Reflections on a Conference – HLG 2016 by LIHNN Members

Katie Nicholas – Health Education England, working across the North West: HLG 2016 was my first HLG conference and my first time presenting at a conference and I loved it! I saw the whole conference process from submitting a proposal, being given the chance to speak with my colleague and getting to experience other sessions and workshops with colleagues. I enjoyed delivering our presentation (we were session 1a so we didn’t have too long to get nervous) and hearing about Mary Hill and Tim Jacobs’ work on their staff Research repository – we were lucky enough to share a session with them. I also really enjoyed Clare Bradshaw’s session on the Talent Management Toolkit as part of Knowledge for Healthcare. Clare delivered a really great workshop with lots of discussion about identifying talent, holding talent conversations and retaining and valuing talented staff and its potential benefit to the network and the organisation. I ended the two days by attending a Knowledge Cafe (a Knowledge Management tool) with the provocative talking point How would you end your profession in the next two years?which was a really clever way of reversing the discussion. By identifying ways in which we could mess the whole thing up it gave us all ideas of how to prevent our worst fears from happening!

Mary Hill – The Christie Library & Knowledge Service: However, experienced you are at giving presentations you still make mistakes.  So I will reflect on the two I am willing to own up to.

What I did:  I tried to answer a question I didn’t fully know the answer to.

What I should have done: Admit it wasn’t my area of expertise and pass it over to my colleague.  Doing this would have saved me appearing rather stupid.  The next time I am in that situation, I will remember the feeling of discomfort I had and take the right course of action.

What I did: I mapped out all my times for the workshop I gave so I didn’t run overtime and kept to it until the last quarter of an hour when I relaxed as I was covering something I regularly do.  I switched into work mode and thought I had the time I would normally have at work and completely ruined the end of the workshop.

What I should have done:  Not relax and kept to my timetable I had drawn up and placed in front of myself.  I felt I had let my audience down badly and rushed everything.  I was aware I was tight on time and had planned for it, not only by drawing up the timetable, but also by telling myself I could just talk about one of the activities rather than getting people to do it.   It has reminded me how important timing is.  I felt unprofessional at the end.  The memory of that feeling will help guard against a repeat.  I will also make a more visible and possible audible reminder with me.


Susan Smith – Joint Education & Training (JET) Library: Knowledge for Healthcare (KfH) programmes dominated the conference (as well as my current work life with touring the launch of the impact toolkit), which is all very good as it’s extremely useful and very, very important.  Many non-NHS librarians I spoke to were in awe of the amount of high quality work being delivered.  NHS librarians may be suffering ennui from the effort of engagement or implementation of the programmes.  For that reason I’m dropping my KfH hat and reflecting on a specific session on User Experience (UX) in Libraries by Jo Milton from University of Cambridge.

In my past career working as a ranger, mapping user experience was key to designing a country park.  If you didn’t build a path correctly, desire lines would appear and scar the landscape.  Lots of little psychological tricks could be used to mark out paths and limit unwanted behaviour.  Some of these things I still do e.g. the staff area has a different coloured carpet.  Most people don’t notice, but they also don’t tend to cross the line.  I also moved the OPAC based on user behaviour so that it was nearer the book stock. A session on user-centred design certainly tweaked my interest.

After librarians at Cambridge re-designed one of their libraries, they were surprised that no-one used it.  Features the librarians thought were helpful, such as placing the computers near the enquiry desk, turned out to be deterrents to the students.  Lessons were learned and for the next re-fit a consultation was planned.

Staff used UX techniques to map out how people used the library.  They shadowed users to experience what their actual journey through the library was like, from coming in to finding what they were looking for.  Some consultations used focus groups to draw the perfect library during which the users were given 3 minutes to draw their ideas and suggestions, then the pen colour was changed and the users had another 3 mins and so on.  People draw what is important to them first, so this helped to prioritise.  Seemingly, if you try this exercise with librarians, we forget to put in our users as we focus on the building itself, whereas our users tend to put us in their drawings.  These drawings were backed-up by post-it note suggestions (as wild as they liked), about what people wanted.  Cocktail bars translated as improved refreshment areas with a bit of lateral thinking! The presentation was full of interesting tips for exercises we can use to better consult with our stakeholders.  The staff library is ordering a copy of UX Lib: User Experience in Libraries: Applying ethnography and human-centred design by Priester, A. and Brog, M. which was recommended during the session or check out @UXLibs.  Keep a look out!


Lisa McLaren – Bridgewater Community Healthcare: The HLG conference was a great mix of serious, “big” issues, around Knowledge for Healthcare and its implementation and how we champion our profession (thanks Nick Poole….), but it was also interspersed with more relaxed human items, such the excellent, thought provoking plenary from Lynn Daniel, from the Expert Patient Programme and also Gareth Allen, a triathlete and triathlon coach who helps people overcome mental illness with exercise.

The biggest thing for me was my first conference presentation, with Michelle Maden and Gil Young, on the LIHNN MOOC on Literature Searching, which went very well, if you overlook me forgetting to move my slides on. I have come home with a lot of notes, contacts and ideas, but if you weren’t lucky enough to come along to the conference and be inspired by the wide variety of information professionals talking about their work and big projects, you can always have a look back at Twitter, with #HLG2016. The mayor features a fair bit…

Emily Hurt – Lancashire Teaching Hospitals: I presented at HLG and found it to be a very positive experience. The HLG Presenters Workshop, organised by LIHNN and delivered by Deborah Daley, was a fantastic way of preparing for the conference and was a great opportunity to get informal and constructive feedback on what can be an intimidating task! It boosted my confidence and meant that when I came to present I felt (relatively!) calm and composed. I shared my session with Lynn Easton, from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, who talked about her work defining users of library space by type. Our presentations complimented each other and I think the audience were interested in both, as we were asked some very thought provoking questions about our projects. You can see Lynne’s slides here, and mine are available here – as mine are mainly images I’ve included my script as well. If you are thinking about presenting at HLG 2018 then I would encourage you to take the plunge. As long as you’re speaking about something you’re passionate about then your enthusiasm and knowledge will help you overcome any nerves.


Sarah Owen – Trust Library Wigan: I would like to give a huge thank you to LIHNN for funding my place at the HLG Conference in Scarborough. This is the first HLG Conference I have attended and my first conference for many years.  I didn’t really know what to expect and was impressed with the whole atmosphere and experience. Everyone was very welcoming and it was great to meet so many lovely people and make new friends. There was a balance of expanding ideas, introduction to new ideas and proposals, reinforcing current practice, discovering new products and putting faces to names and meeting new people. 

There were so many interesting sessions to go to and it was difficult to make a choice at times, so I was pleased to see all the sessions available on the HLG website so I don’t feel I’ve missed anything. The whole event was full of inspiring moments both on a professional and a personal level. 

One of the lasting impressions for me is recurrence of the theme on impact and I was keen to find out as much as I could to take back to the workplace. The session ‘Practical tools to collect evidence of impact using the online Impact Toolkit’ provided me with just that opportunity; it was a fun session presented by Susan Smith and Doug Knock with background, practical exercises, opportunity for discussion and the all-important questionnaire, interview and case study tools which will be put into practice. 

I found the sessions by Lynn Daniel (From a patient’s perspective) and Gareth Allen (Bishop and Le Fanu Memorial Lecture: PT your brain – The benefits of exercise on mental health) to be both inspirational and motivational. Lynn presented  techniques from her Expert Patient Programme Courses on changing thoughts and feelings with a positive approach and on developing coping strategies and improving confidence in such an inspirational way. Gareth was motivational in giving suggestions to make tangible measurable improvements to mental wellbeing through physical activity. In giving details about their roles and programmes, they demonstrated  the many benefits for their patients but they also made their ideas relevant to others in their day to day lives.

David Stewart – Health Care Libraries Unit North: Scarborough. Thick fog for two days. Nice hotel on the cliff top which might have had good views.

The hotel put me in mind of my first HLG Conference in 1985 in Coventry. The thing that struck me then was “nice hotel”.  We stayed at the De Vere Hotel and the meeting report in Health Libraries Review notes it was a “four star hotel … with a colour television and a sewing kit in every room”.

The theme for that 1985 conference was “Impact and image: succeeding with public relations”- some themes seem to be everlasting . I’m afraid I remember very little about the content and certainly hadn’t remembered that there was a visit to the Barnes Medical Library at the University of Birmingham, where I started my career as a Library Assistant in 1978. I see from the review that the great and good were speakers: Michael Carmel, Maureen Forrest, Bob Gann. Didn’t I see Bob at EAHIL in Seville this year?

I think I’ve been to every HLG Conference since 1985, save two, most notably missing the Aberystwyth conference which was apparently a blessing – only those that were present will know what I mean. A few really stick out in my mind, Exeter was very hilly; Canterbury because I helped organise it, Edinburgh was so far out of the centre that we saw nothing of the city, Oxford was very hot and Eastbourne was very tidy. I liked Eastbourne.

So, HLG in Scarborough, 2016. I hope that this one will be more memorable because it was a really great conference: there was excellent networking, there was a good exhibition and above all there were interesting and engaging presentations. A fantastic key note from Patrick Mitchell and Louise Goswami on Knowledge for Healthcare (KfH), an insight into writing a book for Facet by Gil Young and Tracey Pratchett and a thoughtful workshop on the future of the LQAF by Clare Edwards, Dominic Gilroy and Linda Ferguson, all bravely speaking up in a room with a glass roof and heavy rain. And, yes, I gave a presentation too – something on the workforce element of KfH with Sue Lacey Bryant at my side to answer the difficult questions. I note I am still nervous before speaking and I wonder if Michael and Maureen and Bob were nervous too in 1985. LIHNN Members  

Posted in Reflection, Training and Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My course to the course…(see what I did there) by Katie Nicholas

I started the MA in Library and Information at MMU in September 2014 after working as Library Assistant at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust for just over year. I had a place on a Masters in English and American Studies when I finished my undergraduate degree in English Literature but I decided I wanted to work – I’d been involved in public libraries and heritage as a volunteer throughout college and as a volunteer in the archives at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate looking at their Wesleyan collections throughout my degree. I got a job in the public and mental health promotion library at Fallowfield and I loved it. After spending time getting to know what health librarianship was all about and meeting the LIHNN network I knew this was something I wanted to do.

I have always liked learning and being challenged and was keen to keep developing. My manager at the time, Emily Hopkins, suggested ‘Certification’ – the first level of professional registration offered to CILIP members. I if enjoyed that I could then think about starting the three-year masters course, it would be would be a big commitment and I wanted to be sure.  ‘Certification’ involved logging a number of CPD hours, setting skills-based goals and gathering evidence to meet CILIP’s three criteria; personal performance, organisational context and wider professional context. I spent about 8 months, starting not long after I was in post, gathering a virtual portfolio of evidence and reflecting on what I had learned and was eventually awarded the Certification which I have since revalidated.

Completing Certification allowed me to dip my toe back into studying; I was still getting used to my new full time job and had only just finished a three year undergraduate course so commitment to a postgraduate course was a big decision, but as time passed my interest in the sector and the job only grew. In August 2014 I attended a ‘Library Assistant Study Day’ in Preston run by Lisa Jeskins and co-ordinated by HCLU and Gil Young. I’d really enjoyed the course and was chatting with Lisa and Gil at the end of the day – they asked if I had considered the MA and did I know there was still time to apply for the course and for funding before September. This gave me about a lot think about and about three weeks to make a decision! I eventually came to the conclusion- why waste any more time? I loved my job and was thinking about doing the Masters at some point so why not now? It would take three years after all so what was I waiting for? Gil Young helped me with my applications and my new manager, Dan Livesey, had completed the same course so gave me lots of great advice and support.

I found myself in an MMU lecture theatre during Freshers week a few weeks later…

2 and a bit years later I am now in the third and final year of the course completing research for my dissertation (thanks to all the lovely people in the North networks who kindly completed my questionnaire!), have just presented at my first conference and am working in my first professional post as a Knowledge Officer at Health Education England. The most rewarding aspect of the course has been learning from, and working with, my course peers. Their varied backgrounds and experiences of working in organisations other than my own has widened my understanding of the information landscape and given me new ideas to bring to my own organisation. Part of the reason I wanted to undertake a taught course was this connection with professors and peers – I like learning from, and with, others. The course offered this part-time, I didn’t want to leave my job to complete the course in a year, and it meant I was lucky enough to be able to put theory into practice instantaneously and call on colleagues for support.

The dissertation is the last stretch, the final year and the last piece of work I’ll need to submit. The end is in sight but there’s a lot to do, and learn, before my deadline in May. When I look back to my first day at Fallowfield 3 years ago and see how many opportunities I’ve been given, the support I’ve had and how much I’ve learned it’s exciting to think about what’s still to learn.

In the meantime I’d appreciate your thoughts as I carry on with the dissertation…

Katie Nicholas
Knowledge Officer, Health Education England

Posted in Reflection, Training and Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Back to school! by Helen Kiely and Lorna Dawson

Helen Kiely and Lorna Dawson are about to embark on that milestone in the library and information profession: the Library and Information Masters. They take a look at careers, courses and aspirations.

HK: I’ve come into libraries in a rather circuitous route. I started working at Warrington & Halton NHS Foundation Trust in January 2010 but down the corridor in Medical Education. I also worked weekends as a library assistant in Halton libraries. In 2015 the opportunity to apply for a secondment into the Knowledge and Evidence service came up and I was able to inch my way down the corridor. I was lucky enough to be made permanent after the secondment ended.


LD: I started working in libraries as soon as I finished uni. I somehow managed to get a Graduate Trainee Library Assistant role at Manchester Metropolitan University with zero library experience in 2013 and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I wasn’t 100% sure if it was the direction I wanted to take but after discovering that working in primary schools wasn’t for me I returned to libraries, this time to Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. I didn’t really know what to expect …


HK: I was the same! Embarrassingly prior to starting to work in the NHS I had no idea what a trust library service really did- I’d never thought about it before and now it seems like I think of little else!

LD: One of things I was completely unaware of but which makes it such a great sector to work in is the networks. It’s nice to see people working together so closely, constantly coming up with new innovations to improve the service. Doing the Masters will really help us be able to start contributing to new projects. Which route did you decide to take?

HK: I am doing the MA in Libraries and Information Services Management from the University of Sheffield via distance learning.

LD: I was thinking about distance learning but eventually I decided to do the MA part time at Manchester Metropolitan University.

HK: I chose the distance learning option for a few reasons: cost-effectiveness from where I live, the look of the programme and also I completed my previous qualification (MA in Social and Cultural Theory) via distance learning a few years ago and it is a format I have found works well for me- it allows me to read through lectures and notes at ungodly hours of the morning and work through things at a pace that is easier for me.

LD: For me, physically going to lectures helps me focus. I really appreciate that I’ve been given day-release from work and that’s a real motivation factor to apply what I’ve learnt as soon as possible to my professional practice. I also think it’s a really great opportunity to start networking. LIHNN has shown me that networking is really important and the Masters is a great place to make valuable contacts for the future. I’m looking forward to scribbling away in a notepad too …

HK: I’m all set with a computer with a webcam and a set of headphones with a microphone attachment, as if I’m about to go into a MMORPG battle!

LD: Well you’ll definitely look prepared for exploding search terms! What do you want to get out of the course?

HK: Well in the long term of course I want to be a qualified healthcare librarian! I have helped my colleagues who have been very good at providing opportunities for me to expand my horizons and develop so I have done some teaching, training, and literature searching and helped out in the planning stages for other sessions and services, but I want to be able to work at that higher level too rather than simply signposting to my colleagues who can!

LD: Yes, one of the big things for me is being able to use the knowledge I gain to benefit others. I want to be able to help share the load of literature searches with my colleagues. I’m also hoping that it will give me the knowledge base to be able to contribute to a LIHNN project which I can hopefully base my dissertation on. For me, it’s a great opportunity to turn something that could just be a long slog to make a high word count into the documentation of a project that benefits lots of people.

HK: I’m also looking forward to exploring new perspectives and ideas, topics that perhaps don’t come up every day and will make me better informed in terms of underlying principles and new ideas and changes on the horizon.

LD: It’s an exciting time to be doing the course because, as you say, there are constantly new changes on the horizon in the information world and with the MA under our belts we can maybe be a few of the innovators behind aspects of Knowledge Management in the future.

Lorna Dawson and Helen Kiely

Posted in Training and Development | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Follow that leader …

Some Background

This is a first reflection on completing Launch, part one of the The Edward Jenner Programme. This programme features in the Knowledge for Healthcare blog, Build your leadership skills with the NHS Leadership Academy. It’s a three part eLearning offering from the NHS Leadership Academy aimed at new or aspiring managers. The first two parts – Launch and Foundations – use eLearning only and are free. The final part – Advanced – uses a blended learning approach and has a fee. Progression through the programme requires completion of the previous unit, Launch, Foundations and then the Advanced unit. As far as I know, no NHS healthcare librarian has taken the programme. This is probably wrong! Leave a comment if you disagree.


So Launch. The NHS Leadership Academy suggest completing the Launch and Foundation Units in 30 days. Most of that will be spent on the Foundation unit. Launch is just a taster. It sets up the programme and can be completed in three of four one hour sessions.

NHSx eLearning Platform

It maybe churlish to worry about this. Like complaining about the colour scheme in a lecture theatre. However, if you have MOOC’d around with eLearning you know how demotivating a clunking learning environment is. Well, worry not. This is a smooth, stripped down interface with simple functionality. The course material is easy to navigate. A dashboard to summarise what you have done. A journal to record your written contributions and a discussion board. Reassuring for those who use eLearning. Easy for the first timer.


Papers on leadership are probably piling up as you read this blog in the box marked never to be read journal articles. A staple of executive development courses. Everyone has experienced being led and has view on it. Launch doesn’t labour the point. It has a simple broad brush overview to summarise the main theoretical approaches and a discussion of leadership and management. Their approach is uncluttered and uncomplicated. It moves things along quickly.

NHS Leadership

The fact that the NHS has a particular take on leadership shouldn’t have surprised me but it did. Despite shunting around links and reports in current awareness services I hadn’t fully appreciated this. After all we don’t read all the books in the Library do we? Well, you do get the opportunity through the readings and presentations to understand this point and this was a valued take away from the unit. If your wondering the short version is a move from “heroic” to “distributed leadership”.

Personal Values

This part of the course looks at you, who you are and what is important to you, what motivates you. It’s a simple reflection exercise. Having dipped a toe in the Foundations unit this is typical of the approach to eLearning. Content followed by personal reflection and how you, as the learner, you can take it forward.

What next

The point of Launch is to try before you commit. There is enough to keep you engaged, not too much to frighten you away.   Personally I liked it and have started the Foundations unit. About 40 percent of this Unit completed.

Would you recommend this … ?

Yes I would. Having studied a business degree and attended the odd management development course I didn’t expect to learn much. But I did. Leadership theory and practice might not change that much over the years but as you and your job change it’s one to revisit every now and again to recalibrate your leadership compass.

Level. Well this is an introductory course to a leadership programme as well as an introductory course to leadership. Better to look at this in terms of application. If you aspire to lead in any capacity, have a job interview for a post with a leadership component or have just taken a job with a leadership role. This unit/programme will help.

It’s about healthcare and NHS. For me this was really important because it’s a point of view I needed but didn’t have. Although it’s for all who (might) lead if you are not in frontline clinical care you have to work a bit harder to apply the material. Thinking this through is also quite helpful in considering issues like the Impact of services, what connects you to the front line.

If you lead or work in a library team you can leave now.

If you’re in a one person band and conduct the monthly management meeting in front of a mirror, just look at the different ways you lead in the wider organisation / network. It doesn’t mean you don’t lead. You just do it differently. This course is for you as well.

A report on Foundations to follow … The last advertised start date for Launch / Foundations is 05 September 2016.

Matt Holland NWAS LKS, supported by HCLU North

Posted in Reflection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) for Health

It’s useful sometimes to reflect on what you actually do at work each day.   What you do after you switch the computer on in the morning. How much activity is just the day today process of being at work? How much is exercising the skills that separate you from the punters? Familiarity does breed contempt. Do things often and long enough and you stop seeing them as special or distinctive.

If you need refreshing on professional skills, what they are and do you have them, you could do worse than review the CILIP’s Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB). I completed this as evidence for LQAF 3.1c, the one about the skills mix. Turns out on a dark night with the light behind me I could pass for a super one person library service with enough of the right knowledge and skills to run a healthcare library service. Sadly, working alone in a large organisation I was never going to make the ratios add up. Nul points on that one. Now there is Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) for Health, from Knowledge for Healthcare, which offers a healthcare specific perspective, and yes I have tried that one too. So here is what I learned.

… first the science bit

The PKSB is a summary of the possible knowledge and skills that define the domain of the library and information profession. Using the PKSB marking sheet helps you identify which skills you have now, and which you would like to improve or acquire in the future. Some you won’t need, depending on your job description.

You can use the PKSB for Health as a stand alone .pdf or login to the CILIP website and use it in conjunction with the online version of the PBSK. Although the wording is different there is a direct correspondence in the questions between the two, PSKB and the PKSB for Health. The online version gives you a .pdf file of your answers and comments plus one for areas for improvement or development.

This is going to take some time

You won’t knock this off in one sitting. It takes time to read through each criteria, assess your response and score you current level of knowledge / skill from 1 to 4 as well as your desired level of knowledge / skill. Scoring fatigue sets in quickly. However, this isn’t a Facebook quiz! It’s much more important than that. Seriously. Take your time and allocate four or more slots to go through it.

It probably won’t tell you anything you didn’t already know

I already know where my weak spots or development opportunities are. Knowledge Management would be one. Some management skills. Possibly not demonstrative enough, possibly … . Clearly areas for development will be reflected in how you respond to the questions in the PKSB for Health. Unless a lack of self awareness is one of your weaknesses, nothing you discover should surprise you. What it will do is help you articulate specific areas that you can pick up with CPD or further personal development.

Some stuff you just don’t need

No one can have everything. Some stuff you just don’t need. You have to filter your answers though the lens of what you might reasonably need for your job, or to get the next one. Only the self deluded would claim 4 in every area. The extensive scope of the PKSB for Health may surprise you though, but some criteria are just of passing interest.

Some stuff is of historic interest but may be useful

I can do a bit of cat and class of course. There are some parts of AACR 2 and DDC 19 that are like old friends. Well, there you have it. DDC 19. That dates me a bit. Over the course of a career you pick up skills that you can store away for when you might need them again. I can’t see cat and class being anything I need in the near future, but it does illustrate the scope of the skills a jobbing librarian might pick up. These may still be useful to show your employer – as suggested – the extent of your knowledge.

Make notes, it does save time

The temptation is to skip typing / writing notes. The problems come when you want to pick up those criteria that you scored for improvement and can’t quite remember why or what you wanted to do about it. Making notes is a useful aide memoire to avoid having to revisit things again.

How is it for you …

In the mind of this blogger anyway there is a golden thread that links the PKSB for Health (what we personally aspire to achieve), the Learning Zone (how we might get there), LQAF (what we do now) and Knowledge for Healthcare (where healthcare librarianship aspires to be in the future). Being realistic about the amount of free time and energy there is in any workplace I have chosen to be instrumental in my approach to the PKSB for Health and focus on things that serve all of them. That certainly reflects my job, being a one person band all be it in a network of wonderful regional colleagues and LQAF. There are other personas that you might approach the PKSB for Health with. Early career librarian, aspiring manager and so on. Without being prescriptive it means more, as they say, if you know where you are coming from.


Day, A., 2016. Roll the drums and sound the trumpets the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base for Health has arrived. Available from: [Accessed 14 August 2016].

Learning Zone

PKSB for Health brochure PKSB for Health – Requires CILIP Login

PKSB for Health – NHS Library & Knowledge Services – Requires Login

Matt Holland, @NWASLibrary NWAS LKS Librarian, NWAS LKS is supported by HCLU North.

Posted in Reflection, Resources and Tools | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

CPD and all that by Matt Holland

Two weeks into a MOOC on Recommender Systems (see the next LIHNNK UP, Land of Geek column) and I realise the college level algebra required to complete the assignments was far beyond that required for CSE maths. For younger readers, CSE’s are what you did at school when dinosaurs roamed the library stacks. What to do? Retreat quietly and leave the course? Then there was no chance of getting the valued certificate. I decided to continue just to learn something new, skipped the assignments and just reviewed the course materials. It felt like I had turned a corner. Learning for it’s own sake. So this is a reflection on the journey of continuing professional development, and why, in my view you have never had it so good.

Formal education … you have to do it because it’s good for you.

As a graduate entry profession you have to do some time before the lectern. I did my PG Diploma in Library Studies at a university in the North of England. Not to be too specific. I doubt anyone would remember me anyway. I didn’t attend all the lectures. Like any vocational course it was a compromise between education and training. There was a small knowledge base, once you had mastered Bradford’s Law, Cataloguing and User Studies you pretty much had it covered. The rest were bolt on units in marketing and management and a few other things I don’t remember or prefer to forget – statistics, did I write that out loud? Overshadowing the course was a feeling that technology was going to change everything. Then computers had teleprinters, not screens.

More Formal education … but this time you volunteered …

Once you get started on the postgraduate route it’s hard to stop. Next was a Diploma in Management Studies (DMS) at a university in the South of England. A fantastic course. Being part time I could apply what I learned while I learned it. The best sort of vocational education.   So to the MA. Finally achieved by research at a University in the Centre of England. Another great learning experience. Free from the constraints of the curriculum, researching a topic that interested me and again work related.

Some things just come our way …

Some things just come your way. Learning comes from working with people who know more than you or work in a different areas. Many of the projects in media, research and digitisation that were most productive came from collaborations with academic colleagues and library colleagues in different organisations. It’s not something you can plan for but you can be open to opportunities to break out of the day to day grind. Fortune, as they say, favours the brave.

Writing about it

If you want to learn something write about it. It may not always be a success. The benefit if you pull it off is to have something at the end of the process that proves you were there in the first place. Each output is a tangible reminder of what you learned. Researching or writing a guides or websites, blogging, writing a paper, editing a book and anything in between are great learning experiences. As an added bonus writing brings you into contact with other people and opportunities for networking and developing future projects.

Courses and Conferences

The best learning experiences, apart from experience itself, are based around face to face teaching / training, backed up by the long tail of supporting activities, materials and technology bundled up as blended learning. All cpd should be this way. The problem. Barriers of distance, (synchronous) time and cost.

Staying out of your depth … not waving but learning to swim

The slow learning times are usually those where you are on top of your work. This is probably goes against the conventional wisdom of management development courses. Being out of your depth, providing nobody gets hurt, and trying to getting some kind of control back is the best way to learn about anything. I have to put in a mention for boredom at work as well. That usually leads to the what to do next question and then taking the risk to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. It’s a virtuous circle.

Getting it wrong … really, I’m not waving …

If you take risks then sometimes things go wrong. The grant proposals that get knocked back. The damning reviews of your much laboured over article. Getting into something that you have no hope of delivering and having to admit that well, I need to get out of this, and fast. We have all been there. Failure teaches you more than success. The secret is not to make the same mistake twice. Be better prepared next time, maybe get some help from those that know more. On no account give up. No one will remember the failures except you.

eLearning and MOOCs

Imagine a world where the cpd options were to take formal courses or read up on a topic, and I do appreciate the irony of this but stay with me. Imagine another world where learning opportunities are many. Information is from experts conveyed through a social media enabled global classroom using a curriculum tried and tested in some of the best universities. Oh, and it’s free – for now. If you are thinking, well so what? you may not fully appreciate your good fortune. If you think that you are now taking cpd in colour having been brought up on black and white cpd. I know how old you are. Which is where I came in.

If you don’t already know the big hitters in MOOCS are Coursera, FutureLearn and EdX. Look also at the Knowledge for Healthcare, Learning Zone for healthcare library specific information.

Matt Holland
NWAS LKS, supported by HCLU North.
July 2016

Posted in Reflection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Case Study: Current Awareness: Prehospital Emergency Care Current Awareness Update by Matt Holland

Knowledge for Healthcare aka KfH, is, among other things, taking a fresh look at everyday library practices. Read the Knowledge for Healthcare blog for the full story. This Case Study reflects on the report of the Current Awareness Services Task and Finish Group (CAS T&FG).

Some Background

The initial service, the Prehospital Emergency Care Current Awareness Update (PECCAU) was a partnership between the National Ambulance Research Steering Group and Lincolnshire PCT (Price, Holland & Perry 2011). PECCAU was created to support researchers working in Ambulance Services which at that time had limited or no access to healthcare libraries. The service concentrated on material from the National Core Content and Open Access journals, with four to six issues year. This approach limited the subject coverage but made it easy for recipients to access content.

Move forward to 2015. The original editor, Alison Price, handed over the service to NWAS LKS. NWAS LKS already produced a monthly service that was a combination of academic research and any relevant publications and websites from the NHS, related organisations and think tanks, anything really.

For NWAS LKS as a single person part-time service, a commitment to two CAS in the same topic area was unsustainable. Healthcare library services spend an average of eight hours per week on CAS,  a point highlighted in the Current Awareness T&FG Report. Clearly for some it carries a significant overhead. Following a rethink the NWAS LKS service was closed and NWAS LKS now just produces PECCAU. The scope of the national service was widened to include all relevant scholarly / academic publications. The service simply lists articles under main headings. Generally 80 plus articles each month with links to the publishers website. To add value all articles are tweeted through @NWASLibrary in the month prior to the compilation of each issue with their own hashtag #NWASLKSParamedic and included in a publicly available two Mendeley Groups, one for the current issue, one cumulating previous issues.


PECCAU has a clear aim, to be distributed as widely as possible and by any means possible. The subject coverage is broad, relevant to anyone working in, or researching, pre-hospital and emergency care. This is clearly different from the individualised recommender based systems, or narrowly focused subject services. Research in CAS T&FG report looks a typology by format, bulletins are the overwhelming choice. It might be helpful to categorise CAS services by intention or audience since much of what defines the service flows from that, rather than the tools used to produce it or the formatting.


No rights are asserted over PECCAU and reuse is actively encouraged. Individual library services do configure it to point users their own collections. The suggestion from the CAS T&FG is that CAS should adopt an appropriate Creative Commons License which seems like good advice. Future issues will contain a Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) statement.


There are two parts to this, production and sharing. PECCAU is a collaboration between NARSG and NWAS LKS. Production is in house, however, using an aggregator (Feedly Pro ) and a relatively easy to update template. Sharing is via eMail lists relying on colleagues to share through their networks. Collaboration is the metric adopted by CAS T&FG, luckily PECCAU ticks that box. A simple regional/national repository of bulletins would be a useful additional channel to reach an even wider audience.

Formats and all that

The CAS T&FG report identifies the bulletin as the format of choice for CAS. With little evaluation it’s hard to know if this is a producer choice or consumer choice. It’s certanly easy to create and distribute. On the produce once use many principle PECCAU creates different outputs of the same content. This is helped by using a Mendeley database as the core engine of creation able to knock out the data in a number of ways.

Good Practice

The area of Prehospital Care is still just about able to fit into in one large monthly bulletin. The volume of content means that summarisation isn’t cost effective. Individual papers, reports and guidelines of note are flagged up in the Editor’s Introduction. The CAS T&RG exemplars all have summarisation as a feature. If this forms part of the proposed Outline what a good Current Awareness Services should look like in terms of content then PECCAU could be in trouble. Good practice guidelines sound like a very good idea if broadly written, to provide a baseline quality standard.


Thoughts on the traditional library survey are available elsewhere. True evaluation is usage. That requires a distribution channel with a built in metric using a commercial mailing list manager e.g. MailChimp or Google Analytics. Currently none of these are planned for PECCAU although qualitative feedback is very positive.


Price, A., Holland, M. & Perry, R. 2011, Unlocking the Prehospital Evidence Base: Making the most of library services in clinical research. Ambulance Today, October. 19-26. Available from: [Accessed 27 May 2016}.

Matt Holland, NWAS LKS, Librarian.
NWAS LKS is supported by HCLU

Posted in Case Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment