Post from a student on the UCL Health Module

Reflections from students on the UCL Health Module (2024) - part 4

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.

A thought-provoking topic from the first half of UCL’s Health Librarianship module has been the role of the librarian as cheerleader

Health librarians work tirelessly to promote their services to new and existing users. Both the NHS Constitution and Long-Term Plan highlight the need for evidence-based practice, something libraries are designed to support, and yet the most common response I receive when asked about my desire to work as a Clinical Librarian is “I didn’t know they existed” 1, 2. Neither, it seems, do our potential users.

Exact measurement of library usage is tricky. Registration is no guarantee of continued usage, and the dynamic nature of the NHS can make assigning staff to one hospital difficult. Published statistics tend to display resource use rather than membership; as an example, Health Education England highlighted use of BMJ Best Practice and the Knowledge and Library Hub in a 2022 infographic 3. One would be hard-pressed to argue, though, that increasing library registration isn’t a desirable target, if only to open the door to further interaction.

I work in a university library attached to a hospital, serving students and staff working for the partnered NHS Trust. At a recent onboarding event for new staff, the Chief Executive emphasized the importance of learning and development, but not once was the library mentioned. When speaking to us afterwards, more than one new member of staff seemed surprised that we existed, let alone at the training and resources we offered.

This in stark contrast to students, who – rightly – would be shocked at the idea of not having access to a well-resourced library. Whilst our existence was invariably received positively, one can’t help but suspect registration would have been higher had the library been mentioned in the initial speech.

Offering up the entire library service at once, however, may not be the best solution. Studies have shown that users are often overwhelmed with the scale of library resources, and this may actually discourage use 4. With this in mind, I am working currently on putting the “elevator pitch” technique into practice; while not trapped in a lift with me, new NHS staff wait roughly the same amount of time at the information desk whilst being registered on our systems. Focusing on their role and possible “Pain Points”, the librarian on the desk has a rare opportunity to capture a user’s interest by highlighting services relevant to them 4

The student nurse might want to attend search strategy classes, whilst the consultant may be relieved to know someone can run a literature search on their behalf. Rather than chucking multiple websites at an already overwhelmed new starter, it serves us better long-term to flag KnowledgeHub and point to a couple of links to university library services 5.

These pitches are a work in progress, but fundamental is for us to embed into every staff member that the library is here and willing to help, and that should feel comfortable and confident to ask.

Because, well-intentioned word-vomiting aside, no one actually needs to know every possible service we offer within thirty seconds of setting foot through the door – but they do need to know where we are.


Ellen Cropley

Page last reviewed: 12 April 2024