Making Library and Knowledge Services business critical

This was the second part of the Synthesising and summarising workshop following on from the session on 1st March delivered by Tim Buckley Owen. This session was delivered by Anne Gray who is a Knowledge Officer at Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit.

The aim of the day was to upskill library staff to be able to provide evidence and support for the business needs of their NHS trust/region. In order to do this, we need to be aware of what is happening in our trusts and region and to understand what the issues are that managers have to deal with.

We began by discussing all the people and organisations that NHS managers are accountable to, and there were a lot! These included NHS England, Secretary of State, the public, the media, NICE, CQC and many more.

Next we discussed who is present in the Trust boardroom. NHS libraries should be supporting these roles which include the Chief executive, Finance director, Clinicians, Nursing director, Service managers, Commissioners etc.

In order to support the managers in our organisation we should have an awareness of what issues they face. We need to understand the language they use and the best way to do this is to talk to them. We undertook a practical activity to see what we could find out about our respective organisations in the Health Service Journal and by looking at Trust board papers.

There has been research carried out on the behaviour of managers, they do think that getting good information is important. What managers consider to be evidence is different to what clinicians would consider. There is a broader field of material that is useful that could include their own experience or anecdotes as well as the more usual sources such as journal articles. Local experience and knowledge are key to making decisions, this is why we need to know about local issues and key people so that we can support the decision making process.

Managers have a number of questions they want answered such as how can we improve this service/pathway? How have others done it? Can we reduce the cost? They often find it hard to find the answers as they haven’t been trained to search for evidence, they may lack time to search and NHS sources are constantly changing. They don’t usually ask the library unless they have had previous contact.

Evidence briefings can be helpful to managers but often take too long to produce by which time the information is obsolete. Managers need the right information at the right time to aid their decision making.

It was suggested that teaching mangers searching skills is a waste of time and that we should search for them. Dealing with managers is different to dealing with clinicians, they require a different type of evidence, services should be targeted and tailored to their needs and information should be provided in a timely manner.

Next we spent some time looking at where we might find information suitable for managers or information to help us keep up to date with current issues. There were a lot of places to look which varied depending on your topic of interest. Some places to look were NHS England,, Health service journal, Social care institute for excellence, Cochrane library, Dissemination centre, NICE, Kings fund, The academy of Fab stuff, Public health England.

Finally, we discussed how to present the information we had discovered. As this session followed on from the one at the beginning of March we had already learnt how to pull information from a number of sources together in a report. Anne suggested that it was important to brand what is presented to the requester, document where you looked and make sure that people can link to the original evidence easily but don’t put links in the document as it will distract the reader. Make sure you document how long it took you to collect and arrange the information. Send the work as a PDF so that you can be sure it arrives looking the same way it left you.

There was a lot covered during the day. I found it very interesting reading the board papers as I wasn’t aware you could do this. We would find it very hard to provide a tailored current awareness service for managers and to anticipate their information needs as was suggested during the day. This would be a dedicated post in its own right, but it would be interesting to find some ways of supporting managers better as I don’t think we don’t do this well at all at present.


Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning Forum 2017

I recently attended the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning(CCTL) Forum for 2017. I was encouraged to go by a colleague who had found the first forum useful. I was glad I went as it was indeed very useful and thought provoking.

The day began with a welcome from Professor Graham Virgo who is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education. He told us about some of the changes that will be taking place in higher education. The University are currently working on their digital education strategy. There is currently a pilot in some departments for lecture capture. He did recognise that some facilities need improving to deliver effective modern teaching techniques.

The first session I attended was with Dr Sonia Ilia who has been working on a project looking at learning gain. How do you measure what skills, knowledge and competencies someone learns whilst undergoing a programme of study? Some of this can be assessed through exams but this doesn’t measure other skills such as time management. Students from four subjects (Chemistry, Medicine, Business and English) were interviewed about what they were learning. They were given 18 things and asked to rank them.


Time management was crucial at postgraduate level. Students found that resilience and adaptability were important as they needed to expand their thinking. Keeping a balance between study and life outside university was important to students.


The second session I attended was presented by Ant Bagshaw who is Deputy Director at Wonkhe and a former Cambridge student. He asked “What’s right with the Teaching Excellence Framework(TEF)?”. He suggested that judging an institution by where its students go is flawed as many factors may influence a student’s employability.

The measurement in the future will be Gold, Silver or Bronze. Bronze will still be above the threshold but may cause disappointment to those who are awarded it. (apologies for the poor quality image)


TEF will be data driven which is much better than the system its replacing.

The plan for subject level TEF will be more meaningful for students. This will also allow good practice to be shared between departments within institutions.

Teaching excellence is not a new thing, it was mentioned in the Robbins report in 1963 (

The third session I attended was led by Karen Ottewell who is Director of Academic Development and Training for International Students. This was an information packed session which I found very interesting as I had little previous knowledge of the content that was being presented.

Karen emphasised how important clarity is in academic writing. Academic language is not anyone’s first language and has to be learnt. It is hard for international students whose first language isn’t English to adapt to academic writing. There is often very little support for international students they are just expected to know how to do it, which is particularly a problem for taught postgraduates who have to hit the ground running. I have experience of this as I found it very hard to adapt to a different style of writing from scientific in my undergraduate degree to a more argumentative style expected in my librarianship masters.

Just because someone can write an essay in their first language it doesn’t mean that they can in their second language – Kaplan’s fallacy. We were introduced to the fact that different cultures place the responsibility for comprehension of writing differently. In English the writer is responsible for ensuring that their work is understood. In other languages if the reader doesn’t understand what they’re reading it’s their fault.

It was interesting to learn that Karen can meet with students and help them with their writing. During the session she cited an example where she helped someone in as little as twenty minutes. I wasn’t aware that such a service existed within the University.

The final session of the day was led by Ange Fitzpatrick from the Judge library. Ange was talking about their Bloomberg Breakfasts, training sessions that they ran at 8am. Bloomberg is a financial database which gives market information. It is run on four terminals in the Judge library. The sessions were run at 8am as they couldn’t fit it in anywhere else in the training programme. They have previously found that lunchtime sessions are unpopular so decided to run the sessions early in the day with coffee and biscuits. They offered 120 places at 15 sessions and these were booked up in 5 hours. The sessions were designed so that any member of the library team could deliver them. The sessions were all about building the confidence of staff and students.

Step 1- started by using familiar companies, explaining financial terms.

Step 2 – scaffolding learning by working through examples.

Step 3 – this was experiential learning, there were no observers only participants, all staff were involved in developing and delivering the sessions.

Step 4 – signposting help, encouraging peer teaching.

In the future the Judge would like to develop more advanced sessions and work more closely with Bloomberg on devising training.

This session gives students practical skills so that they aren’t just book learnt that they can take with them to the world of work. The sessions were also useful in marketing the library, making staff approachable and helping students to get to know library staff and that they are there to help.

In the Medical Library we have previously offered lunchtime training but have never found it very successful. In future it may be worth devising some breakfast sessions as we have staff who are available at 8am already so it would not be too difficult to run these sessions.

I found the day very interesting and useful as it has made me reconsider the training we offer and how we present it. I am also now more aware of support that is available for international students.

Selecting and Summarising

This was a workshop led by Tim Buckley Owen for healthcare librarians on the 1st March. The day was a mixture of presentations and practical activities.

We began by discussing two principles POWER and KISS. I was familiar with KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid, but POWER was new to me. POWER stands for

Plan – planning the whole process, from downloading search results to delivering your summary of results.

Organise – sorting the search results

Write – lifting content from chosen sources to create a first draft.

Edit – polishing the draft to create a readable text

Review – happens after the answer is delivered, looking at enquirer feedback and your own reflection on the process.

The day was based around these five activities.

Before beginning our first task, we discussed the difference between vital tasks and urgent tasks. We are often told that enquiries are urgent, but are they? A vital task is one without which you can’t function they may or may not be urgent. An urgent task simply has an imminent deadline but may or may not be vital.

We began by sorting through some search results for a previously conducted search and excluded any records that didn’t look useful. This was part of the planning stage.

The results of a search can be sorted in a number of ways; a reference manager can be particularly helpful in the sorting process. Sorting by author allows any prominent authors to be clearly identifiable. Using the citation to search is not as useful, only if the same journal keeps cropping up, suggesting that perhaps it needs to be hand searched further. There are problems with sorting by date, later material is not necessarily informed by earlier material due to delays in publishing.

Our results were sorted by usefulness. Usefulness was assigned based on three criteria

  1. Must know – These are the records without which it would be impossible to tell the story, this is information that you would include in a three minute elevator pitch, the fewer of these the better
  2. Should know – this is supporting information which gives more detail or evidence to support the main findings
  3. Could know – These provide details which might be helpful but won’t add a great deal to the reader’s understanding.

Next we looked at how to read strategically and how to summarise documents. We discussed how newspapers report stories and how you don’t need to read the whole article to understand what the news item is about. When reading a longer document you could start with the conclusions to find out what the document is about. A reading technique we were taught was to only read the first line of a paragraph to read a document quickly. Its also useful to read the last paragraph of a chapter or section as it will be summarising what has gone before. Scanning down the middle of a document can help find capital letters which may be key words.

When writing up there are a number of tips that can be used for effective writing. Avoid using passive voice, use adverbial phrases such as however, despite that. It should be a narrative report not just a summary of all the papers. It will be useful to the enquirer if you mention if a particular source comes up more frequently than the others. If the topic is difficult to understand the matrix table of prioritised results can be presented to the enquirer.

The report should then be edited before being sent off. Extra value can be applied to your document by including branding, using formatting to highlight important bits of text. To improve the layout of your document avoid using tabs and use tables instead. Don’t include hyperlinks in your document as the enquirer may be distracted by them. The best way to send your report is as a pdf so that it will reach the enquirer looking the same way it did when you prepared it.

We covered a lot of material during the day, I did not feel entirely comfortable with some of the day particularly the writing of the report. I am familiar with the concept of this kind of report as I know that commercial law librarians will frequently be asked to write similar reports. I am not sure if we will be asked by our enquirers to produce such reports but the skills are always useful and the presentation of results pre-ranked may be something that we can offer in special circumstances.

Libraries@Cambridge 2017

Digital heroics for openness and analytics

The keynote speaker was Dr Jeremy Knox from the University of Edinburgh. The superhero he used to illustrate his talk was Ironman. Ironman has no special powers as such but uses a special technological suit to give him his powers. This is just like librarians who use technology to assist us in our roles.

Dr Knox has done a lot of work on using MOOCs. He suggested that MOOCs that use a talking head may not be the best way to deliver content as the lecturer is far removed from any learning. At Edinburgh they had run a MOOC where they used public domain videos for the course and encouraged participants to blog frequently. Blogging allowed participants to engage with others and with the course leaders more directly than just a talking head.

Dr Knox made a statement that was heavily tweeted and debated on the day, he suggested that data is the “new oil”. He suggested that while social media may be free at the point of use we are all paying for it with our data.

Next he talked about analytical data, he had participated in a project called LARC. Students were able to see data about how they were performing in sessions etc. He suggested that this raised some interesting questions about how this data would affect the students would it be motivating or demotivating. I found this part fascinating as I get lots of information about how my daughter is performing in school through an online system. I can see what her predicted grades are and whether she’s meeting them. I didn’t have this information while I was at school and I know I discuss it with her but how does this affect her?

The final part of the keynote was about automation – TeacherBot. I found this fascinating that robots could be used to provide feedback to students. They had programmed a robot with phrases to use in response to keywords which appeared in tweets. This seemed to work well on the whole but it was a bit strange for the students to know that they were being responded to by a robot. We were shown a few occasions where it didn’t work quite so well.

Moving into knowledge management

This session was presented by Rachel Walker who used to work at the Seeley Library and has recently moved to work at Schlumberger in Cambridge as SGR Librarian. Rachel explained a little about what knowledge is, that it can be tacit something that we just know or explicit something that can be written down. She used the example of riding a bike, riding a bike can be taught but actually doing it is explicit knowledge.

At Schlumberger they have recognised that they need to record organisational knowledge. The benefits to recording knowledge are that mistakes aren’t remade. They had encountered a problem with some researchers who were reluctant to share their work as they fear ideas being stolen and copied. There is an advantage in a corporate organisation compared to a University that people can be made to share their work as it’s their job.

Library innovation

The final session that I attended was presented by Masud Kokhar from Lancaster University. He began by explaining the different types of innovation which are

  1. Forced Innovation – innovation out of necessity
  2. Exploratory Innovation – innovation by horizon scanning – “stealing others’ ideas”
  3. Randomised Innovation – innovation by combining uncommon topics, themes or teams eg smarties pizza
  4. Empowered Innovation – innovation that plays a central role in the institutional agenda eg organisation wants to be the best in digital provision
  5. Customer Led Innovation – users as co-producers.

There are dangers with innovation that we need to move from just thinking an idea to reality, this point was illustrated with two pictures of whoppers one the ideal and the other the reality.

In Lancaster they had practised some customer led innovation by meeting with students. Some students had simple requests others more complex. We were told about smart cushions which are borrowable and can connect via Bluetooth to devices, they can tell students when they need to take a break. Having new services and innovations is not enough we need to make sure that we publicise them well enough and tell people about them.

Another innovation they had used was to map user journeys. This scheme used monitors to see where people who had opted in went and how long they stayed in a particular place. The purpose of this was to see how easy it was to navigate the library and find the resource/information they were looking for.

In the future a more personalised service is becoming increasingly important, can items already viewed on a catalogue be greyed out? Masud cited the article from the bbc website about special necklaces being used on cruises to provide a personalised experience

A growing area of technology is augmented reality. In libraries this could be used to show related e-books when viewing an item on the shelf. Lancaster University are the first university in the UK to have a Minecraft version of their campus

Lancaster are introducing more gamification across their campus, in the library if they borrow a book the can earn a reward.

Some tips for innovation that we were given were

  1. Break line management hierarchies
  2. Be authentic – who you are
  3. Mix up teams across libraries
  4. Partnerships/collaborations
  5. Up skill continuously
  6. Give yourself time to reflect

23 Research Things – Thing 8-13

I have fallen very far behind in my blogging for 23 research things. I am going to blog about a number of Things in this blog.

Thing 8 – and ResearchGate

I was familiar and ResearchGate before starting this programme but I had not signed up with either of them as I am a librarian supporting researchers and not a researcher myself.

I have signed up for but I found it hard to link to people. It didn’t link to the correct twitter account for me which didn’t help. I have now managed to add some people by searching for them and seeing who they follow. I have also added my research interests so hopefully will soon start to get some papers in my news feed. I usually find papers through mailing lists or on twitter so I will have to get used to checking too.

Thing 9 – Alternative communities

I frequently use wikipedia as it is a very good resource for doing children’s homework. It is also very helpful when helping someone with a literature search as I can look up unfamiliar terms and have a better understanding of what they are looking for.

I hadn’t used reddit before doing 23 things. I plan to explore its features in the future as it looks like a site that needs a bit more time than I have at the moment.

Thing 10 – Communicating complex ideas

How easy it is to communicate research depends on what research it is you’re trying to communicate and where you’re communicating it. Some research areas will interest the general public more than others.

I am not currently working as a researcher but am very aware of how important it is that I communicate effectively. A large part of my role is delivering training and giving advice to others and I am constantly conscious of what I am saying, is it understandable or do I need to change how I am saying something to suit my audience.

Thing 11 – Communicating for free

I really like the following YouTube video as it illustrates how much librarianship has changed but also how much is similar.

We have considered making some training videos to meet different people’s learning styles and for people who can’t always make training sessions. I like to watch videos of how to do things such as upload records to a reference manager then attempt it myself.

I don’t listen to any particular podcasts regularly but like to listen to radio programmes on demand such as Radio 4 comedy.

Thing 12 – Presenting and sharing

I haven’t signed up to slideshare or uploaded a presentation due to lack of time. I know that I need to get better at using images in my presentations as they are usually text based. I do take care to make sure that there isn’t too much text on a slide. I recently participated in a webinar on different kinds of literature review and the presenter used humerous images to make what could be a dull topic more engaging.

Thing 13 – Creative commons

I have been learning a lot about creative commons recently as part of this programme and the Research Ambassador’s programme. I haven’t used the creative commons logos in the past but will try and do so in future. It is a clear way of knowing what you can and can’t do with images.

23 Research Things – Thing 5 and 6

Just a quick blog today as I am very far behind. I have been using Twitter since May 2012. I am not a very regular tweeter but I do try and keep an eye on what is going on. I have found some links to useful articles and events on twitter.I tweet most often when I am at training or conferences as I find I have the most to say then.

When training others I do encourage them to use twitter professionally to make contacts, keep up to date and increase their own research profile.

I have had a quick look at storify and scoop it as I have never used either of these tools before. I can see how these would be very useful if in the future I attend a conference or training event. I do plan to go back and explore these resources in the future.

23 Research Things – Thing 4

I am interested in how to manage my information better as I think this is a skill I could improve. I have tried using RSS feeds before and found the amount of information in the feeds a bit overwhelming so never really embraced them. I see RSS feeds as you having to go and pull the information, I prefer to set up alerts on journals via zetoc or Journal TOCs. This information is then pushed towards me and I don’t have to do anything to get it as it just appears in my email. I think I should go back and look at RSS feeds again though, as I can see how they would be useful for keeping up with social media.

We tell our students about setting up alerts from saved searches in many databases. In Web of Science and Scopus we suggest setting up alerts on yourself as an author so that you can see who is citing you, this may be a vanity thing but I’m sure it’s useful to know how your work is being used or misused.

I am very keen on trying and using pocket. I have installed it on my iPhone and can see many happy hours ahead reading and keeping up to date in the comfort of my own home.