The kindling that stoked the fires of job shadowing across YOHHLNet arose from a yearly staff appraisal with the suggested development plan idea… I want to learn from others…

The YOHHLNet Committee discussed how to introduce and support job shadowing over a large geographical area and decided to ask network members to identify ‘hosts’ who would be interested and happy to provide shadowing opportunities to other members.

It was great to hear back from a wide range of YOHHLNet members who were willing to take part from a variety of organisations and levels of experience; from Service Leads, to Librarians and Library Assistants.

To help set up shadowing opportunities the Committee produced an online directory and promoted it to network members so that any shadowing activities could then be arranged between the ‘learners’ (members who were seeking a shadowing opportunity) and the ‘hosts’ via the website.

The great advantage of creating the shadowing directory was that it allowed learners and hosts to get together and talk about what they wanted to get out of the shadowing, how long it would last and what the learner wanted to see in action.

If you’re not familiar with job or role shadowing it is an on-the-job informal learning activity allowing you to work alongside and observe someone as they work and find out what they do.

Shadowing is accessible to staff at all levels; so whether you’re a new member of staff wanting to learn new skills, preparing for an interview, or wanting to gain more confidence or undertake some CPD, then shadowing might be just what you need.

After launching the shadowing directory about a year ago the YOHHLNet Committee asked members for any feedback or comments either as a learner, or host and we received some great replies to show how worthwhile and beneficial it was.

“I’ve done a couple [of] bits of shadowing recently. I was introduced to new ways of thinking and working and picked up little tips and tricks to bring back to my library. Each trust is unique, so it was enlightening to see how different library services adapt to suit its users. Having conversations and sharing ideas with colleagues in similar positions made me more confident in my role.” - Library Graduate Trainee

“In my present role I do not have staffing, line management or budget responsibilities.
I found it very worthwhile and interesting to talk to such an experienced professional and gain an overview of these and other challenges. A lot of what I learned was applicable to my own Trust and situation. I was v grateful to her for giving up her time for me.” - Clinical Librarian

“My shadowing experience was great as it allowed me to experience some of the different kinds of work going on in libraries. Being new to libraries; it was nice to finally meet fellow library colleagues that I had only interacted with via email prior to my shadowing. It was nice to be able to ask plenty of questions about how the service that I was shadowing worked, and from a CPD perspective it allowed me to learn about some of the different services offered by health libraries.” - Library Assistant

“I found it a really valuable experience - I learnt a lot about another service - which gave me new perspectives on a whole range of issues from the Quality and Improvement Outcomes Framework, to knowledge management initiatives to team development - it really enhanced and helped to have input from a colleague from another service.” - Library Service Manager

“I was grateful for an opportunity to do something that I felt would be interesting and see how a different service managers approaches their role. This was an excellent experience that was also a good opportunity to compare and contrast between two services both set in an acute hospital setting and see how both served their local user populations. I would certainly recommend to anyone uncertain about shadowing to take the plunge and see how the day goes. They may come away with a greater sense of how their service fits into a wider patch and have some new ideas to take back with them” - Librarian

"From my perspective, as a LKS Manager the YOHHLNet shadowing scheme presents such a rich opportunity to help develop my staff. Although, now as a manager, I have networking opportunities that I could only have dreamt about when I started my career, you can still feel that you are working in a silo on occasion. This has implications when you start succession planning, as you want to pass on the benefits of your experience, but have concerns about whether the scope of your service is sufficiently wide to leave your successor open minded about what is achievable as a LKS Manager. These concerns can be alleviated by allowing your staff to participate in a shadowing experience. A senior team member from my service recently took up a shadowing opportunity and came back brim full of enthusiasm and ideas and positivity about the whole experience that I know will influence him in the future." - Library Service Manager

“I enjoyed learning about the day-to-day running of another library service. It helped further my knowledge and generated new ideas I could take back and use” - Library Assistant

“While we have similar roles the purpose of my shadowing was to look at and discuss how we each deliver specific services such as literature searches and staff training, to see what each of us could learn from each other. As a result, I will soon be improving how I present the results of my literature searches in the future” - Librarian


Joel Kerry BSc (Hons) MCLIP
Site Librarian, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust