The NLH Enterprise Architecture – looking to the future

For a couple of years now I have had a copy of “An Enterprise Architecture for the National Library for Health: Direction of travel and deliverables” sat in my inbox.  At the time I was preparing a report considering HDAS (the NHS in England interface for searching literature databases) and I wanted to remind myself of the content of this dimly remembered document.  Linda Ferguson kindly dug it out (on a site since dead) and it has been sat nagging me ever since.

The version of the EA above dates from 2006.  I confess I failed to grasp the scope of the vision it represented at the time.  The language is by nature technical but the ambition is very clear.  A number of initiatives now under way in the NHS in England could be plucked directly from this document and would certainly be much easier to deliver if we had gone further down some of the paths it suggests.

The document lays out a plan for delivery of NHS Library web based services.  At the core is the need for “a set of interoperable, networked services that conform to appropriate open standards”.  This would be supported by various things such as shared schemas for meta data and a central registry for API specifications.

I want to consider how the implications anticipated at the time have worked out and where things might be going in the future.

There were several implications identified for national services


A coherent and integrated user journey is desired. Presentation layers, what the user sees as a web page and how results are presented, will be separate from content and services and owned and built by the NHS.

Procurement will focus on content and the necessary APIs to integrate content into the discovery and current awareness processes. Increasingly, we do not wish to purchase content locked into any single portal.

A core search service will index all NHS content. It too will have a SOA, providing the basis for search pages. It will integrate with related services such as link resolvers

An NHS resolver service will be a key component in the delivery process. The NHS will wish to procure and own a resolver solution as a managed service.

An NHS library– wide Access Management System is being procured. Use of this system will be mandated for information suppliers. It will be SAML compliant.

Much of this has come to pass though perhaps without the core search service.

HDAS has reasonably successfully allowed for changes to the suppliers of content (databases) without massively impacting the experience of searching for the end user.  The varying API offered by suppliers have not fully supported the consistent search experience desired and there have been performance issues.  What has not happened perhaps is the ongoing integration of other services such as document supply and support at the point of need into HDAS.

We have seen the procurement and integration into HDAS of different link resolving solutions.  OpenAthens has been a long standing partner for access management.

Looking to the future work is underway to deliver an NHS England wide discovery solution and how well this maintains control over the web page and presentation of results will be interesting.  This could potentially be the “core search service”?  NHS Evidence already does this job for some categories of materials but stays away from the literature databases that would swamp the materials it aims to present.

A missed opportunity was the investment to create an NHS England wide Library Management System based in one of the Open Source solutions.  A small central team could have administered and developed a tailored approach that would have matched some of the ambititions of the EA.  I suspect the overall cost over the past decade would have been significantly lower and the opportunities for creating a platform for services greater.

There were also implications flagged for local services

local e-content, whether procured or NHS generated can, by adhering to EA principles, be integrated with national content, either within NLH or within other portals.

New services can be built up around this technology. For example, local current awareness and alerting services can be integrated with national services to provide the user with one way of getting knowledge updates

A single NHS library-wide Access Management System provides web Single Sign-on linking library services to their user base and will provide a bridge to NHS SSO services, opening up library service to non-library users.

Generally we have been happily plugging in locally procured content into national systems.  A gap has been around a solution for ebooks and this will need to be addressed in any new discovery layer as this format grows in importance.  The ability to integrate local content will depend on standards and considering these might be an early priority (as fixing them later will be trickier).

Recent revisions to HLISD will hopefully have maintained the commitment to the important location and service information being available via API to build other service offers.  The wide adoption of KnowledgeShare raises questions of how this (or an equivalent) might be integrated into a future national digital service.

In an ideal world we would have single sign on using peoples Trust logins – any additional login (even one as familiar as OpenAthens) is an unwanted barrier so an NHS SSO is the right ultimate target.

So quite a lot progressed and quite a lot left to do.  As the NHS in England moves towards the procurement of a new discovery tool it feels to me more critical than ever that we maintain the drive of the NLH Enterprise Architecture for the delivery of “a set of interoperable, networked services that conform to appropriate open standards”.  What I would like to see more of is the role of the person supporting at the point of need within that networked service.

These are my views based on my involvement with various aspects of the health libraries system at different points.  I am very happy to be corrected on points of accuracy – and challenged on matters of opinion!

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.

A visit to Stockwell Street

I recently had the opportunity to tour the University of Greenwich Library on Stockwell Street.  It is always interesting to have a poke around someones library – particularly when it is a shiny new one like this (opened September 2014).  I am also involved in lots of discussions about future library spaces at work so it was very helpful to see some of the new style fixtures in operation.

Library Entrance

Library Entrance


Tucked in seating

I was a bit grumpy when I realised that the Library had been built on what was my favourite market in Greenwich. The small consolation is that they were going to build flats on it otherwise.  The entrance is rather nice with a general reception before you reach the library gates.


library lobby

Lobby area


There is plenty of open space on the ground floor.

To the right of this shot is a single person desk for directions and to support use of the self issue kiosks.  The white units hold a few paper titles (architecture students use this site amongst others) and have new books displayed on top.

The interior is all brushed steel and polished concrete with predictable results – note the ceiling mounted baffles.

There are lots of different kinds of seating.  Those below faced the chairs outside and have power and data sockets concealed underneath which is neat but probably not the most convenient.


Bar style seating


Central giant stair case

A set of enormous stairs run through the centre of the building.

Library interior

Social working space

On the other side of the stairs is this rather nice space with a variety of work environments.  The grey soafs on the right face each other over coffee tables providing space for around six people to work together.  The bright chairs are each by a tall window looking outside.


Short loan corner

Short loan is back the other way with self issue inside the gate to control access.


Laptop trolley

Print areas are divided from the rest of the library by mid height walls.  This one down past the big grey sofas housed loan laptops for use in the Library.  I like this idea as it provides flexible access which would be inclusive to all the users of our libraries.


Loads of sofa pods



Looks familiar






There are clusters of group work oriented sofa pods with high backs to provided some privacy and contain noise.

The fixed PCs are generally quite closely packed which is similar to the arrangements we have in place.  It would be nice to be able to offer more space for peoples stuff around PCs.



Enquiry drum


Wandering down into the basement we passed an enquiry point.  These are located around the library rather than having a single desk near the entrance.  Help leaflets are integrated into the furniture.  Not pictured are the archives who are located in the basement with some very fancy rolling stack.


Wheely chair desk thing










Black shelves


Daylight into the basement














Shelving is generally not too high and slinky black.  The dark space in the distance of the left hand picture was in eco motion sensitive lights out mode (it was early when I visited).  There are clusters of desks and PCs scattered around.

training room

Laptops an option in training room

Training room

Looking from the trainers point of view

The training room is highly flexible with all furniture on wheels and capable of multiple layouts. This struck me as a really good idea.  Laptops allow the use of the space for hands on training though there would obviously be an overhead in set up time.

note the double screen

IT Enquiry Drum

IT have enquiry points too (note the double screen ahem).


Standing PC for express use







Printing areas have PCs to allow people to hop on to print something off which is a nice touch.





water fountain

Double water


giant printer

Self serve poster plotters

There are plenty of water points along with toilet facilities.

The needs of the architecture students mean that poster printers are self serve and very economical.





Sofa pod for one to ones with students

The main staff office is on the top floor (plus some palatial quarters behind the book sorter down stairs).


Wide open office





We finished our tour at the staff meeting room which has a rather nice view.  I was impressed with the range of study environments in the library (not pictured are some group study rooms).  The library has a number of roof top gardens with some open for library users.  Thanks to UoG colleagues for the welcome!

Greenwich view

Not a bad view