12 great characteristics of an agile embedded librarian

160324689The agile librarian has been with us for a number of years. What or who makes the great relationships with faculty and students?

David Shumaker, author of The Embedded Librarian, 2012 & http://embeddedlibrarian.com/, Michelynn McKnight author of The Agile Librarians Guide to Thriving in any Institution, 2009 and others inform us what it takes to be a flexible librarian.
This month I have tapped into their wisdom, combining this with both coaching practice and lessons taken from numerous library directors and agile librarians I have met in recent months.

  1. Agile librarians focus on solving problems efficiently rather than on selling products and services.
  2. They convey a positive and open attitude to the challenges in today’s dynamic information and education environments: seeing change as an opportunity. They are aware that when procrastination, indecision and rejection set in that these are potential signals for the fear of change. The embedded librarian knows how to turn this around in him/herself, and in others by focussing on solving the problem at hand, using influencing skills and a mix of facts, internal and external evidence, stories testimonials and champions to inspire and motivate.
  3. Embedded librarians are pro-active. The confidence to take initiative partly comes from having and taking the time to learn about the research domain, its work processes, its specialties and peculiarities, recent results. And it’s about getting to know the people.
  4. They know and understand the organisation or community, its structure, culture and political drivers. The agile librarian evaluates the organisation or community and identifies the strengths and weaknesses and external threats that can become opportunities for further development.
  5. Agile librarians analyse their stakeholders and understand what drives and concerns them prior to engaging with them. They correspondingly convey messages that directly reflect stakeholder values and concerns.
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  7. They build strong relationships with user groups focussing on communities that are important to the organisation and to the library, and on the underserved. They engage with individuals, projects and groups and are an integral part of those communities. By being present in their research, teaching and socially-related environments, they uncover and discover user needs. They then share faculty and student goals with library colleagues to plan activities that relieve or eliminate user discomfort or pain.
  8. As brokers of the library, they can recall the broad expanse of existing services and leverages them by communicating on the benefits they bring to solving the problem. In addition, they know how library services fit in with other local services / initiatives and thereby act as facilitators to further promote the best solutions for faculty and student needs.
  9. They manage expectations well by assessing the time and costs they have to respond communicating that to both the library and its users. They also contribute by proposing concrete ideas on how to develop and implement the current library innovation structure to respond to new demands.
  10. Agile librarians far prefer asking questions to making assumptions. Their focus on listening and observing and on reading the signs in what they hear and see enables them to more quickly identify the problems that need solving.
  11. Getting into a centred state, marking out a clear intention and identifying a clear win-win for both parties in advance of any formal meeting with faculty are techniques that help gain focus and confidence.
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  13. Agile librarians address the limiting beliefs that can hold them back such as: They won’t be interested; Who am I to …; They don’t have time; I don’t know enough about … They do this by first recognising such recurring self-talk. They then go on to question whether this assumption is indeed based on frequent past occurrences, consider where this limiting belief has come from, what it brings them and what it stops them from doing.
  14. Embedded librarians learn on the job and gain energy from the learning cycle of observing, communicating and feedback. They use the assets in any perfectionist traits to provide excellent service. At the same time, the flipside of perfectionism is the fear of making mistakes and lack of control which can prevent them from making progress. Flexible agile librarians therefore step outside of their comfort zones to explore and experiment together with faculty and students. They turn unexpected results into lessons learnt and see them as knowledge assets for others to use, i.e. well worthy of sharing.

What agile librarian do you know that does an amazing job, and how? What, in your opinion, makes a great embedded librarian?
Please share it with the community in the Comment field below.

If you would like to further discuss how to make more great agile librarians in your team, drop me a line for a free appointment and I will gladly explore things with you. We also offer a course on this for your team.

4 comments on “12 great characteristics of an agile embedded librarian

  1. Very well put, Vanessa!

    Marketing – understanding clients’ needs and finding ways to meet them – is so much more important than just advertising and promoting what we’ve always done as something we think they ought to need. When we do that, we risk reinforcing their beliefs that we are irrelevant to their lives today.

  2. As the Research Coordinator/Librarian for an expanding group of professional recyclers, I maintain what is rapidly becoming the largest LOCKSS depository of ‘Orphaned’ documentation retrieved off the ‘net.

    The secondary task for the crews is to grab anything of interest, at risk of being lost because it conflicts with the agendas of either the proponents or the authors and becomes part of our rapidly growing Off-Line database.

    I as an unrepentant analog researchers have instilled my crew with the abilities necessary to move knowledge forward. This comes, not because of the Market, often in spite of it.

    Martin G. Smith

  3. I was not referring to “the market” in a commercial sense, but “marketing” in the sense of understanding our very real clients – real people.

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