Embedded Librarians in County Government
Palm Beach County Library System, Fla.
In order to more profoundly engage Palm Beach County government, librarians were vetted and chosen to serve as researchers in eight different county departments. With the encouragement and support of the Library Director, embedded librarians met with Department Directors, set program boundaries, and received research assignments.
The demand for research in the community is greater than ever. As part of the County government, the Library System is in a unique position to offer research to other Departments: 1) whose staff has been reduced due to recent economic conditions; 2) may not have the capacity to retrieve reliable information to support mandated assignments; and 3) whose output benefits the same community served by the Library. Embedding librarians in other County Departments is also an opportunity for the Library System to foster greater understanding of and collaboration within local government.
Departments were chosen using the following criteria:
- Do research needs meet our abilities?
- Do Department’s goals align with library goals?; and
- Will collaboration lead to greater support for the Library System?
Key Elements of Innovation
To establish an embedded librarianship project, interest was first gauged internally. Reference librarians willing to serve in embedded roles, Branch Managers, and ultimately Administration wholly supported the project. Our Library Director engaged other County Department Directors to elicit interest and ideas for projects. Thirteen Departments responded and eight were chosen. Through an application process, 9 out of 14 applicants were chosen, trained by Main Library staff, and introduced to Department Heads by the Director. Through a listserv and monthly in-person meetings, librarians discuss challenges and learn new skills to better serve the departments with which they were paired.
Over 70 hours of research and related work were logged by embedded librarians in the first month. Two librarians were trained to support the information needs of Assistant County Administrators in case of a disaster. One librarian completed three research projects to better inform lawmakers regarding proposed legislation. Due to the impeccable work that has been completed, the Library System is seen now, more than ever, as an integral asset of the County government. In addition, the program has resulted in increased job satisfaction and a higher degree of civic engagement for embedded librarians. Having a supportive administration was key to launching this project successfully. We anticipate expanding the program to include more departments and, potentially, community organizations after a six-month evaluation.