While people discuss the value of embedded librarians versus centralized libraries, and the value of having an information professional within the department versus the value of having a library as study, research, and meeting space, I’ve had the best of both worlds for the past 9 years.
I’ve been embedded in a research center, along with my library. Really, this is not so different from the department library model, except that I work at an interdisciplinary research center with faculty and students from multiple departments and colleges – and I work for the research center, rather than the library system.
An article on embedded librarians from Inside Higher Ed examines the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University, which is well ahead of most libraries in embedding its librarians. Some of the commenters note that losing the library as place means losing access to space for patrons who do not have their own offices, losing access to resources not available online, and losing access to collaborative space.
Having an embedded library – a thing that used to be common in NICHD-funded population research centers, but that is no longer being encouraged in new centers – provides immense benefits that, unfortunately, cannot be measured in research funding.
Because my office is in the research center, I know about new projects as working groups are formed or proposals drafted, and can provide assistance. Faculty and students see me in the elevator and ask questions. I overhear conversations that lead me to develop new workshops.
Because the library is also in the research center, graduate students have a place for informal meetings. While they are in the library, they have a chance to browse new books and journals. This is especially important in an interdisciplinary field, because resources related to population are not gathered in one place in the main university library.
As one commenter noted, the one thing I am missing is a connection to my librarian colleagues. In fact, since I work for the research center, I don’t have any formal connection to them. So, instead of having to work hard to connect with my patrons, I’ve had to work hard to connect with other librarians. Overall, though, I think this model has worked.