Compared to last year, 2015 has been low-key in terms of CPD. Last year I was working towards Chartership, and this year I took a purposeful step back from doing lots of library stuff. 2015 has looked different to 2014, but as with last year, I again only have 3 days of annual leave to last me to April.

Library stuff

My Twitter training is as popular as ever. I also started running reflective reading groups for nurses. Unfortunately, the turnout was low, but I have made adjustments for the next groups which will be running through 2016.

We’ve been putting a lot of effort into outreach within the organisation, and it’s wonderful to be seeing some reward for our efforts.

Personal achievements

My biggest achievement in 2015, however, was passing my driving test. I am very glad to have my Saturday morning lie-in back.

And not only did I learn to drive a car this year, I also got to drive a skidoo during my trip round Iceland.


One of my resolutions was to rock climb outdoors, and this September I visited Portland in Dorset with some climbing friends. I climbed a few sport routes and even led one. Scary, but good scary.


Searching and Beyond: The Librarian’s role in systematic reviews

This a day-long course on the systematic review (SR) process and the role/opportunities for librarians and information professionals was just what I was looking for. Knowledge of SRs is something I’d recognised as a skills gap, so I jumped at the chance to attend this course in Winchester last month.

There was a surprising amount of interaction considering this wasn’t a hands-on workshop, and the time passed quickly – it never felt like a lecture. Four members of ESMI (Evidence Synthesis & Modelling for Health Improvement) based at the University of Exeter took us through an overview of how SRs are undertaken and how info skills fit into a SR, including searching, reference management and screening.

What are SRs?

“A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making.” This definition is taken from the Cochrane Library website, an organisation which produces SRs and which I regularly refer to when searching for evidence.

SRs are at the top of the traditional hierarchy of evidence. Although the hierarchy is not a perfect measure, the idea is that SRs limit bias, aim for high reliability (replicable with the same results) and carry more weight.

Systematic review vs Literature review?

Both provide summaries of the literature, but there are important differences. The question, protocol, and process of selecting and evaluating studies, among other things, should be stated clearly in an SR, whereas a literature review has less emphasis on transparency and reliability.

The role of the info pro

Looking back over my information pack from the day, I see that two of the objectives were “confidence in your existing skills” and “Learn new skills”. On reflection, I am surprised how unintimidating the speakers made the whole thing. Yes, SRs are a huge undertaking, but I do have confidence in my skills and can see myself adapting to the SR process.

Understandably, searching is the primary way information professionals are involved in SRs. I know I have definitely done scoping searches for our staff in the past. But we can be involved in other less obvious parts of the process, such as screening results for inclusion/exclusion. The speakers showed how they use reference management software to screen, which is something I’d never considered. For a large scale literature search, I might now use free software like Mendeley or Zotero.

A lot of the attendees were healthcare librarians like myself – involved in literature searching for clinicians and researchers, but not currently involved in SRs, and possibly not in a position to be. SRs can take 12 months at least for a good one (roughly) so not something to get involved in lightly, but a lot of the methodology and processes are applicable on a smaller scale.

The course really clarified SRs and our role within them, I highly recommend it (and in fact there is another one running in Exeter in January!)

Working smarter: setting up Rules in Outlook. AKA How have I only just learnt how to do this?!

Have you ever returned from holiday to find thousands of unread emails in your inbox? Of course you have.

Well I recently learned about a useful tool to help with that: Setting up Rules in Outlook. I am very sure the majority of Outlook users will already be aware of it, but I wasn’t, and in the interest of aiming my blog at ‘1 Year Ago Me’, I am sharing. I’m a bit embarrassed it’s taken so long to discover this feature!

Rules are a way to siphon emails into folders instead of them all landing in your inbox. I currently have several set up: one to move emails from one of the mailing lists I am subscribed to, which tend to fill up my inbox with less relevant messages, for example. I have journal table of contents alerts which now automatically arrive to particular current awareness service folders.

I still get notified, as the folder name turns bold and the number of new items is displayed next to it (you might get a New Item Alert Window pop up, I don’t know, I turned them off a long time ago!).

To set up a rule: In the Home tab, click the Rules button, and Create Rule. It’s simple enough to set up a rule, and there are Advanced Options for more complicated ones. E.g siphoning emails where you are CC’d.

Outlook rule optionsI wish I had known how to do this in my previous job, where my inbox was completely unmanageable, and inbox zero was like a fairy tale. It’s a useful trick to help me work smarter, especially useful as I’m taking on responsibility for sending more current awareness bulletins in future.

Next time you feel your email clogging up, take a look at what Rule options you could use to tidy up.

Designing Twitter training for the terrified – the basics of Twitter for professional development

Get Tweeting - Twitter training for professional development

Get Tweeting – Twitter training for professional development

I’ve been running Twitter workshops for a year now, and it’s become a standard part of our library training offer. Over the past year, I’ve had time to refine and experiment with the training, and I’ve learned a lot.

I wouldn’t call myself a social media expert, but I’ve been on Twitter a long time (since 2008), and most importantly I was the only one of the library staff on it!

It’s not a traditional library training course, but since using Twitter for professional development and networking involves finding and sharing information, it seemed like a logical extension for us. We’d just set up our own profile too, so we had to preach what we practiced! We hoped these workshops would reach people who may not normally use the library, and we were excited to see the bookings for the first dates come in thick and fast.

The 1.5 hour training is aimed at novice level and covers the basic features of Twitter, setting up a profile, and how to ‘tweet well’. The workshops are an opportunity to find out about Twitter and how it works in a ‘safe’ space. Many people come with the express purpose to keep up with new technologies and their younger patients (or their kids).

I usually have about 10 minutes wiggle-room – either for continued exploration on Twitter, or for discussion around privacy, more advanced features, recommended accounts, etc. A month after the training I send a feedback form via surveymonkey. The reason I wait so long, is to ask an important indicator of the training’s success – have you used Twitter since?

The workshops have been a great way to raise awareness of the library service and get into people’s ‘peripheral vision’.  I’ve helped the school nursing team get their service onto social media, I’ve presented at team meetings, and I’ve brought non-library-users into the library for training.

Some challenges

Initially the training was monthly, but I found we got short notice cancellations and occasional no-shows (which is fine but obviously not ideal). So I’ve recently switched to trialing every other month, but I’ve now got waiting lists. This is something I’ll be evaluating to attempt the best balance.

A huge worry is the public nature of Twitter, and the difficulties of professional boundaries with service-users. Unless your profile is set to private, anyone can follow you on Twitter, which is a difficulty for those healthcare professionals using it. It has come up a lot in discussions in my workshops, so if you’re thinking of running some it’s worth brushing up on these issues and having some discussion points prepared.

Overall, the training has been a great success!

What I do: A presentation about being a health librarian

My former workplace does this great programme of continuing professional development (CPD) activities for their staff. Every Friday morning the library desks close for an hour so the staff can attend talks, visits or workshops. I was invited back to talk about my role now as a healthcare librarian, and I was very happy to oblige.

Hospital libraries, like other special libraries, can be a bit hidden, so it was nice to talk about what I do with academic library professionals. I thought I’d share and amended version here too, as it’s coming up to 2 years that I’ve been here, so seems a good time to reflect on my role.

I’m the librarian in a small healthcare library in an NHS Mental Health and Community Trust. We do have a physical library, which is where I’m based, but a lot of the work we do is done remotely. In terms of library stock, it’s a few print journals, mainly books on psychiatry and psychology, things like medical textbooks, handbooks, books on leadership and management, or books on types of therapy. We also have a bibliotherapy collection and a wellbeing collection. In terms of e-resources, it’s an interesting setup. We purchase them in two ways. Firstly, locally bought stuff for each library. Secondly, there is a National Core Content collection, purchased and negotiated by Health Education England.

The purpose of the library is to support evidence-based practice in the Trust. That means helping our Trust staff keep up to date with the latest practice guidelines and research, supporting them in their studies, and saving them time by taking on a lot of that searching.

The main parts of my role…


Every two weeks we have Finding the Evidence Workshops; a 2.5 hour workshop on searching and using databases. I also run Twitter training on how to use it for professional development and networking. I designed this from scratch, so I’m excited it’s been well received. In November I’m starting something completely new and running reflective reading groups for nurses to support their revalidation when they renew registration with the Nursing & Midwifery Council.

Literature searching

Staff might need evidence to decide between two different interventions and the want to know which is more effective, or maybe they want an overview of the research on a particular condition, or they want to know the official guidelines for doing something.

You get to research all sorts of topics. Something I really liked about working in university libraries was helping students research for their dissertations, and getting to hear about all the different topics they were looking into. But searching the literature for people was a big difference for me coming from an academic library.

Some of the other particularly interesting searches have been on:

  • The effect of stress, anxiety and depression on the voice
  • Impact of employment on the wellbeing of people with a mental health diagnosis
  • Is mood instability in children and young people a predictor for later bipolar disorder?


It’s online delivery of training, so for example tutorials teaching you about information governance, or fire safety, etc. eLearning is cost-effective because people can do it in their own time at their own pace, rather than getting everyone in a room together at the same time. I’ve been designing e-learning courses for departments, including a couple for Pharmacy – for example, safe prescribing on antibiotics. I don’t write the course myself, but I design how the information is delivered as a course.

Current awareness

It is email bulletins of newly published research on a variety of topics. We have mental health specialist topics and ones which cover a broader range of healthcare, including:

  • eating disorders
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • mental health law and ethics
  • health promotion
  • black & minority ethnic patients
  • nutrition
  • and approximately 65 more…

Challenges / main differences

One of the biggest challenges coming to the role was adjusting to a new and very different organisational culture, which is much more hierarchical than I’ve previously encountered. Academic libraries I’ve worked in have tended to have a bit more of a flatter hierarchy, with groups of staff at the same grade. The difference is something that really struck me starting in this role.

The pace is also very different. There isn’t the peaks and troughs of term-time and vacation. It did seem to get a bit quieter in summer, because people go on holiday, or we do have students on placements so their courses stop, but mostly we go along at the same pace.

The geographic spread of the Trust is a challenge. We’re working on outreach to our community staff and different sites, and encouraging increased physical use of the library.

How can you make your information more visual?

Related to my last post, I wanted to share some thoughts after mulling over my recent eLearning Design course. I was given lots of ideas from the course for how to make my eLearning more engaging, and so many of the points related to presentation and teaching slides. I don’t know if there are librarians reading this who also design eLearning, but I know the majority will be using slides to support their presentations and workshops, so I’ll talk about both.

One of the key messages I took was make your information as visual as possible. E-learning is a visual medium – it doesn’t get more visual than sitting in front of a screen. And humans take in visual information more quickly than text. Since slides should support your presentation, not duplicate it word-for-word on a slide, getting information across in a visual way is a useful technique. You could use include charts and graphs, flow-diagrams, images, etc. It’s quite fun to do, to take a block of bullet points and turn them into something visual.

It’s something I’ve tried to incorporate in recent induction slides. I’ve been looking for opportunities to try out things I learned on the course.

I wanted to use the slides as handouts (my previously fairly abstract slides haven’t made good handouts, but people still requested them) so I wanted to make sure the information was there but not in tiny, too-small-to-see font. So I tried wherever possible to represent the information in a visual way. I had to put together my presentation quite quickly, so I saved time by reusing a colleague’s slides from another induction so I knew all the content was there, and spent my time thinking “how can I make this more visual”?

My favourite example from my induction slides, is from this:

  • Bibliographic databases
    • national subscriptions e.g. Medline, PsycInfo, BNI
    • local subscriptions e.g. PsycArticles, Internurse
  • Journals
  • CPD resources e.g. Royal Marsden Nursing Manual
  • Systematic Reviews e.g. Cochrane Library
  • Point of Care tools e.g. Dynamed
  • Google Scholar
  • And more….

To this:

Laptop imageI downloaded the laptop and the icons from the E-learning Heroes community. There are lots of resources there for eLearning but also for PowerPoint. It’s great to not only get ideas from other people, but to be able to download and use these resources really saves time and helps when you’re not particularly creative (like me). Without working on eLearning I would never have thought to do something like this for a PowerPoint. I know I still have more to learn, but I’m excited to be challenging myself.

I don’t know if it actually made a difference, but I was certainly happier presenting from something like this than a bunch of text and bullet points.

The Rule of Thirds – An easy way to make your photos and slides look good

When it comes to making things look good – presentation slides, photos, my house – I fully admit I need all the help I can get.

This post is about a neat trick called The Rule of Thirds. I learnt about it on a course I attended last week on eLearning Design, through the Training Foundation (I’ll be blogging some more things from it later on).

The Rule of Thirds is a technique used by photographers for composition, but it a great way to also structure the layout of e-learning screens or presentation slides. Presentation Zen have some lovely examples from advertising.

It’s the idea that an image is more eye-catching and interesting if the subject is not in the centre. Imagine digital camera’s screen is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, and try placing the subject along these lines instead of the centre. For example, a photo of a cyclist facing left may look more dynamic placed in the right-hand third.

Rule of thirds gridIn particular, the points at which the grid lines intersect are ‘power points’, and are great place to put your subject.

I don’t know the science behind it, but I do know that I am 100% completely on board with this. I was unconsciously using the technique without knowing why some of my photographs looked especially good despite the rest usually looking terrible. Sometimes I’ll craft the perfect presentation slide, and I can’t put my finger on why it looks so good.

So, to demonstrate, here are a couple of my accidentally-stumbled-on-Rule of Thirds photos:


(Having trawled my photos for a portrait example, it is clear I don’t like taking photos in portrait!)

It works for text too, so it’s something worth considering when you’re designing slides for a presentation.

When designing a short eLearning course during this training, I realised our corporate branding template follows the Rule of Thirds – in the front page for PowerPoint, the top two thirds of the page are white and the bottom third is navy blue.

Something I also learnt about was ‘lead-in lines’. This is possibly less relevant to eLearning, but still interesting to know about. They are lines that draw the eye to the centre of an image. There is a little bit of this in the above photos – skidoo tracks in the snow, and the jellyfishes’ tentacles. It could be a road, a stream, people walking along a path, etc. Apparently left-handers prefer lead in lines from the bottom-right.

Since eLearning is such a visual medium, layout and the use of images are really important to get information across effectively and to create an engaging environment. I’ll be making a concerted effort to include the Rule of Thirds in my layout design. As I’m not particularly creative (though I can recreate well), I find tricks and tips like this particularly useful when designing.