Embedded librarians increase access to help for World Campus students

by Jordan Dawson
September 22, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During last year’s scenario of primarily remote learning, many Penn State students became more familiar with the research process, finding accessible and credible information for their studies, in an online setting. For Penn State World Campus students, this situation was likely one they have faced before.

In a traditionally virtual setting, World Campus students understand that online access to instructors is part of learning. However, that does not mean they are cut off from a vast array of resources also available to residential students. Some of these resources — both subject-expert librarians and primary-source online content — are embedded directly into the World Campus curriculum.

Embedded librarians from Penn State University Libraries offer real-time academic support specifically for World Campus students and their studies. The program, which often supports 20 courses per semester, exists to expand the University Libraries’ efforts to provide assistance to all students.

Victoria Raish, the University Libraries’ online learning coordinator, works directly with embedded librarians and World Campus instructors to ensure students have an effective experience interacting with them.

“When an embedded librarian is added directly to a class in Canvas, the student can then contact them via communications or messages in Canvas," said Raish. "Often, when an embedded librarian is added to a course, they also have their contact message on the library guide that is found in the Library Resources tab in Canvas, and there is contact information on that page.”

screen grab from Canvas learning management system showing Library Resources tab and content

The Library Resources section within the Canvas learning management system, available for every Penn State course, directs students to linked e-reserves and the library guide appropriate for each course or subject. World Campus students enrolled in a course with an embedded librarian have direct online access to expert information resource help. (Student identity and instructor name in this image have been redacted for privacy purposes.)

IMAGE: Penn State

These librarians are assigned to courses and departments in which they can have the most positive impact, said Raish. Their knowledge of specific fields of study and related primary resources enables them to point students in the direction of viable sources for their research, including library databases, and provides students with a pathway toward using credible information.

An embedded librarian sees value in helping students on their journey to becoming confident in evaluating and using the information they find, according to Raish. The simplicity of the connection of student to librarian provides for the most impactful process for all parties involved.

“The benefit of a librarian being added to the class is really to help support students in the course, improve their academic research abilities, and increase their confidence in activities like searching for and evaluating the credibility of sources," said Raish, adding that this skillset is crucial to each department and degree, and it improves the output students can produce throughout their courses.

Not only does access to embedded librarian services relieve some stress for students, but it also provides new professional experiences for librarians who choose to participate. The program strives to make “all librarians feel empowered to get involved,” according to Raish, and to make it a place for librarians to find the best ways to help students get things started, and to find time to develop learning objects, partners and people involved in the course collaboration.

The involvement of embedded librarians in World Campus courses has produced positive results for instructors, too. Raish cited many examples of success, such as feedback from a political science instructor who remarked on how having a librarian embedded in the course improved students’ group work "because there was no longer disagreement about what counts as a quality source or what their research project could look like.”

Overall, the University Libraries’ embedded librarian program offers students real-time access to information and resources through expert assistance across a variety of departments and degrees and also fosters an online community that supports the interests of its students’ long-term academic goals.

Instructors interested in having an embedded librarian in their course are encouraged to email Torrie Raish at vrc112@psu.edu.

Last Updated September 22, 2021