#eahil2017 #icmldub Global and Disaster Health Special Interest Group 1/2

June 19, 2017

On Thursday at EAHIL there was the launch of a new special interest group – Knowledge management in global & disaster health. For the last 6 months or so I’ve been doing voluntary work for Evidence Aid (more on this in the next post) so I went along.

The session was led by Anne Brice of Public Health England (@annebriceuk) with presentations by Claire Allen of Evidence Aid (@evidenceaid); Neil Pakenham-Walsh of HIFA (@hifa_org), Dr Caroline de Brun of PHE (@debrun), and Prof Maria Musoke giving a perspective from Sub-Saharan Africa & IFLA.

All the slides presented are available, and I’ve storified the tweets from the meeting, but here’s my slightly more considered version of events.


Claire started with an overview of the origins of Evidence Aid. After the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 a government funded psychiatrist responded to a Cochrane offer of help. The group was able to provide evidence of the unproven benefits or even potentially harmful effects of brief debriefings for survivors. Feeding this back to the government meant that funds and resources could be deployed elsewhere.

They have continued this work to support better use of resources (both money and manpower), and achieved registered charity status in 2015.

The aim of Evidence Aid is: To create and satisfy an increasing demand for evidence to improve the impact of humanitarian aid by stimulating the use of an evidence-based approach.

The work they do depends heavily on the work of volunteers, with librarians particularly involved in searching for, summarising and synthesising evidence. They also advocate free access to pay per view systematic reviews. If you’re interested in the story of my connection with Evidence Aid, please see below.


Neil then talked about an organisation I’m sorry to say I was unware till now: “Health Information For All”.  But even as Neil was speaking, I signed up to HIFA– which will mean that I can take part in conversations with their 16,000 members in 175 countries, across 5 forums.

It’s not just about ensuring that aid workers, and their organisations are working with the best evidence. Everyone deserves to have access to and the skills to appraise (health) information. Without supporting and enabling these 2 things, we deny them a basic human right of informed choice and further burden the healthcare systems by only minimal (or even harmful) self-care being possible. As Neil said “people are dying from lack of knowledge”. And indeed one of the WHO Universal Health Coverage goals specifically mentions information: skills, equipment, INFORMATION, structural support, medicine, incentives, communication

Amongst the wide range of projects in they are working in: with healthcare professionals, with citizens, with healthcare policy makers, around mobile healthcare information, they also have one with library and information services. This last project is around supporting local LKS to support their local healthcare professionals, citizens and policy makers. They also want to explore the role of LKS in global and disaster health.


This last point led to Caroline speaking about the brief review she carried out on the role of librarians in providing support to disaster management teams and the general public during times of crisis. (NB this is not about librarians coping with their own disasters – eg how to cope with a flood and its effects on a collection, or even worse, the circumstances that the Syrian librarians are enduring).

This was about (amongst other things)

  • how public libraries in particular can be a community hub during times of crisis, acting as a meeting point, communication channel and even performing such basic functions as being a charging station or internet connection point.
  • new roles which being created, such as Global Health Informationist, or Disaster Information Specialist (like we needed more job titles! 🙂 )
  • how effective knowledge management can link members of the same organisation who are unknowingly working on the same topic (how many times does that happen?);
  • how our existing skills we can support information dissemination using social media; and
  • how we are already working to reduce the digital divide which is so glaring at the best of times, and which is only exacerbated in crisis situations.

A clinician in the audience who had worked in disaster zones raised the very specific point that access to evidence was important, but putting it into a local context was critical: it’s all very well know that water can wash a wound as effectively as saline (so cheaper) but if the water supply is contaminated then it’s appropriate to ignore that evidence. Or that the logistics of transport severely restrict access to the saline to begin with. This is also an area that Evidence Aid will be expanding into – getting right information for the specific context and environment that the aid workers are facing on the ground.

Caroline’s full briefing is available and I would recommend it.

Maria then spoke about her personal perspective, as a librarian, indeed as a professor of information science, living and working in Uganda, and from her association with AHILA and IFLA. Maria was one of the founder members of AHILA in Nairobi in 1984.

The challenges facing librarians in sub-Saharan Africa actually resonate very much with me as a European librarian: that the provision of information is increasingly complex, and that there is increasingly disparity between info-rich and info-poor owing to variations in access to the internet. That Maria and her colleagues have a significant and active role to play during epidemics and natural disasters on their doorstep is only where the difference becomes clear owing the lucky distance I enjoy from most of the health disasters that I might be accessing information about. What Maria does is to use “Knowledge to transform the resources we have into things we need”.

She’s got a new book out “Informed and Healthy: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives on the Value of Information to Health Care”  (which had a high profile launch), which is already winging it’s way from Amazon.

In terms of next steps, from the SIG’s perspective, its:

  • HIFA LIS Project working group meeting is on 27 June at 10am, via Skype
  • Thematic discussion on the role of libraries in times of crisis, to take place on the HIFA Forum
  • Meeting about setting up an IFLA Special Interest Group on knowledge management in global and disaster health taking place on Monday 21st August in Poland during IFLA.

In the meantime, a date for your diary: November 6-12th: Humanitarian Evidence Week.


#icmldub #eahil2017 CEC6: Librarians can help address reporting concerns in the biomedical literature, particularly for systematic reviews

June 13, 2017

So I’m delighted to say that my 2017 EAHIL experience is off to a flying start. I’ve just come out of the CEC session I co-ran with Shona Kirtley of @EQUATORNetwork, Tom Roper @tomroper ‏, Rebeca Isabel Gomez @Rebeca_Aetsa and Alicia Gomez @fagomsan  on how librarians can help improve the reporting of research. Putting together the session was great fun – wonderful to have an international collaboration, and the skype meetings, and email exchanges were really productive.

The session itself had 15 attendees from all over Europe, and despite the fact that I was part of the organising/delivery group, I learned as much from the attendees as from our own presentations.

For example

  • I didn’t know that the Equator network have action plans for librarians and universities to use to improve reporting of research (part of our presentation)
  • A colleague suggested that if you integrate your search results with a PRISMA reporting guideline it raises the researchers awareness of this checklist as a gold standard method of reporting the rest of their work (definitely going to steal/borrow this one!)

For example

  • There is a wealth of literature/evidence available to demonstrate a] the level of poor reporting of research, and b] that librarian input can improve this. I’ll be putting more of this evidence into presentations, onto our website etc.
  • As well as the stellar “50 Shades of Review” that Andrew Booth presented as part of the EAHIL CPD programme, a colleague said they’d share the table he made which presents the different types of review against how many databases, and an estimation of the time it should take to present.

We talked over the reasons why research is poorly reported, and the consequences of it. We were reminded of the scale of the problemimmense!

And we rounded off with a reminder that, as with so many things, this isn’t solved by someone else doing something. It’s solved by each one of us doing something – so we all wrote postcards with 2 or 3 actions that we were taking away. I’ll be posting these cards in a months’ time – as a reminder that we need to be part of the solution.

Our slides will be going up shortly, and we’ll also be sharing the feedback from group discussion – watch out for the link.

#candocafe – the first “Can Do Cafe” for NHS librarians

April 7, 2017

On Monday 27th March, 20 NHS librarians of the East of England enjoyed the very first, anywhere, Can Do Cafe. In the reasonable expectation that you don’t know what one of these is, the essence of the event was :

“All staff are welcome to attend, but you must be prepared to come along and get actively involved,
take away an action and do it.”

It’s so easy for us to get into a rut of “this is rubbish, why doesn’t someone do something about it” – it’s not possible for all of us to solve all the worlds ills, but there are some things that are within our grasp, regardless of what grade we’re working on. So the point of the cafe was to be an opportunity to think about the things in our working life that we could improve, and to get inspiration from colleagues by hearing about how they approach the same situation. And then get on and take some action, however small!

The day consisted of:

  • A Knowledge Café
  • A mini TeachMeet
  • An #EoELibrarians #CanDoCafe discussion which will be tweeted live.

There was plenty of tweeting with #candocafe on the day, of of which (not just the discussion) are storified here.

Knowledge Cafe – we talked about library inductions

I’ve never been to one of these before (more information about them if you’re in the same boat), and to a certain extent I have to say the lack of formal outcomes/actions was a little difficult, but the point was to learn, and get something for me and my library. We chatted in small groups for c.15 mins and then mixed up the groups and chatted again. We did feed back round the whole group at the end, but this was optional. I certainly learned some good suggestions for library inductions, sorry if they’re obvious to you, eg:

  • introduce the library service at a staff induction, and then wait a few weeks, and introduce yourself again. Corporate inductions are notoriously information heavy, plus staff will take a little while just to settle in, so give them a chance to find their feet, and remind them of the services we can offer
  • better tailoring of OpenATHENS registration emails – I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, so this is a definite action
  • some of the things that other people noted were captured on post-its:


Touted as a mini-teachmeet, actually it was pretty much full size, with 7 speakers. Topics ranged from #amilliondecisions, supporting systematic reviews, preparing an elevator pitch and coaching/mentoring skills training. So much was packed in to each presentation I can’t capture them here, but it reminded me what a good forum TeachMeets.

There was so much discussion after each presenter that it became clear that we’ll need to re-think the time allocations for each part of the next Can Do Cafe (happening Wed 7th June, btw), and we’ve already had a good debrief about how to make the next cafes even better.

The whole Can Do Cafe came out of just such a conversation between Leanne Kendrick, Deborah LepleyLaura Wilkes  NHS librarians in Kings Lynn, Chelmsford, and Bury St Edmonds respectively, and me. So to a large extent, by having an knowledge cafe via conference call, the 4 of us came up with an idea of a way to fill what we saw as a gap. The perfect example of trying to take control, and make a change ourselves, rather than relying on anyone else to fix it for us.

We realised we can do something about it, and so we did it!

#uhmlg17 spring forum. Tooling up: knowledge, skills & competencies

March 29, 2017

Another year, another stimulating UHMLG Spring Forum – great speakers in a lovely venue at the RSM, with the added fun of it being Red Nose Day. I particularly liked the UHMLG treasurer’s commitment to the cause:

We were able to raise over £200, which was a tremendous achievement.

The opportunity to catch up with colleagues, and to meet with vendors and suppliers is always appreciated, so I thought I’d gather my thoughts of the day. The slides will be up on the UHMLG blog, and the tweets (#uhmlg17) has been storified, but here’s what I took from the day.

Alison Brettle

Alison is always an interesting speaker, so it was great to hear her talk about the impact of librarians.

So often our evaluation questionnaires after the training sessions we deliver focus too much on enjoyment. To be frank, whether a participant enjoyed it or not is irrelevant. What’s important is the connection between what contribution you made to the outcomes that matter. Yes you as a librarian are an input, and you do activities. These activities have an output, and too often it’s this that is measured. What is actually more important is the outcome. The “so what”. “So what’s” can happen in the short, medium or long term, but we need to be able to show our contribution to these outcomes, because it’s these that are the things that matter to our key stakeholders.


Impact – it’s not just about measuring things, counting. This just shows you can count. What different do you make – “impact is about the serious business of demonstrating the difference that libraries can make”. There’s always the downside that we can demonstrate what contribution we make, rather than a direct cause and effect, but it’s a start.

It’s by showing our contribution to the outcomes that matter that allow Alison to create diagrams like this:

for health librarians, and for academic librarians:


There’s a significant need for all of us to ask the same questions – these can be part of a bigger set of evaluation questions, but if we’re not asking the same questions, we can’t compare results. Alison and her colleagues in the Task & Finish Group have worked hard to devise 4 simple questions – there’re in the Value & Impact Toolkit, and we’d be well advised to use them.

Return on investment is a seriously convincing argument when presented to stakeholders, and one which has been made in Australia and the US. It would be great if someone in the UK did more work towards answering this question.

Anne Gray

Becoming business critical was the rally call from Anneher slides are available. She’s been embedded and business critical in the evolving beast that was the PCG and is now the Commissioning Support Unit. Since the NHS is a business, help the decision makers, just as much as the practitioners. In the Department of Health mandate for NHS England 2017 they list research, innovation and growth as key factors. If librarians can’t demonstrate their contribution to all three, we’ve come to a sorry pass. But it’s how we communicate and demonstrate this that’s important. Are we doing it in a way that convinces them, or just convinces us?

In her role Anne’s had to learn a different language – business reports, bullet points, summaries – if it’s not quick and easy to read, the time-poor managers will never be able to incorporate it into their work. (It makes me all the more envious of my colleagues who are attending her “synthesising and summarising” workshop.) Perhaps the need for pragmatism is key – evidence needs to be “good enough”, so the whole idea of an evidence hierarchy is turned on its head.

I’m regularly reminded how weak I feel my skills inn searching the grey literature are, and Anne gave a timely pointer towards Kieran Lamb’sNorth Grey Literature Collection” (note to self – ask the fantastic team behind the EAHIL CPD group if they have a session planned around grey literature, but I realise that significant aspects of it are country specific.) Anne presented a great slide with all the different sources of grey literature she uses:

https://twitter.com/ilk21/status/845282508132564996/photo/1 (N.B. I took the photo before Google appeared on the screen, for anyone surprised at it’s absence!)

Perhaps the biggest skill that Anne can’t teach you is how to find the key people in the organisation. I wonder how we test for networking skills at interview, or teach it after appointment.

Kate Kelly

While CILIP is beavering away with the PKSB, and David talked about how K4H contributed to making a Healthcare PKSB, the MLA has also been working on core competencies.

The MLA asked key questions around what is the practice of health information professionals?, what is our common skill set? what are the assumed skills of someone who calls themselves a health information professional? This survey was sent to “leaders of the profession” in the US, and thanks to Kate’s involvement, to members of EAHIL and UHMLG too. The aim was to establish and define the knowledge, skills and abilities that can be observed, measured, taught, but interestingly they don’t extend to cover personal attributes or ethics – and sometimes these are what makes the difference between competent and brilliant colleagues.

There’s 6 key areas (locates ; curates; educates ; manages ; evaluates ; promotes), and Kate drilled down on a couple of these, and talked about the differences between basic and expert levels.

She also shared the competencies from 2007 and compared them with the 2017 version. What was once a specialised skill (eg in relation to technology) has now become a standard expectation, so tech just doesn’t appear in the 2017 list.


There was an interesting emphasis on the need for librarians to be able to apply evidence to their own practice.

check out the MLA site on 9th May when the competencies will become available (open to all), and 16th May when the self-assessment tool comes online (MLA members only)

Gerhard Bissels

We had a fascinating insight into a life in parts of Europe as a medical librarian. Gerhard works in Bern, but is German. He pointed out that the number of English-speaking librarians (in UK, US, Australia) was significantly bigger than the number of German-speaking librarians, and with that difference, and therefore the pool of colleagues from whom to learn or collaborate.

He talked about the balance of unqualified apprentice staff to qualified staff, and how that meant that certain tasks and skills were getting lost (particularly teaching and searching skills – this to the extent that an Embase subscription is a rarity in Germany). Even the availability of a postgraduate qualification in librarianship was lacking in some countries, or only newly available in others.

So to the meat of the presentation – the results of a survey of European librarians on further/postgraduate education. The survey was developed by a working group consisting of Gerhard, Rudolf Mumenthaler and UHMLG’s very own Betsy Anagnostelis. This is published in full in Journal of EAHIL (page 4), and the background data is also made freely available.

Really, it quickly became clear that however much we might moan, UK health librarians don’t know how lucky they are.

David Stewart

David talked about the Healthcare PKSB and, of course, Knowledge for Healthcare.

He alluded to the ongoing work that will transform LQAF into an evaluation framework which will be closely linked to K4H, and illustrated the 6 differences. The result should be increased partnership working, and confidence, capability and capacity in LKS.

There needs to be some baseline work carried out (eg asking how much time currently is spent on outreach/clinical librarian work, so that any change/increase can be measured). We can’t grow numbers of staff in specific roles, or the amount of time on specific tasks if we don’t know the baseline. David also reinforced the guiding principles and values of K4H (p17, as if you didn’t know!)

On the last guiding principle, there was talk of the “healthification” of CILIP’s PKSB into the PKSB for Health. There was also a reminder that we could point our managers towards this tool, since if they don’t really understand what we do, then how can we be effectively appraised? The Learning Zone was sign posted, as was the Talent Management Toolkit.


Always a stimulating day, and a great opportunity to meet with colleagues. Thanks UHMLG.

23 Things is 10 years old – here’s a few ways it’s helped me

March 17, 2017

Realising that Helen Blower‘s ground breaking 23 things programme is 10 years old is quite a shock. It was inspired by Stephen Abram’s article about 43 things, but 23 seems to have become the perfect number.

I thought about the ways it had helped me…not quite 23 ways, but enough. More than enough….

  1. Helped me help my staff cheaply, engagingly and imaginatively. Way back in 2010 I adapted the programme into 23 Things @ CamMedLib + FollowThat….
  2. Taken me to present at conference. I had a fabulous time at the EAHIL 2011 conference in Istanbul on the back of a keynote presentation I gave about the Medical Library programme
  3. Has been translated, adapted and rethought repeatedly to focus on different skills and different user groups – so I benefit, and other groups can
    1. CPD 23
    2. 23 Research things
    3. infinite others…..some of which I’ve participated in, some of which I’ve “encouraged” my colleagues to participate in
  4. Helped me spawn a different type of cheap, engaging and imaginative CPD opportunity: libteachmeet, which was translated from a forum for teachers, and has been adapted and rethought repeatedly for and by librarians – see the wiki, the original blog, and the chapter about it , oh, and another presentation at the Istanbul conference
  5. Encouraged me to learn from others as much as learning from the “teacher” – it’s the reading of other participants blogs that teaches you as much as following the steps of the task for the “Thing”.

so thank you very much Helen – it’s such a great idea.

Processed by: Helicon Filter;  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

insight – Clinical Research Nurse Symposium #cbrsymp16

December 2, 2016


I had the pleasure of attending the first Clinical Research Nurse Symposium organsied by the Cambridge BioResource.  http://www.profbriefings.co.uk/cbrsymposium2016/ 

It was a great opportunity to hear what are the important issues for research nurses, and to get an insight into the amazing work they do.

I’m made a story of the tweets from the event (other people’s tweets will have much more insight than mine, I know) https://storify.com/ilk21/cbrsymp16, but here’s a few take-homes that have stuck in my mind.

personalisation of medicine

It’s an amazing thing to realise that Cambridge patients have given researchers the data to prove that there are not 4 different types of breast cancer, but 10 owing to genomic distinctions. One size/shape of treatment does not fit all. This personalisation of treatment is an amzaing breakthrough. But unless you personalise the treatment through taking time with the patient who’s just received the diagnosis, who’s about to undergo the treatment, and whose family members have perhaps died from what they see as the same disease, you’re not really caring as well as you could. Unless you personalise the opportunity for healthy volunteers to contribute to the research you’re not going to have a massive dataset to work with.

It’s often the research nurses who take the time to connect with the patients and volunteers.

(ps it took me so long to “get” this image – d’oh!)

enjoy them while you’ve got them

Nurses will be in very short supply in the coming years – 12% intake in the coming year but 20% loss as experienced nurses retire or leave the profession.

How can we ensure that all nurses are engaged in research, so that every nurse is a research nurse, with the potential for every patient (every citizen) as a research participant?

help them/us understand

Research literacy of patients and volunteers is really important for recruitment and retention – there’s lots of expert patients (particularly in Cambridge!), so why not lots of research expertise? Better understanding will help engagement and retention of research recruits. This starts with the quality of patient information which is designed by research groups, and is used to ensure informed consent, but can stretch beyond that too.

translation and communication of results

Do the patients involved in the research the courtesy of presenting the results of the research that their cells/bodies/minds have contributed to, in a way that they can understand. I don’t mean dumbing it down (see above) but in a way that is meaningful to them. Do this and  you might get them to engage in research in the future.

are you a linchpin


Linchpins make the work happen, efficiently and safely. Who are the linchpins in your organisation? (psst – it might be you!) How can they be rewarded? Can you learn how to become one?

It’s taken me so long to write up my thoughts after this conference – but the jist of it was done in 20 minutes over coffee just after I’d left building.

It was great to get an insight into the world of research nurses – impressed, doesn’t even begin to cover it!


#uhmlg16 summer conference – TEF and LA

June 30, 2016

Oh my, #uhmlg16 is a gift that keeps on giving.

As well as all the opportunities to catch up with colleagues from around the country there were first class speakers (as usual!)

Murray Hope works for HEA, and he spoke about the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework. Quality assessment should be seen by institutions as an opportunity to reflect on what went badly as well as to showcase what went well. To simply sweep less successful outcomes under the carpet is missing the point, and might lead to a lack of innovation just in case it doesn’t work. It’s the same with only using metrics to measure success – they miss some of the nuance. So too much reliance on the National Student Survey is easy, but not enough.

A very brief overview suggests that in the first year TEF will be effectively a rubber stamping exercise to ensure institutions demonstrate they have processes in place.  Year 2 will require the whole institution to take part, but here’s the interesting part… Year 3 will be a pilot year for subject submissions as well as institution wide, and Year 4 will be a subject only badge.

The real opportunities are for subjects to shine in their own right, and there’s even more opportunity when specialisation increases. For example, there’ll be recognition for excellence in delivering courses by distance learning. Obviously the OU will be gunning for this, because it allows other aspects of the institution to be recognised. (could this be an opportunity for librarians and their services to be given recognition?)

We don’t know yet just how granular this process will be (eg delivery of ancient history teaching in a university might be a very different experience from the history teaching), but it’s going to become increasingly important that any teaching delivered and supported by librarians would be well supported by a formal qualification (the like of which HEA can provide).

The next session was from Sheila MacNeil of Glasgow Caledonian University on Learning Analytics – a brave new world or back to the future?  Her slides are here:

There was so much to take away from Sheila’s excellent talk – hugely engaging speaker. But ideas like the fact that learning analytics use trances that learners leave behind to help us improve their learning – what a fascinating idea.

She reminds us that people and process are much more important than the product or the platform, but most fascinating was the prospect of trying to accommodate and monitor the social learning that goes on and can have as much benefit for the student as the formal learning. [this makes measuring the impact of our contribution in the way that Alison Brettle was encouraging us to do yesterday all the harder, surely….sigh!]

The problem with analytics so much of the time is that, in true Voltaire fashion, that just because you can measure things doesn’t make them the most valuable, and sometimes the most valuable are things that are difficult to measure. And at the end of the day you can measure all you like, but if you don’t change your behaviour, then what was the point. And sometimes it’s ok to be good enough…. (dangerous thoughts!)

But then we got on to the idea of data literacy – ooh this was so interesting. To what extent are we all just handing over data about ourselves to whoever will give us a free online service or app or fancy new device (like a fitbit which I don’t own!). I wonder how much data literacy varies across generations, and how concerned or aware people are of what they’re giving away. This isn’t new – how long have supermarkets been handing out loyalty cards, and then using our purchasing habits to tempt us into spending more? And now things are only getting more complex and sophisticated (sorry it’s a link to a video on a Daily Mail page – how did this happen??).

Sheila also showed us DELICATE – a checklist for trusted learning analytics. and a JISC where they map the landscape of learning analytics and a gorgeous visual: data warehouse tube map.

Sheila left us with the reminder that analytics will increasingly be part of the core business of universities, but with the reminder that they should be used with students, rather than to students.