My first taste of attending events outside the library arena was attending medical education events in 2010. This gave me a taste of being in a non-library environment and I started to get an understanding of the advocacy opportunity, since there was a recurring question that I was constantly asked: what is a Clinical Librarian?
An opportunity to venture further into medical conferences presented itself in 2012 when I was invited as guest faculty to the 2nd international conference on recent advances in Anaesthesiology (INCRAA) in Delhi, India to speak about some work I was doing with the hospital’s Critical Care Unit. I have also presented posters at the 1st international evidence based healthcare conference 2012 in Delhi, and the Evidence Live conference in Oxford in 2013.
Even before leaving the library I had developed many skills just in preparing for these events, including:
- Abstract writing
- Poster design
- Film production
- Negotiating and influencing
- Writing sponsorship applications
- Budget management
- Presentation skills
- Time management
Going to a non-library conference doesn’t mean you don’t learn about libraries – you just get a different perspective. Being sometimes the only librarian at a conference is a real talking point and people start to tell you about their own libraries and their experiences. You can also organise visits to other libraries as part of the conference trip, which I’ve done and was hugely rewarding.
The advocacy opportunity is there, but you do have to be confident and introduce yourself to people – something I’m not always comfortable doing, but it’s essential in order to network and promote libraries. Having a short and sweet ‘elevator pitch’ ready to roll out is really important.
During my time being at conferences I’ve developed presenting skills, networking, communication and advocacy. Travelling and learning about other professions and cultures is also something that helps you to grow professionally and personally.
On returning from a conference, reporting and disseminating what you’ve learned helps you to develop even more skills:
- Reflective writing
- Public relations
- Report writing
- Evidence based librarianship
Of course there’s some immediate impact of attending such an event – you might get your photo or report printed in a newsletter. But for me there’s been some long term impact that I didn’t anticipate.
I try to share my learning with others via my blog, Twitter, and talking about what I’ve done at meetings and events. I’m now more engaged with other professionals in online networks, I feel that I’ve got something to contribute and it has given me confidence to put more of myself ‘out there’. I’ve realised the importance of advocacy and have started to take more of an interest in communicating what we, as librarians, do to the rest of the world!
My use of social media has developed; I’ve used Storify to share my experiences of conferences with other people interested in the conference. My Twitter networks that I find so valuable for online networking have expanded to include other professions including doctors and academics. I’ve started to use Twitter differently too – when I’m at an event I know how to summarise a presentation into a ‘Twitter bite’ so that other people re-tweet it. I’ve also used Twitter at a conference to encourage people to come and view my poster.
I’ve taken many things from non-library conferences that have changed my practice. Having realised how much clinicians value Journal Clubs, I changed my approach to the Journal Club support service that we deliver in the library, and worked with one Journal Club in particular to make it a more formal and valuable educational experience.
I’ve also picked things up from watching other people present and interact at conferences. After seeing a medical student use Prezi for the first time in 2010 I started using it for presentations and talks. I’ve abandoned the use of notes when presenting after seeing other people present much more naturally without them. And small things, like having poster leaflets to hand out at conferences to make sure people remember your poster.
I was able to persuade a doctor colleague of mine to attend the Canadian Health Libraries Association (CHLA) conference with me in May 2013. Watching the impact that a doctor at a library conference has was a fascinating experience!
My ultimate goal is to become a chartered member of CILIP, and I really believe that all the things I’ve learned at non-library conferences will help me enormously to do this. Going beyond library conferences presents an opportunity for librarians to advocate, disseminate, learn and develop, both professionally and personally.
Five minutes with a clinical librarian: The Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network, 15th Feb 2013
Storify: Evidence Live 2013
My blog: Librarianinmypocket
Victoria Treadway, Clinical Librarian, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust