information literacy via the ‘embedded librarian’


I love the idea of being an ‘embedded librarian’ in an online course, able to deliver information literacy at point of need, when students need it most, and in the learning environment that they inhabit.

There are plenty of studies that show that delivering information literacy in this way can be very effective.

My ideal scenario would be to become embedded (along with a small team of librarians) in a large undergraduate foundation unit.  We would have a dedicated ‘library space’ in the learning management system (LMS) where we could place links to library resources and have a discussion board.  We would regularly put up posts on various topics around developing library skills that are relevant to where the students are at with their various activities and assignments throughout the course.  We would also have a series of short videos with ‘talking heads’ (ie the librarians) and screen captures, which would compose a self-directed information literacy program, and which could be referred or linked to when answering questions on the discussion board.  Web conferencing sessions would be another tool at our disposal.

One of the main advantages of this approach is that our answers to specific questions posed by a single student would potentially be seen by all the students.  Students would learn to associate the library skills they develop directly with their other learning, and would have the opportunity through the discussion board to build upon the knowledge they gain by asking further questions or seeking clarification.  This system also provides the opportunity to cater to different skill, experience and knowledge levels among the students.  Finally, it would enable us to promote the library’s information resources, which are under-utilized.

A 2010 paper by Hoffman and Ramin outlines some best practices, which, should my ‘ideal scenario’ ever come to fruition, I would want to take on board.  These are:

1. Involve other librarians from the beginning

2. Get buy-in from library administration

3. Market the service to online instructors

4. Get Information from the class ahead of time

5. Be prepared to go outside your subject speciality

6. Follow up with the instructor

7. Plot course assignment deadlines and plan ahead for busy periods

8. Monitor discussion board using e-mail notification or RSS

9. Check courses at set times throughout the day/ week

10. Save email messages and discussion posts for future use

11. Create a library module open to every online student

12. Post embedded librarian’s contact information in the course

13. Post in a single library-specific (or assignment specific) discussion board

14. Post information proactively

15. Include visuals in discussion board posts

For web-conferences:

16. Test software and run system check ahead of time

17. Post trouble-shooting tips

18. Be prepared with a ‘plan B’: have alternatives in place

Putting it all together like this, it seems a rather daunting, but exciting proposition.  I’d better be careful what I wish for!


Hoffman, S and Ramin, L. (2012) Best Practices for Librarians Embedded in Online Courses. Public Services Quarterly, 6: 2-3, 292-305

2 Responses

  1. I think the concept of an embedded librarian could be expanded to corporate and special libraries, in fact anywhere that the flow of information is necessary!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you – it’s a matter of being a part of the communication channels inhabited by the people you are wanting to reach. It potentially makes us equal collaborators as much as service providers.

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