Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Article Note: On efficacy of embedded librarians

Citation for the article:

Bowler, Meagan and Kori Street. "Investigating the efficacy of embedment: experiments in information literacy integration." Reference Services Review 36.4 (2008): 438-449.

Read via Emerald.

This caught my attention because we have been talking about embedding librarians in our Blackboard course management system (CMS). At the moment, our nursing liaison does some embedding with his nursing students, and it is something that our instruction/de librarian is interested in exploring further. So this article came to me in a timely fashion. If nothing else, it should provide some additional evidence that embedding librarians in courses works. The authors investigated different levels of embedment in seven different courses. Students from those classes were assessed for their IL skills through a rubric that was part of a research assignment. As usual, some short notes with comments:

  • The obstacle we often face: "Despite a growing body of research suggesting that 'one-off' sessions are not the most effective way to integrate IL into the classroom, many faculty members are reluctant to 'give up' time to anything more than a general introductory session because they are often unwilling to 'lose' discipline content or give up 'control' in the classroom (Julien and Given, 2002/2003; Julien and Boon, 2002)" (qtd. in 438). Ah, the eternal struggle to convince many faculty members that they can actually gain something when they allow us into their classes. Their students might learn better research skills and thus write better papers if they gave us more than the cursory session.
  • The basic finding (or the bottom line): "The results of our experiments confirm these findings: when information literacy is embedded consciously and conspicuously, and emphasized as a specialized and specific component of the course, students' performance improves in real terms" (439).
  • A definition of embedded librarian: ". . .when used in the IL context, the term is referring to purposeful collaborations between librarians and teaching faculty where the librarian is more fully integrated into a course, virtual or real, than is customarily the case with 'one'off' IL integration (Shumaker and Tyler, 2007)" (qtd. in 439). For instance, in my case, I used to do some of this when I worked with classes online in Houston. I provided research advice and assistance to students online, and I took part in some of their discussions. In one case, I was presented to the class as a class assistant (teaching assistant), which did give me some additional credibility, thus making the embed work. The idea, which is what the authors of this article aim for, is that the librarian is embedded in a conscious and clear manner.
  • Note that the article provides a useful table with an spectrum of embedment, which can be used for reference purposes.
  • Another obstacle: "Among the obstacles in all these experiment[s] is the issue of resourcing. We have been fortunate that the academic discipline has been willing to 'buy' the time of the librarian. Too often, however, this is not the case. Embedment without adequate resourcing will not be sustainable and it can confirm what professors already thing--that librarians are at the institution to provide a service, particularly in terms of research, and do not appropriately belong in 'their' classrooms. IL education absolutely belongs in the academic classroom of the undergraduate institutions and specialists, librarians, belong in the classroom teaching it" (447; emphasis added).

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