Post from a student on the UCL Health Module

Reflections from students on the UCL Health Module (2024) - part 2

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.

To achieve the recommended minimum ratios: the relationship between higher education and NHS knowledge and library service

Have you noticed that some National Health Service (NHS) sites contain libraries? Have you ever wondered who can use those NHS Knowledge and Library Service (KLS)? And why does NHS need KLS? Despite the misconception that it is exclusively for staff, the service welcomes a range of users, including NHS bodies, their staff, learners, patients and the public (3. Health Education England, 2021). Moreover, this service is provided because it brings a variety of positive impacts on budgeting, clinical research and healthcare services. Previous studies have evaluated that ‘for every $1 of funding spent on Knowledge and Library Service a return of $2.4 is received’ (2. Health Education England, 2020).

It is worth noting that NHS continues working closely with higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, such as University College London and Manchester Metropolitan University, to provide health librarianship modules and cultivate information specialists. It offers an opportunity for students to explore this specific field. Huber and Tu-Keefner (1, 2014) stated that ‘practitioners of health librarianship, or health sciences librarianship, are concerned with the provision of information resources and services specific to health and biomedical sciences’. This subject-based librarianship often requires information professionals with qualifications or some relevant knowledge backgrounds in healthcare in order to effectively serve the specific needs of library audiences.

Looking into the official documents written by Health Education England, it frequently emphasises the recommended minimum ratios for qualified librarians per member of the NHS workforce, stating that there should be ‘one qualified librarian or knowledge specialist per 1250 WTE NHS staff’ (2 Health Education England, 2020). NHS continues to work towards this goal, as it is a significant step in ensuring an effective and high-quality service. To achieve the goal of NHS KLS, it is necessary to cultivate and invite subject-based information professionals to join. Developing the right knowledge services workforce is considered as an important measure.

In line with the trend of health librarianship, an increasing number of universities are organising modules to introduce health librarianship. For instance, the Manchester Metropolitan University provides a Master of Art in Library and Information Management that includes an optional module called ‘Introduction to Health Librarianship’. This module provides an insight into health librarianship for students interested in NHS library service. These training programmes serve as a solution to develop professional working into this particular library sector, and it is crucial in achieving the recommended minimum ratios.

As mentioned by Amy Clancy (5. 2019), a graduate Library and Knowledge Services Trainee, ‘a module such as this, which shows new students not only the sector as a whole, but highlights the diversity of roles within the sector surely has the potential to be beneficial to the profession’. Furthermore, the specialists new to the sector can bring innovative insights into the health libraries and contribute to further reform and improvement.

In conclusion, higher education institutions play a significant role in the development of NHS KLS and it is considered advocates for developing specialist. Advocacy refers to ‘activities carried out by individuals or groups to influence decisions and gain support for a cause’ (4. CILIP Scotland, no date). While discussing the development of health librarianship, we should not overlook the influence and the contribution of the higher education.


Ka Ki Ho

Page last reviewed: 12 April 2024