Cerro Coso’s Embedded Librarian Program: Scaffolding Research Skills

Librarian instructions to students
Embedded Librarian Sample Forum Instructions

By Julie Cornett, Cerro Coso Community College

For over a decade, Cerro Coso librarians have joined online classes as embedded librarians. Due to COVID-19 forcing the majority of courses online, many instructors who usually signed up for in-person library sessions opted instead for the embedded version, making fall 2020 the busiest yet with 24 sections!  The Embedded Librarian Program allows librarians to collaborate with instructional faculty in designing activities that scaffold research skills and work directly with online students as they locate, evaluate, and cite sources for their high-stakes research papers and projects.

Typically, the librarian joins the course for one or two weeks to moderate asynchronous forums in which students develop topics, locate scholarly articles, and practice citation. The forums are graded assignments, providing an incentive for students to take advantage of the librarian expertise and support. Additionally, the librarian embeds tutorials, LibGuides, and other resources into course pages at key points. Embedded librarians spend an average of 5 hours per section curating content and moderating/grading the forum(s).

For example, in a Child Development Capstone course, students are required to develop, implement, and evaluate an Action Research Project in the preschool centers where they are interns. To complete this project, students must develop manageable topics, research extensively, and build an APA annotated bibliography. For several years, Professor Fuller has had Julie Cornett join her class as Embedded Librarian to provide support to students as they embark on this time-intensive project. Julie works with students in several weekly forums to scaffold research activities that lead up to the final project. In reflecting on the collaboration, Prof. Fuller had this to say:

When I first assigned the Action Research Project, students did not seem to understand the research component of the assignment and often saved the project until the last few weeks of the course, which meant they did not have the time to complete a thoughtful, reflective project over time. Now that the research forums are built into the course structure starting in week 5, everyone who completes the final assignment has been successful. I attribute this to the embedded librarian who helps students develop a research question, find appropriate resources, and develop the annotated bibliography.

Julie finds that students are very appreciative of the support, and particularly value guidance in searching complex databases and differentiating among various types of information sources. Many of the students become avid library users because of the positive experience. Also, the librarians have been able to more intentionally curate collections specific to the course topics as a result of their deep exposure to the course content. The newly acquired SAGE Encyclopedia of Contemporary Childhood Education and the Handbook of Play and Learning in Early Childhood are two such examples.

To learn more, contact Julie Cornett (jcornett@cerrocoso.edu) or Sharlene Paxton (sharlene.paxton@cerrocoso.edu).