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Part 2: Benefits and Value of Embedded Special Librarianship

Posted by Miriam Kahn, MLS, PhD on 5/25/2018
Miriam Kahn, MLS, PhD
Benefits and Value of Embedded Special Librarianship

Embedded information professionals share their expertise across the enterprise—which benefits from increased awareness of internal resources and projects. Embedded special librarians add value by bridging information silos while disseminating information throughout the organization.

In my last blog post, we explored the history of embedded special librarianship. This week, let’s look at the benefits and value of embedding information professionals in organizations, departments, projects, and information centers.


Embedded special librarians bring their expertise to projects and departments through active participation as integral members of a team. Embedded librarians gain insight to projects and nuances of topics that traditional librarians may not have. Through being involved in the brainstorming process, embedded special librarians contribute both subject expertise and overall knowledge of the profession to the conversation.

Filling the gaps

Using their knowledge of general and specialized databases and collections, embedded special librarians pinpoint gaps in internal information sources and identify external resources. Internal knowledge gaps can be filled by including previously unidentified or uncatalogued materials in local databases. Project teams benefit because embedded information professionals locate required information through specialized databases and catalogues quickly and efficiently. They recommend acquisition of new collections for projects under development.

An example: When embedded special librarians are part of the exhibition planning team for museums or historical societies, they can easily identify catalogued materials and coordinate with other departments or divisions to locate hidden collections, some never before displayed. They liaise with other departments and divisions within and outside the organization to facilitate loans. Embedded librarians write targeted recommendations and grant proposals for acquisition of new collections or loans of needed materials from sister institutions.
Agility and insight

During brainstorming sessions, teams benefit from embedded special librarians who provide real-time research into proposed topics to investigate project viability. Embedded information professionals investigate the market for similar items and topics, rather than reinventing the wheel by designing projects and products already available through another entity.

Using specific terms and razor-sharp searching skills, embedded special librarians dive deeply into specialized databases and catalogues, searching for key concepts and studies. They modify searches on-the-fly to meet the immediate needs of the project groups and departments. Based on search results, special librarians make recommendations to customize projects and enhance internal database records by adding narrower and broader search terms, bringing together disconnected collections and increasing discoverability.


Embedded librarians are highly visible and dynamic team members who deliver expertise, visibility, and organization-wide knowledge (context). They are active participants and on-the-fly information retrievers, increasing awareness of the diverse resources within the information center and organization. Targeted, in-depth information delivery decreases costs of developing projects already underway, demonstrating the value of embedded special librarians with subject expertise.

Analyzing retrieved data, embedded special librarians identify pertinent information and customize its use and dissemination to meet the precise needs of the working team. They mine expertise within organizations to enhance the quality, depth, and breadth of developing projects, often speeding their successful conclusion. Embedded special librarians use subject expertise to quickly identify needed information and resources, retrieve it efficiently, and distribute it to appropriate stakeholders and clients inside and outside the organization.

Virtuous communication cycle

Active communication between development groups and the information center fosters dynamic and timely information dissemination across divisions and the organization as a whole on a regular basis. Active communication within the information center enhances retrieval of discipline specific data and increased awareness of enterprise-wide project development. Embedded information professionals complete the communication cycle, asking about similar projects and mining corporate knowledge to enhance projects by incorporating or repackaging needed knowledge. As requested data returns to the information center, special librarians analyze and disseminate it to appropriate parties within the organization. Active communication increases the internal value of disseminated information institution-wide and encourages continued collaboration.

Quality control

Embedded special librarians troubleshoot issues of access to information as they arise. They identify improperly applied metadata and recommend additional search terms to increase access to collections, data, and objects within the organization. Increasing access to information enhances its value across departments and encourages collaboration inside and outside the enterprise.

The value of embedding librarians into working groups is that projects are no longer worked in isolation but draw from expertise across the organization.

Summing up
Organizations and divisions benefit by embedding special librarians into project teams.
  • There is increased awareness of local and organizational resources.
  • Collaborative teams and embedded information professionals benefit by sharing subject and project expertise with others across the organization.
  • Embedded special librarians provide real-time access to subject specific resources, quickly and efficiently analyzing retrieved data, decreasing costs of projects and for the organization as a whole.
  • Embedded special librarianship bridges information silos and disseminates previously isolated information throughout the organization.

Please watch for my next blog post, which will address the advantages of dedicated versus part-time embedded librarians.


Topics: Professional Development, Special Librarians