“Experimenting with an Embedded Librarian in an American Government Class”

Shyam K. Sriram and Amelia Glawe – Georgia Perimeter College

This essay originally appeared in the Political Science Educator’s Spring 2013 issue.

One of the most exciting new directions in our discipline has been the growing experimentation with library science‐social science collaborations. These collaborations have taken the form of new ways of creating assignments, syllabi and curricula for undergraduates with an emphasis on learning not just political concepts, but learning better ways to perform research and information literacy. At the heart of this new pedagogical wave are two concepts: information literacy and embedded librarianship.

Information literacy (IL), can be defined as “the ability to identify and locate multiple sources of information using a variety of methods … Analyze and evaluate information within a variety of contexts … [and] Participate in collaborative analysis and/or application of information resources” (Demers and Rosenthal 2006, 3). The ability to quickly look up information that is not peer‐reviewed or well researched has been referred to as “the Google effect” by scholars like Thornton (2010, 2008) who suggest that the Internet has had a huge effect on students’ academic success, research skills, information retention and ability to understand and summarize academic sources.

Brians and Garaffa (2009) and Williams and Evans (2008) have also measured information literacy skills – or the lack thereof ‐ of political science students. This follows other works by Andersen and

Harsell (2005) and Marfleet and Dille (2005) to gauge what students in our discipline know, what skills they use to access information and thoughts on how we, as political scientists, can improve research skills for our students. In particular, Andersen and Harsell (2005) suggested three basic objectives for any research methodology course: “some exposure to

This essay is part of the Political Science Educator: Editor’s Reading List

Political Science and International Studies research … have research skills that are relevant to political science courses … be able to critically evaluate research literature, data and findings” (as quoted in Brians and Garaffa 2009, 3).

The other side of this collaboration comes from the library sciences and specifically, Operating Iraqi Freedom. About eight years ago, there was a “revolution” among librarians; the terms “embedded librarian” and “embeddable librarian” started to appear in the library sciences literature with regards to collaborative attempts to move librarians away from “one‐shot” instruction to more of a role where they would be embedded or placed in academic departments and other institutions to provide user‐based and need‐specific information literacy needs. Librarians like Dewey (2004) and Schroeder (2011) borrowed the notion of the “embedded librarian” from journalists who started to become “embedded” in combat units during the recent Iraq War to provide a more detailed, realistic and first‐person perspective on combat.

According to Brower (2011), there are six characteristics of Embedded Librarianship: collaboration; long‐term partnerships; providing needs‐based services; the availability of services outside of the library; understanding the culture of the specific users; and also their research habits.

Embedded Librarianship can take several forms and there is not a one‐size‐fits‐all model. From our perspective as a community college that prides itself being an “access institution,” the impetus for such a collaboration was to help students with the most basic information literacy skills including knowing standard information about the library; the best sources for finding different kinds of research; and developing a personal relationship with a librarian for help with research issues in and out of class. More advanced information literacy techniques can be cultivated and focused on in higher‐level political science classes and assignments.

With the concepts of embedded librarianship and information literacy in mind, we planned a unique collaboration at Georgia Perimeter College for the fall semester of 2012. During the summer, Ms. Glawe, a research librarian on the Clarkston campus of Georgia Perimeter College, contacted Mr. Sriram, an Instructor of Political Science on the same campus, to see if he would be interested in partnering on an Embedded Librarianship project with political science students. We decided to embed Ms. Glawe into five sections of POLS 1101, “American Government,” a mandatory, three‐credit course for all students at the college and in the University System of Georgia.

Some of the ideas we implemented included introducing Ms. Glawe not only as the embedded librarian for the course, but as a co‐instructor; face‐to‐face class visits by Ms. Glawe so that students could put a name with a face and also develop a personal relationship with her; the creation of an online library guide specifically for Mr. Sriram’s course with general and assignment‐specific research guidance; and a huge, online presence by Ms. Glawe on iCollege (WebCT) including weekly emails on a variety of research topics and IL‐ related discussion posts.

Here is a partial list of other EL projects that can be used in the political science classroom:

  • Basic Library Trainings (BLTs) and online tutorials and research guides (Demers and Rosenthal 2006)
  • Integrating library services into Learning Management Systems through Web‐based content, tutorials and direct methods of contact with librarians (Dewey 2004)
  • Creating specific information literacy (IL) assignment objectives for each course; focusing on research writing skills including thesis and bibliography development; and learning basic APSA citation style (Stevens and Campbell 2007)
  • Requiring students to read a manual on writing research papers; assigning writing assignments in conjunction with the research manual; and mandatory time to be spent in the library computer lab (Blankenship and Wilson 2009).
  • Library and political science faculty co‐ creating and co‐teaching classes, and librarians given “course builder access” to individual classes so they may design course content more focused on ameliorating information skills (Daly 2011)

In conclusion, we believe that our embedded librarianship collaboration has already yielded rich dividends for our political science students. Based on results of our pre‐ and post‐tests, we believe that Ms. Glawe’s frequent discussion posts and emails on various information literacy topics have greatly ameliorated students’ knowledge of library resources and steps to perform research. Most importantly, however, is that our students feel like they have a friend or “ally” in the library to help them with research and several students this semester emailed her or visited her in the library for help with research. Too often, librarians are viewed as outsiders in higher education; if there is at least one benefit of embedded librarianships it is a change in how students view librarians and the belief on their and our part, as educators, that librarians should be more involved in teaching and learning because of the same goals – producing students with more advanced research skills and a greater understanding of information literacy, which is sure to benefit them in college and beyond.


Andersen, Kristi and Dana Harsell. 2005. “Assessing the Impact of a Quantitative Skills Course for Undergraduates.” Journal of Political Science Education, 1(1): 17 – 27.

Blankenship, Jeffrey M. and Ellen K. Wilson. 2009. “Teaching Writing and Researc Skills in an Undergraduate Public Administration Class.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans.

Brower, Matthew. 2011. “A Recent History of Embedded Librarianship: Collaboration and Partnership Building with Academics in Learning and Research Environments.” In Embedded Librarians: Moving Beyond One‐Shot Instruction, eds. Cassandra Kvenild and Kajisa Calkins. Chicago: Association of College and Research Librarians.

Brians,  Craig  Leonard  and  Tyler  Garaffa. 2009.  “Assessing  Information  Literacy Skills  in  Research  Methods  Courses.” Presented at the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, Baltimore, Md.

Daly, Emily. 2011. “Instruction Where and When Students Need It: Embedding Library Resources into Learning Management Systems.” In Embedded Librarians: Moving Beyond One‐Shot Instruction, eds. Cassandra Kvenild and Cajisa Calkins. Chicago: Association of College and Research Librarians.

Demers, Nora and Danielle Rosenthal. 2006. “Improving Information Literacy Among Undergraduates.” Prepared for the First Annual Interdisciplinary Conference, Florida Gulf Coast University, Naples, FL.

Dewey,   Barbara.   2004.    “The   Embedded Librarian: Strategic Campus Collaborations.” Resource Sharing and Information Networks, 17 (1): 5 – 17.

Marfleet,  B.  Gregory  and  Brian  J.  Dille. 2005. “Information Literacy   and  the Undergraduate  Research Methods Curriculum.” Journal of Political Science Education, 1 (?): 175 – 190.

Schroeder, Ann. 2011. “Replacing Face‐to‐ Face Information Literacy Instruction: Offering the Embedded Librarian Program to All Courses.” In Embedded Librarians: Moving Beyond One‐Shot Instruction, eds. Cassandra Kvenild and Cajisa Calkins. Chicago: Association of College and Research Librarians.

Stevens, Christy R. and Patricia J. Campbell. 2007. “The Politics of Information

Political Science Educator: Editor’s Reading List presents select PSE articles from the previous 15 years. APSA Educate is please to announce it will feature all future Political Science Educator‘s issues.


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