Q: It seems as though embedded librarians have to be especially attuned to/aligned with the needs of their organization. Perhaps in a similar way that business owners are attuned to clients’ needs. I was wondering how your experience of being a self-employed freelance librarian is helpful to you in your current position as an embedded librarian, and any cross-over of skills?
CNW: This is a great question. You are correct: typically, embedded librarians either have or develop through experience a strong understanding of the organization and the specific group they work with. Librarians are embedded in all kinds of libraries and fields, not just special libraries. For example, a public librarian may be embedded in a workforce development or community liaison role; academic librarians are often embedded within a specific subject or discipline(s), and special librarians may be embedded within a specific business group or practice.
The time I spent as a freelance librarian and writer taught me how to quickly understand the client’s needs and expectations, set goals and outcomes, negotiate deliverables and communicate proactively with clients at all stages of each project. These skills have served me very well in my current capacity as the global new business librarian at Y&R. While I didn’t have specific work experience in the advertising field at the time I was hired, many of my freelance clients were marketing and communications companies. That gave me the ability to talk about the transferable skills that would enable me to be successful during my interview.
If you’re interested in becoming an embedded librarian within a particular industry or field, it helps to know as much as possible about the business before going into an interview. For example, before interviewing for my current role, I researched the company, read some of the major advertising publications, and looked up some of the people I interviewed with. Informational interviews with librarians currently working in that field can also be tremendously valuable.
Many companies are finding value in having librarians embedded in key practice areas to orchestrate and smooth the flow of information-sharing. These opportunities often require familiarity with the industry, but it is your librarian skills in combination with the soft skills of active listening, project management, and communication that will help you get you the job.
One last note: don’t wait for these roles to be posted and offered. Network with and observe upper management within your organization. If you hear a recurring theme of fragmented knowledge assets, especially in an area with an impact on efficiency or productivity, consider making the case that a knowledge manager or embedded librarian could help smooth the flow of information and help teams produce better results. Careful, attentive listening can sometimes help you create your own ideal job.
Informational Interviewing Tutorial (Quintessential Careers)