Sunday, 23 May 2010

Graduation and All That Jazz

Well probably the high light of this week was our graduation ceremony at the Guildhall in London on Tues. Arrived bright and early at 8.30am to be robed in a very handsome black gown with a gold and burgundy sash (and cap, of course). Most of my friends off my course came (we were all full-timers) and it was a very nice ceremony with full faculty parade, brass band and all. The Library and Information Studies class came right near the end so we had to sit through a lot of names before it was our turn. I had never been to the Guildhall before and thought it was a lovely building, full of history.

Back to the grindstone on Wednesday with my first Systematic Reviews workshop and a Learning Awareness Week stand outside the hospital canteen. I had two doctors sign up for the Systematic Reviews course, but only one turned up. He was very keen though and interestingly he had already done a systematic review recently. He wanted to know more about tracking down articles and making sure he everything written on a particular subject. So I ran through my presentation and we sat down and did a little literature search later on. I'm not sure how useful the course was to him but I did try to encourage him to ask the library to help out with his literature searches! He is coming along to the Reference Management and Finding the Evidence Improvers this week (one after the other, phew!).

Learning Awareness Week went pretty well - the stand outside the canteen on Wednesday attracted a fair amount of attention (lots of freebies!) and we got people to fill in slips of paper with their name, job title and something they wanted to learn or something they had learned this week. We then made these into a long chain, which is now hanging proudly on our journals shelf! On Thursday we had a drop-in session for people to make the most of their Athens accounts but in the end only had 2 takers. Still it was worth doing and all-in-all a good chance to get out and interact with some potential users. The most interesting and rewarding part of the week for me was meeting a patient who came up to our stand and wanted to know more about where to find medical information. We had a really good chat and I pointed her in the direction of NHS Evidence and NHS Choices, both excellent, free sources of information for patients and carers.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Another higgeldy-piggeldy week

This week has all been a bit higgledy-piggeldy with assorted training sessions, meetings and planning for Learning Awareness Week (with the very scary-sounding acronym of LAW) which runs all next week.

Monday started well with a slot on the staff induction, thanks to our friends in high places. My inductees weren't the keenest I've ever seen but two full days of IT, clinical governance, fire safety awareness and child protection is enough to put anyone off. Tuesday was my second critical appraisal: quantitative research course, which I was really nervous about as I'm still not convinced I entirely understand confidence intervals, p-values and odds-ratio diagrams enough to explain them to others by my little group of three were lovely and I felt the session was very positive.

Wednesday was spent mostly in town at a meeting at the Deanery to discuss a user needs analysis survey we are carrying out. I felt slightly intimidated being a lowly information skills trainer with barely a year's experience among the great and good of the London Deanery e-Kat team but they were all very nice and the meeting was constructive. We are using the JISC Strategic Content Alliance's materials to run the survey and came up with some good questions to ask our users.

Thursday was a 'bitty' day - preparing materials for my Systematic Reviews course next week, getting some ideas of activities for LAW and general library bits and bobs. And today was just mad. I think I mentioned in a previous blog about having to recruit volunteers to carry out the training session I planned for my FILE course. Well I managed to get 4 volunteers using the bribe of coffee and donuts but alas owing to various clinical commitments and suchlike they couldn't come all at once. So I had three dropping in through various times of the day which was all a bit higgeldy-piggeldy in terms of finding a free computer to train on, making sure I had all my various bits and pieces and doing it all in 20 mins!

But, it's all done now so I just need to get one feedback form back from one trainee then I can write it up, send it off and be finally done with FILE! Next week: systematic review course, MA graduation and adventures with LAW....

Library for Sale!

I'm afraid it's been a few weeks since my last post. Has been a bit of a rough few weeks really, mostly to do with job uncertainty and general fed-upness but I won't go into details as it's all a bit boring but it has made me reflect on the question of why are libraries, (or the concept of 'the library') so darn difficult to 'sell'?

It is Adult Learners Week / Knowledge Awareness next week so of course we in the Healthcare Library are keen to get involved to promote our role in encouraging learning. But it has been beset with difficulties - even getting an all staff email out to advertise our activities has been denied and we have been relegated to the fourth or fifth piece down in the staff weekly bulletin. I sent my training courses dates out three weeks ago and still only have a few takers. We are still fighting to get a slot on the bi-monthly staff induction as well and although there has been a breakthrough at our site owing to good contacts, my manager is getting nowhere with the other site where he works two days a week. And just sometimes it feels no matter how much you provide, how well you deliver a service the users just want more, more, more....

Okay so I realise I am moaning on a bit but just what is it about libraries that is so hard to sell to our users? Is it the stuffy old Victorian image that still lurks around us wraithlike, despite our Twitter accounts, e-journals and the ability to convert your essay from single to double-spacing in seconds? Do our users harken back to bad run-ins with libraries from childhood - the scary librarian shhhhing them into oblivion? Or is going to the library an intimidating experience, reminding them of all the things they don't know? The classic excuse (especially for our busy doctors and nurses) is that there isn't enough time to go to the library. But I'm not sold on that one. Our job is to give the clinicians more time - we can run literature searches for them, track down the articles they need, point them in the right direction to find a piece of information to save them trawling through millions of Google results.

Free, high-quality information, when and where you need it. What is so hard to sell about that? And yet I'm starting to wonder maybe that's where the problem lies. You don't need to sell something that is free.

Now all of us working in libraries know our services aren't free - they cost a lot in terms of work, dedication and time as well as money. But our users might not always see that. They are getting something that costs them nothing. And although everyone likes a bargain, people tend to devalue things that don't cost them anything - it's just human nature.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this really - it's just a kernel of an idea forming in my head and I wanted to get it down before I forgot it. I'm by no means suggesting we should start charging for library services or make our users feel guilty by reminding them how much their service costs every time they come to the library desk but I think it may provide some kind of hint or clue into promoting and marketing our services. Defintely something to ponder on and may well become a running thread throughout my blog in future....