Distance ed and virtual worlds…(9751 weekly response #5)

03 Oct

I’ve found it quite interesting reading through the Shumaker chapters on embedded librarianship. Certainly from the way he defines and describes it, embedded librarianship is very appealing to me. I particularly like the collaborative and partnership approach; I enjoy working as part of a “team” (generally!) and I like the idea that the embedded librarian gets to see the big picture (or the final project) in regards to the work they are doing. I know I struggle if I don’t have an understanding of what an overall outcome needs to be. Perhaps it’s more of a holistic approach…? Also, just for a sense of accomplishment, it’s rewarding to see something through to the end or in the very least not what the planned outcome should be. I never really thought of that before: that as a regular reference librarian, you’d could simply be helping with only a part of a greater whole and never know if your contribution actually was useful, effective, or…not.

I have to say that I do take some issue with Shumaker’s comment that “…when people do come into the library, they don’t come for the traditional reasons” (p. 3). Really? I use the library (public and academic) to take out books…in fact, I have a stack of books on my desk from the library (which reminds me–I think I need to rewnew them: note to self). Of course, he may be referring to the reference aspect, but still. I think that’s a pretty broad statement to make…

In regards to the embedded librarian in higher education, this chapter highlighted the importance of collaboration. I know that in the elementary and secondary environment, collaboration between librarians teachers is one of the best ways to support student learning; I don’t see why that would be any different in the post-secondary environment…Anyway, I was struck by the continuing tension between faculty and librarians (whether they be faculty or not); that some faculty will resist working with library professionals or having them involved in curriculum or project development. After all, it can be tough giving up control…

(On a side note… in my personal experience as a university student–so, a 4year BA, plus a one year BEd, I’ve had no interaction with a university librarian. Honest truth. I have never asked a question of, had any bibliographic instruction from, any academic librarian…I really think I would have liked library skills course; I certainly would have benefitted from one!)

Anyway, back to the tension; Shumaker’s points to an “us and them” issue that can develop when librarians are pulled away from “traditional” areas (i.e. reference desk) and embedded into course/classrooms. The librarians that are no longer working with library-peers start to feel “out-of-the-loop” with library stuff, and I would suggest that those still working “in-house” may be resentful if they are having to pick up the in-house library slack [“Time spent on embedded instruction has to come from somewhere and often involves a realignment of staff away from the reference desk or other duties” (p. 54)] He also suggests that “student workers” (p. 54) can take on some of these duties…really? Is that cool? I mean it’s great that a class now has an embedded librarian working with them, but what about anyone coming into the library…they’re no longer being properly served. I would imagine that causes some tension there too.

I also found the continued comments regarding the fact that librarians need to have more of a “physical presence” (p. 61) interesting…I didn’t realize they were considered so invisible. But now, come to think of it: I managed those 5 years of university with ever working with one, so maybe there’s something to that…


Shumaker, D. (2012). The embedded librarian: Innovative strategies for taking knowledge where it is needed. Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.,

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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in 9751 stuff...


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