Back in November 2019, and following the example from Manchester, we had an Away Day under the rather grand heading of “Improving the health and wellbeing of citizens of Leeds: strengthening links between libraries in Leeds”

To allow maximum participation, we closed the three Leeds NHS libraries and the Public Health Resource Centre (PHRC) for the day to allow all staff to attend.  We were also joined by seven delegates from the Leeds public library service.

We were delighted to also welcome along Jayne Lees, who had just joined the HEE LKS team, and was keen to learn more about the Leeds patch.

With the use of a cunning seating plan, based around four tables, we were all sat with colleagues from different organisations, and who we weren’t used to directly working with.


Setting the scene

The day opened with a presentation to set the scene, confirm why we were all together, and to hopefully reassure everyone that this was going to be a very informal day, and one that everyone would benefit from.

We then had a short, pain-free, icebreaker session to get the conversations flowing between delegates.  (We asked people to tell others on their table how they had come into their current role, and the best and worst parts about it).  It certainly generated quite a buzz in the room.

Although we have done some joint work with public and NHS libraries and PHRC in the past, we were conscious that not everyone present would have a feel for the full range of services that were provided in the city.

To readdress that, the next presentation (given by Lynn Towler and Jason Tutin) explained the health and wellbeing offer that public libraries gave.  This included the work of the 100% Digital Leeds team.

This was followed by a presentation by Paul Twiddy explaining the services provided by the NHS libraries and Public Health Resource Centre.

After lunch (another networking opportunity), Maria Simões and Jenny Emmel gave a short session on health literacy.  Although some delegates had already received health literacy training elsewhere, it was felt important to get everyone “on the same page” with the training from HEE. 

The unexpected fire-alarm part way through the health literacy session gave more chance for networking, and also a welcome opportunity for some fresh air!

In true away day style, we then had a knowledge café.  We agreed topics on the day (based on a set of suggestions that had been worked out prior to the event), and discussions were around the topics of:-

  • Health literacy
  • How to shout out and share the work we do
  • Joint Working - NHS and Public Libraries
  • A.O.B

The outputs from the knowledge café can be found here

There was a great buzz in the room, and the day ended with a very quick summary, and a desire from all delegates to continue the discussions and joint working later.


What did attendees said about the day?

We sent out the HEE training course evaluation form after the event, and in answer to the question “what you found most useful about this event”, the majority of comments were definitely around the networking opportunities, and learning what other work was going on in the city

“Opportunity to network with colleagues; level of engagement in the room”

“Seeing/understanding our shared goals, seeing future opportunities to work together, potential for joint planning”

“The awareness that the public libraries are networking with other organisations”

 “Putting faces to names; opportunity to hear what other libraries are doing that complements our own work and where opportunities are for partnership working”

“It was really good and useful to meet colleagues in the public libraries and be able to ask them questions on their procedures and ways of working.”

There were also some positive comments around the discussions around literacy

“The technology talks - that staff/public don't read by osmosis so neither do they learn about apps (e.g. NHS or MyCOPD) that way.”

In terms of what didn’t go down quite so well, there were a few issues with the room (it was a bit “cosy”!) and catering, and also feedback that we were all already aware of the contents of at least one of the presentations.  We knew the latter would be the case, but didn’t really feel there was a way to avoid it.

In terms of what to do next, there were some great ideas

“Look for opportunities for joint working”

 “I feel we made a stronger connection and that gives us an opportunity to raise awareness with senior managers across LCC on the public library offer around health/wellbeing.”

 “Not reinvent the wheel when it comes to training people in digital, and enlist Leeds Libraries' DIC team to do this instead”

“Think about how to promote the work of public libraries.  Possibly invite them to deliver a session to Trust staff as much of the information would be useful to staff on a personal and patient perspective”

“Have more discussions with colleagues about the way we deliver information to make sure our customers understand and leave with positive and useful information”

“Looking at events we hold - how do we word the advert; can we get help from public libraries to enhance the reach?”

And there were requests to keep the discussions going

“A really useful event. Lots of positive energy and a great venue”

“Run this event again, please!”


So what did we do next?

The first step was booking the 100% Digital Leeds Team  to come and deliver their Digital Literacy training to NHS and PHRC staff …… but then COVID-19 struck, and everything changed for a while ….

However, now we are all used to more online meetings and training, and as services reset and recover, maybe the time has come to re-book this training, albeit using a platform such as Zoom or MS Teams.   Watch this space, and we will report back!


COVID-19 and digital inequalities

The pandemic has really highlighted the issue of inequalities, and this is especially true in terms of digital inequality.  If you get chance, please do look at the 100% Digital Leeds webpage (including the examples of the impact of the team) and this article in the Yorkshire Evening Post about their work.


And finally

Thanks must go to:-

  • All the participants, who gave so freely of their time, and generated such a buzz of conversation on the day
  • Jenny Emmel, Rebecca Väänänen and Paul Twiddy for their assistance in arranging the event, and ensuring it went so smoothly on the day
  • Leeds Community Healthcare, for allowing use of the room at SHINE for free
  • Health Education England for funding refreshments


Helen Swales
Library Services Manager, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, and Chair of Leeds Library and Information Services Project Team