A series of insights from delegates to the International Clinical Librarian Conference 2023.

After 20 years as an information specialist (public health sector and health charities) I had only relatively recently moved into the NHS as Specialist Librarian, so I was especially grateful to receive a bursary from NHSE to attend the 2023 ICLC. I hoped that the conference would provide the opportunity for me to learn more about how to better support users of clinical library services and to contribute to the development of services provided by Barts Health.

A range of long papers, shorter lightning talks and ePoster presentations were planned across the 2 days on some of the excellent work being done across the country. These ranged from creating eLearning modules and train the trainer sessions for critical appraisal to the varied career paths of librarians and setting up new services in both primary care and community care.

The conference kicked off with a presentation from Dr Michelle Maden, Lecturer in Evidence Synthesis at the University of Liverpool, talking about her own career path and how librarians can support systematic reviews. Highlighting how the number of systematic reviews has exploded over the last 20 years and how they are generally better when librarians are involved. Michelle’s presentation provided reassurance that the support our team offers for systematic reviews is in keeping with best practice and provided some good ideas on how we might develop the service.

Andy Tattersall’s AI presentation demonstrated how the different platforms could be used to assist with a variety of tasks from writing press releases, grant applications and summaries of research, to generating images and creating presentations and podcasts. He provided tips on how to elicit better results and highlighted some of the potential drawbacks, for example hallucinations. He also demonstrated the, sometimes, disturbing results when generating images, even when what seemed to be very clear, specific instructions were provided.

As with most tools, the main message was that you always need additional human input to refine and improve results, the quality of your results depends on the quality of the input, and you should always check your results.

The 2 talks by Suzanne Toft from the Black Country were useful. The first went through the experience of establishing a community of knowledge specialists across the region. Having a clear aim and terms of reference were key to building a successful, supportive network and there were some good ideas to take to our own local support network.

Suzanne’s presentation on teaching colleagues from non-NHS backgrounds how to search, was also really useful. Although, having been asked to provide search training for a colleague with a non-NHS background, it would have been even more valuable a few months earlier. However, there were some good ideas that I intend to use retrospectively and, in the future, some ideas that I plan to share with colleagues that would be useful to those with more experience of searching.

Lucy Wells spoke about presenting evidence in clinical meetings which was eye opening and highlighted a valuable but resource intensive service. This clinical librarian attends monthly general surgery mortality and morbidity meetings to pick up evidence search requests then presents the results at bi-monthly clinical governance meetings​. The service has also been trialled to see if this could be replicated with other teams.

It’s time-consuming and takes a lot of work to keep going, but the whole clinical team receives a summary of search request results, and the clinical librarian is integrated directly into the meeting. This might be something that, given more experience (for me) and resources, we could aspire to in the future.

The presentation on authorship and financial reimbursement raised some interesting discussions on whether we should be charging for supporting systematic review services or bigger projects and whether, as librarians, we would prefer financial reimbursement to co-authorship.

There were also 2 workshops (one on either day) on supporting systematic reviews and peer review of search strategies. We were asked to consider several questions in each. These were particularly useful to reflect on my own practice and exchange ideas. We discussed issues of asserting our expertise across to our users and managing expectations. This reassured me that I was not the only one to encounter such issues and provided useful strategies on how to manage them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to mention every single presentation but there was something useful to take away from every session and I met some wonderful people.


Paula Coles


Specialist Librarian

Barts Health NHS Trust

Page last reviewed: 18 January 2024