Summer fun–beaches? barbecues? No! Independent Studies!


Published: July 4, 2014 by Dr. Michelle Holschuh Simmons

Michelle Holschuh Simmons SJSU SLIS provides an amazing range of courses that can be tailored to fit virtually any student’s interests and career aspirations. However, occasionally students have interests that the established classes do not address, or students want to explore a particular topic covered in an existing class in more depth. In these cases, students have the opportunity to design their own class and work with a faculty member through an independent study (LIBR 298).

This summer, SLIS student Mira Geffner and I are working together on an independent study examining the concept of embedded librarians in a consumer health information setting. Mira first studied embedding with me in LIBR 228 Advanced Reference, and she had taken LIBR 220 Medical Libraries with Charles Greenberg. Mira works in an embedded consumer health library and was interested in the intersection of the two topics, and she suggested that we work together this summer. My interest in embedded librarianship and Mira’s experience in a consumer health information setting created a perfect opportunity for us to learn from each other.

In preparation for the independent study, Mira reviewed the materials and reading lists developed by SLIS instructor Meredith Farkas for her LIBR 220 Embedded Librarians/Embedded Libraries: Embedding the Library into the Fabric of Higher Education class, and she developed several documents that I approved before the semester began. First, she wrote a course description with definitions, student learning outcomes, and a description of the assignments. Next, she submitted a draft of a weekly schedule with readings and assignments; this document is still a work in progress, and we have both revised it as we got into the content of the class. And finally, Mira submitted a “school rules” document that laid out expectations for both of us as we embarked on this summer project. Combined, these documents provided both structure and flexibility, as is appropriate for an independent study. Aside from learning the content of the class, Mira has had the added benefit of learning about the challenges and joys of designing a class. As she reflected in a recent email to me, “I *know* that teaching is hard work, . . ., [but] I just didn’t quite factor in how challenging and time-consuming it would be to design a class to teach myself a lot of things that I don’t already know.” Done well, an independent study can confer both content knowledge and meta-knowledge about the learning process itself.

The culminating project for this independent study is a Collaborate presentation open to the whole SLIS community during which Mira will be sharing her findings this summer in relation to her work in the Medical Information Service at Breast Cancer Connections, a non-profit organization in Palo Alto, California. We would love to have an enthusiastic audience in attendance! Please join us at 6:30 PM Pacific on Wednesday, 7/30, in Collaborate via this link ( Everyone is invited, even if your only connection to SJSU SLIS is that you happened to visit our website! This is a great opportunity for you to learn about embedded librarianship, about information professions in non-profit organizations, or about independent studies. If you have questions, please contact me at michelle.h.simmons @


Mira Geffner is the Program Assistant for Medical Information Services at Breast Cancer Connections. She is an MLIS student at SJSU, and plans to graduate in December, 2014.

Breast Cancer Connections (BCC) is a community-based non-profit organization in Palo Alto, CA. The organization’s guiding principles include “providing education that helps [clients] make informed decisions.” This education is provided by the Medical Information Service (MIS), which includes a small lending library, reference service, and weekly educational sessions. The MIS is fully integrated with BCC’s other informational programs and supportive services. MIS staff are also embedded as part of the office helpline and participate in other functions as regular staff. The service is highly valued by both the organization and its clients, and is quite busy. Learn more about Breast Cancer Connections and the Medical Information service here:


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