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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Embedded librarianship: A New Challenge for Subject Librarians?

by Sushiela Naidoo

Subject Librarians are now in the forefront of research as Universities in South Africa and the international sphere focus on the research output of institutions of higher learning. The grading of Universities such as the Shangai academic ranking of universities has given many universities the impetus to be acknowledged in the top universities in the world. Librarians, especially subject librarians are now being called upon to realign their portfolios in order to help increase the research output. Hence, as librarians seek to redefine themselves, the model of embedded librarianship is generating interest as an effective means of applying the knowledge and skills of subject librarians towards the information challenges of the digital age. This increases the prominence of a librarian within the context of the academic process has the effect of adapting the role of the subject librarian to include educator. The subject librarian would then be listed on syllabi and introduced to classes as a co-instructor, forcing students to recognise that the research components of the course are as important as the composition. Having the librarian serve as an evaluator of a student's performance, and perhaps even assign a grade to at least a portion of a student's work, sends a powerful message to undergraduates that the librarian is a significant player in their educational experience.
What is an embedded librarian?
Embedded librarianship takes a librarian out of the context of the traditional library and places him or her in an “on-site” setting or situation that enables close coordination and collaboration with researchers or teaching faculty. The concept behind the embedded librarianship model is to enable librarians to demonstrate their expertise as information specialists and to apply this expertise in ways that will have a direct impact on the research and teaching visions of the university. With embedded librarianship, librarians move from a supporting role into partnerships with their clientele, enabling librarians to develop stronger connections and relationships with those they serve.
If librarians truly wish to be where the user is and to be user-centric, they need to be present in those spaces that users are. Embedded librarianship is a major focus for the future for the profession. The physical library will continue to provide  a place for research, for study, and for group work. But, with the dramatic increase in electronic resources and technological capabilities, bringing the library and the librarian to the user, wherever they are—office, laboratory, home, or even on their mobile device—is at the forefront of what it means to be embedded. 
The new role of the embedded librarian
Subject librarians are challenged as to whether they can align themselves to the new portfolio of becoming embedded librarians. The new role redefines the workflows of these librarians. Being a team player; securing support from your organization and colleagues; having an entrepreneurial mindset; accepting risk; translating library science to other disciplines; building trusted relationships; moving out of comfort zones are new concepts for the embedded librarian to embrace in the future.
The embedded librarian and library management
Embedding a librarian into any course can provide logistical problems and library management would have to give careful consideration to the concept. The added responsibilities can become burdensome if adequate time is not allocated by the librarian for the teaching tasks that go beyond classroom instruction. Participating in more individual student conferences and marking assignments are time consuming activities that are necessary for an effective collaboration to occur. However,  it is vital for librarians to schedule time so that proper attention can be given to these course requirements. Reducing the number of hours assigned to reference desk coverage or other scheduled duties should be considered prior to starting an embedded collaboration.  According to Shumaker and Tyler (2007) managers would also have to consider the following factors:
 Location: Where is your office? With other librarians or with your users?
Funding: Who pays your salary and other costs? Do they come out of a general purpose library budget or from a budget that pays for other expenses of your user group?
Management and supervision: Who writes your performance review? If you left the organization, who would interview and hire your replacement?
Participation: Do you go to meetings of your customer group? Meetings of library staff?
While any change in schedule or duties will have an impact on other members of the library staff, the benefits of an intensive collaboration to the students, the library, and the campus will need to be weighed against these stresses.

Embedded librarians in research
The need for UKZN Library to apply the embedded librarian model in working directly with the faculty they serve as collaborators on research projects or as an integral part of a research team will create a major impact in taking research to a new level. As an embedded librarian in the research context, a librarian works with researchers more “upstream” in the research process rather than just with the products produced at the end of the research lifecycle: books and journal articles. The nature of these partnerships will be different according to the type of research being done and the needs of the researchers, but they will generally involve the application of the practices and principles of library science directly to the research being done. Regardless of the nature of the embedded librarian model employed and the type of research activities librarians seek to engage in, becoming an embedded librarian can be a challenging prospect.

UKZN Library is well positioned to adapt to the changes at the University, and the need for UKZN to attain international recognition as a research university. Subject Librarians in the role of embedded librarians are challenged to demonstrate their commitment to the mission of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The embedded librarian model may offer the potential for subject librarians to apply their knowledge and expertise in new ways. The new field of embedded librarianship in the research context is still an emerging model, the pathways to engagement and the criteria for success are not yet fully defined, though efforts are being made to do so. The barriers may seem daunting, but surmounting the challenges of becoming embedded can be extremely beneficial to the skills of librarians, as well as leading to a circle of fulfillment between librarians, research personnel, and upper management. Embedded librarianship at UKZN will create an exciting way to unearth the potential that these subject librarians have and mobilise them to go beyond the traditional functions of the library, and highlight why librarians are needed now more than ever.
References and important links
1. Academic ranking of universities.  http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU20.  Accessed 01/12/11
2. Bartnik, L. 2007. The embedded academic librarian: The subject specialist moves into the discipline college. Kentucky Libraries, 71(3): 4–9.
3. Bell, S., Foster, N. F. and Gibbons, S. 2005. Reference librarians and the success of institutional repositories. Reference Services Review, 33(3): 283–290.
4. Benedetti, S., Cody, S. A. and Hanerfeld, A. 2007. Integrating a digital library and a traditional library: Librarians and scientists collaborating for sustainability. Technical Services Quarterly, 24(3): 15–27. [Taylor & Francis Online]
5. Brandt, D. S. 2007. Librarians as partners in e-research. College & Research Libraries News, 68(6): 365–396.
6. Matthew, V. and Schroeder, A. 2006. The embedded librarian program. Educause Quarterly, 29(4): 61–65.
7. Ramsay, K. M. and Kinnie, J. 2006. The embedded librarian. Library Journal, 131(6): 34–35. [Web of Science ®]
8. Shumaker, D. and Tyler, L. June 2007. “Embedded library services: An initial inquiry into practices for their development, management, and delivery”. In Special Libraries Association Annual Conference June, Denver, CO . http://www.sla.org/pdfs/sla2007/ShumakerEmbeddedLibSvcs.pdf
9. Stewart, V. D. 2007. Embedded in the blackboard jungle: The embedded librarian program at Pulaski Technical College. Arkansas Libraries, 64(3): 29–32.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Libraries in the clouds?

By Richard Beharilal

Cloud computing can transform the way systems are built and services delivered, providing libraries with an opportunity to extend their impact. Anyone connected to the Internet is probably using some type of cloud computing on a regular basis - whether using Google’s Gmail, organizing photos on Flickr or searching the Web with Bing - you are engaged in Cloud computing!

What is it?
Cloud computing is a communally-shared resource that is leased on a metered basis, paying for as little or as much as needed, when needed. Cloud computing allows for needs which could include software applications, storing data, accessing computing power, or using a platform to build applications.

Through Web 2.0 applications, library users and librarians have already shifted much of their personal computer usage to the cloud. There is also a trend by users to free their bookmarks from the desktop by storing them on social bookmarking websites such as Delicious; upload and share videos on YouTube; use services such as Slideshare to host presentations; work collaboratively on Google Docs; and adopt web-based email services such as Gmail - some may even have designed applications for popular platforms such as Facebook. The flexibility and scalability of cloud computing means that virtual clouds can form and dissipate as often as real clouds, depending on the interests and demands of end users. Cost savings, flexibility and innovation, broad, general IT skills vs. deep, specialized skills are just some of the implications of using cloud computing.

Libraries in the clouds?
Libraries will want to consider what types of information or processes they want to trust to the cloud. There are ethical and practical considerations; should sensitive information such as patron records be stored in the cloud where privacy is questionable? But - it needn’t be an all-or-nothing decision as libraries may choose to continue to host some of their own systems, while using the cloud for less sensitive processes such as hosting library websites, or storing and accessing bibliographic data. Internationally, many libraries have already begun to adopt cloud services to alleviate their IT departments and increase efficiency.

In the near future, UKZN Library may have to adopt computing resources and services that it does not own in order to provide new and innovative services. Cloud computing and Web collaboration are two major concepts that underlie new and innovative developments in library automation. The growing internet usage among library users and the time these users spend on the internet has made it imperative that libraries offer their services online. Users of information have more attractive ways of finding information than using the traditional library. Today, library users are accessing the information needed from the comfort and security of their homes or in their own personal or customized spaces. To meet their needs, can UKZN library adopt the communication and information tools and services that users are accustomed to? Many of these tools and services will not be owned by UKZN library but are necessary to carry out the work of making library collections and services known and accessible to users.

The potential for collaboration between libraries is truly ground-breaking in a cloud environment. When data and functions are shared in the cloud, libraries can make joint decisions on collection development, preservation and digitization in real time. As demonstrated by OCLC’s QuestionPoint virtual reference service and its 24/7 cooperative - a single libraries’ ability to assist patrons is expanded beyond the constraint of its own walls and hours of operation to become a true cloud service (last year QuestionPoint logged its five millionth answer to a reference question).

Key questions on Cloud Computing as an option for UKZN Library
The major question is whether UKZN Library is able to take the opportunity to improve their services and relevance in today’s information society? Cloud computing is one avenue for this move into the future. It can bring several benefits for libraries and give them a different future. The cooperative effect of libraries using the same, shared hardware, services and data—rather than hosting hardware and software on behalf of individual libraries—can result in lowering the total costs of managing library collections and enhancing the both library user’s experience and library staff workflows. While local library systems served an important purpose earlier in library automation they now represent a tremendous duplication of effort. Each library builds and maintains a database, buys equipment and installs and updates the software. In fact, some libraries can get stuck in perpetual upgrade mode, which involves lots of testing and retesting and time-consuming customization.

However, should UKZN library consider moving more of their services into the cloud there are certain questions that must be addressed. Foremost is whether this service will make the library more efficient and help it offer a better service to its constituency?

Interesting cloud computing links


Beck, A. (2007), ‘‘Google lures MySpace for social network platform’’, November,
Hartig, K. (2008), ‘‘What is cloud computing?’’, Cloud Computing Journal,
Goldner, Matt. (2010), Winds of Change: Libraries and Cloud Computing.
Scale, Mark-Shane E. (2009), Cloud computing and collaboration, Library Hi Tech News, Volume 26 Number 9, pp. 10-13.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Open access week

Howard College Library Celebrates
In collaboration with ICT Division

The Marketing Group, in collaboration with ICT, is co-ordinating an Open Access Programme during the week 24th-28th October in an effort to promote this global effort. While developing the programme, our most frequent response was “What is Open Access?!”

So what is Open Access?
While the concept is still shaping itself, Open Access (OA) can be described as unrestricted online access to scholarly content such as journal articles, book chapters or monographs. The term has also been extended to include e-learning resources.

Peter Suber clarifies OA literature as “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” and offers a useful Introduction to Open Access at http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm dividing the concept into two primary vehicles for delivering OA to research articles: OA journals and OA archives or repositories.
Why is this significant?
Publishers tend to own the rights to articles published in their journals. Accessing, reading or using these articles requires permission from publishers and subscription fees. While researchers may access journals they need via their institution what they may not know is that the institution has often been involved in a complex web of often exorbitant fees and content licenses.

Paying for access to content makes sense in the world of print publishing, however, within a rapidly expanding electronic environment, it makes little sense to charge for content when it is possible to provide online access to all readers anywhere in the world. The Directory of Open Access Journals is available at http://www.doaj.org/.

What about Licensing and Copyright?
Open Access is facilitated by the Creative Commons License. Under this license, authors agree to make articles legally available for reuse, without permission or fees. Articles may be copied, distributed, or reused, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. After all, who wrote the article? Watch this YouTube video Open Access 101 to find out more about Open Access publishing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6wjh2I2Ggg&feature=related

To find out more about Open Access, ResearchSpace, OA Journal Publishing, OA e-Research Tools and UKZN OA Resources, visit Howard College Library during Open Access Week, 24th-28th October between 12h15 – 14h00. All staff, students and other interested visitors are welcome!
Link to programme

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Librarians without borders

By Rani Moodley

“Librarians without borders” is a non-profit organization that was established in February 2005 to provide training in information retrieval and to improve access to information resources and assistance to people worldwide especially the developing countries. It also provides training in the use of computers to conduct research effectively [1,2].

The US Medical Library Association and Elsevier Foundation teamed up with “Librarians without borders” in 2007, to develop online searching skills among librarians in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They have been doing marvelous work training professionals and librarians who then cascade these skills to their colleagues and students. Take a look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73mmEKsa1MU

Lenny Rhine, Emeritus Librarian of the University of Florida says, “To effectively utilize the Internet in developing countries as a tool to access current health information, users need legal access to biomedical information, sufficient hardware and bandwidth, training to identify, filter and use the e-resources.” [3].

Access to information is fundamental in supporting teaching, learning and literacy. The Internet has revolutionised access but the information that is readily available is not always reliable, relevant, dependable and trustworthy. As information sources are increasingly moving online and are available “out there”, students need guidance in searching, selecting and evaluating the sources they use.

The concept of the embedded librarian is one which a number of overseas libraries have explored to provide value added services. Their librarians do duty in “student spaces” and within the faculties they serve. This is for a limited number of hours each day or week. Their presence places a librarian “on the spot” to assist with information retrieval, training and in publicising the resources of the library where the need is. How effective this is, depends on a number of factors.

How far are we in providing this exceptional service to our users at UKZN Library?  Please vote in the poll.

Interesting links
Slide presentation on the embedded librarian http://www.slideshare.net/weelibrarian/embedded-librarians-acrl-2011-7523331

Voting Results
  • Yes, we need them "on the spot" - 30% votes
  • No, keep them at their desks - 0% votes
  • Does it matter as long as you can find one when you need one - 69% votes