Health Libraries Group Conference – HLG 2014; A First Perspective

HLG Nursing Bulletin Vol 34 (2)

Gillian Siddall
Academic Librarian (School of Health)
University of Northampton
Boughton Green Road

This year the Health Libraries Group Conference was held in Oxford, 24th – 25th July. It used the opportunity to explore different ways of engaging conference delegates from soap box sessions, to murder mysteries to the first CILIP debate. It was an interesting event with a sell-out crowd; attendees came from all over the country and a range of different sectors. In this short report I have included a couple of key tweets from the conference that capture key points from the talks.

In her keynote, Annie Mauger highlighted to delegates that over a fifth of the UK population are excluded and not online. This really highlights the need for library and information professionals to not assume that everyone has access to or can use web based resources. With more and more health information going online only, we need to make sure we support those without access.

In the joint plenary looking at public health information and knowledge, John Newton explained that Florence Nightingale’s knowledge hypothesis, principles are still relevant today.

“@MariaJGrant: Peer review is an imperfect system but it’s the best we’ve got – Prof John Newton, Public Health England @CILIPHLG #HLG2014

Annie Brice then explained the role of knowledge and library services as Public Health England develop an interactive evidence base for public health.

Anne Madden took part in an international project to look at collaboration. Her talk suggested possible products to explore when collaborating with colleagues from across the globe. For example: Powwow now – online collaboration, or Freed camp – free source collaboration. Anne suggested that Library services could offer 24/7 enquiry support by working with colleagues from around the world. It is an interesting idea that follows commercial patterns of customer support, however, how could we manage and monitor quality?

Jane Cooper from Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust gave a really interesting and realistic training session on how to use screen casting for online training. The clear and concise presentation took the delegates through a live example of recording the screen and considering the needs and requirements that have to be taken into account when developing tutorials.

The soapbox sessions were designed to have a facilitator to spark debate and encourage discussion around specific issues. One of these was Paul Stevenson’s debate about “E-resources versus print finding the balance”. An interesting concept for a debate which I imagine may be similar to how Library Camps work, however our session did not reach a conclusion or suggestions to address the issues. One delegate made a key point when comparing eBook versus eJournal usage: When people use eJournals, they are effectively making them a print resource because they print them out. They cannot do that with books.

On the second day of the conference Lisa Hughes from Health Education England (HEE) gave the keynote: Towards the national Library & Knowledge Services (LKS) Strategy. I would recommend taking a look at their website, They want the workforce to be driven from the bottom up (i.e. requirements on the front line). Lisa explained how HEE have increased nursing commissions in response to the Francis report for safe staffing levels. Library and Knowledge Services (LKS) are part of the health education England remit. They are currently reviewing LKS and there will hopefully be more information available in December.

Owen Coxall provided a really interesting session titled: Open access swap shop: sharing what’s worked (and what’s hasn’t) for Librarians and information professionals supporting OA publishing in medicine and health care. He explained how Oxford is supporting Open Access by going “Green”.They provide an email help line for staff, drop-ins with Academic Librarians on where and how to publish for open access. Green open access is when an author submits to a journal and then after a period of time it is made available for free. For gold open access you have to pay the publisher for it to be open access, which requires funds to be allocated to it. Oxen sees the involvement of librarians in open access as a way of future proofing the librarian and helping academics find places to publish. More information can be found on their website

Sarah Sutton gave a passionate presentation on the Medical Library Association: What’s in it for the UK health librarian? She explained that this great big conference is a good opportunity to network and see what people in the US are doing. She suggested that the Leslie Morton award is good to use for the MLA conference. She recommended attending publishers showcases so you can get a free lunch (but you will have to get your UK representative to get you an invitation). Sarah suggested submitting a presentation or a poster to the MLA conference too.

Dr Hannah Spring and Dr Barbaran Sen – Planning your research project: a workshop from the HEALER Network. Contextagon presented at LILAC was used to plan a research project. They have set up a project wiki to help you plan your research. If you are interested in doing some research, take a look at their site which takes you through the steps to plan your project.

  • Background and context
  • Scope the project – what is realistic?
  • Perspectives, get things agreed early on, it will influence methods
  • Organisations involved regulating bodies?
  • Governance – what is your project? Consider ethical and legal considerations
  • Demographics, what data do you need, can you access them?
  • Practicalities, do you have the skills and resources?

Their website:

Their book: Barbara Sen; Maria J Grant; Hannah Spring (2013) Research, Evaluation and Audit: Key Steps in Demonstrating Your Value. London: Facet Publishing. ISBN 13: 9781856047418

This year the Bishop and Le Fanu Memorial Lecture was given by Professor Alison Fell from Leeds University. She looked at the experience of nurses in World War One and the debate between qualified and volunteer nurses. She included stories from diaries and letters at Leeds archive. She argued that the stories of nurses such as Britten were just as valid as Sassoon.

The CILIP debate was interesting. “This house suggests that the NHS should get rid of librarians so they can have more nurses”. An interesting idea with a panel of four librarians, two for and two against. One of the pivotal arguments was: can you guarantee the money would be used to buy nurses (not administrators).

In her presentation Dr Barbara Sen – “A ‘Jack of all Trades’? The key skills of health information professionals” presented research funded by EAHIL (European Health Libraries) looking at the workforce. It was titled Project Whippet. Barbara suggested that we should not view ourselves as a Jack of all trades and therefore a master of none. As library professionals we need to be more focused in highlighting our skills. Based on her research, we are: Multi-Skilled experts! Librarians often take their library skills for granted and therefore undermine our value.

I will leave you with the key messages that I have taken away from HLG which could also be relevant to you

Key messages:

  • Open access – go green, we need a university policy agreed and to think about how we support staff.
  • We need to reflect on who we are as professionals (we mustn’t underestimate our specialist skills and knowledge). Look at Project Whippet.
  • Plan research projects with more care (HEALER contextagon).
  • Interesting debate of print v. e resources – usability and purpose, why students are and are not using them needs more exploration.

Finally I will leave you with the words of Sam, a very eloquent twitter commentator on the conference:

Sam @samanthaclare  ·  Jul 24
Attention will shift from the library to the librarian, the information professional is the library of the future. #HLG2014

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