Ch-ch-ch-changes … from Clinical Librarian to Manager by Tracey Pratchett

As 2015 draws to a close and after being in post for 8 months, I’m reflecting on my experience as a new Knowledge and Library Services Manager. I really loved being a Clinical Librarian and never saw myself returning to management, but there came a time when I needed a new challenge and after applying for jobs in other sectors and working outside traditional librarianship I became a library manager in the NHS.

So, a bit of background … before becoming a Clinical Librarian, I managed a Learning Centre and co-ordinated libraries in a further education (FE) college. I loved working in education and leading the team, but I found some aspects of management quite stressful. Managing budgets, supporting staff during periods of change and having two different roles were part of the challenge. Also, I was younger and less experienced which I suppose didn’t help. Since joining the NHS I’ve been adamant that I didn’t want to manage again … so what changed?

Essentially, I had taken the Clinical Librarian role as far as I could, and although I had opportunities to use my skills in non-librarian projects (e.g. Information Management and Patient information), I needed something new to get my teeth into. After a few interviews, I started thinking about what I could offer and what I might gain from a management role. I was also inspired by Victoria Treadway (who always inspires me!) when she successfully moved into a management position.

The rest is history and eventually someone gave me a job. Ironically, it was the Assessment Centre activities as part of the interview process which really ignited my passion! Writing a library strategy, discussing and solving problems about communication and working with library colleagues really inspired me. I feel lucky to work within such an amazing network, and the support and encouragement from colleagues and HCLU made the transition relatively easy.

So, to the reason behind this post – what does the manager role really involve and how does it compare to being a Clinical Librarian? Here are some of my thoughts on how I have used my Clinical Librarian skills:

  • Strategy and planning – a big part of my current role, which I enjoy. I did this on a smaller scale for the Clinical Librarian service and luckily I was involved in contributing to our Library’s wider strategy. Also, being involved in the MAP Toolkit helped shape my thinking, a lot! Get in touch if you’d like to get involved – it’s great for Chartership or revalidation 😉
  • Report writing – integral to my current role, skills developed in presenting literature search evidence summaries and developing current awareness products really helped with this. As Clinical Librarians, we get really good at summarising and presenting information. I’ve started thinking about how I can creatively produce my annual report next year!
  • Impact – something I now have to demonstrate for LQAF, to my manager and to the wider Trust. As a Clinical Librarian, I surveyed users about service impact and wrote case studies about significant projects e.g. Supplies Group. Clinical Librarians are already often leading the way in discussing impact of our services.
  • Managing staff – I had no staff to manage as a Clinical Librarian and no supervisory role, so this was a steep learning curve. However, I learnt a lot from being managed, attending courses within the network (I would recommend anything Deborah Dalley does) and my previous role in FE. It has been a steep learning curve, but I think if you listen and make time for your staff you are halfway there.
  • Finance I did this to some extent in FE, but it was a long time ago and very different. I’ve tackled this like my household budget and make sure I keep track of everything. One of the most difficult parts of the job, I’ve had lots of help and advice from Finance teams and other library managers, e.g. Steve Glover offered great advice for journals renewals. My tip – learn the system and spend time getting to grips with it from the beginning.
  • Building relationships – so I’m back on familiar territory here as building relationships with people throughout the organisation was an integral part of my Clinical Librarian job. My former role involved participating in projects with clinical teams and managers, presenting the service and training people at all levels. These activities helped me to develop crucial transferable skills for building relationships and networking. Courses on influencing and negotiating have also been extremely valuable.
  • Quality, metrics and LQAF – again, I was involved in these to some extent in my previous role so they weren’t entirely new. Leading LQAF was a daunting task, so it was a relief to maintain our status this year. Also, being involved in the Metrics Task and Finish Group and the LIHNN Quality Group have been really useful.

There are lots of things I want to do in my new role, but I am trying to do a little at a time so as not to overload myself. I do miss some of the frontline work, but I still keep my hand in with literature searching and teaching when I can. I’ve also worked hard not to impose my experience as a Clinical Librarian on my team, whilst remaining supportive, but without taking over.

I have realised that some of the things that worried me about managing are actually some of the things I enjoy most. The finance stuff can be learnt … and I love managing people! This is the bit that I thought I never wanted to do, but for me it’s the most rewarding bit. I want to get really good at it and ensure that I have a one to one with each staff member every month. It’s helped me to get to know my team and hopefully helped them to get to know me. So thanks to Victoria for the tip!

For any of you thinking about the transition, I would heartily recommend it. We’re part of a great network and I’m grateful to many Library Managers who have been generous with their advice and time. Please get in touch with me if you would like to talk anything through as I am happy to return the favour!

Tracey Pratchett
Knowledge and Library Services Manager
Library and Information Service
Royal Preston Hospital
Tel: 01772 522717

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2 Responses to Ch-ch-ch-changes … from Clinical Librarian to Manager by Tracey Pratchett

  1. Tracey, this is a brilliant post, thank you for sharing your experiences. I can relate to so much of what you’ve written, and it’s been great that we’ve been able to support each other through the process. Any aspiring managers, you’d be mad to pass up on this offer of support from Tracey!!!

    • traceypratchett says:

      Thanks Victoria 🙂 I have been lucky to work with colleagues like you and also the support and advice from within my organisation has been great. My line manager and colleagues from other teams have been really supprotive throughout the process – getting to know key people has made such a difference. It’s good to be able to give something back.

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