Thursday, 14 December 2017

Network Day for Band 5 & 6 NHS Librarians

I attended this network day held on the 30th of November, 2017 at St. Chads Court in Birmingham which was originally aimed at Librarians in the Midlands but it was refreshing to see Librarians from as far away as Essex in attendance. I found myself  agreeing to facilitate a Knowledge Cafe which turned out to be a valuable experience because to be frank I had no experience as a participant or a facilitator. Within 24 hours, I read and watched everything I could on Knowledge Cafes and felt confident that I could do justice. Catherine McLaren started off the day with some housekeeping and a run through what the content of the day would be. She also introduced Clare Edwards and myself as co-facilitators for the day. Participants were asked to write their expectations from the session on post-its and put it on a board. These were put together as themes and ranged from gaining insights from others to learning about social media.
The first session was the Knowledge Cafe led by me
What went right
I started off by asking if anyone had ever participated or led a Knowledge Cafe to which I got a few hands up. I then had those with the experience to share what the concept was about and it was pretty much spot on. "A knowledge cafe is an opportunity  to bring a group of people together to have an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest. It is meant to be informal, unstructured, fun, social and time-bound. It gives participants the opportunity to share ideas, observe & reflect, tease out information, and gain a deeper understanding".

With the concept thus explained, I supplied the topic for the Knowledge Cafe "What makes a good library website or intranet page?"

The participants were then asked to split into four groups and with 16 participants, there was an even split of four people per group.

I then requested for 2 volunteers from each group and informed the participants that there will be 3 rounds of 15 minutes each. At the end of each round, my volunteers would move to the next table and begin the conversation again. At the end of the 3rd round all participants would reassemble as one large group for an exchange of ideas. This worked really well and there was a real buzz in the room.

What went wrong
At the end of the first round, it became obvious the volunteers hadn't realized they needed to move in their pairs. I had to clarify this and in hindsight should have mentioned it earlier.

Despite trying to stay in the background (I remained seated as much as I could), the buzz in the room seemed to die once participants reassembled into one big group. I had to intervene and elicit contributions but when the contributions came they seemed to be directed at me rather than the group which was not the intention. In hindsight, when the group reassembled I would have reminded them that the segment was the same discussion as before but as one big group and withdrawn myself to the back of the room.

After a quick break, there was a conversation on actions participants planned to take based on what they had learnt during the Knowledge Cafe, who they might need to discuss it with, areas to be changed or developed for quick wins, and how they planned to review what they had done. Participants shared the intention to follow up on ideas such as having Library staff names and pictures on the site and minimizing discrepancies in information on the intranet and internet pages.

The next session was facilitated by Catherine McLaren and it covered how we might measure the impact of social media. She shared some basic information of the average Twitter account in the West Midlands to give a feel for what the statistics were. A very interesting conversation then ensued on what actually constitutes impact of Twitter, tweets, following, followers, likes etc. I shared that I often link tweets to the Trust Twitter handle in the hope of reaching more staff and considered it a win if it was re-tweeted on the Trust account. Although there was no consensus on what would be the answer, the session definitely got everyone thinking. It got me thinking about how many followers of the Library account were actually Library users and therefore if tweets were reaching as many people as we thought.

At this point, we broke for lunch and an opportunity to network.
We returned for a session on Mentoring & Coaching led by Catherine McLaren where the attributes of each one were highlighted and usefulness discussed. There was also a sharing stories session where Liz Askew shared about co-presenting with a student nurse at the library induction for new student nurses. The student nurse shared her positive experience on the benefits of using library services and encouraged the new student cohort to make use of it too. I shared about my experience of professional development as a personal investment. I talked about how I commit personal time to make the most of opportunities, share goals with my line manager so that expectations can be managed, identify support from outside my organization, keep informed by subscribing to blogs and mailing lists, engage in the wider profession especially via Twitter chats, join free groups such as EAHIL & Health Libraries Group and reflect on my experiences which comes in really handy when it is time to revalidate.

After a short break, Clare Edwards facilitated a discussion on what the future holds for Library and Knowledge Services in the NHS. The contributions on this topic resulted in themes such as streamlining services and the effects it would have on demonstrating impact, mergers and more. Participants were asked to feedback on what went well and what could be improved at future events. I thought the day was well put together which gave participants the opportunity to brainstorm away from the hustle and bustle of daily service demands. I learnt a lot and established new relationships.
I have also received feedback that my revalidation for 2017 has been approved so I am really looking forward to a relaxed Christmas. Feliz Navidad and see you in the new year.

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