A trip to the Midlands… by Katie Nicholas

What? Is the problem? Was my role? Happened? Were the consequences?

On Thursday 30th November 2017 I attended a Bands 5 and 6 Health Librarians Network Day held in Birmingham. This was the inaugural meeting of the network and an invite was sent to all health library lists in England to encourage professionals, who weren’t quite managers but who couldn’t attend library assistant groups, to come along. In the North West the Clinical Librarians and Trainers Group is mostly made up of these members of staff and though I am welcome to attend, and have attended some of their brilliant events in the past, not all the meetings are relevant to my role –  which is admittedly a bit unique.


I attended to get an idea what colleagues at the same level as me, in a different part of the country, where up to. In the West Midlands a clear need was identified to support this level of the workforce and the group is the first step in the process – the idea being it can help identify CPD needs for this group of staff in particular.


The day consisted of a Knowledge Café about what makes a good library website and intranet page which sparked lots of interesting discussions about wider issues such as Accessibility, branding, marketing and website design. There was also time after this session to make notes of any actions you might take forward. There was a talk on the use of social media (and measuring its impact), a catch up on Coaching and Mentoring and a ‘Sharing Stories’ section were delegates could talk about something that worked well, or not quite so well, and get advice and comments from the group. The day closed with a vibrant discussion about the future of library and knowledge services and there was room for networking in between sessions.


So what? Was going through my mind? Should I have done? Do I know about what happened now?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the day. The event was targeted at West Midlands but the invite was extended beyond their workforce. I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet people working at the same level as me from outside the North and it really was. I was a bit anxious about going for two reasons; I’m not from a library service and I’m not from the Midlands (minor I know!). I wasn’t sure I could contribute much to discussions but felt that attending and listening to improvements and challenges from another group would be helpful. Over the last few months I’ve been keen to engage with groups outside of the health network in the North West purely because in our newly created national team it will be imperative we widen our perspective if we are to successfully engage with colleagues across the country.


I think it might have been helpful to submit a story to the ‘share a story’ section, mainly to introduce myself and the team I work in as it is quite different to other services and to ask questions of the group and use their shared knowledge. However, being new to the network and the region I didn’t feel confident to that on the first meeting which with hindsight was silly. The group were lovely and incredibly welcoming and I think I could have got a lot out of sharing a story with them.


Now what? Do I need to do? Broader issues have been raised? Might happen now?

After the discussion on intranets and websites a key theme that arose was the accessibility of content. We do not have a webpage as we are an internal function but we do have an internal SharePoint site that we will be developing over the next few months. I was aware of the importance of accessibility e.g. ability to change colours, alt text and text reflow, but I confess I had not thought about whether these had been enabled on our site. I looked at Microsoft’s guidance and discovered there are number of in-site features I can update to make the site more accessible. I will endeavour to do this with existing content and think about it more consciously when we add and develop new content.


The day was also a great chance to network and I met lots of new people from across the Midlands. I followed lots of the delegates on Twitter, and they followed me in return, so I hope that even if I can’t make any future events I will at least be able to keep up-to-date with them through social media which can be really useful.


The discussion on the future of LKS also got me thinking about how much I am doing to promote what we do in order to failsafe services for the future. I think I am quite good at sharing work within the network but I’m not sure how good I am at shouting about what I do to the wider system. One way I might be able to do this is by evaluating the impact of some of our projects (e.g. Knowledge Management Advent and the Randomized Coffee Trials) and sharing it using #amilliondecisions which has a much further reach on social media.


The day also made me consider how much scope there is for LKS staff to meet more on a national scale. It was really helpful to get a perspective outside of the ones I normally hear and with the moves to regional and cross-organisational working happening elsewhere in the NHS it seems to me there is a lot to be learned by doing this.

Katie Nicholas
Knowledge Officer, Health Education England

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