Professional reading for CPD

newspapersWhen I was working on my Chartership portfolio back in 2013, most of the CPD activities I was doing were training courses, events and conferences. The idea of reading a journal article rarely occurred to me – I think I saw journal articles as too scholarly and remote. However, these days, I am attending much less training (I have gone for a quality over quantity approach, and it’s really working) and, looking back at my CPD log, am reading a lot more professional literature to keep myself up to date.

There was a #uklibchat the other day on mid-career directions. Although I’m still early on in my librarian career, perhaps this is an indicator of moving away from an immediate post-qualification compulsion to learn all the things.

It’s good to reflect on what I’ve learnt from reading the article, book or blog post, so in my CPD log I have a column for Learning outcomes, new knowledge, will I do things differently? and another for the skills gap it’s helping me to fill. I often try to map it against the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), which will help when putting my Revalidation portfolio together. But if it’s a particularly thought-provoking piece, you could write your reflections down into a Word document – perfect evidence for Chartership or Revalidation.

(By the way, the converse of this is a sheet in my CPD log where I can write down any skills gaps I notice, and note down ideas to fill it)

Some examples of my professional reading lately, in case you’re interested or nosey:

Professional reading Learning outcomes, new knowledge, will I do things differently? Skills gap
Collins, G. et al (2015) Using reflection on reading for revalidation, Nursing Times, 111: 23/24, p. 14-16 SRLA reflection framework. I will be using it for nurse revalidation reflection club – reflection model to structure club Asked to start Nurse revalidation reflective reading club
Dovi, G (2015) Empowering change with traditional or virtual journal clubs. Nursing Management, 46(1):46-50 Help with structuring possible journal club, including virtually. Eg ‘How participants can prepare for a meeting’, overcoming barriers Asked to start Nurse revalidation reflective reading club (possibly including via Skype)
Wright, K, Golder, S, & Lewis-Light, K (2015) ‘What value is the CINAHL database when searching for systematic reviews of qualitative studies?’ Systematic Reviews, 4:104 CINAHL has good index terms for qualitative research and methods, and in some cases retrieved unique results. As a result, I will use CINAHL for qualitative literature searches, even if it isn’t necessarily a nursing or allied health related topic I could have more knowledge of the systematic review process. Skills gap relating to carrying out searches for systematic reviews
Ebenezer, C, Bath, P, Pinfield, S, (2014) ‘Access to and use of Web 2.0 and social media applications within the NHS in England: the role and impact of organisational culture, information governance, and communications policy It will inform my Twitter training PKSB 12.4 Social media and collaborative tools
The non-designer’s design book, Robin Williams Useful for designing eLearning, promotional material and ideas to pass onto other library staff involved in creating eg posters, leaflets. I was familiar with some of the principles; this book has lots of examples which will help me get ideas Graphic design

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!)

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.



Reflection (in Norway)

Last week I passed revalidation of my CILIP Chartership. The process was simple and all done through the CILIP VLE. I did it in an afternoon. Quick and pain-free!

I hadn’t used the VLE before, as I submitted my Chartership portfolio just before they changed the regulations. At first I struggled to work out where to populate my online portfolio, but I think that was simply because I hadn’t used it before. If you were using it as a CPD log to record your activities, I can see that the revalidation process would be very simple indeed. As it was, I uploaded details of my CPD activities, and write a short reflective statement on them. There is a PDF guide on the VLE too, which takes you through it step-by-step.

You only need 20 hours of CPD activities, which when you start adding everything up isn’t very much. I had more than was necessary, and was therefore able to cherry-pick the activities which fit best the criteria for my statement.The statement is only 250 words, compared to 1000 for Chartership, so ditch any descriptive writing and stick purely to reflection. This is easier when you consider you have a log of your activities for the assessor to refer to.

Having revalidated a year after submitting my Chartership portfolio, it was an interesting experience to reflect on my first bit-more-than-a-year in this job role. I have done a lot of CPD through work to get myself up to speed with healthcare libraries and information, and I am glad to cement that through my revalidation achievement.

2014 in review. Hello 2015!

Reflecting on the past 12 months, I realise I have achieved a lot. And that might account for the year passing by in a flash! I don’t normally do resolutions blog posts, but I want to reflect on the last year. I started 2014 with a new job in a new sector, partway through the Chartership process. I have started 2015 Chartered and settled in this job, though with only 3 annual leave days to last me until 1st April!

So how did 2014 go? A few highlights.


An achievement I’m particularly pleased with is getting Chartership. I worked hard to finish my portfolio before I got too far into my then-new job, and submitted in Spring/Summer. I am proud of my portfolio and having passed on my first attempt. I hope to become a CILIP mentor myself in the near future (though to be honest I am enjoying a break from it for the short-term!).

SLA Vancouver

The view from Vancouver conference centre

The view from Vancouver conference centre

Definitely the most exciting thing that happened to me last year was travelling to Canada for the SLA annual conference in Vancouver. I was very fortunate to receive the John Campbell Trust conference/travel bursary to attend. I was keen to return to the SLA conference after attending in 2012 in Chicago, so I am very grateful that this award allowed me to do so, and to see Canada for the first time. The 2015 Early Career Conference Awards are currently open for applications; I highly recommend applying to attend this year in Boston! I also attended LILAC, thanks to a LILAC bursary. 2014 was a packed year for my CPD. You can read my reflections on SLA2014 here.

Twitter workshops

A highlight at work has been the whirlwind take-off of Twitter workshops. Within three weeks of it being suggested, I ran my first session on using Twitter for professional development. Many of the people who came to the workshops just wanted to know what Twitter was and how it works – it is easy to forget not everyone is familiar with social media, or even using computers. It’s exciting to be running this training, as it’s not a traditional library offering and has given me opportunities to work with teams across the organisation.


More of this in 2015!

More of this in 2015!

For 2015 my focus is going to be on some projects we’ve got going at work; hopefully I can implement in practice some of the things I’ve learnt throughout 2014. Mostly this year, however, my resolution is not to put any pressure on myself for CPD. I have also made a few personal New Year’s resolutions and plans; the main one is to pass my driving test. A bit more interestingly, I’m excited to be experiencing Iceland’s bizarre landscapes and midnight sun this summer, and have resolved to get in an outdoor rock climb in the next year.

Subject searching and subjective searching – search skills training

I recently attended a workshop on literature search skills held by the Thames Valley & Wessex Search Skills Group, who provide support and training for library staff involved with literature searching in the area. These meetings are an opportunity for participants to exchange experiences and techniques of searching for a selected topic, brush up on skills and learn about different approaches. It was especially aimed at those who are new to searching or to the NHS.

The workshop was full of useful information, both in terms of new knowledge and reassurance that my searching is ok! And it was great to meet health librarians from around the region – I’m fairly sure health librarians are universally lovely, from my experiences so far. It was particularly nice to meet other NHS-newbies, and to learn I’m not the only one new to this.

There were about ten of us attending the workshop. We were all given the same topic to search for in advance of the session, and we sent our results to be compiled and discussed during the session. The topic was a real literature search request, and our results were compared with the requester’s top ten. We also brought along our search strategies and shared our approaches as a group.

The topic we were asked to search was: Are there any published case studies which illustrate the clinical and ethical issues of managing pregnancies that originated through fertility tourism, specifically UK patients seeking egg donation abroad? *

The discussion was fascinating. Despite a lot of us using subject descriptors, a controlled language, our search approaches and subsequent selection of ‘most relevant’ results were very different and incredibly subjective.

Looking at the list of results it was interesting to see ones that had come up in my own search, but I hadn’t included in the set I sent in. What made me think they weren’t top 5-10 and someone else think they were? Likewise, a lot of the results we selected in the group weren’t to be found in the reader’s top ten.

It got me quite worried – what am I missing when I do a search?!

So how to counter this problem? It’s helpful to get colleagues to check your search if you want a second viewpoint. We tend to do this if we’re struggling to find much out there, or if we’ve been asked to find all the evidence out there on a topic, such as for a systematic review. Usually, however, our literature search requesters are after a quick answer or an overview of the evidence, so it becomes less of an issue.

A useful tool that was recommended, which I will be making use of from now on, is GoPubMed, the statistics from which displays a summary of top subjects, authors, journals, and years of publication for a topic. I’ll be using it as a way to identify further keywords mid-search, or to narrow down to a particular journal, for example.

I really enjoyed the workshop. I gained a lot of knowledge from this workshop, and it served to reassure me in my own search techniques. I’ll definitely put into practice much of what I learned.