As librarians, we can’t wait for students to ask us questions. We know that! That’s why we’ve had “virtual” reference services since the early 2000’s. But it’s simply not enough to have an online presence. The key is being online where the students are. For most universities, this means the learning management system (Moodle, Blackboard, D2L, etc…). It’s where students spend their academic time. It’s where librarians need to be. It’s embedded librarianship.
How do you get started?
- Start small. Identity a library-friendly faculty member that would be open to an embedded librarian and then expand from there.
- Target writing emphasis courses (many universities will have these courses tagged in their course catalogs with terms such as writing emphasis, writing enhanced, writing intensive, etc…) that will likely have a research component that would require the use of library materials and resources.
- Send an email to faculty teaching these courses at the beginning of every term (yes, it takes several reminders for it to work!).
- Provide marketing and informational materials about embedded librarian services. We direct faculty to a LibGuide about our embedded librarian program and have developed a checklist for faculty to consult. We also provide info at faculty workshops and try to get our foot in the door at departmental meetings.
- Work with the faculty member to identify the level of service needed: ranging from a simple discussion forum, to a tutorial/quiz module, to you as a “guest lecturer,”etc…
How do you gain access to courses in the learning management system?
- First: get the go-ahead from the faculty member teaching the course.
- Work with your university’s IT staff. Most can add you into courses with TA access or a “librarian” role can be created in the learning management system. I usually email our IT staff requesting access to the courses I need and I copy the faculty member on the email.
- Recommendation: request that a secondary account for embedded librarian be added to the course (for example, your library’s Reference Desk account) so that the courses can be checked if you’re out of the office or on vacation.
How do you set up & post information as the Embedded Librarian?
- Create your discussion forum and add in any other learning objects that are appropriate (e.g., LibGuides, tutorials, etc.).
- If you’re embedded for an entire term, you may want to roll out various learning objects by date as assignments/projects approach.
- Introduce yourself in the discussion forum. Describe what you’re here to do. Add in a video to give a face to a name–creating a much more personal approach (here’s mine).
- Give students some guidelines: “I’ll check this forum twice per day.” “When you post your question, tell me a little bit about what you’ve already tried to search for.” “If you need immediate help, try our Ask-a-Librarian service.”
How do you encourage students to ask questions?
- Be welcoming. “If you have a question, it’s likely that some of your other classmates have the exact same question. So post it!”
- Develop a list of “ready to go” posts. These are posts that you can drop in the forum (say once per week) to help stimulate discussion and questions.
- Post information in a variety of mediums from PDF handouts to videos.
Where do you go from here?
- After some initial success, you may want to target all sections of a particular course, or a sequence of courses for embedded librarian.
- Develop some higher-level activities that can be embedded: self-paced tutorials, quizzes, etc.
- Assess! Find out how your services were used and how they might be improved or enhanced.