From Traditional to the futuristic:A Paradigm Shift Towards Embedded Librarianship

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The purpose of this paper is to examine the development of embedded librarianship, its multiple meanings, and activities in practice. Embedded librarianship is a distinctive innovation which initiates a new range of services in present day libraries.
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  - 405 - From Traditional to the Futuristic: A Paradigm...11 th  International CALIBER-2017 From Traditional to the Futuristic: A Paradigm Shift Towards EmbeddedLibrarianship Vijesh P VAnitha B Rehana N C  Abstract The purpose of this paper is to examine the development of embedded librarianship, its multiplemeanings, and activities in practice. Embedded librarianship is a distinctive innovation which ini-tiates a new range of services in present day libraries. This paper defines the attributes of embedded library services such as user-oriented, group centric, expertise, etc. It also endows with suggestions for acting as a group and not as an individual, taking support from the organisation and associates,commercial outlook, exhibiting competence in risk taking, etc. It is a transformational process fromtraditional librarianship to the new and more active role of embedded librarianship. As compared totraditional librarianship which is based on transaction, embedded librarianship is based on arelationship with the faculty, or user community. It offers the opportunity to rethink about the tradi-tional library services and do work that is new, more challenging, more rewarding, and more valu-able to their communities. When an embedded librarian initiates interaction with the patrons, it takes them to another level of understanding with the user. This paper highlights the requirement of embedded librarians and the changing role they have to adopt and perform at present day libraries. It also presents an overview of how the concept of embedded librarianship can be incorporated intoschool libraries. Keywords: Collaboration, Embedded Librarian, Information, Reference, Traditional Library 11 th  International CALIBER-2017 Anna University,Chennai, Tamil Nadu 02-04 August, 2017© INFLIBNET Centre, Gandhinagar, Gujarat 1.Introduction The age-old definition of librarian- the custodian of  books- now seems to be inharmonious to that profession in a world at the receiving end of information explosion. People/ patrons do not need to be the ‘person working in the library’. They expecta person with multifarious portfolio who can help insolving their problems, not just the librarian whoanswers their queries. Due to the omnipresence of digital information, people no longer need to cometo the libraries to get it or to use it. They procureand use the information at home, in the office, at public places, wherever and whenever they want.They can do this using the wide range of easilyavailable electronic gadgets like desktops, laptops,smart phones or tablets. So when they need anyinformation they don’t even think of a library first.Today, people are coming to libraries, seeking asilent atmosphere to work individually or in groups,to collect required information from the complexworld of internet and to carry forward their researchactivities, apart from their general readingrequirements.  - 406 - 11 th  International CALIBER-2017From Traditional to the Futuristic: A Paradigm... Today the trend is that the traditional reference-activities in libraries are waning. Smart librarianshave recognized this. In fact, they’ve realized thatthe new environment of abundant information thatoffers them the opportunity to rethink and modifythe traditional library services offered. They’verealized that they need to be at par with the currenttrends in librarianship. This calls for a new patternin their work that is more challenging, morerewarding, and more valuable to their communities.In this process of redefining the role of librarians,the concept of embedded librarianship generatesinterest. The role played by librarians is undergoinga complete paradigm shift, especially, with the adventof new technologies Understanding the core conceptof embedded librarianship enables them to draw acomparative study between traditional librarianshipand embedded librarianship. This helps to identifythe necessary changes to be adopted in the work  pattern in order to fulfill the goal of embedded librarianship. Here the librarian needs to place himor her in a situation that enables close coordinationand collaboration with other groups in theorganization. So it becomes easier to spotopportunities and can apply the skills and expertiseto problem solving. This way we, librarians caneffectively apply our knowledge and skills to meetthe information challenges of the digital age. Thedynamics of the service provider and customer rolesis thereby changing and we put ourselves in a position to control more of the work we perform. Definition  Barbara Dewey coined the phrase “embedded librarian” in 2004. Subsequently, a number of definitions have emerged. The definition from David Shumaker and Mary Tally fits most of the embedded  projects today. They define the embedded librarianas a librarian focused “on the needs of one or morespecific groups, building relationships with thesegroups, developing a deep understanding of their work, and providing information services that arehighly customized and targeted to their greatestneeds” (Shumaker & Tally 2009). The skills referred in this definition are highly valued in today’slibraries. Embedding moves the librarians from asupporting role towards a partnership role, enablingthem to work in collaboration with students and  patrons. Librarians thus navigate outside their ownwork units, to gain a deeper understanding of theday- to -day information needs they need to cater to. Embedded Librarianship- a Conceptual Analysis. Most of the information-seeking and use thatformerly took place within the libraries are now taking place outside the libraries. Library resources and the open web are available anywhere, anytime. So, providing generic information or virtual referencealone will not be sufficient.This is where the concept of embedded librarianshipgains momentum. Embedded librarianshipestablishes a stronger connection between librariansand the communities to which they are attached. Itgives them the chance to show their expertise inharnessing the required information from the vastresources available. The embedded librarian would have to address individual challenges faced bystudents. The information applied to those specificareas have a direct and deep impact on the research,teaching, or other work being done. This uniquecharacteristic of an embedded librarian provides anextraordinary sense of job satisfaction.  - 407 - From Traditional to the Futuristic: A Paradigm...11 th  International CALIBER-2017 There are three points that illustrate a span of embedded librarianship initiatives, establishingrelationships with a group (or groups) in thecommunity:  Understanding the group, its values, culture, and goals.  Committing to share goals with that group – goals that the librarian shares equally with other members of the group.  Providing sophisticated contributions towardsthe achievement of those targeted goals byapplying one’s unique skills and insights.The opportunities we need to discover as embedded librarians are outside the territory of the traditionalinformation service provider. The passive, genericrole of providing support and service, as in atraditional library is now an outdated concept. Themission and emphasis is to become activecollaborators, and to put on maximum energy and efforts to pursue the organisational goals. We need a giant leap in the transformation from thetransaction oriented role of traditional librarian to astrategic, value oriented role-in aligning ourselveswith the needs of the hour.   Embedded Librarianship vs. TraditionalLibrarianship We can see several clear cutdifferences between the working patterns of embedded librarians and traditional librarians. Given below are some major differences:  The embedded model focuses on relationships,not transactions . Traditional reference is atransactional operation. The reference desk is a place where transactions happen. Here thelibrarian answers the queries as and when it isrequired. Similarly, the long established patternof giving a “one-shot” library instruction istransactional. The practice was that, as soon asthe students or users entering the library get a brief description about how to carry out libraryresearch, the transaction was over. But inembedded librarianship, we can find everythingas sequential or relational. Here one interactionleads to the second, and then to the third;Likewise, it keeps on going, with increased mutual understanding and collaboration. The process of information accumulation happensin between. The principle is the same irrespectiveof the area where the librarian works.  The embedded model requires librarians tospecialize . They need not have to think of beinggeneralists. It will be very much appreciated if the users get specific and suitably customized information without much explanation abouttheir needs,  The traditional librarian always stood aloof,independent of the organization, ruling over thedomains of the library. People came to the library – the librarians did not go to them. In the newmodel of embodiment, librarians decamp fromtheir realm to provide highly structured, personalized information services  to the usergroups . This engagement can be virtual as wellas physical. By moving one’s office outside thelibrary, the interaction with the user groupsincreases. Some cases the librarians are found to be embedded in a distance education courseor a virtual work group. Even though there is noface to face interaction with the people theyembedded with, they are found to be successful.  The main focus of a traditional librarian is to bea service provider and their responsibility just  - 408 - 11 th  International CALIBER-2017From Traditional to the Futuristic: A Paradigm...  be the key motives behind our work. They will be using new tools to accomplish these jobs.So we, as librarians need to stay up with them,and are committed to continuous learning. Thesefundamental principles will have to remain asour unique skill set in any context we work in.  Develop personal competencies for relationship-building and collaboration. Weneed to make sure we have good inter- personalskills for relationship building and to work incollaboration with others. Libraries asorganizations, and librarians as individuals, havenot always been effective in connecting with people and groups in the past. The ability to dothese things will be essential in the future. Weshould be up to date about the changes thathappen around us like economic and scientificdevelopments, learning theories, or social needsin our community – or whatever our team isaddressing or referring to.  We have to concentrate on solving problems,not on answering questions. According to theold notion, good service was basically limited to being friendly and providing accurateanswers. We never bothered to find out whether our answers went deep enough to solve thequestioner’s actual query. What we need to dois to take up the responsibility for solving problems on a broader perspective; we should  be able to trigger more questions and satisfyinformation needs to the core. That’s what‘collaboration’brings on – to have shared goalsand to share the responsibility of achievingthem.  Focus on answers and their analysis, not access.The old notion that our job is confined only toend there. There the environment generates practices and workflows that have endured for a long time. Embedded librarians are TeamPlayers , not just mere service providers. Theyhave a broader role. They apply their expertise,skills and competencies in a manner that enablethem to drive the organization towards success.  Traditional library services are more or less likea commodity. Embedded librarianshipshowcases the full potential of librarians in their redefined roles. There are two important pointsthat we shouldn’t lose sight of, though. Thefirst is that the commodity services are stillneeded – they are just not enough bythemselves. The second is that the librarians, intheir new roles, need to explore better and stronger areas of expertise as part of their  professional development. Skills for Embedded Librarianship: The information revolution has fundamentallychanged our libraries to cater to the needs of theusers and the society as a whole. More and more,we will leave the traditional reference desk and thetraditional reference interviews and work in partnership with other organizations. This kind of transformation towards embedded librarianship willincrease our role and our visibility in the community.An overall elation of skills and competencies isneeded to realize this vision.  Our strengths as information specialists,knowledge of information sources, and knowledge about information seeking behaviour of users are most important factors that decideour professional competencies. Finding and organizing information, and helping/ guiding people to use this information effectively should   - 409 - From Traditional to the Futuristic: A Paradigm...11 th  International CALIBER-2017  provide access to information cannot be applied to the embedded librarian concept. Librariansoften shy away from analysis. We feel we arenot supposed to interpret information for our library users. But, in the embedded model, weneed to be information analysts, with the abilityto retrieve, understand, analyze, and synthesizeinformation in order to provide the answers thatwill contribute to our team’s success. Net-centric Librarian or Cybrarians Embedded librarians can also be termed as net-centric librarians as they work in a complex network. Net centric means not internet centric, but there is anetwork of human relationships that surrounds thelibrarian. So librarians are better named ‘Cybrarians’and will be networked in a threefold manner:  Among themselves- There will be a network among the ones working in the same field likelibrarians, information professionals etc. Thisnetwork can be utilized for collecting, analyzing,sharing as well as disseminating information.  Teams in their organization- Teaming up or networking with the teams in the organizationare pivotal base of embedded librarianship. Thatis why embedded librarians are called teammembers and not just information providers.  Outside information providers- Librarians oftenuse the information provided by the outsidesources like experts of other subject fields,information brokers, experts on the internet etc. Embedded Services Given below is a brief summary of embedded services by libraries.  Customer centric and not library centric.  Located outside the libraries, in an areaconvenient to the work groups.  Focused on small groups, not the organizationas a whole.  Composed of specialists instead of beinggeneralists.  Apart from library skills, domain knowledge alsoshould be applied.  Delivering information alone is not enough. Aimfor its analysis and synthesis also.  Always in context not out of context.  Built on trusted advice not service delivery. Advantages of Embedded Librarianship  Embedded librarians do not wait to be asked.The nature of work is always anticipatory innature. The needs of the user groups areidentified with their close working relationshipsto and then find appropriate solutions as soonas possible.  Embedded librarians are much more effective because they work for the whole team. So thework is by nature, a teamwork of collaborators.  The embedded librarian uses the strong workingrelationship formed through participation in ateam to understand the team’s needs. He, thenaddresses the issues in a customized way.  The embedded librarian’s work is evaluated byvalue added to it. The number of transactionscompleted is not much important here.  Embedded librarians transcend ‘service’ because of the participatory nature of their work.
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