Thursday, July 02, 2009

SLA 2009: Embedded Librarianship

At its annual conference from June 14-17, the Special Libraries Association celebrated its first 100 years. (Today, July 2nd, is SLA's official 100th birthday!) As usual, the conference offered many top-notch opportunities for learning and networking, and of course, the chance to explore beautiful, cosmopolitan Washington, DC. Over the next week or so, I'll share my thoughts and notes on some of my favourite sessions.

My first few posts will cover some of formal and informal themes that were evident at the conference. First up...

Embedded Librarianship

While it's been gaining momentum over the last few years, embedded librarianship was definitely one of the more popular topics at this year's conference (I also heard it described as portfolio librarianship and outreach librarianship).

It has no official definition, but the idea is to recognize that librarians can exist outside of, and even without, libraries. Typically, embedded-type librarians are assigned and dedicated to a particular practice group, division, or department. One good description is that they are "members of teams, groups, units — organizations — indistinguishable in status or value to the group from any other members, except for the fact that they bring a unique awareness of the importance of information and knowledge, and skill in applying information and knowledge to improve group performance" (see "What's in a name? Or, is an embedded librarian still a librarian?").

Library folks seem to be excited about embedded librarianship because it offers us a chance to really become a part of a team, and through this, anticipate and identify a team's information needs before, or as, they arise. Personally, I can see this being a much more rewarding way to provide research and reference services - instead of being separate and often overlooked as a resource, you'd be in the thick of things.

How often have we done piles of work on a file (or little bits of work on many files), but never found out what the outcome was? The nature of legal work is so fast-paced that it's impossible to follow up on every piece of research we complete. We all know that feeling of satisfaction when a lawyer tells us that work we did helped to win a case or seal the deal... imagine always knowing exactly how your work contributed to the end product.

It seems to me that a model of embedded librarianship could make work so much more meaningful, and I'm pleased to see it becoming a reality for so many of my colleagues.

Up next: ROI for Special Libraries



Blogger Connie Crosby said...

Thank you for covering this, Emma! I didn't get to SLA, either. Embedded librarianship was a topic at the CALL (Canadian Association of Law Libraries) conference in May also.

12:12 PM  

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