Okay, I have avoided this topic long enough. For several months my "Coming Soon" sidebar has promised a post on whether I am embedded or not. While I am not ready to reconstruct my blog with a new address (I originally tried for "Sassy Librarian," but that was taken), I am ready to open myself up to the possibility that, as many have suggested, I am not, in fact, embedded, but "only" a special, solo librarian in as traditional a sense as that job can be.
I have tried to remember where I originally heard the term "embedded librarian" and why I grew to see this position that way. I remember that the first time I heard Susan Fifer Canby's brilliant notion that "special librarians work in the white spaces of the organizational chart" was when her colleague Karen Huffman addressed my Information Systems class last fall. Perhaps I have confounded the terms "special librarian" and "embedded librarian," and perhaps the latter term is too young to warrant a full-on debate of my status.
Mary Talley and Dave Shumaker are currently researching this topic through an SLA research grant. Their survey takes into account organizational structure, proximity to physical library resources, administrative reporting requirements (i.e. is your boss a librarian?), and other criteria that will eventually lead to an operational definition of embeddedness, or at least a cogent spectrum of models of embeddedness. While the vast majority of my Google alerts on "embedded librarian" return tales of academic instruction librarians embedded in Freshman Composition courses and accounts of media librarians embedded with subject specialists, I still feel a pull toward the moniker because of the structure of my position within this organization.
I work with transportation people. We have a dozen or so technical assistance specialists, a webmaster, a finance department, and me. I do manage a print library but that is a very small part of my job. I am not exactly part of the "program staff," but I am more involved with the substance of what we do than the accountants and the webmaster. My boss has tasked me with becoming a "content generalist." So far, maybe I am just a solo special librarian in a very small organization that is going digital. But consider this....
My salary comes from three separate federal grants, each of which calls for a part-time information specialist to carry out its strategic goals. My primary project, which determines who my supervisor is and how I spend most of my time, is to provide information services to a National Resource Center that is housed at our organization. The National Resource Center team consists of six staff people: five program staff and me. While in our team meetings, I feel I am the quintessential "embedded librarian." I am a full-fledged member of the team, but I have funding through them because they need an information specialist. Parts of what I do may not be considered library-like, but all my tasks can be improved by drawing on my library science education.
So where does that leave me? We may have to wait for Shumaker and Talley to publish their study before making an informed decision. In the meantime, I hope this topic will encourage the blog-comment-activity I have tried unsuccessfully to encourage on this site, but which will be a nice primer before I draft my "Controversial Topics" posts later this fall.