My first month as a healthcare librarian

My name on the door of my office (temporary sticker while I wait for a new sign)
My name on the door of my office (temporary sticker while I wait for a new sign)

So I’ve survived more than a month in my new job as a healthcare librarian, and I’m really enjoying it so far. The people I’ve met have all been so welcoming and incredibly enthusiastic about the work they do.

The first week whizzed by. My first two days were spent at corporate induction, where they packed in a lot of training and introductions. The rest was back at the Healthcare Library, getting to grips with literature searching, the library management system, cataloguing, and various other bits and pieces.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been settling into my role; taking on literature searches, handing out my business card to anyone who’ll take one, and drinking plentiful amounts of tea (being able to consume hot drinks at my desk is still a luxury, unheard of in a university library!). I’ve seen some of my friends from my former job, a delightful benefit of still being in the same town, which has given me this odd sense of limbo; I sort of feel like it’s not quite real, that I’m actually just on a placement or something! Since many of them asked me the similar questions, I thought I’d replicate my answers here for any curious readers.

So how’s it going? Really well. In enjoying the work a lot, and working in healthcare is rewarding. My colleagues are all friendly and chatty, and even though I’m still new I very much part of the team. There’s also a really interesting dynamic between the library and its clients. I feel much more we are equal colleagues, rather than a ‘support’ service – which is lovely! I’m particularly enjoying literature searching – as an academic librarian I would teach these skills to students but would rarely do any searching myself. It’s great to do some digging for myself.

Is it different? Yes and no.

  • Yes: It’s hard to compare university libraries with this one as the organisations are so different. With a campus university, most of the buildings, departments and staff are in the same place. This NHS Trust, however, is spread all over the county. The library itself is also a lot smaller than my previous job, which does mean I get to do a little bit of everything – liaison, cataloguing, acquisitions, etc.
  • No: The transferable nature of an information professional’s skills is a wonderful thing. I really do believe the transferable skills I’ve developed over the last couple of years are why I was successful in moving sectors. The base-level librarian skills and knowledge have translated over to the health library sector, and it’s the specialist knowledge that I’ve still got to learn. I’m starting to get to grips with sources of health information, but there is just so much out there!

Is it what you expected? Again, yes and no. It’s not as different as I was expecting, which is a good thing and has allowed me to pick things up a bit quicker (in theory!). However, the sheer amount of healthcare information out there has come as a bit of a shock! At library school, I took the Academic & Research Libraries module which had a couple of sessions on healthcare libraries and evidence-based practice, which was a great primer.

Have any of you successfully moved sectors? If so, what was the biggest culture shock? I’d be interested to hear your experiences.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Ruth,

    I have just come across your blog! I’ve just been offered a job as a Clinical Information Specialist, which means a move from the Government/Legal sector to Academic/Health care. It is really great and encouraging to hear that you settled into your new role quickly and that your transferable skills have served you well.

    Emma

  2. Hi Ruth

    I’ve just seen this post by you. I’ve just started working as a subject librarian at a Uni in the North, supporting nursing and healthcare professionals. I’d be interested to find out about how clinical librarians support their professionals in the workplace, as we are looking to provide some transitional training in information literacy. It would be great to hear from you about this and to develop some links in the clinical world!

    Best wishes,
    Karen

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your comment! That’s a very interesting subject. The difficulties of information literacy and transition are ever present! When I worked in HE, it was a difficulty in gauging the IL of first year undergraduates, and I know the same problem is faced by librarians at the school/FE transition. I don’t have any answers myself, but I hope you might find some useful insights from my blog 🙂

      This article might be of interest, as a starting point? http://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/ojs/index.php/JIL/article/view/PRA-V7-I1-2013-3 It proposes a healthcare lens for the SCONUL 7 Pillars of IL model, which might be a way to try to predict IL needs of your students once they have left university to join the workforce.

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