Post from a student on the UCL Health Module

Reflections from students on the UCL Health Module (2024) - part 1

In the early part of this year NHS England Knowledge and Library team members and colleagues from services across England once again had the privilege of supporting the delivery of a Health Librarianship module for Library and Information Studies students at University College London (UCL). Particular thanks go to William Henderson for his work in co-ordinating the speakers and developing the structure of the module.

Ten weekly sessions were delivered, on a variety of topics, with the aim of giving the students a broad look at the structure of NHS Knowledge and Library Services.

As part of their assignment, the students were required to write reflective pieces looking at a topic they had enjoyed from the course. Here is the first piece for you to read. I hope you enjoy their reflections as much as I did.

Resource sharing is caring: the importance of inter-library loans in NHS libraries

Alongside being a Library and Information Studies student at UCL, I work as an Information Assistant for a university library. In my role I deliver an inter-library loan (ILL) and digitisation service. Due to the increasing costs of published information and tightening budgets, resource sharing is an economical way of providing a wider range of resources to our library users (4. Posner, 2019). The university has many students studying healthcare-related courses, the majority of which are nursing students. Because of this, our ILL service greatly benefits from sharing with NHS libraries.

A component of the university’s ILL service is a partnership with our local NHS trust, an arrangement in which we supply each other with articles upon request. As well as this, we subscribe to the National Union List of Journals, ‘a co-operative document supply scheme allowing libraries to share journal articles under copyright law and the NHS copyright licence’ (5. NULJ, 2024).

The articles supplied by NHS libraries have a massive impact on our users in their academic success. However, we do not get a chance to see how the articles we have supplied to NHS libraries have impacted their users. For this reason, going into the Health Librarianship module I was intrigued to learn how resource sharing operates in an NHS Knowledge and Library Service and the extent of its impact.

It was not surprising to learn that, as with academic libraries, resource sharing is essential to the strategic importance of the NHS (2. NHS England, 2021). The Medical Library Association’s InSight Initiative has shown that ‘evidence-based information is important for good patient care’ (1. Laera et al., 2021: 126). However, clinicians have cited various barriers to accessing this information. These barriers include not being able to access resources stuck behind paywalls and their increasing costs (1. Laera et al., 2021: 127). Although this study is focused on American health libraries, from my understanding, the same issues are faced within the NHS. This is concerning as clinicians need quick and easy access to the information that could inform their decision-making for a patient’s treatment. Because of these barriers it is clear why resource sharing is of strategic importance to the NHS, as information from shared resources can have a direct impact on patient outcomes.

There are a range of channels through which resources can be shared with NHS libraries. INCDocs is the first point of call. Provided by Third Iron using their LibKey technology, INCDocs allows for the sharing of digital journal articles between NHS libraries based on the holdings listed on the Knowledge and Library Hub. A few examples of other avenues for resource-sharing outside the NHS include mailing lists, NULJ, PLCS (Psychiatric Libraries Cooperative Scheme) and the British Library. (3. NHS England, 2024)

It has been valuable to learn that resource sharing between academic and NHS libraries can have an impact on a patient’s treatment. It is gratifying to know the strategic importance of inter-library loans, especially as it has been a major part of my experience as an information professional. Moreover, I think that resource sharing is exemplary of the extent to which LIS professionals will go to support their users.


Massimo Bartoli

Page last reviewed: 12 April 2024