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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