From Space to Service to Partnership – quality service delivery through embedded librarianship: The case of the UFS main campus library
Gone are those days when librarians sat behind a counter and waited for patrons to approach them for assistance. The 21st century academic librarians are vibrant go-getters who constantly are looking for new ways to reach out to their patrons with hopes to evaluate and satisfy their changing needs so as to serve them better. Analysis of literature reveals that the ideal vision of the 21st century academic library is to move librarians out of their traditional library setting, into a new setting where providing services based on a collaborative library partnership is possible. Embedded librarianship that enables close coordination and communication within faculty, and which enhances delivery of quality service through engaged collaboration with faculties, is one way to help librarians to be recognised as key role players who are adding value to the academic project. It means remodelling the library from being a Space to a Service to a Partnership.
At the University of the Free State (UFS) Library and Information Services (LIS) some of our services are already embedded but we realised that this is too limited since our ability to impact student outcomes in a meaningful way, seemed to be insufficient. We realised that we needed to take a further step to change from a traditional service to a truly embedded partnership.
In an effort to realise this vision of embedded librarianship, our division (Teaching and Learning) has embarked on a collaborative Action Research (AR) project in which we are following the typical phases of plan-act-observe-reflect. In the first phase a thorough context analysis is needed to guide us in the formulation of an action plan for improving our embedded librarianship. As part of the context analysis we are conducting a comprehensive survey to analyse the role of embedded librarianship in the services provided by the UFS main campus library. The study aims to reveal the ways in which we are already embedded, to identify various bottlenecks which hinder effective embedded activities and, to come up with relevant innovative suggestions to address the identified challenges (the action plan). A purposeful sample of participants will be selected from a target population that includes the librarians who are involved in facilitating training or library instruction and faculty staff and students of the UFS main campus. All ethical requirements will be adhered to.
Using Plowright’s Frameworks for Integrated Methodology (FraIM), three types of data collection methods will be employed, namely observation (by members of the division), asking questions (questionnaires and semi-structured interviews) and artefact/document analysis (relevant documents related to the initiatives to enhance embedded librarianship). The results of the survey and progress with the action plan will be shared at the conference.
The value of the project lies in the creation of new understandings of embedded librarianship and accompanying challenges. This goal can be achieved when librarians acknowledge the need to leave their confined Spaces and intentionally investigate ways in which their Services can be delivered in Partnership with the wider academic community.