Dear New Student…

Dear New Student,

Whether you are new to the topic of embedded librarianship or have studied it somewhat in another class, as I had, the semester’s immersion in the topic, afforded by LIBR 220, will absolutely broaden and deepen your understanding of embedded library services.  I started with an understanding that embedded librarianship was about proactive delivery of service beyond the walls of the physical library, thoughtfully customizing the wherewhen and what of our users’ needs.  But the readings in this course….all excellent….reveal the seemingly infinite and inventive ways that academic librarians are wielding this very powerful, user-centered approach.  Two of the many radical new ideas that I’m taking away are:

  • how librarians craftily embed into the work flow of their users.  Who knew that a cleverly-designed invisibility cloak around library services at users’ points-of-need could make library services more desirable?
  • assessments are absolutely necessary and surprisingly do-able.  Academic librarians show how to make it routine and critical to reshaping everything we do so that we stay relevant in the lives of our users.

The embedded model has been seen as mostly an academic library construct and LIBR 220 showcases case studies from academia.  But embedded practices are absolutely portable to every other library setting.  Those of us who work in other types of libraries have a lot to thank academic librarians for.  They show the way and spark innovation in our practice.

There are many things that just plain work in this course.  For instance, you are going to like the blog format.  The quality of the blog reflections and the comments that they elicit will be nothing like you’ve experienced in a D2L discussion strand.  Blogging raises the bar somehow.

You’ll also like how the three assignments can be linked together so that they build on one another.  The Environmental Scan can be used to identify a problem that you explore more deeply through the Annotated Bibliography assignment. Then your findings there can shape a well-research proposal for the final project. They fit neatly together.

I would encourage you to lobby for just one change.  The blog conversation was so wonderful that I wished for at least one elective real-time Collaborate session where the class participants could “meet” in person.

So….enjoy!  Learn!  Then join the movement:  Embed!


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Library + Blackboard: Seamless Integration at the Course Level

LIBR 220 Final Project

Library: The High School Library at The American School in Japan (ASIJ).
Audience: A group of eleven crucial stakeholders, and potential change agents, in the high school.  This group includes our Principal, Instructional Coach, Technology Assistant, Curriculum Coordinator and the members of our Research Team currently reviewing how the research process is taught at the high school level.  The Research team consist of the High School Assistant Principal, two Social Studies teachers, two English Teachers, the Middle School Librarian and the High School Librarian.  As a member of the team as well, I plan to offer this proposal at an upcoming meeting.
Backstory:  ASIJ adopted Blackboard in 2001. Every active course in the high school curriculum, approximately 170 each semester serving a total of 530 students, has a Blackboard course site.  After opting out of repeated recent upgrades to Blackboard, ASIJ’s planned upgrade for the upcoming school year will represent a major change.

VIDEO PRESENTATION of the following proposal:

Library wide view - Version 2

Flora, 2013

Seamless Integration of Library Support for Research
at the Course and Project Level in Blackboard

A Pilot Project Proposal

Three recent initiatives at our high school present an opportunity to transform how students access the library resources critical to their success in the classroom and, ultimately, in their life beyond high school.

  • Research Promise
    This year, faculty, administration and librarians have re-committed to a newly crafted Research Promise to insure that our high school students will experience ample opportunities to engage in the research process and be well supported in doing so.
  • Culture of Citing
    We are actively promoting a Culture of Citing to instill a habit of crediting sources used in all student and faculty work.  Here the promise is that students will learn the necessity and nuances of citation through thoughtful, differentiated, and timely support and oversight.

    Culture of Citing

    Baker, 2011

  • Blackboard Upgrade
    A long-awaited Blackboard upgrade is in progress for the 2014-15 school year.  A simpler, cleaner Blackboard course shell is being rolled out to faculty.  These student-centered changes, based on a recent survey of student preferences will bring much needed uniformity in layout and use across all courses and disciplines.

The opportunity in the convergence of these initiatives is this:  Our Blackboard upgrade is a chance to more fully realize our Research Promise and Culture of Citation.  Because the Blackboard upgrade is sweeping, involving every teacher making adjustments to their course sites, it is a prime time for the library to strategically situate there as well.  Library resources, designed to support student research and citation, can be woven into Blackboard at the course level.

An Evidence-Based Idea
Academic librarians offer a convincing body of evidence endorsing the seamless integration of library resources into the course sites of online management systems such as Blackboard (Bezet, 2013; Farkas, 2008; Hoffman & Ramin, 2010; York & Vance, 2009).   Many of the findings, from academic studies of student behavior and best practices in embedding library resources in online courses, are directly applicable to our high school setting.  For instance,

  • Librarians have leveraged campus-wide surveys or changes in their course management systems, such as our Blackboard upgrade, to reinvent online library services to better serve students (Daly, 2010; Pickens-French & McDonald, 2013).
  • Close collaborative partnerships, such as ours, that marry the skills and perspectives of faculty, librarians, technology specialists and, in our case, an instructional coach have the greatest chance of success in seamless integration of library resources into online course sites (Bezet, 2013; Shell, Crawford & Harris, 2013).

The main argument for a more seamless integration of library services into Blackboard is that by delivering information literacy instruction — research and citation support among these — within the student’s online classroom, we reinforce face-to-face instruction and provide support at the students’ points-of-need. The recommendations of academic librarians can be our marching orders, knowing that we will be creating learning environments commensurate with those our graduates will encounter in college.

Problems Looking for a Solution
Since the adoption of our 1:1 laptop program three years ago, our library has effectively deployed a classroom embedment model and offered one-on-one reference support on campus, as well as through a variety of virtual methods. Our online learning objects include our project-specific LibGuide research guides, video tutorials, step-by-step text and screenshot tip sheets, citation style and management help and our plagiarism-prevention software.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 11.01.43 PM

There is room for improvement, however.  We face several problems that are well addressed in the scholarly literature on academic libraries because they are problems not unique to our school.  Looked at from the student’s point-of-view, our current delivery model has three main shortfalls.

  • Problem of Placement
    Our face-to-face instruction and one-on-one assistance can be ephemeral unless we back it up with companion materials that student and faculty can reference handily, wherever and whenever they need it, as a reminder or reinforcement of IL instruction.  Our online support, accessible through a Blackboard Library course on the Blackboard home page, is meant to serve that purpose.  Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence suggests that our students do not take advantage of our website nor our Blackboard library course.  The major reason for this is summed up neatly in one of The Project Information Literacy findings.  Librarians are “out of the student research workflow” (Head & Eisenberg, 2009, p. 35).  When not on ASIJ’s physical campus, our students get down to work in their virtual classrooms, their individual course sites in Blackboard.  Our library resources need to be strategically located there.
  •  Problem of Portions
    Students who do navigate to our online resources are often confused and overwhelmed by the unfamiliar organization and sheer volume of the information that they find there.  In short, we serve up portions of support that are just too much.  Smaller portions of customized library content, served up at just the right time, is a better way to help students over the hurdles in the research process.
  • Problem of Priorities
    The Project Information Literacy (2009) study found that students prioritized convenience and their “go-to” methods over library resources.  But, when tackling a course-assigned research project, they utilized course materials first, because those resources were “inextricably tied to the course and the assignments, were at hand, and were sanctioned by the instructor”  (Head & Eisenberg, 2009, p. 15).  Library resources appear to lack relevancy when they stand outside of the online course site where teachers post course assignments and resources.  But seamless placement of library resources within assignment instructions on Blackboard would stamp them with the imprimatur of course-required content. 

Proposed Solution:  Pilot Seamless Integration
How do we close the gap between our library resources and the online environment where students routinely access their assignments?  Over the past couple of weeks, I have formulated ideas about a more seamless integration of library resources into Blackboard course sites.  In addition to my review of the literature on best practices, these ideas were shaped particularly by:

  • Duke University’s pilot project of Blackboard embedment and the use of LibGuides (Daly, 2010).
  • Conversations with Glenda, our instructional coach, and Ritu, our technology assistant, about the Blackboard makeover and the possibilities of a shift in the library’s place within it.
  • Current training, along side faculty, as we all learn about the new Blackboard course shell in work sessions with Glenda and Ritu.

Streamlined Tools View

The new Blackboard course shell mirrors best practices in the library literature. Our new streamlined template is designed to ease the student user’s cognitive load by setting a uniform standard in layout and use by faculty across all courses.  The course shell has been pared down to include only a minimal number of tools, including Content, Resources and Announcements.

The proposed approach to library integration into the new Blackboard layout would focus on courses with major research projects. Taking advantage of the new Blackboard course shell, we could use the Resources, Content and Announcement features in the following ways, to funnel customized research and citation support directly into the course sites.

The Resources tool can be used for long-term research, such as the AP Environmental Science Research Project or the new AP Capstone Project, where students need to refer to customized LibGuide research guides and citation help, such as Noodletools and Turnitin continuously throughout the course.

BB Resources View

The Content area can be used for shorter research projects.  Here, library resources, such as LibGuides and citation support can be embedded with the assignment description when it is loaded at its appropriate time in the course calendar.  Examples of these sorts of short-term research projects would be Psychology Topics and 9th grade I-Search projects, which both last for several months, and quick immersion research such as the Modern World History Revolutionary Movement exploration.

BB Content View

The Content area would also be the appropriate place for delivering standing learning objects that reinforce face-to-face classroom instructional sessions.  Following every classroom session, a help sheet or tutorial recap of the major take-aways can be loaded into the appropriate assignment area within the Content section.  Database tip sheets are a good example of this.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 11.28.31 PM

The Announcements section can be a powerful platform to quickly broadcast what we call “push and pull” assistance.  Push support is information, like tip sheets, that librarians think of as important for students.  Pull support comes directly from student queries.  By shaping our answers into brief tips or reminders that are shared out in Announcements, all students benefit from the questions posed by their classmates.  Good recent examples of answers to queries that would benefit a wider audience were 1) confusion over Chicago style endnotes and footnotes and 2) questions about citations for a Japanese Book Trailer assignment.

All of these examples demonstrate how library resources can seamlessly appear, in the student’s online workspace, as relevant course content and indeed assignment directives from teachers.  Other Blackboard features, such as the hide and auto-timed release options, can be strategically employed to store and unveil content at crucial points in the course calendar.

Timed Release BB

Implementation Tasks and Considerations 

For this pilot to succeed, faculty and librarians need to work together to situate library resources and tips on course sites where and when they would have the greatest impact for student success in research-rich projects.   The first order of business would be to clarify the focus of the pilot and engage faculty accordingly.   I suggest that a good starting place for greater integration on Blackboard would be in the research-intensive courses that we currently support.  The library would need to confer with teachers of those courses, explain the pilot and seek their buy-in.  Building on a pre-existing collaborative relationship and being well-versed partners in new Blackboard layout will go a long way in minimizing hesitancy.

Once that is accomplished, we would need to inventory our current learning objects.  Curriculum mapping of research projects is already underway.  Matching our existing learning objects to research projects will help us reveal gaps and make necessary refinements.  In collaboration with the teachers, we would need to develop a master schedule that accounts for the details of the assignment, deadline peaks and overlaps, and identifies crucial points for delivering library support.  Since librarians already have administrative access to course sites, the pilot would be a chance to experiment with a more active, and helpful, participation on the part of librarians.  Teacher and librarians can set benchmark dates for debriefing about the ease and efficacy of their shared administration of the course site.

Over time, with a more responsive posture to “push” and “pull” information needs of both our faculty and students, we’ll be developing more learning objects.  Combined with our initial inventory, we will have the makings of a repository of learning objects from which to draw, improving our flexibility, turn-around time and scalability.

Assessment of the pilot project will be critical.  Fortunately, both Blackboard and LibGuides have built-in analytics that we can take advantage of at different points in the year.  A survey of students and faculty use and perceptions will be important.  We will have six months of LibGuides analytics from this 2013-2014 school year and a 2013 student preference survey of Blackboard to compare with 2014-2015 data from our pilot study.  In addition, we are currently conducting a citation analysis of student work from our 9th grade I-Search project final papers and our 12th grade Japan Seminar Final Paper.  We will do the same at the end of this pilot project for a useful comparison.   By looking closely at student work, we can evaluate how students applied the skills we hoped to instill.  It may also help us further refine seamless integration of library resources into Blackboard at the course-level as an effective strategy toward realizing our Research Promise and Culture of Citing.


Baker, G. (2011, December). Creating a culture of citing [Digital poster]. @ASIJ, Tokyo.

Bezet, A. (2013). Free prize inside! Embedded librarianship and faculty collaboration at a small-sized private university. The Reference Librarian, 54(3), 181-219.

Daly, E. (2010). Embedding library resources into learning management systems: A way to reach Duke undergrads at their points of need. College & Research Library News, 71(4), 208-212.

Farkas, M. G. (2008). Embedded library, embedded librarians: Strategies for providing reference services in online courseware. In S. K. Steiner & M. L. Madden (Eds.), The desk and beyond: Next generation reference services (pp. 53-64). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Flora, F. (2013, September). [Image of the High School Library]. @ASIJ, Tokyo.

Head, A. J., & Eisenberg, M. B. (2009, December 1). Lessons learned: How college students seek information in the digital age (Project Information Literacy Progress Report). The Information School, University of Washington.

Hoffman, S., & Ramin, L. (2010). Best practices for librarians embedded in online courses. Public Services Quarterly, 6(2-3), 292-305.

Pickens-French, K., & McDonald, K. (2013). Changing trenches, changing tactics: A library’s frontline redesign in a new CMS. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(1-2), 53-72.

Shell, L., Crawford, S., & Harris, P. (2013). Aided and embedded: The team approach to instructional design. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(1-2), 143-155.

York, A. C., & Vance, J. M. (2009). Taking library instruction into the online classroom: Best practices for embedded librarians. Journal of Library Administration, 49(1/2), 197-209.

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That Barcode Thingy

QR Code I am the FutureIn her lecture this week, Meredith alluded to the fact that the wisdom of QR Code usage in libraries remains controversial.

Which is it gonna be?  

Will QR Codes infiltrate even tombstone epitaphs or are we writing epitaphs for QR Codes? 

Until Meredith’s lecture and this week’s readings, I was pretty steeped in the doomsday scenario view of QR Codes.

In Michael Stephen’s LIBR 281 Transformative Learning & Technology Literacies class, my team built a Library 2.0 abbreviated 23 Things for an actual library.  The elementary school librarian who commissioned our project specifically asked that one of the modules cover QR Codes, which he expected to have great applicability for his elementary school library.  When our design team checked in with Michael Stephens, however, Michael voiced an extremely lukewarm assessment of the future of QR Codes.  Not a stance you might expect from a guru of transformative technologies. He was firmly in the camp predicting their demise in library settings.   The next semester, Michael shared the following from a fellow blogger and QR naysayer:

In an October 22, 2011 post to his Tame the Web blog, Michael featured an article by the blogger and marketing strategist Sean X Cummings, entitled Why the QR Code is Failing.  If you scroll down to the comments section, notice also that, in response to Michael’s request for library success stories about QR Codes, Alison Hicks chimes in about the work that she and Caroline Sinkinson put forth in the article from our reading list this week.

Cummings lays out one of the potential nails in the QR Code coffin.  Basically it goes something like this:  If QR Codes are deployed to perform an existing function and don’t do so with added elegance and efficiency, they are doomed.   The application must offer some compelling enticement to overcome the prevailing lack of knowledge about QR Codes.  The “barcode thingy” reference in this post’s title is based on one of the more frequent responses to Cummings’ ad hoc street survey about QR Code recognition by your average Joe and Joanna.

In spite of his criticisms, Cummings isn’t totally down on QR Codes in his field of advertising.  He just thinks they’ve been used without much imagination. That is definitely worth pondering in the library context as well.   This week’s examples of QR Codes in libraries, particularly Meredith’s excellent contextual instruction applications, make that a more promising exercise…one that has actually given me my first real glimmers of hope about QR Codes.  I can see QR Code instructions at some of our pesky “points of pain,” to borrow Meredith’s expression….for instance, our danged dinosaur of a color printer and our brand new vinyl cutters.  I can also see QR Codes working well as a way to showcase ebooks by genre in our library’s new bookstore layout.

QR CodeBut, honestly, I remain a bit of a skeptic.  I am concerned that the payoff, in terms of usefulness to the patron, is not yet worth the effort on the part of librarians.   We have so much to do to improve our point-of-need service. Rushing QR Codes to the top of the priority list would be a bit like slapping a new technology on an old edifice.   In my pocket of Asia, QR Codes are not yet the rage.  And, until they are, QR Code deployment would add just a new instructional burden, swirling around the very basic question of what is that barcode thingy?   

Images used in this post:

Alpha. (June 26, 2008). Telstra Mobile Codes Demo. Retrieved from
Available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

N Stjerna. (December 2, 2009). Retrieved from  Available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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In the Life Flow

I’m thankful for this week’s set of readings.  I now see I have still been thinking way too narrowly about this embedded business.  I am inspired by daring deeds of yet more librarians with imagination!

Librarians can easily make a more than full-time job of just serving the patrons who, of their own volition, walk through the library portal or who are coaxed, or compelled, to utilize library services through course requirements.  We can likewise have our heads down, laboring in the shared pursuit of academic success for our students while ignoring the whole student.

Where in that service delivery focus is the segment of the population for whom, for whatever reason, the library is a foreign land?  Or for whom academic success is taking a backseat to more immediate matters of mental, physical or spiritual health……or simply the pursuit of self?

I’m a parent who knows that student affairs services are vitally important academic success…..and just to plain straight up living.   As a parent of recent college graduates, I can report my findings from a subjective ad hoc mixed methods study of a sample of two! One of my children successfully rambled his way through his undergraduate experience, casually accessing student services here and there.  The other child absolutely only survived…and thankfully thrived….because of the student services at her college.   She was supported and upheld by the counseling office, health center, dean of students, wellness programs and writing center, where she worked as a tutor.  The dedicated folks she met, as she took what really was an unplanned second major in her own health and wellbeing, are now her mentors, friends and models for her current counseling profession.

Whether they intensively used the student services at college or not, my two “sample” students actually packed something off to college that not all college students bring.  They brought the knowledge that somewhere on their college campus there were dedicated people, with mad skills and resources, who they could seek out when needed.  During their K-12th grade years, they had ample opportunity to become acquainted with the value of librarians, school counselors, nurses, extracurricular program leaders and learning support teachers.  Not all college students are packing that prior knowledge.

So I am a believer.  Student services are vital to a student’s college experience……the all of it….not just the academic success piece. Partnering with student affairs entities is a great way to extend library services to an underserved, or un-served, population that we are sometimes endanger of being too busy to embrace.

One of the transformational learnings from this class is that libraries should cultivate a presence in the work flow of students.  Maybe we should modify that to say we should be in the life flow of students.

Another transformational learning from this class is that libraries can, and should, seamlessly facilitate learning.  In fact, at times it may be wise to cease the ceaseless showcasing of our services and just serve!  Seamlessly.  Behind the veil of other vital campus efforts like career, writing, counseling and wellness centers, residence halls, multicultural organizations and activists groups.  We should be asking these entities: whatdyaneed?

I know that libraries need to be careful about over extending and creating partnerships that are lopsided, unsustainable or fruitless.  But the examples from this week’s readings of librarians in the life flow of students are proof that there is plenty of room for libraries, in partnership with student affairs programs, to be truly helpful to students during their formative college years.

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Standing On the Shoulders of Giants


Moving from a Macro to Micro-level Library/CMS Embedment Using an Informed Toolkit Approach


The encouragement for libraries to cultivate a presence in online course management systems (CMS) has been building for over a decade (Beagle, 2000; Cohen, 2002).  Increasingly customized integration within courseware have been defined from the macro to micro to molecular to nano levels of embedment (Shank & Dewald, 2003: Farkas, 2008).  The main arguments for more seamless integration are user-centered.  The goal is to be at the student’s point-of-need, funnelling resources and instruction at the right time and in the right dose to faciliate the learning objectives of the course and guide students ever onward along the information literacy path.

A survey of librarians within the California State University System revealed minimal leveraging of their Blackboard courseware as a platform for delivering information literacy instruction (Jackson, 2007).  With so much room for experimentation, Jackson recommends a multi-faceted response where libraries explore a variety of technologies and approaches.  Many libraries are doing just that.  Librarians at Ohio State University, for instance, acted on Jackson’s recommendation by developing what they call the “toolkit approach” which emphasizes “multiple methods of integration to be used alone or in conjunction with one another.” (Black, 2008, pp. 499-500).  A good read through the literature, in fact, yields a wealth of ideas for how a particular library might rethink its practice within its institution’s CMS and create a toolkit of approaches tailored to fit a unique learning community.

This annotated bibliography will inform an upcoming proposal to implement a more micro-level embedment of library services and resources within The American School in Japan (ASIJ) High School’s Blackboard courseware. The group of articles presented here may appear an eclectic mix but each has been carefully selected because it in some way addresses a unique need or circumstance in ASIJ’s learning environment.  These site-specific circumstances include:

  • a current macro-level library embedment on our Blackboard courseware which is slated for a major upgrade.
  • new subscriptions to LibGuides and, hopefully, to Turnitin, an instructional and assessment tool addressing plagiarism and proper use and attribution of sources,
  • a highly collaborative library/technology team that includes a technology assistant and an instructional coach, and
  • a faculty and administration persuaded by evidence-based recommendations and practices that prepare our students for their college destinations.

Taken as a whole, these articles will provide evidence and guidance for the stakeholders at ASIJ to move toward a more seamless, point-of-need delivery of library resources, support and IL instruction at the course and project level.  In addition, I hope that this set of articles will also be of use to you, my LIBR 220 classmates.  In selecting them, I concentrated on articles that I felt added something as yet unsaid in our course conversation about embedding in courseware.  Many are very recent articles building on our course readings and lectures and all are noteworthy, in my opinion, because they offer a new, valuable contribution to our discussion.


York, A. C., & Vance, J. M. (2009). Taking library instruction into the online classroom: Best practices for embedded librarians. Journal of Library Administration, 49(1-2), 197-209.

Identifying a gap in the research about best practices, which has relied primarily on isolated case studies, York and Vance conducted a survey of 159 academic librarians, from at least 69 institutions, about their roles in online learning environments.  Combining the results of this survey with the findings of an extensive literature review, York and Vance offer a list of seven best practices for librarians embedded course sites.  Notable among these is the encouragement for librarians to participate in CMS training along side faculty and to seek additional specialized training with CMS support staff as a way to build both skills and rapport as a collaborative partner in the online course environment.

Hoffman, S., & Ramin, L. (2010). Best practices for librarians embedded in online courses. Public Services Quarterly, 6(2-3), 292-305.

This companion article (to an analysis about faculty perceptions of courseware embedment (Hoffman, 2011)) combines findings from a literature review, Ramin’s personal case study and Hoffman’s mixed methods study of librarians practicing courseware embedment at six different academic institutions.  The distilled results include a listing of 19 best practices which the authors’ group into four categories related to 1) courseware embedment pre-planning and development, 2) time management, 3) leveraging the CMS environment, and 4) troubleshooting potential technical difficulties.  These categories offer a useful framework for reformulating a more integrated presence within a CMS.

Bezet, A. (2013). Free prize inside! Embedded librarianship and faculty collaboration at a small-sized private university. The Reference Librarian, 54(3), 181-219.

Bezet shares the 12-year “evolution” of Everglade University’s CMS-embedded library presence from its initial macro approach to a more extensive micro-level of service, in a concerted effort to become, for students and faculty, what Bezet calls the “prize inside the box”(8).  Bezet’s discussion of the evolutionary phases is packed with practical details and concludes with ten “Lessons Learned” that offer excellent building blocks for other libraries embarking on or retooling an CMS embed.  Of particular interest is Bezet’s recommendation that librarians cultivate what she calls a “culture of collaboration” to ease the way for librarian to gain administrative access to all online courses and to stay abreast of library content by showcasing, monitoring, updating and weeding in timely and judicious ways (185-187).

Pickens-French, K., & McDonald, K. (2013). Changing trenches, changing tactics: A library’s frontline redesign in a new CMS. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(1-2), 53-72.

Pickens-French and McDonald describe how they seized on an institution-wide change in the CMS provider to completely rethink their library’s embedded presence on course sites, transforming an initially unwelcome and daunting top-down directive into an informed leap forward.  They explain how they caste a critical eye over their current practice.  As a result, they developed templates for research modules that enhanced sustainability and better accounted for student preferences and behavior.

Shell, L., Crawford, S., & Harris, P. (2013). Aided and embedded: The team approach to instructional design. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(1-2), 143-155.

This article highlights how a team approach to CMS integration, can reduce the technological, instructional and assessment barriers common to embedment attempts.  The authors describe their courseware embed experience at Arizona State University which involves a team, comprised of librarians, faculty and an instructional designer, pooling their expertise to develop an array of targeted, visually-rich learning modules that are woven into the authentic assessment of each course.  The inclusion of the instructional designer on the team upped everyone’s game, improving the quality of learning modules and streamlining embedding into the CMS.

Bowen, A. (2012). A LibGuides presence in a Blackboard environment. Reference Services Review, 40(3), 449-468. DOI: 10.1108/00907321211254698

Bowen reports on incorporating LibGuides in a Blackboard site for an undergraduate  course on communications at California State University, Chico. The results of a survey of student perceptions about their use of the LibGuides confirms the importance LibGuides prominence within the student’s workspace.  Bowen also offers step-by-step instructions about how to meld LibGuides into a Blackboard environment.

Hess, A. N. (2013). The MAGIC of web tutorials: How one library (re)focused its delivery of online learning objects on users. The Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(4), 331-348.

In 2012, librarians at Oakland University Libraries, in Rochester, Michigan, launched an evaluation of the libraries’ learning objects with the intent to re-organize, re-design where necessary and re-focus tutorials on user needs and use behaviors.  Hess details evaluating the worth of learning objects, using an in-house rubric that emphasized the value to the end user as well as adaptability and sustainability from the library’s perspective.  The process led to significant housekeeping wherein outdated or ineffective tutorials were jettisoned and others redesigned or newly created to fill identified gaps.

Xiao, J. (2010). Integrating information literacy into Blackboard: Librarian-faculty collaboration for successful student learning. Library Management, 31(8/9), 654-668.

Xiao offers an example of a library embedment into a Nursing course, with a significant research assignment, at The College of Staten Island.  She describes setting up portals on the course site, leading to relevant library resources for the research project including the plagiarism prevention and writing assessment software, Turnitin.  Xiao showcases combining the efficacy of Turnitin with other face-to-face and asynchronous embedded instruction methods to heighten student understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and the writing skills (paraphrasing and synthesis) and citation mechanics that are needed to prevent it.

Knight, V. R., & Loftis, C. (2012). Moving from introverted to extraverted embedded librarian services: An example of a proactive model. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 6(3-4), 362-375.

Knight and Loftis champion the adoption of a more proactive, gregarious “extraverted” posture for librarians in online environments.  Their well-described approach includes 1) combining discussions about course expectations with faculty with a thorough analysis of the course syllabus from the students’ point-of-view and 2) careful mapping of relevant library content, learning objects and librarian support with course requirements and schedule. They stress that the timing of delivery of library support, whatever its form, is crucial to insuring its usefulness to students.


This collection of articles provides much needed evidence, as well as a host of practical suggestions, to promote and guide a big re-think of ASIJ’s library presence in our CMS.  The works of York & Vance, Hoffmann & Ramin, and Bezet reinforce, and build on, the convincing arguments in Meredith Farkas’ 2008 review of best practices for library embedment in courseware.  Two more articles promote new stances toward change and innovation for libraries with circumstances similar to ASIJ.  Pickens-French and McDonald highlight how an institutional change in the CMS poses a perfect time to dramatically alter business-as-usual.  Shell, Crawford and Harris remind us how we can leverage the advantage of a diverse and skilled team to make our CMS a true virtual campus of learning for our students.  The remaining articles feature useful point-of-need embedment ideas that include refashioning and reorganizing our suite of LibGuides and online tutorials, wisely utilizing Turnitin as an instructional tool, and injecting an extraverted approach in our collaboration with faculty by analyzing syllabi and mapping to capture crucial junctures in the students’ learning experience.

This exploration of the literature is tailored for one unique learning environment and it is still far from exhaustive.  Yet, it demonstrates, I think, that this sort of review into the varied, multi-faceted and innovative endeavors of academic librarians is empowering for any library.   Curating ideas from scholarly research, we can construct our own toolkit of approaches to evolve a more targeted and useful delivery of library services to our students and faculty.  We are ready now to prototype and experiment!

 Works Cited

Beagle, D. (2000). Web-based learning environments: Do libraries matter? College & Research Libraries, 61(4), 367-379. Retrieved from

Black, E. L. (2008). Toolkit approach to integrating library resources into the learning management system. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(6), 496-501.

Cohen, D. (2002). Course management software: Where is the library? Educause Review, 37(3), 12-13. Retrieved from

Farkas, M. G. (2008). Embedded library, embedded librarians: Strategies for providing reference services in online courseware. In S. K. Steiner & M. L. Madden (Eds.), The desk and beyond: Next generation reference services (pp. 53-64). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Hoffman, S. (2011). Embedded academic librairian experiences in online courses: Roles, faculty collaboration, and opinion. Library Management,32(6/7), 444-456.

Jackson, P. A. (2007). Integrating information literacy into Blackboard: Building campus partnerships for successful student learning. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(4), 454-461.

Shank, J. D., & Dewald, N. H. (2003). Establishing our presence in courseware: Adding library services to the virtual classroom. Information Technology and Libraries, 22(1), 38-43.

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Moving from Macro to Molecular

It was interesting to learn this week, in Meredith’s article Embedded Library, Embedded Librarian: Strategies for Providing Reference Services in Online Courseware, about the absence of library considerations during the evolution of CMS design and implementation.  That explained a lot of what has puzzled me about how Blackboard is employed at my school.  Because our library has no more than a macro-level presence in Blackboard…..with links to generic, one-size-fits-all webpages….the library fades into the interface landscape.  Few know we even exist there.  To confound matters, the intrepid student or faculty member who does pursue the library through the Blackboard link, will likely be scared off by the labyrinthine library help options.  Meredith noted that “if a student is required to leave the CMS to find the library, then this is the online equivalent of requiring a student to drive across town to get from the classroom to the library” (55).  Students and teachers just aren’t going to suffer that inconvenience especially if their wayfinding within the virtual library turns out to be a giant puzzle.

I know it is just plain wrong to wish our failures on other libraries but I must admit there was something very comforting about finding out that this CMS disconnect is a common problem and not just ours alone.  What’s even more comforting and, in fact, empowering is the potential of the micro and molecular-level solutions that Meredith and this week’s case studies flesh out.  These approaches provide just the right content, at just the right time and in just the right place in ways that even a small library like mine can adopt.

So what would it look like for us to move from macro to micro/molecular?

We would need:

  • A widget or tab on course sites, with our photos and contact information, offering near 24/7 (probably more like 12/7) availability via face-to-face,  email, chat or video conferencing.
  • A way to showcase course subject and project-specific LibGuides with embedded tutorials.
  • Access to the announcements and/or discussion platforms for the course.  This access would preferably be direct but could also be facilitated through the course instructor.
  • A push-and-pull readiness to proactively highlight helpful information and also respond to student and faculty requests for help.
  • A growing knowledge base from which to quickly retrieve the push and pull responses in the form of screenshots, video tutorials and templates for email answers.
  • Collaboration from faculty.

We have the building blocks of these already.  We just need to get our foot in the door of our CMS and to market this concept effectively to teachers.   Our technology staff will be helpful in brainstorming options within Blackboard. Teachers that we currently heavily support via a variety of online learning objects would hopefully be receptive to piloting a more embedded Blackboard presence.   Such pilots would help us refine a smorgasbord of approaches that we can take to the faculty as a whole.  Collaboration with faculty will be key but this is true whether we stand pat at macro or move toward molecular.  Our effectiveness will always hinge on faculty collaboration.  We need to see this as a challenge, not an obstacle.

I can imagine at least one concern that has not yet been mentioned about the seamlessness of a molecular level approach.  Libraries may be afraid of losing their branding rights.  It has seemed so important to position ourselves in such a way that the user always knows just what products the library has provided.  I think this is one reason why we load up our website and persist in offering that as our sole portal. But no brand is worth anything if it stands alone and unused.  If molecular level approaches can increase student involvement with what the library has to offer, then our brand is strengthened, not diminished!



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Ripple Effects


High-touch embedding….if it is effective….is going to generate ripples.  And I don’t mean only tiny ripples.   Expect waves!   I was surprised by the magnitude of the impact on reference questions (that 400% jump!) from the embedded librarian pilot reported by Bennett and Simning.  But, the fact that the pilot caused a bump in reference traffic jibes with my experience.  Every meaningful intensive experience we have had embedded in a course has generated a ton of spinoff work…..particularly 1-on-1 reference meetings, purchasing, custom database searching, LibGuide development or enhancement, and citation queries.   The questions and requests just flood in.

This. Is. So. Good.

But there are trade-offs to the embedded model and the heightened activity it generates.  In my case, when we are full-on high-touch, it totally subsumes my original job description.  Step in the library some days and you can see the concrete evidence of the embed trade-off:  carts of books dry-docked awaiting shelving, periodicals stacked to be processed.  My former self would be so ashamed!

And let’s not forget the ruckus!  When the librarian and I are off on our noble embeds, the 2 library staff we leave behind are quickly outflanked by marauding teenagers.  Okay, I overstated that for drama but, honestly, supervision is a big part of my job and, when I am not there to do it, a tantalizing void opens up that high school students simply can’t resist filling with noise, contraband food, PDA and general hijinks.    I know too that when the librarian and I aren’t there, the queries of walk-in or call-in patrons often just have to wait.   Our two co-workers are miraculously cheerfully about adjusting what they used to do….unmolested by reference queries and supervision duties….to pick up the slack of our absences.

Can we keep this up?  This week I’ve thought a lot about Jen’s point in her Week 5 blog post that “this increased demand to the point of un-sustainability is exactly what we are looking for.”  At my library, we took our show-on-the-road several years ago with the advent our 1:1 laptop program but we quickly plateaued in terms of the number of students we were reaching.  This year, a new school-wide emphasis on research has sparked a big upswing in teachers seeking library services….from high-touch to low-touch.  Every new opportunity to insert ourselves into the learning landscape is desirable.   We must respond and we can because we have not hit the wall of un-sustainability yet.

Every library experimenting with embedding and, particularly with high-touch embedding, surely must travel its own unique, iterative path from planning to implementation to practice to reflection to revised practice.  Bartnik, Farmer, Ireland, Murray and Robinson gave honest and revealing evidence that, even at a single university, the experience and success of each embedment scenario can be remarkably varied.  I believe that, depending on where your learning institution and library are on the embedded model implementation roller coaster ride, high-touch is definitely a powerful approach.   But, it needs to be one of many strategies that a library deploys.

This week I’ve gained a healthy appreciation for the limits of high-touch embedding.  I will adopt a more watchful and proactive stance about our use of it as we evolve here, so that it is one of our tricks of the trade, not the single solution.


And, the ripples?

For now, I say, bring ‘em on!

I feel very strongly that our high-touch presence in courses with major research components have been transformative for a more significant number of students than our previous one-shot endeavors.   High-touch delivery is very often just-in-time and just-what-is-needed in a way that utterly captures a students’ attention and is the most convincing IL instruction I know.

Images used in this post:

Jez Elliot. (November 28, 2010). Splish. Retrieved from

______. (November 27, 2010). What a drip. Retrieved from

Both are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license


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