This is the second part of my monster post reflecting on the Manchester NLPN Spring Event. The first part can be found here.
Manchester NLPN’s logo, shamelessly nicked from their Twitter page
After lunch we had a talk from Emily Hopkins, who works for an NHS Trust in Manchester. She explained that the library services in the NHS are as varied as the parts of the NHS itself. They typically provide any combination of the following: books and journals, infoskills training and critical appraisal, current awareness updates, literature searching, inter-library loans and document supply, and study space. The Trust Emily works for is a mental health Trust, and has thirty different locations, including hospitals, offices, clinics and outreach centres. There is a phsyical library, but a lot of Emily’s work involves her going out to the different sites to work with the staff there. In terms of outreach and advocacy, Emily says that her strategy is to go where the users are – this might be team meetings, CPD events, or staff training days. To promote the library, she uses a website and social media, but also – and I think this is the best bit – freebies. I am now the proud owner of an NHS pen and notepad, with all the contact details for Emily’s library on there, which is really handy if you actually work for her Trust – you can keep it next to the phone, and you’ll always know how to contact the library.
We looked at case studies to get an idea of the sort of work Emily does to advertise her library. We saw that often, you’d only get a five-minute slot during a meeting to showcase the services the library offers, so you need to prioritise the services that are most relevant to the people you’re speaking to, and speak in their language – they’re not books, they’re the “evidence base”.
Like the school librarians, Emily has found that a great way of advocating for her library is to show the directorate how the library service aligns with the business objectives set out for the Trust – looking at stated aims, such as “using research to inform care” and showing that that’s exactly what the library is for.
The final talk of the day was from Alison Sharman, who is a librarian at the University of Huddersfield, and who set up a project called “the Roving Librarian”, to increase the visibility and accessibility of the library on campus. The basis of this project was research carried out by the university, which is documented here
, and which showed that not only does the number of hours spent in the library strongly correlate with a student’s final grade, but also the type of resource used can have a big impact on a person’s grade. Students receiving Firsts and 2:1s were much more likely to have used e-resources than books, and vice versa for the students getting 2:2s and Thirds. The interesting result from the study was that the number of visits to the library is actually roughly equal across the board, meaning that people getting Firsts are getting a lot more out of each visit than those on Thirds. Other statistics included first-year students not borrowing any books, third-years relying on Google rather than specialist databases, and staff not recommending library resources to their students.
To combat these statistics and ensure that everyone got a fair shot at a good grade, the library staff decided to adopt a “bring the mountain to Mohammed” approach and take the librarians out of the library. They used tablets to go out and about and approach students around the campus, asking them if they had any problems or needed any help with their work. The project was evaluated and the results were published later on.
An important point Alison made was that the Roving Librarian service had to have a recognisable brand, to help it stand out and get noticed outside the library environment. They had a logo made up and used the branding for computer screens, social media, stickers and the Virtual Learning Environment. I have to say, I’m not a fan of the logo that was chosen
, (while discussing with others, we agreed that we would prefer to use art or design students to work on the branding) but it certainly stands out.
During roving sessions, the rovers would give out freebies (again! I think I need to talk to MMU Libraries about this) as well as questionnaires to help assess the effectiveness of the project. One statistic that arose from these questionnaires was that 80% of students felt they would be more likely to use physical resources in the library after having spoken to a rover, which sounds like definite success to me.
Alison’s keys to being a successful rover are as follows:
- engage students in friendly conversation
- know your subject
- make it personal
- timing is essential – target busy times and busy places to be more visible
- go out in pairs, so there’s a spare person if one’s busy
- have freebies
- try promoting a specific service – e.g. infoskills sessions or libguides
- gather feedback
- try roving with (wisely chosen) students
The project sounded very interesting, and I think it’s an inspired way to reach out to students, rather than just putting out posters or advertising on a website. Conducting a study like this also helps to prove the value of the library to senior management, as the data can be used easily to show the impact that the project is having on students’ academic performance.
All in all, the Spring Event was a roaring success, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, not only because I got to hear about some great projects, but also because they afforded an insight into types of librarianship that I haven’t had much contact with, which is helping me form a clearer picture of where I want my own career to go. Plus the cake selection was excellent! Thank you again to Catherine, Amy , Sian and Helen for organising the event, and to all the speakers. I’m looking forward to the next one!