Getting engaging at #NHSHE2016

The #NHSHE2016 conference was more than just a poster competition and a chance to catch up with good colleagues.

There was the usual full programme of talks. It was useful to hear about some of the new structures in the NHS around STPs (Sustainability & Transformation Plans AKA Sticky Toffee Pudding AKA Secret Tory Plans) with Local Workforce Action Boards (LWABs) a new one on me and seemingly a useful place to seek involvement.  Within the developing STP picture there is less emphasis on organisational boundaries.  A big drive for a digital ready workforce should also have implications for us – support for effective working in an online environment is something we could plug into.

Louise Goswami gave a good run through on KfH progress.  The patient and public area was the newest on me and it was good to get a view of the breadth of work in this area. The patient and public is not a natural match for HE based libraries – it was good to see ideas for how we can support the Trust in their work with these groups rather than perhaps taking a direct patient facing role.

Sue Lacey-Bryant gave a great talk on efforts to advance “mobilising evidence and organisational knowledge” AKA Knowledge Management. There are concrete tools and training coming that can help us make this a reality which is great as I have long maintained an interest without advancing very far (see this since abandoned 2008 blog where I read Learning to Fly). There will be a campaign  #amilliondecisions advocacy championing expertise of librarians and knowledge in mobilising evidence.

I was really pleased to participate in an innovation presentation session.  I spoke about how I made our annual reports for NHS partners more engaging and useful for all concerned.  The slides are pretty simple in that they consist largely of a lightly edited version of the report.

The style is very much based on that used by the University of York for their action plans.  The talk was well received – both in terms of winning first prize in a public vote but also in terms of people discussing it with me afterwards. I had a similar experience when I shared it with colleagues in my local network so it was great to be able to spread this further.  I plan to follow up in the Spring to see if any NHS colleagues have gone with it following the talk.

Making Metrics that hit the MARC

I always enjoy preparing a poster for the #NHSHE2016 Conference organised by London Health Libraries (now with added KSS).  There are always good prizes and the chance to create something to make the office look less dull while sharing a piece of work.  We were tasked with the theme of Knowledge for Healthcare which was pretty straightforward as this encompasses pretty much anything you care to look at professionally these days.

My main direct involvement with KfH has been around metrics.  The presentation I gave at HLG2016 Scarborough brought home to me the need to make the materials we had produced in the Metrics Task and Finish group more accessible.  It was also clear that people were interested if things were put to them clearly. So a poster on Metrics was the obvious outcome.  I went with trying to hammer home the message about the four principles and what they mean in practice. Using MARC as an acrostic had the bonus of chucking in a feeble nerdy library pun.

The poster was well received. While it came only 6th out of 9 in the popular vote this was a step forward on last years metrics poster which was a rare non prizewinner. A few people verbally told me how clear and helpful they had found it. I was really pleased to see a tweet afterwards sharing the poster with a group of other libraries after it had been raised at a network meeting.  I am hoping that people will share with me examples of how they have used the metrics work.

Next steps are to create a version of this post for the KfH blog and move on with the plans to set up a national metrics collection tool.

#HLG2016 cutting through the fog

A few thoughts while #HLG2016 remains fresh in the mind.  Hopefully there will be a good number of reflections shared in the coming days (Abi Alayo has been quick off the mark with her thorough posts for the first and second day.  I am likely to be less thorough!

The conference had a packed agenda but it is the window to talk to so many colleagues that really makes it.  This started ahead of time on twitter with the depth of adoption of this channel continuing to grow (NodeXL analysis of patterns of use, language and so on). The journey up offered time for initial conversations and the world was partially set to rights with Ben Skinner on a later than hoped for train from York. One of the topics was around the challenge of liberating the data that we hold and need to use (more on this in another post).

Safely arrived at the Royal there was time to help some guy push his slush puppy cart into an arcade and to buy three pints and half a coke for £7.70 (Seven pounds seventy pence London pub drinkers vidiprinter) down on the harbour side.

The next morning started with the pleasure of finally meeting Michael Cook after years of being in contact online.  Running along the sea front was a great way to open the day and to get a feel for the fog. This was one of at least a couple of semi organised runs by delegates and it would be a nice thing to continue at future events.

The conference venue was the Scarborough Spa which had a slightly faded glamour but met our needs overall (the wifi worked!). The shifted date was less successful with the Higher Education contingent clearly reduced due to student inductions already being underway or looming.

There was a strong Knowledge for Healthcare theme throughout the two days which may have been off putting for some.  This is balanced to some extent by the extent to which the products of KfH workstreams are publicly available and often widely applicable.  The volume and quality of work going on is impressive with tool kits in all directions.  Work on increasing the role of centralised procurement rang some alarm bells for me – we have moved from £2mill spent centrally to £4mill but the view is that some £12mill could be spent this way.  That money is unlikely to be new money!  Efforts to look to the future of staffing are also welcome with another leadership programme and a development path for senior managers on the way.  I suspect there are non NHS health folk on the current leadership programme and I really hope so as it is important to get a wider perspective where possible.

I forget how long it is since the introduction of “Do once and share” but duplication of effort remains stubbornly persistent.  The work on Current Awareness illustrated this clearly with over 700 bulletins under production just from the people who responded to a survey on this. Approaches around consolidating these while establishing best of breed models feels overdue.  The guideline on good bulletin production will be one to watch for.

My own session on metrics drew a larger crowd than I had hoped for with pretty much a full room. It brought home to me the need for additional efforts to explain how the principles we developed for good metrics can be applied. In a similar way to the CAS bulletins I could see the germ of a plan to develop best of breed metrics based around shared templates. There was some confusion over whether this was an additional piece of work or a replacement for national statistics returns.  In essence I hope the principles will be used as part of the national statistics review to inform any changes.  What I hope I expressed strongly during the talk was that the interest in metrics is mostly  the extent to which they can drive useful conversations – with our stakeholders and with each other.  Through out the conference we were reminded of the importance of being active in the boardroom as well as at the bedside. Having something concrete to talk about that responds to the priorities of senior stakeholders must be a good thing. I will make some tweaked slides for the web and blog them in the next few days.

After the rush of presenting we then had a fun conference dinner from which I may have escaped with slightly too much CILIP HLG rock!

HLG Rock(s)

A pair of keynotes kicked us off well on the second day with Nick Poole running through progress at CILIP and recognising the impact of health library and information professionals work. I hope the new model for subscriptions and improving offer will have the desired effect to widen participation and membership. This was followed by a moving talk from Lynn Daniel on the Expert Patient Programme. While I am sure I was not alone in wondering about the evidence base for some of the interventions proposed it was clear that her work has considerable impact on peoples lives with access to information at the heart of it.

The expert work of Judy Wright in supporting research proposals was fascinating and highly relevant to some of the thinking I am doing about search support for my own organisation. This along with a number of discussions I had made we wonder a little as to how up to scratch our skills are in these areas.  While there are some seriously well equipped librarians out there I certainly feel that I know less about systematic review and other advanced searching than I would like.  As we shift to delivering more highly specialist work and automation advances we need to ensure that we can maintain credibility. More thoughts on this to come in another blog post.

Other useful talks were Jo Milton from Cambridge on UX work (experience sharing planned for the future) and Andrew Brown looking at RoI.  The RoI work confirmed how hard this is to do well and the risks associated with starting to move into the realm of putting a price on all things.

HLG committee were keen to hear about ideas for what else we might do. The potential for holding HLG Conference annually was suggested. I wonder whether we might run something like the UKSG one day event which combines a trade fair with a selection of talks? A notable difference is that this is a free event to attend. We could look to make the overall cost lower (no lunch unless a sponsor covers?) to allow this. I would also like to see HLG campaign with members to increase uptake of revalidation. The concept of regular revalidation is understood and undertaken by many of those we work closely with. HLG can lead the way on raising use of this method and normalising it across the profession.

We emerged from the fog as the train whisked us off home. This felt like an important conference and reminded me how much I love working in the health information community. There is no doubt that significant progress is being made across many areas of work. There is also no doubt that financial pressure is going to be intense for most of us. The call to engage with NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans, with the patient information agenda and with making the future we want to be part of has to be heeded.


The Library in the Life of the User part 2 – a busy day then home

After a nights sleep of sorts we resume our trip to Chicago for the Library in the life of the user conference.

An early start today with conversation over breakfast (pastries not pictured – sorry).

The agenda was rejigged so we started with Mega Subramaniam from the University of Maryland on linking research and practice in LIS.  What was clear is that there is a lack of a research culture in many libraries which can make it hard to find collaborators.  When collaboration does take place it helps generate better research questions.

Next up were Rachel Fleming-May and Teresa Walker (both University of Tennessee) on the LibValue project.  This looked at values, outcomes, and Return on Investment of academic libraries. They presented three pieces of work (use of resources to support instruction and impact of library skills training).

The area of their talk I found most interesting was how they examined usage of a Commons space and used this to support arguments for improvement. They felt they could see patterns but wanted evidence. The Commons was created as a student centred space (working with IT) and is 24 hour with coffee and so on. Students were very keen right from the start. They had automated data on usage, demographics and student exit surveys but wanted more input from the students. They were also interested to see if they could link use to progress with degree.  A key question was establishing what success meant for the institution. For University of Tennessee it was particularly around student retention. Issue was one of belonging.  The survey showed the Commons made them feel more part of the university.  It helped them do better in class and it helped them meet people. Active users of the facilities had better Grade Point Average improvements than those who used it less.

The findings helped them get a seat at the table and articulate what they contributed to organisational priorities. This was key in securing additional investment to staff the Commons more robustly.  They also recognised things about what the students were doing and this lead to more partnerships – math centre, writing centre, statlab, supplemental instruction. I think there are good parallels with developments we are making at King’s.

In terms of ethnography they proposed that living with the students everyday is an accidental ethnography.

– make them comfortable in the space – created a landing space where they can adjust to where they are so they noted nearly everyone checking their phone as they entered the Commons before heading in so they added seating at the front.

– ingenuity – students stacked furniture to use as a stand for filming – so they added a studio space

– more opportunities to interact / creating community – student art, student research and stress relief initiatives.

After a quick break we were back to hear about some case studies of research in the field.

First up was Margaret Burri from Johns Hopkins University.  My big take home from this was how much I liked their website (see how many great ideas you can steal from the front page alone!).

John Hopkins have had a UX director since 2011.  They hired an urban anthropologist – not a librarian (and we need to be better at recognising when to use the expertise of other professions). An early project looked at “accessing the monograph” with a flow chart on how hard it is to find one. This reminded me of one I prepared on ejournal access for the NHS!

messy diagram

ejournals are tricky

They had a 50 year old library to redevelop so carried out a study of space use. 6 students walked through three times a day logging into a coded sheet – what sort of activity is going on, inactivity, stuff holding spaces, sleeping etc. some 400 observations. They carried out photo surveys – technology & after dark. What tech do you love/ hate? What do you use? What do you do in the library after dark?  They liked the change machine – needed change for laundry!

A good example was illustrated with a photo of large group meeting in a commons space. They had been working on a set of questions in small groups and alone. One student invited the others to converge in the library. Pulled together whiteboards and chairs creating a semi closed off section. Peer to peer learning driven. How do we provide this flexible space? Students reported issues with getting there at night. They felt unsafe due to dark spaces to walk cross. How safe do our students feel around our libraries late at night?  Something we need to keep an eye on as we are increasingly open 24 hours.

Finally they talked about how they worked toward the great website I mentioned at the start of this section.  Essentially they largely turned it over to students that the UX director had been working with. 132 students engaged with it.  This has to be better than us designing what we think people will want.  There is still too much jargon on library sites. They also found students wanted to know more about special collections.

Next stop was Yale with  Denise Hersey talking about understanding the research practices of humanities doctoral students.

One of their discoveries was how much photographing of special collections type materials doctoral students were carrying out and how little they knew about then managing these effectively. In many cases they were busy transferring paper models into the digital world – creating an online archival box.

They have some of the usual library spaces gripes – temperature, noise but also a particular wish to be able to leave library books and come back to them. But as at UT – they value the sense of community given by the library – it can be lonely work and they need to have a studying community to keep them going.  The full report is online.

Last up in the morning session was Andrea Twiss-Brooks from University of Chicago

They reported a “day in the life” exercise – mapping how third year medical students seek and use information in the course of daily activities – clinical in particular.  These are people seven years into their medical studies in the US where you have to complete a four year UG in related subject then a four year med degree! As such they are are fledgling clinicians. Working on core clinical competencies as well as communication and professionalism competencies. They generally make little use of physical libraries.

Protocol – map movement for a day – from waking to going to bed and noting arrival and departure at each location. Interview next day using map as prompt.  Generally they were on the same site all day so map not a huge help.

They took a qualitative approach and used students to transcribe the 69 interviews they completed.

So what does information seeking in the wild look like?

– Need fast paced clinical answers. First port of call is google. This was often to check facts they were fairly sure about.

– When google and wikipedia were felt to not be enough they move to UpToDate

– For high stakes events (ward rounds / exams) they felt they sometimes need in depth research and learning and would look at pubmed (Medline) and the Cochrane Library (systematic reviews).

– They look at the Electronic Health Records system a lot including on their mobiles.

– print vs ebook – print at home / in office. Ebooks for study.

– challenges – wifi, security of personal devices

I suspect these patterns are likely to be very similar in late UG medical students and early career junior doctors.

They made some changes driven by these results.

– added collaborative space during library renovations

– purchased UpToDate Anywhere (the app version)

– bought more ebooks

– placed a greater emphasis on responsive design to ensure things work on mobile

– partnering with medical school to integrate resources in EHR

For me this fits in the category of research that confirms what you might expect but it was good to see someone rigorously working it through.



Lunch was very welcome at this point featuring no less than four different pies of which I only sampled two.

We followed this with an interactive session on the Visitor and Residents model for which there is a very handy JISC guide. Essentially it considers how people engage when online – in some places we are a visitor so we pop in to do what we need to do and then leave again without leaving much in the way of traces (for me an example would be wikipedia – I pop in for very specific things from time to time) and in others we are resident so we hang around and have a visible social presence (twitter for example).  We spent some time mapping our online lives against these as opposite points of an axis and with the other axis being institutional and personal.

People end up drawing very different pictures and through this we can better understand how they might wish to engage with our services.  We also need to think about how we might support people working in different modes. The slide deck has lots of sample maps to give you the idea and then clippy will walk you through preparing your own.

Lynn Silipigni Connaway from OCLC Research then talked us through the results of some OCLC work in this area.

The last speaker I saw was Joan Lippincott who talked about asking good questions.  I think I prefer the slides to the talk.  She talked about how peoples feedback can be constrained both by how we frame the questions and their existing understandings of what is possible.  The slides have a really useful set of pictures of varied environments in and around libraries. So we have spaces for relaxation, for food / drink, art, creativity and novel use of screens.

I had to leave for the airport as Stanley Wilder was most of the way through his talk on mixed methods and mixed impacts but it was not really floating my boat.

If you want to follow up on anything in the conference you can see talks and view the slides and there is a report that recaps the event plus the research report that it launched.


Mandatory hotdog at the airport

Pint and read

Home from O’Hare

The Library in the Life of the User part 1 – destination Chicago

Hancock Tower

Hancock Tower opposite the conference hotel

I am looking forward to attending the LibUX in a day event this week.  In anticipation of that here are some posts lightly edited from ones I wrote for work…

As part of my work getting interested in LibUX I found myself dispatched on short notice to the other side of the Atlantic to attend the OCLC event “The Library in the Life of the user” in Chicago (a number of the talks were recorded and I will link these as appropriate). This is the first of three posts talking about what I heard and found while I was there.  Subsequent posts will talk through the second half of the event and detail a visit I made to an interesting local library.

I flew out to Chicago the day before the event and spent a happy few hours reading a range of books on ethnographic approaches that I had downloaded from EBL before departure (my user experience was the pages of one book turning black on me when the loan expired).  My favourites were User experience (UX) design for libraries which is a great short read on designing better websites for library services.  I also read the ERIAL toolkit – a practical guide to ethnographic research in libraries where I felt the information on coding data was particularly clear.  Alongside this I watched More than usable – library services for humans which was the closing keynote from the UXLibs conference in 2015 – a great broader discussion of why usability and user experience matter (with fun space travel anecdote).

I managed to find my hotel and meet up for a bite to eat with a mate from Library School who happened to be in town for the giant Society for Neuroscience Conference.



The next day I woke up bright and early (Chicago is GMT-6) answered a load of email and went for an early morning wander when it finally got light.  I then managed to talk my way into the Galter Health Sciences Library at the Feinberg School of Medicine – blog post to follow on this.

The conference kicked off after lunch with an opening talk by Lorcan Dempsey from OCLC.  This was an informative run through to set the context.  He was quite pleased with the title of the conference as a shift from the traditional model of considering the user in the life of the library to one where we are interested in the library in the life of the user – until two people sent him a 1973 PhD that used the same phrase.

He described shifts taking places in education models and the technological environment.  In a digital world the library needs to organize itself around the workflow of researchers and learners. We have been about outcomes but increasingly need to be about the process (reuse, data, copyright, revision and discussion).  He made use of some great infographics from to illustrate the players in the research flow.  For him there needs to be a big shift towards engagement.  This will involve innovation and increased collaboration.  He illustrated this with work that has happened around collections where discoverability has redefined collection boundaries and moved the focus from ownership to access. It is a hard to summarise the talk but I recommend it for people who want to better understand how changes to academic working practice will influence our future plans.

Next was a talk on what we can learn from research about online communities – specifically Wikipedia editors.  Aaron Shaw suggests that free culture communities have a two part mission – access to knowledge and empowerment that chimes well with library culture.  His research has shown that while access has been improving empowerment has not.  The marker for this is a decreasing number of active Wikipedia editors.  One very clear finding is that the introduction of login being required to edit was a big disincentive – it reduced the need to revert vandalism but saw a larger drop in content creation.  The discouraging effects of logins are a familiar story for libraries!  There is also a significant gender gap in the editing community.  I wonder to what extent we have tried to consider variations in usage in this way?  Do some demographics make additional use of our services?  Do they use them in different ways?

We were encouraged to learn from parallel worlds and to create user centric strategies.

After a quick break we heard from Andrew Asher (of the Erial project above) on Why Ethnography?  He explained how a library is like a tropical island

What are libraries?

Libraries are social institutions

Libraries are social relations. Social relations embedded in those of other social institutions

Libraries are technologies

Libraries are symbols and symbolic systems

Libraries are beliefs

Libraries are practices (people doing things)

Which all add up to what anthropologists call culture.

He went on to discuss three ethnographic approaches so watch the talk if you want to learn more about observing, mapping and interview approaches.  You will hear about what people include on their personal maps of libraries (in short – computers and social areas – never the librarians) and you can see how we might consider where students spend their time and how it influences the collections they need.

Last up for the day was Paul Jervis Heath from the Modern Human Design Agency with his talk on work at the University of Cambridge. For him design is more than the visual. Other parts of iceberg – information, interaction, structure, concept, proposition. The Microsoft Zune MP3 player – worked well as a piece of kit but had no itunes software equivalent so managing the music was basically your problem and it failed accordingly. He talks about some of the cool projects that Cambridge have been working on – like an appstore and theSpacefinder.  His point was that only by observing closely and then reimagining what we can do will we invent the future.

The day ended with a reception at theNewberry Library where sadly we only saw a function room and a temporary display on theatre in Chicago.  I popped off after for a drink on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower with some nice Canadian Librarians.

Plane takes off

An UHMLG summer trip away – day 1

This was my first attendance at an UHMLG event (the summer residential conference) and it was great to meet new people and catch up with familiar faces.  Sadly we only got as far away as Luton but the hotel was comfortable and you got used to the plane noise.

The theme was “influencing, inspiring, leading: reflections on personal and professional impact”.

We opened with Jane Savidge talking about use of leadership circles.  These are grounded in the Nancy Klein thinking environment from “Time to think”.  I read this a while ago hoping it would help me find ways to lift my thinking beyond immediate pressing issues.  In practice it is very much about listening and good questions.

Leadership circles (8 to 10 people) are aiming to break down silos and the gap between academic culture and professional services. In their aim to encourage deep thinking they do correspond more to what I had hoped for.
It sounds like it has been successful for forming relationships. It has also influenced more widely how meetings are being run throughout the university – you can see the people who are involved. The circles were related back to the 7 Habits idea of circles of influence – these have been expanded.
Anthea Sutton followed with “Librarian as leader: skills, competencies & development opportunities in library and info profession”
This was based on original research for NLH back in 2008 (later published in HILJ) and updated for a talk at the recent EAHIL conference.
Andrea contrasted her own leadership journey where she has risen (in her view accidentally) into a management position over her time at ScHARR. Management not synonymous with leadership but management can go in hand with it.  On the other hand she offered her colleague – Andy Tattersall. Andy is a specialist in electronic networks, communications. Has influence in the organisation and beyond. Very good at monitoring future trends. Leadership through expertise.
Literature says leadership is hard to define. Is one profile appropriate for our profession anyway?  A magic check list is not possible, there is no single profile, leadership courses are not Fairy dust (Greenhalgh).
Current opportunities – formal programmes (CILIP leadership thing). Your institution may be running them. Leadership MOOCs, mentoring / coaching, observation, peer support / networking, reading, writing / publishing.  360 degree feedback highly recommended – something I have always tended to dodge.  We are not good at assessing our own competence. Something to think about as (hopefully) more people engage with the PKSB.
After tea we were treated to a talk by Roisin Gwyer on influencing up.  I took limited notes as I was focussed on listening.  Starting with Yukl influence tactics we had a tour of a range of models and theories but the value for me came from the experience shared. I loved the ideas around being opportunistic – we are going to need to say things twenty times to get ideas accepted.  Having an acceptable compromise position ready in advance is something I need to do more of. Hopefully the slides will go on the UHLMG site.
The last couple of segments were a round table that worked moderately and then an update on Knowledge for Healthcare. Great to see this progressing – and I am now getting more actively involved in the national programme through Chairing a task and finish group on Metrics (get in touch anyone with strong views!).
After the group AGM we were whisked off for a BBQ at the rather lovely Offley Place.

UKSG Glasgow reflections

This was my first attendance at the UKSG conference. Having mostly been focussed on health information and NHS needs (and with an NHS training budget) I tended to focus my conference attendance on HLG.  I was lucky enough to be able to take my talk on extending ejournals to the NHS for a last outing (slides above) and brilliantly this meant UKSG covered my conference fees, hotel and train ticket. If I ever come up with anything that would fit with UKSG interests again I would submit again for that reason alone!
What interests UKSG was one of the questions I came away with. The range of talks was very wide encompassing apps, open access, open data, copyright, discovery, ethnography and other letters of the alphabet (search UKSG for talk recordings). While I was interested in many of the things I attended they often felt less practical than the average HLG talk. This perhaps reflected the high level of a number of speakers or the very particular specifics of their examples. It almost certainly reflects my ongoing health focus. The open access side was probably the most interesting for building my knowledge.  I did not have any great moments of revelation.
My favourite session was on ethnographic approaches. This an area increasingly in the spotlight and a likely candidate for my next years objectives. It was great to hear about the progress of research by @librarygirlknit and @llordllama (and a big pleasure to have met both of them IRL for the first time). I need to think about how to use these approaches to understand activity away from the library.
The HEFCE review of metrics sounds like it should be a good read but sadly won’t see the light of day till after the election. I enjoyed the presentation on efforts at Faber to make money from digital outside of the sale of ebooks. Having been tempted into buying one of their beautiful editions recently I had been impressed by their website. The model seems to be one of building loyalty and a community of a sort around both their core products but also desirable crafted items. There was some commentary for and against this fetishisation of the book on social media. I think it seems a good way to go – the basic edition remains available and the objects created are useful and beautiful passing the William Morris test.
I was pleased with how my sessions went. Both times there were a good number of people and some really interesting discussion was prompted. Having to spell out a lot of the NHS jargon meant there was no problem timing wise. It took about twice as long as at HLG to deliver a similar volume of material! It was also great to have the chance to talk to lots of publishers about licence extensions. Hopefully a few of these discussions will bear fruit.
The conference itself was very slickly organised (even the wifi worked OK). The social programme was fun though I tapped out early from the Ceilidh. No MD20/20 was served and no Teenage Fanclub played (to my knowledge).