Embedded Librarians: Integrating Information Literacy at Point of Need

Summary of this ACRL webinar, October 25 2011, with Cass Kvenild and Kaijsa Calkins, University of Wyoming and co-authors of Embedded librarians : moving beyond one-shot instruction.  Chicago : Association of College and Research Libraries, 2011.

A worksheet template is here: http://www.evernote.com/shard/s81/sh/2e71ba01-c645-4e08-ae15-436c91aab9d9/10286017cc49044b2b7abc17fbbfa15c
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Definition: “…focusing on the needs of one or
more specific groups, building relationships with these groups, developing a deep understanding of their work, and providing information services that are highly customized and targeted to their greatest needs. In effect, it involves shifting the basis of library services from the traditional, transactional, question-and-answer model of reference services to one in which there is high trust, close collaboration, and
shared responsibility for outcomes.” (Shumaker & Talley, 2009, p. 9)

Did you know….? According to the presenters, the term “embedded librarianship” emerged out of language adopted during the Iraq war of the early 1990’s, when journalists began to be “embedded” alongside American troops.

Methods for Embedding:

  1. Face to face: classroom visits (usually multiple rather than 1-shot)
  2. Indepth project work with teams, common in business, health sciences
  3. Participation in online discussions in the learning management system (e.g. Blackboard)
  4. Synchronous online instruction (e.g. Elluminate, Captivate, etc.)
  5. Onsite office hours in departments, dorms, etc.

Key takeaways from this seminar:

  1. Collaboration is key. You need collaborators.  Find out what they need and you can best help them. Embedding requires a lot of planning. Partners include any of IT (esp the LMS admin); Student Services, instructors, department leaders, distance ed admins, teaching-learning offices
  2. Barriers: Instructors find it hard to make time in their courses; library learning may not be in instructors’ radar as important. Consider promoting shorter interventions in class; discussions online; integration of Libguides and other support material for just-in-time learning.
  3. Why bother to embed? Sustainability: reach more students more efficiently; use library resources more effectively and have them better integrated into learning; opportunities to innovate.
  4. Set priorities. Prepare for success by setting priorities for who you will work with — e.g. top priority goes to courses or programs with large research components, lengthy assignments, degree requirements that involve info lit.  Remind potential partners that you might not be able to do exactly what they hope, but this is what you CAN do.  Set boundaries early rather than have to back out of a commitment later on. Instructor expectations may grow as your success in embedded work grows — don’t hesitate to have a conversation with the instructor to set the boundaries.

Looking to embed?  Seek out instructors who already ask you for one-shots, they will buy in most easily.

Where to embed? Consider LMS; labs; classroom; writing centers; dorms; final year projects; anywhere they will take you! Consider pilot projects so you can learn lessons on a small scale.  Think of doing a pilot project => formal embedded program => curriculum embeddedness as a longer term goal.

Process model for an embedded program:

Goal setting => Collaboration, incl environmental scan => Plan and Design => Assessment => Revisions

Plan and Design Phase: Different types of designs include

  1. F2F: If a lot of F2F seems like too much work, try teaching less — dont try to cram so much into your class time.  Break down your interventions, do shorter bits instead, come in more often.  Students particularly like getting chunks of learning, as it allows them to work through info lit goals gradually.
  2. Online: big advantage is asynchronicity — convenient for students, and you can work on the content as time permits. If you’re not really familiar with instructional design, consider partnering with a colleague who knows more on this.
  3. Passive (ie content online ready when they need it, like the U of T’s Blackboard FIXIT feeds).  An automated unstaffed presence in courses — including FIXIT and Libguides – great way to accomplish embedded goals. Also consider short podcasts embedded in courses through youtube channnels etc.
  4. Curriculum integration: the “ultimate” goal for embedding – get in on curriculum revisions in departments.  Can be game-changing. If you are there during planning stages, you can suggest ways for students to use resources to achieve learning goals and degree objectives.  You can be seen as a stakeholder.

Assessment of embedded projects: need to build this into every phase of an embedded project.  There is increasing pressure to assess in order to report out the impact of your work.  Think about: a) What do you want to learn? b) Who needs to hear the results?  Think of assessment as a tool to help you write the story that you want to tell.

Compare and collect data such as:

  • research questions and keywords
  • search strategies students use
  • citation analysis
  • pre-post test results
  • attitude inventory
  • student reflections on learning — questions like “Where in the process did you struggle the most? How did you overcome these struggles?”

The last two (attitude inventory and reflections) don’t take much time or effort to collect, and you can capture how students feel about their abilities before and after learning.

“Value rubrics”: web site how-to here: http://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics consider questions like “What is the most valuable source that you used in this assignment?” or “Of the resources discussed in class, which did you like the best and why?”

Questions on scalability of embeddedness: What happens when success is greater than the resources? Use the experience to work with your course designer and instructor to re-set expectations and design new ways for students to remain engaged but be scalable.  Options can include moving from all F2F to partial F2F and passive; custom libguides for each course to discipline-specific libguides;

Benefits of embedding over 1-shot: Embedded enables you to measure learning over time, 1-shot doesn’t.  When a project is repeated over time, you can see if something is a fluke or a consistent outcome.

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