Travel is an integral part of daily life and work. If you don’t travel you can’t participate in routine work activities such as meetings and training. All this at a time when everyone has their pocket the smartphone technology for instant face to face communication. There must be a better way? To the point. I was asked to travel from The North to The South of England to facilitate a training session on virtual libraries. Having written about virtual libraries and claimed to work in one it was time to put some virtual money where my virtual mouth was and try and do it differently. This is what happened.
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Library and Information Service has one physical library and seven hospital sites plus community library service. Their aim was to start a conversation about how to deliver services virtually or electronically over networks. The initial idea was for an externally facilitated discussion to brainstorm ideas. The challenge was to get to The South to deliver the discussion. Sadly the invitation was declined because of other commitments.
Plan B was to use WebEx or another web based conferencing tool. This has its own problems. The first is that it is synchronous. You have to be there to take part with a reliable network connection. The second is that it isn’t that good for discussion. Poor sound quality. Noises off. Unreliable technology and easy confusion about who is talking. It’s better as a tool for an online real time lecture, typically demonstrating database searches or new online products.
Plan C was to put together some trigger videos and allow Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Library and Information Service to host and deliver the training in a way and at a time that best suited them. That is what happened. The videos were written, recorded and loaded onto YouTube with links to supporting material that might be useful to add to the discussion.
What actually happened
All library staff watched the Youtube videos and came to a planning meeting with suggestions as to the way forward. For us working in a physical library space but with a remit to deliver outreach services in community and acute hospital settings means that we have to deliver 2 library services in parallel; to our online community and our physical users. Our online presence could not simply reinforce and replicate a physical library service. We needed to think in a different way and we were finding this a challenge.
Each Youtube session helped us focus on an area to consider.
Watching the videos we realised that we had a very scattered approach to our online presence. We had an intranet and internet presence in the Trust and an external website too. The external website enabled us to do more interesting things – we could fully embrace multi-media and reach out to more people – but none of the sites presented our services in a consistent way. Were we confusing staff and diluting our message rather than promoting it? Did we know how staff used or accessed our online services?
We also realized that although we used every opportunity that was available to us to promote our library services, we did not have a coherent plan that focused on the messages that were sent out. We needed to look at this more closely. A lot of Trust staff think of the library only in terms of space and we needed to start to change that perception.
What was the impact of the training and how did we do things differently?
“You are your website” challenged Matt. We changed all our internet/intranet pages so that they all display the same message and are consistent in demonstrating a library service online. We have added profiles of all library staff to the pages to promote our services more distinctly. These profiles show which divisions our clinical outreach librarians’ support.
We have included online forms that can be completed and sent to us immediately. This has generated a huge uptake in staff asking to join the library, request literature searches, or arrange training.
We contacted the Comms. team for their advice and have used their template to plan our communications strategy.
We use the Trust twitter account to promote our services and not our own account. This means we send out more focused tweets but reach a wider audience – including those that do not use the library regularly.
We changed some of the questions in our annual library survey so that we could find out how staff were using our online library and if there were any difficulties. We also included questions about smartphone and app use.
We visited all wards in all hospitals with a pop-up library. We chose to go to all wards as it is difficult for clinical staff to have time away from the ward and there are no focused areas for staff to eat meals in all our hospitals. We delivered the same key messages in all visits; promoting our resources and services online and emphasizing that they don’t have to visit the library to use them. We followed our visits up to hand deliver a poster detailing our internet/intranet pages. This will provide a visible reminder of how to access our resources online.
We have set up a pilot to deliver our 1:1 training via WebEx/Powowonow. Staff can have training support where they work or at home as long as they have access to a computer and a phone.
Our monthly team meetings now has an agenda item for the online library. Regular reports are given on the development of our online library. Rather than having to revisit old training notes that we have stored somewhere; it is easy to revisit the Youtube clips and we will all look at them again in a year’s time as we review our online services.
Matt Holland, NWAS LKS supported by the Health Care Libraries Unit [HCLU], @NWASLibrary.
Sue Robertson, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Library and Information Service. Sue.Robertson@buckshealthcare.nhs.uk