Do You Want to Be Embedded?

By , March 19, 2012 12:53 pm

by Kristine Lloyd

There’s no doubt that specialization is necessary in our increasingly complex world. Remember when a lawyer was just a lawyer? Now lawyers are riparian rights specialists or dog bite litigation aficionados. While academic law librarians often specialize to support particular areas of law, we private law librarians are still primarily generalists, which can be challenging when you get one patent question a year that leaves you in a cold sweat, desperately thumbing through Penny Hazelton’s Specialized Legal Research.

As law firms become Wal-Martized, with large library staffs, there is more ability to meet specialized library research demands with appointed personnel, or “embedded librarians” who serve a specific practice group. I recall meeting a librarian from a large law firm a few years ago, and she was an SEC specialist. While intrigued, I couldn’t imagine how that was sustainable. I had all kinds of questions: how did the lawyers survive when she went on vacation? What did she do when there were no SEC-specific questions?

Well, now it seems that the concept of the embedded librarian is all the rage these days. In fact, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog just published the results of a survey about embedded librarians. It seems that though most law firm libraries do not have embedded librarians, these same firms are seriously considering moving in that direction. Those libraries who have implemented an embedded librarian program have reported improved workflow and improved evaluation of research tools that support specific practice areas.

I’ll admit that I am sometimes nostalgic for the bygone days when I worked at a firm small enough to know everyone’s name. I often wonder if all of the anonymity makes it more difficult to do our jobs. We might be invested less, and the lines of communication may not be as comfortable or free as they might otherwise be with some familiarity. I’m certainly warming to the idea of the embedded librarian. While there are certainly some logistical issues to iron out, it would be fun to once again work in a place where everybody knows your name.

One Response to “Do You Want to Be Embedded?”

  1. Robyn says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

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