Developing a new topic area by Matt Holland

In New Universities in the early 90’s “cutting edge” degrees in “new subjects” were approved almost daily, or it felt that way. Subject Librarians did heroic research to compensate for the lack of published material, bringing together anything they could find to form a collection to support the course. Substantial publications came once teaching staff had time to write the first textbooks. Anyone who was there will remember. It created some unlikely experts. For a brief period this blogger knew more about the literature of PR and advertising than almost anyone else alive. The knowledge of PR and advertising literature has faded but the experience of mastering “new” topics stayed.

A recent request for a “new topic” stirred some memories and prompted this reflection. The challenge is to create a collection and guide to support staff working in NHS 111.

#1 Subject Background

The first question … where does this subject come from? Most topics have some background in established areas of study or research. Areas relevant to NHS 111 could be Communication Research (listening skills, interpersonal communication, mediated communication, mediated advice, telephone communication), Management Research (customer care, call centre management, human resources, leadership) Information Technology (IT Skills, computer skills) and Emergency Medicine. You need to discuss this with practitioners to see where they are drawing ideas and research from. Just gives you a starting point to look for related resources.

#2 Is there a journal?

If there are no published books or textbooks, journals are the next stop. In the classic publication cycle diagram journals are usually established before textbooks and reference books are published anyway. Currently for NHS 111 the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare partially fills part of the gap. In emerging areas specialist publishers tend to fill the gaps. Emerald, MA Healthcare for example in areas allied to medicine. In Medical areas Open Access publishers tend to lead. There are no hard and fast rules so a search for journals needs to be thorough.

#3 Broader journal collections

You can identify a broader collection of relevant journals through searches of Mendeley /CINAHL /EMBASE. You might have to export to your results to Reference Management Software, Hat Tip to Mendeley, to conduct a detailed trawl through the journal titles that come up most frequently. For topics related to telephone consultations/ advice there was a spread of articles into Emergency Medicine and specialist areas where telehealth is being implemented, stroke and cardiac care. There is some material on managing call centres in a health care setting in Health Care Business Elite, but it’s a variable with no real pattern emerging. It’s usually possible to pick out a selection of journal titles that might represent the topic. Clearly this can be refined over time.

#4 Databases to recommend

Which databases to recommend isn’t that hard in the first instance. Let’s just guess that Medline, CINAHL and EMBASE should cover most of the medical territory. Problems come if the new topics cross over to other disciplines. Anything to do with management or the broader social sciences is going to be a challenge. Health Care Business Elite is “less than optimum” management database. It’s hard to recommend supplementary databases beyond subject repositories (e.g. SSRN) or broad spectrum databases. If users have access to other libraries, for example a university, you could suggest they make use of those.

#5 Find some reference material

Could be a long shot but there may be some reference material out there somewhere. Glossaries of terms, reference style websites, anything really. Could try creating resources if you have time but this could be a bigger undertaking than the return you get from it. I did create a bibliography of relevant articles on Telemedicine in Prehospital & Emergency Care as a nod to having something.

#6 Links from the web

In the end you are going to have to rely on Google to help you compile list of links on the topic. I remember doing just this in the 1990’s using Netscape – remember that. List of links (<OL> <LI></LI></UL>) were the mainstay for online guides then and they are still useful now. Lists can easily be embedded in .pdfs or Word. A selection of the best resources curated by you is still better than throwing your users at Google.

#8 Professional associations

If there are any publications or content for a new topic they are likely to be produced by relevant professional or scholarly association. Finding and listing these could be a useful resource if they exist. They may also be linked to journals or professional magazines that you have missed.

#9 Search for other guides on the web

Some guides on the web are good and some are not. Even the bad ones can have links that you can re-use, suggest resources you hadn’t thought of or have a structure that you can adapt. You might find a colleague somewhere who is struggling with the same problem.

#10 Write your guide

You might at this stage have enough material to write the first draft of a guide to information resources for … . Writing a guide is the best way to test whether you have collected enough material to sustain a library “collection”. A guide is a great format to share with potential users to get their feedback. It’s a good idea as well to note that its under review or development until you are sure it’s going to work.

This is a live ongoing project. So any suggestions let me know! Early draft of the guide is here.

Matt Holland NWAS LKS supported by HCLU North @NWASLibrary

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