget and funding models – corporate setting may require funding librarians work from group(s) librarian is embedded with.

6. Wrapup

Anyone with questions, comments, or who would like to volunteer: contact Dave at or his personal email. Reminder of Caucus session Monday June 13 10 a.m. in Phila. Dave closed the meeting at 3:51 p.m. (US Eastern time)

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Caucus Meeting Reminder

A quick reminder that on Tuesday, May 24, 3:00 p.m. EDT, we will have our annual Caucus meeting webinar. Register at:  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Hope to see you there!

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An Update from David Shumaker

Greetings Caucus members!

This is #2 in our series to keep you up to date with what’s going on in the Embedded Librarians Caucus.

Since the previous update in early October, there have been several newsworthy developments:

  • Membership has grown from 67 to 81! Thank you all for supporting the caucus!
  • Our first webinar, “How to Get an Embedded Librarian Job”, was announced for Dec. 15, 1:00—2:30 p.m. US Eastern time. It will feature five Caucus members sharing their experiences and insights. Already, 244 people have signed up! Are you one of them? If not, you can still register at
  • I filed our first annual Caucus report to SLA last week. It will be posted on our website in the near future. The annual report is required for us to get our SLA dues allotment and maintain our status with SLA.

Speaking of SLA, coming up we’ll need to develop plans for our Caucus meeting at the Annual Conference next June in Philadelphia. If you have suggestions or would like to help organize this, please let me know. I’m thinking along the lines of a short business meeting, followed by an informal event where members and friends can get to know one another – what are your thoughts?

Last but not least, please keep in touch! Contact me at or with your ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.

–Dave Shumaker
Caucus Convenor

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