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CNIE - Beyond the Library's Walls: Course Librarians

Collaborating with Instructional Faculty

embedded librarians "Embedded librarians” or “course librarians” collaborate with instructional faculty and are intentionally included as part of a course, whether that’s face-to-face, online, or blended. Librarians teach students and assist them with their library research as part of the course curriculum, rather than waiting for students to approach the library with their questions.

Example #1: ENGL 4260

Collaborated with a willing 4th year English instructor 2 semesters in a row (Fall 2011 and Fall 2012):

  • 1st visit to introduce self and ask students about their research strengths and where they still felt challenged or frustrated
  • 2nd visit to introduce some specific advanced search tools and techniques, and to address the student-identified challenges
  • 3rd short visit to provide some overall suggestions about their research essay proposals and Annotated Bibliographies

In between the 2nd and 3rd visit, students handed in their Essay Proposal & Annotated Bibliography,

The first year, students then had to book a 1-on-1 appointment with a librarian in between handing in their proposal and the 3rd library visit. The second year, based on student feedback, students could make their appointment before OR after handing in their proposals; students also received emailed feedback on these assignments from a librarian, suggesting further resources to incorporate into their Final Essays.

Both years, students were also asked to reflect on their experiences with the “course librarian” on their final exam. Most feedback was fairly positive. Many students admitted that they’d been nervous when they first found out they would have to meet with a librarian as part of their course! Many also indicated that they’d have found the experience more useful if it had been in an earlier course in their program, as for most this was one of their last classes.

While successful, it was also very time consuming, and not something we can do on a large scale with very many classes.

Example #2: NURS 1700

Librarians chat with students on Moodle, following face-to-face instruction (so a blended delivery model.)

We teach 2 sections, each with approximately 45 students; each section is split into 2 smaller labs (in order to allow for hands-on research time) each with a librarian – so 4 librarians provide 12 hours of classroom instruction, in total. All of the librarians then have access to the course Moodle sites, where we post follow-up notes, tips about their research assignment, and field questions in a discussion forum.

We have been collaborating with instructors to provide in-class library instruction in this course for at least 8 years, and have had a presence in the course Moodle site for the last 3 years.

While this is still somewhat time intensive, we are targetting our efforts with a large 1st year cohort, preparing them for the rest of their program – so find the course to be a good use of our time and energy.

The place (Moodle or in a classroom) isn’t as important here as the cultural shift, working with faculty to embed ourselves into courses and programs.

Teaching is proactive; we’re trying to build information competency in our students  both so that they don’t need to be seeking us out to ask the more basic questions, and so that they know where and when to find us and what sort of questions they can come to us with.

Rather than seeking out more ways to provide reference services (though we do continue to do that, too), collaborating with faculty and a push for more embedded library instruction ensures that we’re teaching more students how to more effectively and efficiently make use of all library services, reference included.