New city, new job!

After a few months off travelling, I’m returning to the world of work – in Edinburgh!


Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Tomorrow I’ll be starting as an Academic Support Librarian for the Medical School. It’s a return to a university library service, and I’ll be primarily based in one of the hospital libraries, so this is going to be a pleasant mix of my last couple of jobs.


The summit of Arthur’s Seat, and views over the Firth of Forth

The last month has been spent zipping up to Scotland for interviews, flat hunting, flat contract signing, and moving in. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Edinburgh – today I climbed Arthur’s Seat in the sunshine – and I can’t wait to get into the surrounding countryside. I’m excited to live and work in such a beautiful, friendly city!

Though I’ve been away for several months, I was sure to visit some libraries abroad to keep my hand in…


The Public Library of New South Wales in Sydney 

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.

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.

A change of role, a change of sector

In January I’ll be starting a new job as a librarian with the NHS.

I’ll be sad to leave my current job, but it will be exciting to try a new sector, and the new role looks really exciting. I’ve really enjoyed working in the academic library sector, and I’ve learnt loads. This job has prepared me to do anything!

Any healthcare librarians out there, please do share your tips – they will be very welcome!

Unexpected careers advice

A budding librarian?

A budding librarian?

A few weeks ago I was asked to provide some ad hoc careers advice for a budding librarian. The chance to preach about the library and information profession, to perform my elevator pitch, is something I’ve dreamed of. I could just picture it: I’d be that cool, hip librarian with the funky style. The one who’d make them think ‘I thought librarians were old and grumpy, how wrong I was!’

I am not sure I achieved this aim. Instead, I’m fairly sure I overwhelmed her with my incoherent enthusiasm.

She was interested in working in a university library, so I ran through the various routes into academic libraries, both ‘traditional’ (“I was a graduate trainee…”) and non-traditional (“Don’t rule out library assistant posts…”). I explained a little about library and information management Masters. I told her about the favourite parts of my jobs; interaction with students, finding that perfect resource, making a difference to the research process.

I just hope she managed to pick out some nuggets of helpful advice from my string of “yes, be a librarian, libraries are amaze”. She was still smiling by the end of it, so perhaps some of my enthusiasm rubbed off on her. Perhaps we have a new recruit. I hope she will find the profession as welcoming as I have!

Navigating your career: PIC2013 session write-up

This post focusses on Navigating your career, a presentation delivered by Malcolm Bryant, Managing Director & Head of Corporate Services for EMEA & Asia, Morgan Stanley, at the Perfect Information conference I attended in May. You can read my overall impressions from the conference over at the SLA Europe blog.

Malcolm began with a memorable analogy: Managing your career is like going to the dentist. We all know we should go. Sometimes we don’t go as often as we should. And some people don’t go at all.

Navigating your career

Navigating your career

Malcolm said something obvious, but important. No ones going to come along and manage your career for you. You personal development is your responsibility, not your manager’s.The first element of taking charge of your career is to plan.

Ask yourself what motivates you? Is it financial, getting tasks done, the people you work with, career progression, or lifestyle and work/life balance? Evaluate you’re job; write down what you like and dislike about your job.Your ‘likes’ are opportunities to increase scope, add value, and improve skills. And discuss these with your boss/colleagues. Your dislikes can form suggestions for change. Discuss these with your boss – even minor improvements are worth it.

What do you want to be doing in 3-5 years? This is a good amount to be looking forward, as 6 months can be too immediate, and 10 years too far – anything can happen! I found this a very helpful piece of advice. I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years time, it’s too far to comprehend, and my 6 months’ goals are very much driven by my current role and its priorities. 

The second important aspect of your career development is networks.

There are typical excuses for not networking: it’s too political, a fear of rejection, you may feel too junior. But career won’t take care of itself. The benefits of networking can be internal and external to your organisation, including a better understanding of your firm, benchmarking, and feedback.

The final part of Malcom’s advice for navigating your career was some concrete steps to take in the next 90 days:


  • Evaluate your job, your likes/dislikes, and tweak it.
  • Think about the next 3-5 years – possible future roles, do a gap analysis, write it down and discuss with your manager.
  • Using these, come up with personal development plan


  • Think about first impressions. It’s worth prepping yourself for introducing yourself, i.e. What am I working on? Like an elevator pitch for existing contacts.
  • 6 month rule – keep existing relationships warm. Keep in touch with your contacts, e.g. send them an email with ‘I saw this article and thought of you’, congratulations on a recent award etc

Malcolm’s talk was helpful, and comforting as I am already doing much of this as part of the Chartership process. It was interesting to hear advice that was pertinent to me at this stage of my career, but I am sure many senior managers in the room also found something of use in it too.

Will I do these things in the 90 days post-PIC2013? I haven’t yet – I’ve been away, and catching up from being away, which just goes to show even these simple tasks need active attention given to them.

2012 in review

I was mulling over a review of 2012 blog post, and WordPress have helpfully compiled an annual report for this blog. I’m very pleased with how this blog has been going this year, as I’ve gained new readers and followers, and there have been interesting discussions in comments.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


My posts from SLA 2012 in Chicago have been very popular, particularly my write-up of Mary Ellen Bates’ session on marketing for introverts. I hope to blog more this year, keeping it more regular and also expanding into more professional issues as well as personal reflection.

2012 was quite a year, especially in terms of my professional life and career. I won the SLA Europe/Business and Finance Early Career Conference Award to attend the SLA conference in Chicago. An amazing experience which I am sure you are all sick of me going on about! I wont repeat my gushings here, but if you’d like to read about it, I’ve tagged these posts SLA 2012.

I also completed my MA in Librarianship, and as such qualified as a librarian. Sadly, this meant leaving Sheffield, where I made some great friends, but I have moved on to bigger and better things; I am currently in my first professional post as a subject liaison librarian at a University. This is a challenging but rewarding role, and you can read about my first month in the post over at the LIS New Professional’s Toolkit site, the website accompanying Bethan Ruddock’s recently published book. If you are thinking about Library School at Sheffield, or even more generally, these posts are under Library School.

So what does 2013 have in store? I’ll be starting chartership this year. I also hope to get to some conferences, such as Umbrella or LILAC. I’m going to be blogging throughout chartership, as it’ll be useful to keep a record of things and for reflection. So there are a few professional activities to keep me going!

What are your aims and resolutions for 2013?