A fantastic two days of learning, networking, ideas and discussion took place during the CILIP Health Libraries Group Conference at the Royal College of Physicians, London on the 20th and 21st June 2024.

The next couple of posts will share a collection of reflections from our bursary recipients who attended either virtually or in person.


Padlet take-homes  

Neena Shukla Morris, Liaison Librarian, University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust   

Please take a look at my Padlet to see some of my take-homes from the sessions I attended  

CILIP Health Libraries Group Conference 2024 (padlet.org) 

Unexpected Bear Hunts, Parakeets and Cockapoos – HLG 2024 

Dom Gilroy, Library and Knowledge Manager, The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

Like most readers my library service has no training or CPD budget so I was very pleased to be awarded the bursary from NHS England to attend HLG 2024. It provided me with the opportunity to deliver an oral and poster presentation on the Leeds Libraries for Health partnership, outlining some of the many benefits that collaborating across organisational boundaries has brought to our services in Leeds. It also gave me the invaluable opportunity of learning about the work of other health library and knowledge specialists, provided a chance to network, and of course explore Regents Park and the venerable interior of the Royal College of Physicians. 

I admit to some anxiety when I realised I had been placed on the agenda directly after my former boss Sue Lacey Bryant. To add to my worries my presentation featured an in-built audio-visual recording providing further opportunities for malfunctions and technological mishaps – but fortunately all went well and the delivery went without incident. 

There were so many interesting and enjoyable presentations during the conference, and I was able to resurrect my long-neglected “X” account (@dpfgilroy, #HLG2024) to provide a little commentary and thought on some of the content. Two particular highlights for me were Gavin Moore and Suzanne Toft’s account of the West Midlands Evidence Repository, and Dr Paul Cannon’s workshop detailing the development of an online escape room to share knowledge about Systematic Reviews. 

Gavin and Suzanne’s talk was of particular interest because I am part of a working group looking to establish an organisational repository at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, so it was great to hear about their experiences of working in this area and then to follow up later with more probing questions and specifics. 

Paul’s escape room workshop was great as it offered participants a chance to experience the escape room first hand and to participate in the experience. A major advantage of Paul’s approach was that it used OneNote, rather than any more sophisticated and costly technology, to design and deliver the escape room experience. As such it is something that can be replicated relatively easily by NHS libraries who may, like myself, have zero budget to assign to such a project. 

So where does the bear hunt, parakeets, and cockapoos come in? Our unexpected guest speaker on the morning of day 2 was author Michael Rosen who gave a moving, funny, and thought-provoking account of his admission to intensive care due to a COVID infection, his subsequent medically induced coma, and long recovery. As someone who had only read his children’s books to my daughter, his talk made me realise he has published other books worthy of attention too. 

Our evening meal – homemade pizzas washed down with seemingly limitless supplied of wine served by roving butlers and serving wenches – provided an enjoyable social opportunity, enhanced by parakeets flying overhead in the garden. I was told later that these are wild parakeets common throughout London and that they are spreading north – hurrah! 

Finally while walking through Regent’s Park to and from the Conference each day I was struck by the number of canines present in the grounds. As an ignorant northerner I had assumed most Londoners, living in 3 feet square apartments, would have no room for such animals. Most however were smaller beasts and cockapoos were in particular abundance, reminding me of my own dog “Sirius Black” and triggering a small element of home-sickness. Here is the “little fella” to counterbalance all the pictures of cats that my fellow librarians seem to prefer. 

Sirius Gilroy - a gorgeous black dog with white on his chest who has curly fur and a wide smile. He is standing with his green dinosaur toy.
Sirius Gilroy - a gorgeous curly black dog with white on his chest who has a wide smile. He is standing with his green dinosaur toy.

Taking time to re-connect 

Cate Newell, Knowledge & Library Service Manager, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust 

The theme for the HLG 2024 conference was Connecting – with users, across the profession, across sectors, with policy, with systems and with health and wellbeing. However, for me, my key takeaway from the conference was around Reconnecting. 

Reconnecting with peers  

I think this was the first conference I had attended, in person, since 2016! How wonderful it was to reconnect in person with colleagues from across the country - some I know well, some of whom I only know through the little square windows on MS Teams calls or on email, and also making new connections. Everyone was so friendly, so open to sharing, and so supportive (when the nerves of presenting kicked in!). There was a real atmosphere of positive curiosity and encouragement. It is easy to become insular and focused on what is happening in your own service, but it is so important to connect with your peers and to know that many challenges and issues we have are shared. We are not alone, and oftentimes, someone has come up with a creative solution that they are more than happy to share! 

Reconnecting with inspiration  

HLG 2024 was true knowledge mobilisation in action. I attended a wide variety of interesting sessions on everything from user engagement, research support, knowledge mobilisation, health literacy, to evidence summary and synthesis. My notebook was filled with ideas to share with my team back “home”, building upon similar initiatives and themes we have been working on or aspiring to. I was grateful to have opportunity to pay it forward and contribute some of my team’s learning around supporting People policy and strategy at our Trust. It was refreshing to step away from the day-to-day and have time to reflect, but also look towards the art of the possible. I only wish I could have cloned myself in order to attend all of the sessions! 

Reconnecting with my profession  

On a purely selfish level, I really valued the opportunity to attend the conference in order to spend some time on my own professional development. Attending a conference, presenting a lightning talk, creating a poster, networking skills etc are all really valuable learning opportunities. As a service manager, I’m highly focused on supporting and developing my team (and rightly so!) but I often put myself at the back of the line when it comes to CPD opportunities, when funding can only stretch so far…So I was really grateful for the bursary from NHSE to attend HLG, and to have permission for 2 days to step outside of the day-to-day, to learn, to network and to reconnect with myself as an information professional. 

Reconnecting with my “Why”  

Finally, I think a highlight for many was the surprise guest speaker author Michael Rosen, sharing excerpts from his memoirs of his experiences of surviving Covid. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house as he read snippets from his patient diary, where the healthcare staff who had been looking after him in hospital had written personal updates about his care. As I listened, I reflected on how privileged I feel to work in the health information profession – to be able to facilitate access to knowledge and evidence to support people who deliver care with such skill and kindness. This was me reconnecting with my “why” as challenged by Sue Lacey Bryant (CILIP Vice President and formerly Chief Knowledge Officer for the NHS England) in the opening keynote of the conference. 

So that is my key takeaway message from the conference – take time to re-connect – with yourself, with your peers, with your profession, with your “why”. 

Shining a light on what library assistants do 

Chloe George, Senior Library Assistant, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (GHNHSFT) 

I was lucky enough to receive a bursary from NHSE to attend the recent HLG conference in London. As a para-professional it was a brilliant opportunity for me to showcase and shine a light on what library assistants do as well as learning a lot about what else is going on in health libraries around the country. I’ve worked for GHNHSFT for 28 years and this is the first time I’ve had the chance to go to the conference so I was very excited. I volunteered to do a lightning talk as well as a poster. Doing the talk in the lecture theatre was way out of my comfort zone and I was quite nervous but I’m really glad I did it as it gave me the confidence to do more of the same in future. 

My work interests centre around promotion, publicity and wellbeing so these were the talks I was particularly interested in. 

First up of these were Liz Wright and Lisa Stooks’ talk on their permanent living library in Dorset NHS libraries. This was a really interesting talk. They have 18 different ‘books’ that are catalogued onto our library management system SWIMS. They have promoted it well and had good usage. It made me think about how we could collaborate with our wellbeing team on doing something similar in our libraries. 

I also really enjoyed Helen Rimmer’s talk on the ‘Kindness Librarian’ as I feel this is so important for everyone to do. She gave lots of practical ways that we can all show kindness to colleagues on a daily basis and I will definitely take this back to my team. 

I also loved Keri Bramford Hale’s talk about the work they have been doing around setting up a seed library. I love the idea of this as gardening is so strongly linked to wellbeing and this project really had the ‘feelgood factor’. I will be contacting Keri for more information on this as it really enthused me. 

Michael Rosen was another massive highlight and it was a privilege to listen to him talk about his Covid experiences. 

The garden party was amazing and we were blessed with lovely weather as well as free flowing wine to help conversations along. 

I thought the conference might be too highbrow for me to enjoy but this wasn’t the case and I really loved sharing ideas in person, networking with old and new colleagues and I would recommend that all library staff - especially paraprofessionals, embrace any opportunity to attend a conference. I had a blast and am now buzzing with ideas! 


Neena Shukla Morris

Liaison Librarian

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust


Mrs Alison Day


Knowledge and Library Services Senior Manager


Mr Dominic Gilroy


Deputy Head of KLS

Knowledge and Library Services


Cate Newell

Knowledge & Library Service Manager

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust


Chloe George

Senior Library Assistant

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (GHNHSFT)