#uhmlg16 summer conference – learning teaching excellence from each other

June 30, 2016

So the 2 #uhmlg16 days in Glasgow gave so much pause for thought….



We heard from Iain Baird about the value of the qualification which allowed him to become a “teacher librarian”,  though he still professes he’s a librarian who teaches. A key part of the process was that he questioned what he did in the classroom on a more formal/consistent basis. He also started to use the language of a teacher – constructive alignment became part and parcel of his interactions with tutors and course organisers – to ensure that the end goal for the student is achieved. This has resulted in him going into a class not thinking “what do I want to teach“,  but rather “what do I want students to learn and what do students want to learn“.

Iain also reminded us of the difference between surface and deep learning – “how is not enough, students need to understand why and then they’ll change behaviour.

We had a great demonstration of research in practice from Delyth Morris, telling us about her systematic review of IL programmes for taught students in higher education (soon to be published). It was reviewing the literature on student perceptions of online versus face-2-face information literacy skills sessions. Two previous SRs has been done but they were 10 years old, so high time to consider the newer literature. Delyth highlighted a checklist for critical appraisal of articles on educational interventions that she used in her appraisal of the literature, which was a new one for me.

What became apparent was that there was a gap in the search around blended learning and also flipped classroom. She also considered that there was a future role for mapping how students find the information by themselves, and then to ask them what would have been a useful intervention from librarians (this sounds all a bit #UXlibs to me).

Her work also involved doing an RCT with the Cardiff students testing an online library induction vs a face-2-face one. Great stuff!

The final contribution from fellow #uhmlg-ers was from Angela Young of UCL, with a very modern (for us!) contribution with a video of her flipped classrooms.

“The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.” educause.edu

The great thing was that the technology allowed the pre-class online learning allowed for students to test themselves, and if they get the question/task right they continue onto  the next stage of the module, but if they get it wrong there’s some additional slides to support and correct the learning.

Angela’s face-2-face sessions were highly interactive, using polleverywhere to ensure that there was as much engagement as possible, and the session went at the correct pace because learning was tested at every stage.

I’m going to try to find a link to her film – it was great.


#uhmlg16 – great summer conference: teaching excellence

June 30, 2016

I’ve just had a great couple of days at the UHMLG Summer conference in Glasgow. The theme was teaching excellence, which was just up my street. All the tweets are available on a Storify, but I thought I’d put down a few thoughts.

As well as taking place inn a venue with fantastic wall paper….

there were great speakers, and plenty of food for thought. Here’s some of the good stuff:

First off Alison Brettle talked about “Demonstrating the value of health and academic library information and knowledge workers“.

She recognised that impact  – the difference or change resulting from contact with the library service – was sometimes intangible, and hard to demonstrate was specifically the result of library input. For example yes, we may provide information to answer a clinical question, but this will not be the only input that might be responsible for an improvement in outcome for the patient. She also raised the fact that in terms of demonstrating outcome, quantitative measures were most commonly used, but qualitative measures were often more meaningful.

She cited lots of papers that she extracted data from as part of her scoping review around the value of LKS workers (interesting aside, were her comments about the difference between a scoping review (chart data, rather than appraise the data)).

It was interesting what a low value user satisfaction surveys have – really, it’s no use to us to know that library users like the service we provide. We need to be able to show what difference we make to the outcomes that matter to our stakeholders.

Interesting and frustrating outcome of Alison’s work seemed to be the variety of ways by which impact was reported – with so much variation it’s not possible to make any reasonable comparisons. So just as reporting of RCTs or systematic reviews needs consistency to be able to compare, so we as library professionals should be working to make it as easy as possible to show that one service makes as much impact as another by using the same reporting methods or the same core outcomes.

The need for us to consider return on investment was also emphasized. I think this will be a recurring theme as we are required to become more business like. Public libraries have been considering value for money for some time, and I wonder why academic libraries have been relatively slow to pick it up. There are some pioneers: “The economic and environmental value of the Syracuse University library show an ROI of $4.49 returned to the university for every $1.00 spent each year.” and also a study which suggests that [australian] hospitals, government departments, associations and other organisations involved in healthcare gain a $9 return for every dollar they invest in health libraries.

What return on investment is NOT is a user satisfaction survey, as mentioned above. We need to ensure that we talk in terms of what stakeholders value, and use the terminology that they will understand. How many times do librarians stand accused of too much librarian jargon? If we don’t adapt our language and presentation then the message will be lost.

Now it’s true, that impact of librarianship on the outcome that will impress our stakeholders is sometimes hard to disentangle from other influences (an increase in the number of first class degrees might be influenced by access to library resources but we will never be solely responsible for this as an outcome), so presenting qualitative “stories” of the impact can be powerful evidence.

Knowledge for Healthcare does have some lovely impact studies (eg  7.A.5 Case study: point of need information for clinicians using examples from the marvelous @UHCW_CEBIS). (unsurprisingly Alison was involved in the task & finish group developing the Value and Impact Toolkit).cebis k4h

We need more evidence like this in primary care as well as acute trusts, and we definitely need more like it in academic libraries (hence the link to the work done in Syracuse University Library)

Essentially, as supporters of evidence based medicine, and advocates of evidence based librarianship, we should demonstrate best practice in researching our impact:

  • question our practice,
  • gather/create evidence/
  • use evidence wisely,
  • share to help others

(and if you do it well you might win the “researcher in practice” award sponsored by EBLIP and being launched at the CILIP conference – £500 could be yours!)

Some useful reading will include


It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

June 12, 2016

– or why there’s no point doing a systematic review if you don’t report it properly.

So this is going to be a little bit of rant, plus a bit of pleading, and a call to arms.

  • What’s the point of doing any form of research if you report it so inadequately that people are almost morally obliged to ignore it?
  • Or if you are so selective in your reporting that it gives a completely wrong impression of the results?
  • The question of not reporting it at all (non-publication of PhDs, for example) is  for another day.

There have been plenty of examples where poor reporting of randomised controlled trials has resulted in a false understanding of the efficacy of a treatment. Think Tamiflu or Reboxetine. Both of these, and plenty more like them are the reason behind AllTrials, (and all power to it.)

But what about the quality of reporting of systematic reviews? “Poor reporting of systematic reviews diminishes their value to clinicians, policy makers, and other users.” The methodology of these needs to be as clearly and comprehensively reported as clinical trials. Let me tell you a story…

A group of librarians from Spain, France and Switzerland met at an EAHIL conference, and decided to do a little research around Evaluating the information retrieval quality and methodological accuracy of Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis on congenital malformations (2004-2014)

This work was presented by Alicia Fátima Gómez @fagomsan on behalf of the group ( ).

The topic of the papers was, I think, just a way of keeping the workload manageable (analysing 162 papers is enough of a workload on top of your day job), and so too was the range of years covered, but the point of it was to see if any of the SRs or MAs actually conformed to the reporting guidelines that are available, and was a contribution by a librarian to the whole process visible.

It produced some very interesting (depressing?) results. Here’s just a few of them…..

  • 80% of paper did NOT mention PICO
  • 68% of the searches were NOT fully described & transparent (absolutely essential for any reproduction of the work in the future)
  • 66% did NOT use controlled vocabulary (MeSH, etc)
  • 48% did NOT explicitly use synonyms (put this together with the previous point, and I don’t actually think it equates to a literature search, far less a systematic review!)
  • 49% did NOT recognise any risk of bias in their work (eg language limitations)
  • most studies only used one database – a significant source of bias, and a virtual guarantee that relevant papers will be missed.
  • less than 10% of papers mentioned a contribution by a librarian

This is a relatively small study but alarm bells are clanging like crazy.

The last point is particularly galling when you consider the work by Reflethsen et al “Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews”

Problems remain with SR search quality and reporting. SRs with librarian or information specialist co-authors are correlated with significantly higher quality reported search strategies. To minimize bias in SRs, authors and editors could encourage librarian engagement in SRs including authorship as a potential way to help improve documentation of the search strategy.

We can help researchers publish better work!!

There are some tremendous reporting guidelines for all sorts of research (they’re pulled together in one place by EquatorNetwork (and all power to them!))  and plenty of specific advice around reporting of systematic reviews:

and yet there’s appears to be very little use made of these guidelines by editorial boards and peer reviewers when assessing the work that is submitted for publication.

So, all of this was why on Friday, after a hard few days on conferencing at EAHIL 2016, and with the aid of @tomroper, I asked that EAHIL act. The full text is available here. The motion was carried, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do to improve the situation.

PS – also delighted to see:

what makes a good conference, what makes a good conference attendee? Part 2

June 10, 2016

So, if you don’t enjoy a conference, is it you or it?

The first professional library conference I attended was ICML in London in 1998, and it was sooo enormous, I didn’t know how to take it all in. I was very new to the profession, so couldn’t really judge the relevance of what I was hearing, and didn’t know anyone (except that I got to know my future colleagues at Leicester – so I did learn the value of a good social event, except I didn’t learn that lesson so well as it turns out…….)

I remember being such a scardey cat that I hid in my room rather than attend the conference dinner of the first LILAC that I attended when I didn’t know anyone. I must have been insane – LILAC are so friendly, and any conference dinner – despite the prospect of dancing librarians – is a must.

Scaredy Cats

But I have also got so many good ideas, have met so many lovely people, have developed such strong relationships and connections with colleagues from across Europe that I can only conclude that I have become a better attendee.

so that’s got me to thinking……

what makes a good conference attendee?

  • being a little open, and a little (a lot?) brave
    the point of conferences is that everyone in the room has at least one thing in common. And the other thing they have in common is that they’re (probably) very nice. So go on, be a little brave and say hello.
  • try to see the woods for the trees
    ok, so maybe the project or service that you’re hearing about can’t be transferred exactly to your situation, but some aspect of it might be. So being able to spot what you can translate, what flavour you can bring back home is a huge advantage. Not all sessions will change your entire library, but sometimes they can change you
  • contribute
    Giving back, by presenting a poster, oral presentation, workshop is really important.

    • It can justify your attendance (particularly in times of financial constraint)
    • it can be a way of developing and improving your presentation delivery – mostly the audience will be kind.
    • workshops to peers can be a really good way of experimenting before you extend it to others – again, your peers want you to do well, and will be kind (mostly!)
    • we’re an evidence based profession, so important to act like the people we’re supporting – doing research, presenting, publishing
  • share
    • share by tweeting at the time, or blogging afterwards
      • it helps those who can’t attend,
      • helps those who are there but in a parallel session,
      • it can help the understanding of those present in the same session (as was the experience of a colleague, there should be a fuller explanation in a blog I hope to read soon….)
      • and can raise your profile too (hopefully in a good way…)
    • sharing is particularly important if you are in a leadership position, and your absence brings no discernible benefit. Your team can survive without you, but it will always help reduce negativity if they know what you got out of the attendance, what the service gets out of your absence.

This is by no means an exhaustive list – what would you add?

A lot of it is aspirational – I am a better conference attendee, but by no means an ideal or expert conference attendee.

Clearly I need more practice….. 🙂



what makes a good conference, what makes a good conference attendee? Part 1

June 9, 2016

As I’ve got older I’ve become a much better conference attendee. It’s taken quite a long time, and given how expensive it is to attend, and how many I’ve had the privilege of attending, I’m pretty sheepish that fact. But there it is.

But after enjoying the hospitality and stimulation of EAHIL 2016 this week, I got to thinking…..

what makes a good conference?

what makes a good conference attendee?

This is by no means a “how to do it” for conference organisers, and not in any way a reflection on the Seville event, but here goes…

what makes a good conference?

  • The Bag
    Now I know how trivial this makes me sound, but really, when you’re still using the bag that you got at a conference in 2008, you’re either super frugal (I’m not) or had conference organisers who really nailed it.
    (sorry @mafrodo)
  • Strong interactive component
    Now this just comes down to me being an activist, so no apologies there…..
  • strong theme that is adhered to
    Sometimes it’s surprising what sessions are included in a conference that you think has a very clear theme. Note to those wanting to submit – please don’t shoehorn your session in even if the theme doesn’t fit – the audience will be disappointed, and that doesn’t reflect accurately on your (probably very interesting) session.
    Note to organisers – don’t accept speakers who’ve not read your brief. Keep the theme!
  • Enough time to talk
    it’s all about the networking, really, and the opportunity to talk more with the speakers you’d not heard of/from before, and the people that you know well but don’t see that often.
    it’s all about the networking, and if there’s not enough scheduled time, then some might just bunk off, which is a shame.
  • Venue and Location
    Now obviously there’s a cost to attending any conference: time, travel, accommodation, burden on colleagues left behind, opportunity costs etc.
    But having a venue that’s really fit for purpose makes all the difference (good wifi is an obvious and absolute must), and having a good destination helps (she says from a lovely hotel in Seville…. ahem!)
  • Serendipity
    such a hard one – it’s the people you didn’t expect to meet, or the session that you go to just to see the one after it, but turns out to be better than the one you’d originally intended to hear… Yeah, organisers, if you can bottle that, I applaud you!
  • Connections
    ways to make it easier to spot the people you want to speak to, when you only know them by name not face; the connections you have when you only really know someone by Twitter name, and maybe not face. Any ways it’s possible to make it easier to make those connections the better.

and 2 last points….

  • what makes a good conference is the organising team behind it – people who are doing this on top of their day job. They’re doing it with generosity of spirit because they want us to be stimulated and entertained. The time they devote, and the other things they sacrifice to achieve a good event (which might include family time sacrificed, particularly during the event itself). To these people we all owe a huge debt of gratitude – it’s not always their fault if things go wrong, but it’s certainly because of them that things will go well.
  • the conference attendee…. more on this later….


Clinical Librarians, and then some

June 9, 2016

So everyone’s heard of Clinical Librarians. You might even have read about how good they are, or you might have attended one of the conferences. (if you’re going “huh?”, catch up, quick). There’s many different versions of them, but they’re A Good Thing.

What I heard about yesterday at EAHIL 2016 (@eahil2016 #eahil2016) was something else again.

Anna Brown and Amber Dunlop presented about The Clinical Evidence Based Information System at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust. @UHCW_CEBIS

The impact they have is amazing – read some really impressive examples in Knowledge For Healthcare (jump to page 27 : Section 7.A.6: Case study – point-of-need information for clinicians

And what adds particular value, to my eye, is the fact that the evidence is linked to the electronic patient record (EPR), so that the evidence can be accessed by the patient as much as the clinician.

The fact that sometimes the best evidence doesn’t suit the local circumstances, and that this is documented clearly can help to support better decision making, can reduce cost, and can certainly reduce risk. It can even go some way to changing practice on a national level.

The fact that the librarians delivering the service as part of the multi-disciplinary team can find more elusive evidence – the case reports that are sometimes all the evidence there is, particularly in relation to neonates – provides direct support to the clinicians and patients.

Very very impressive stuff – **read their paper**.

And what’s even better, having convinced at least this librarian of their impact, they’ll be presenting to the clinicians next at Evidence Live.

This service didn’t appear overnight, but now it’s an embedded and hugely well supported service that proves its worth. It was set up with the metrics/analytics required to convince the managers as well as having staff with the information and appraisal skills to provide evidence in appropriate formats to convince the clinicians.

One without the other would not have been enough. All power to them – it just might be the model of the future.


The real public health challenge – digital inequality

June 9, 2016

If you look in most newspapers you’d be forgiven for thinking that the biggest threat to public health comes from obesity or smoking or alcohol. These are things with easy images, and an optional feeling of superiority for those who do not consider themselves obese/smoker/drunkard.

What is less visible is the fact that digital inequality has just as big an impact on health.

At EAHIL 2016 (@eahil2016 #eahil2016) I attended a talk by Bob Gann – “combating digital health inequality: libraries on the front line“. It’s not often a talk gives me so many “gasp” moments – the statistics are really shocking:

  • while 7o% of Europeans use the internet weekly, 20% have never used it in their lives – that’s 1 in 5 Europeans have never used the internet in their lives

When I think of my lifestyle, and indeed my 80 year old mother’s life style, I have real pause for thought – how do they get anything done?? 

  • 47% of Europeans with insufficient digital skills to make best use of websites, but if you focus on the socially disadvantaged, this rises to 64%

So exactly the people who need the most help are least likely to have it – the poor, those with low literacy, disabled, homeless, older people, those with chronic or mental health problems.

  • Women are less likely to be online than men – to the tune of 200 million fewer

When you consider who is most likely to be caring for the old, sick, young, etc – this gender gap is particularly shocking to me.

The worst part of it is, when you hear politicians bang on about everyone getting fast broadband by 2020, but then closing/reducing funding for/making skilled staff redudant from the very places that could give those with least access at least some access right now (public libraries, if you hadn’t already guessed..)

This is why Widening Digital Participation in partnership with The Tinder Foundation is so vital.

For every £1 spent on helping a digitally excluded person gain skills to navigate the online world, using programmes like LearnMyWay, they can save the NHS £6. And this is just the easy things they can count like avoided GP appointments. The impact that it can have on increasing self-confidence, their ability to manage their own health conditions, reducing social exclusion, empowering them means the £6 figure is likely to be a gross under estimate. Plus the costs saved are unlikely to match the value given.

What I found particularly interesting is that it’s not just the excluded population that needs help.

Bob raised the fact that health care professionals need help in changing their attitudes and approach. The gate keeper role that practice managers, reception staff etc have is a very powerful one – controlling who has access to the doctor or nurse. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they might be less likely to give a “difficult” person as much access.

This is where support from people like Martha Lane Fox and her doteveryone is being particularly supportive, with a specific set of Digital Recommendations for the NHS (love MLF).

There is also an increased need for “social prescribing“, is a means of enabling primary. care services to refer patients with social, emotional. or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical. services, often provided by the voluntary and. community sector.

This can/could/should include suggestions of what websites or online support groups etc could be useful, and a contact to a source of support in accessing these resources (you can tell that probably means a public library, can’t you?).

We all need to be more engaged with this – as health librarians supporting public librarians (I know there’s a lot of this out there already) – as as just because we (ok, I) need to be more socially aware.

Reading (if nothing else!!) – read about Ron

Ron – a true story

Reading – Year 1&2 Findings Report from The Tinder Foundation.