On failure and a successful #UHMLG19


Clickety clack

To Teeside in a pacer for the UHMLG Summer Conference themed around “Failing to succeed”.  The UHMLG summer conference is a bit different – quite small and definitely perfectly formed it has more of a workshop feel than most (NB – I am on the UHMLG committee).  This edition was no exception with a first afternoon workshop followed by a mix of sessions on the second day and a manageable sized attendance.  The glorious sunshine in Middlesbrough was a treat and the venues were convenient.

After a quick carb up lunch (pizza and wedges FTW) we spent a useful afternoon thinking about failure led by Andy Priestner.  Recognising that failure is valuable learning and a part of life we thought about how we might better set cultures that enabled having something fail not become something that feels like it has to be hidden.  The session drew on Andy’s and our own experiences of different forms of failure. There were lessons from his work in UX where failing quickly and cheaply allows for rapid progress of ideas.  Libraries are small c conservative institutions as a rule and this can make accepting failure hard. I liked the warning against “caretaker management” – just keeping things ticking along rather than seeking to match or provoke the progress the people we work with need.  Andy was happy that no one was going to die due to things we had done which provoked discussion around the genuine anxiety the potential for patient death can cause in some around health information work. In the end we are not the ones that make the clinical decision!  Something to follow up was the “How to fail” podcast that a number of people had enjoyed.  It was a great presentation with useful sharing exercises.

I found the next section of the workshop worked less well for me.  I think this was as I had already used the ideation techniques Andy took us through in other contexts and didn’t find they sat quite right with the question we were tackling.  We did have useful conversations around how we might better support a positive culture around when things we try don’t come off.

A take away was that your perceived failure may be viewed as a success by others. I would suggest this is more the case than the opposite given the difficulty most of us experience with self compassion.



After a happy, chatty social evening meal it was great to have a #Libraruns morning outing with Tom, Eli and Brian Clough.

The first two lead a session on Imposter Syndrome something I suspect old big head would not have suffered from.

I freely admit to being a bit dubious of the rise of this as a condition.  I was certainly an outlier in not recognising it in myself in any recent times.  On reflection I put this down to a combination of things. Firstly I am in a fairly sweet spot professionally – I have been around for a fair while and feel ok that I know what I am talking about – I am in a good job for me.  Secondly I am a privileged person – as a white man things are generally easier for me and library land is a space where there are few questions about my presence (the days of being told I am awfully young for a library manager are some way behind me).  Finally I suspect that where I am flailing out of my depth I am OK with this just being somewhere I need to learn things rather than it being down to me being an interloper (or it could be that I am a sociopath).

Conversely my being in a minority on imposter syndrome means I need to be rather more sensitive to it than I am.  Clearly this is a significant issue for many people and the discussion of tactics to address it was useful for me to think about how I approach colleagues who may experience this acutely.

I delivered a lightning talk on how a LibUX experiment blew up in my face

Key learning here – check the politics and talk to more people.  Probably always good advice!

After some other bits the final speaker was Olivia Remes on How to cope with anxiety and bounce back in life. You can get a good feel for this session by watching her TEDTalk.  After a run through of some of the forms of anxiety (clinically speaking) and some of the causes she ran through ways to cope / coping strategies. Self compassion is a good place to start and a number of the strategies related to this.  An idea I had not met before and liked was “Wait to worry” – essentially you book a time to worry about a specific thing rather than have it sitting on you the whole time.  I could see this being very effective to park an issue and prevent it escalating in your mind.


I had a bit of time to kill before my (failure of a) train home so went for a wander round Middlesbrough – I can recommend a look at the transporter bridge, the “Middlesbrough Collection, Why Are We Here? With Black Artists & Modernism” and a cold drink at the station on another scorching day in the North East.

Stats and stories for impact

I really enjoyed participating in the latest UHMLG autumn forum (not least as the London Mathematical Society is a fun little venue with a surprise garden).

LMS Garden

You can find all the slides from the day here

The day started with an inspiring presentation by Kay Grieves from the University of Sunderland.  What shone out was the importance of having a cohesive and strategic approach to engagement.  Many of the things she presented nicely foreshadowed my own presentation (on making annual reports more useful) and the whole programme hung together nicely.

I liked the process Kay presented of moving from articulating / contextualising through engagement to sharing the narratives and insights gleaned.  It can be easy in engagement work to get pulled in all directions and the careful focus on key strategic objectives / issues for the service is a lesson most could use with applying.  The quality of the presentation of their resulting campaigns was striking and you could well imagine that these would help with getting people interested.

The talk included a worked example around journals showing careful capture of qualitative and quantitative data so that there are stories with the numbers that can often be all we have to go on. The outcome was a positive campaign combining with skills development, academics and the whole library to help people understand the role of journals in learning at university level.

My own talk was tweaked from one I gave at EAHIL this year.  This pulled together the work I have been doing on using a visual action plan format with the work on principles for good metrics prepared for Knowledge for Healthcare.  Placing the metrics work in this context seems to have been an effective way of framing it.  I received very positive feedback from the talk with a number of people planning to take action to improve their own annual reports.

HLG2018 – searching, running and all the rest

In celebration of the HLG2018 conference slides having emerged it is time for some reflections.


This was my first time at Keele University and it was good to explore somewhere new (though not ideal as a conference venue since having found it on the map I then joined the general head scratching about how to get there).  I spent an unhappy hour on the bus from Stoke on Trent and was very fortunate to find a cab to share to get away again at the end.  The campus itself was green and pleasant all be it largely shut down for the summer.

I arrived a day ahead for the HILJ editorial advisory board (EAB).  We had a very productive discussion on the peer review set up for the journal.  Changes should make the peer review reports both easier to complete and more useful for the editorial team.  I was very aware that I do little reviewing and have since made a point of completing one for the journal with the aim to do more in future.  I also continued to flag my idea of driving ownership of the journal amongst HLG members by encouraging a quarterly CPD discussion group (more on this another time or see CILIP SocialLink stream under HLG!).  My involvement in the EAB is great for gaining an insight into the academic processes around journal publication. Do publish in HILJ folks!

A theme for the conference was wellbeing and as part of this I had volunteered to lead a run on the first morning.  I had an initial scout around and got totally lost and we then had a very successful #libraruns effort the next morning (where I lost most of the runners). A good time was had by most (if you run and use strava then join the libraruns club).

The conference started with an update from Nick Poole offering general news of things CILIP.  I get the impression Health remains one of the stronger parts of the membership.  We then heard from Dr Mark Murphy who got us thinking about grey areas in evidence and various lens through which we should consider Evidence Based Medicine.

I attended a session of a Knowledge for Healthcare related working group looking at stats for the NHS LKS.  I may have ended up going off at the deep end about metrics and do feel that the group have been given a brief somewhat too close to the one the metrics group already covered.

I was very taken with a presentation I did not attend (the wonders of twitter to be in more places at once) on a QI bookcase and linked up subsequently with the speaker to learn more.

Good fortune meant I chaired the session where Stevie Russell updated on the work of African Hospital Libraries I am very interested in the work of this charity and have managed to make some headway with making it an area of concern for my own service.  The other talk in the session was on a developing tool for providing Current Awareness Services to biomedical scientists using machine learning.  There was definitely something interesting there but it felt like something of a work in progress and one where librarians experience around delivering CAS could be very helpful.

Work on redeveloping buildings at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Royal College of Surgeons of England  offered contrasting takes with different challenges and needs.  The lack of quality literature on design decisions for new medical libraries was notable.

My favourite talk of the conference was by Kate Misso on reducing waste in systematic review work through the input of librarians to the search process. It was shocking to realise the poor quality of much of the searching under pinning systematic reviews with implications for the findings and reproducibility.  My least favourite was probably laughing yoga which I attended reluctantly as I wanted to hear the Biship and Le Fanu lecture on Evidence Aid that followed it.

For my own part I brought a poster on work I carried out around creating a simple title scheme to support guideline retrieval.

I always enjoy HLG conferences and 2018 was no exception (see my triumph in the raffle at the top of the post!).  It remains a key opportunity to catch up with colleagues and get a feel for what is happening around the place.



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 http://www.library.jhu.edu/ (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