Eileen [email protected] NRCtransportation.org
Good afternoon. Im Eileen Boswell, Information Specialist at the
Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) in
Washington, DC. I usually talk too fast but I am going to use my
notes and try to focus on the most important aspects of my job as
it relates to evolving definitions of the terms informationist and
embedded librarian.*Disclaimer #1: I have never worked in another
library except a brief project during Peace Corps.
I am not an expert on Embedded Librarianship. My mentor, Dave
Shumaker, whom you may know as last years winner of the SLA
Vormelker award. Dave was one of my library school professors and,
along with his colleague Mary Talley, has been writing on the topic
of embedded librarianship for a few years, including an SLA
research grant-funded report that I will reference.
Anything I say about the term Informationist I either learned
from Dave or researched for this presentation.
I will start by explaining a little bit about CTAA and my job
here as a general overview of my traditional and non-traditional
library duties. Then Ill go through the academic definitions of
each term Informationist and Embedded Librarian and next I will
explain in more detail how I function in the context of my
organization, and how there are aspects or both models in my
situation. I will try to weave in as much as I know about jobs
other than my own, but I hope you will be thinking of your own
examples as well, or the jobs of other librarians you know, so we
can have a rich discussion about this emerging model.*My background
is in educational testing and applied linguistics. As recently as
three years ago at this time, I was embroiled in a top-secret
language testing project that was (and still is) part of No Child
Left Behind. It was not a good fit for me.
I ended up doing a lot with technology at that job, specifically
managing online courses for teachers, and I decided to go to
library school. I completed my degree at the Catholic University of
America between Fall 2007 and Spring 2009.
Shortly after I started library school, I decided I wanted some
library experience so that when I completed my degree I could go
straight to Georgetown University as an academic librarian working
with the linguistics department.
During the time I was applying for jobs, I heard a presentation
by Karen Huffman of National Geographic (during a SLIS class) in
which she said, Special librarians work in the white spaces of the
organizational chart. The next day, I had three interviews, and the
last one was at CTAA. When asked, What do you see as the role of a
special librarian in an organization such as ours?, I replied,
Special librarians work in the white spaces of the organizational
chart. I got the job.
I never intended to stay, but as it turned out, I had joined a
wonderful community of transportation librarians who would usher me
into the field while I was completing my MLS.
I contacted National Geographic, told them my story, and asked
who originally said Special librarians.. because I wanted to start
a blog around that theme. I was told that Susan Fifer Canby was the
genius behind this particular pearl of wisdom.
Around this time Dave Shumaker was studying Embedded
Librarianship and this job seemed to fit that description, so I
used embeddedlibrarian as my username for a bunch of accounts and
free tools (Blogger, Delicious) that I started around that
In the spring of 2008 I took Marketing with Dave and one of the
potential host sites for our field projects was TRB. I voted early,
hoping to secure this as my project site. None of my classmates
fought me for it.
During the first six months of my time at CTAA, I was interning
with Barbara and Jessica. Since I was learning about librarianship
in general in my other classes, and learning about transportation
in general at work, the relationship with Barbara and Jessica so
early in my tenure here helped me integrate what I was learning
into a true transportation librarianship education.*CTAA is a
membership association for specialized transit organizations. These
include tribal transit organizations, paratransit
(wheelchair-accessible), non-emergency medical transportation,
senior transportation employment transportation and rural transit
We do advocacy. We do research. We do technical assistance for
our members (How should a policy for ___ read? How do I
hire/fire/train bus drivers? How do I insure volunteer drivers? Can
I use DOT money for ___?) . We publish two magazines and I do some
work on those as needed. That arose simply because I have a good
relationship with the editor-in-chief.
*We operate several federal grants.
Many of these grants call for a part-time information
specialist, which is how they are able to fund my position
full-time. Most of these grants require some sort of resource
center as a deliverable, so I am included in many of the grant
applications and sometimes I even get to write that part of the
Duties at CTAA:Manage incoming print resources (from the
government, academics, our members and others)Coordinate outgoing
resource alertsDo research to support our Technical Assistance
specialists Support for magazines we publish (RAIL and Community
Transportation)Developer on website for National Resource Center
for Human Service Transportation Coordination
*You know that state-by-state Medicaid survey that John Doe did
in 1992? Has that been updated?How many bus fleets in the US have
fewer than 100 vehicles?What are the US standards for deadhead on a
demand-response rural bus route?Whats going on in rural America?I
heard Exxon is getting out of the retail business. What can you
tell me about this?How many paratransit rides in Florida last year
*Early on in my tenure here, I was told not to catalog. And
after I came to, I asked why. Basically, this is not really that
kind of library. If I get something in print (or electronically,
for that matter), they would rather have me share it right away
with the appropriate staff member rather than take the time to
catalog it. They are ultra kind people, but that doesn't mean they
understand the importance of cataloging. And yes, it's partly
incumbent on me to communicate that. A few months after the 'don't
catalog' conversation, when I had gathered ample confidence and the
right talking points, I approached my supervisor about this. We had
a nice conversation about being user-driven versus being
library-driven and it was very useful. As an embedded librarian, I
have one foot in the content world of my staff and one foot in the
library. It's a balancing act. I explained that if I am expected to
find something later, then I should catalog it sooner. My memory is
good, but not that good.
This is never the kind of job where there is 'no time' for
something, so it's not as if taking the time to catalog would be at
the expense of some other urgent activity. My supervisor and I were
able to clarify that it's not a priority for anyone but me, but I
am more than welcome to spend my time doing it as long as I am also
delivering the deliverables, which are more reflective of the
embedded nature of the position.*What is the unit of analysis?
In cataloging we talk about the unit of analysis. You may
catalog at the book level, or for a journal the article level. For
me its sometimes an email I have to catalog and retrieve and very
often its a web address/web document, but not necessarily a whole
Click. Tags in Gmail. Frontload the work (catalog your email at
point of contact for easy retrieval later). Staff will agree that
if there was email traffic about something and I was included, I
can put my fingers on it in a flash.
Click. I very quickly tag any site I visit in del.icio.us.
Sometimes I do comprehensive metadata through tags (format, date,
who asked for it? Who told me about it?) and sometimes I do very
simply the topic. Sometimes I tag for others sake and connect CTAA
to things others might not relate to us, just to (eventually) forge
Segue: The Dont Catalog thing may not be a sin against
librarianship, but it may point toward the Informationist
*Now Im going to tell you a little bit about the published
definitions and characteristics of both Informationists and
Embedded Librarianship, and then a bit more about my job for us to
put this all together.
History: shake-up within MLA. Between 200 and 2006, much
discussion. They landed on the term information specialist in
contextTesting informationist concept includes looking at funding
Several studies subsequently showed that clinical librarianship
programs are, in fact, both efficient and effective(12-17). They
add to clinicians' knowledge most of the time
These new-style librarians read the full text of the most
pertinent articles, identify and extract the relevant information,
write brief synopses of their findings, and present them on rounds
and at conferences
Relationships with specialists: After all, possession of highly
specialized, complex knowledge lies at the heart of physicians'
identity, a principal source of their power and prestige. see also
informationists must have a clear and solid understanding of
both information science and the essentials of clinical work.
Less obvious but no less important is the opportunity an
informationist program will create for obtaining information about
information: that is, complete, systematic feedback on what kinds
of clinical questions are asked most often, and which questions
lack satisfactory answers. Such meta-information could contribute
importantly to the definition of clinical research agendas, both
locally and nationally. Informationists can also play a crucial
role in improving existing information retrieval systems and
creating new ones by finding out more about when and how
clinicians, patients, and families need information, what
information they need most, and in what forms it is most useful to
*Dance librarian at AU
Biology librarians in labs at other colleges and
Both terms are undergoing research, surveys to develop and apply
criteria, look at funding, relationships
When I asked Dave Shumaker last week if there was anything big
that was new in the model, he told me*Article forthcoming in
Information Outlook, Feb 2011*How do I collaborate with my customer
groups?*I have to anticipate the information needs of staff and
ambassadors. Google Alerts is a good way to do that, and people
think youre doing magic tricks.**Joblinks has a full-time
Marketing/Outreach Specialist.*I have relationships with everyone.
At a minimum, I serve on the Tech Team and I am one of the last
hold-outs who will do Outlook training; the rest have tried to
switch everyone over to Gmail which is an option for us here.
*There is no lack of diversity in my job and I have had great
freedom to contribute in ways that I want to, simply by letting
people know what I like, what I can do, what I am willing to do.
Also, in a small organization, there are many ways to make
non-traditional contributions and move into the white spaces:
Tech trainingAccessibility statementBook reviews for
magazineMyths & Realities paperBlog empowermentWeb
developmentPresent at annual conferenceRoadeo!
*TAP (technical assistance program) Tappy. Penguin may have been
arbitrary at the time
NRC grant 2004; need a mascot. Tappy was the mascot of the
National Transit Resource Center.
At EXPO 2010 we were relaunching the NRC website and used Tappy-
and Penguin-themed promotional items I developed. In the back you
can see ED Dale Marsico who drove me around the exhibition floor on
a golf cart.*My job ultimately has aspects of both.*Please do not
hesitate to contact me.*