Bit of Background
I’m Dan. I currently work as the Library Manager at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. I’ve been asked to write a short piece on my experience as a new manager within the network. I’m really pleased to be contributing to this special edition Northern Lights.
My first appointment within the NHS was at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust (MMHSCT) in 2014. Back then my job title was Health Information and Resources Library Supervisor. This snappy job title actually provoked a fiery debate on a LIHNN mailing list when it was advertised! Who would have thought librarians could be so opinionated?
Having been based in public libraries for 5 years, I was feeling a little apprehensive about taking on a new role within healthcare. Fortunately David and the Health Care Libraries Unit (HCLU) were on hand and gave me an overview of NHS structures at the time. I wish that I still had the structural diagram that David gave me on my third week at MMHSCT. I had it on the wall of my office for years and it proved to be an essential map to the healthcare systems, although it was probably out of date within a few weeks.
In 2017 Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust merged with Greater Manchester West (GMW) and a new Trust was created: Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH). I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to lead a brand new team which incorporated the staff and library sites from both of the old organisations.
In December 2019, I was appointed as the Library Manager at The Christie. In my first week, a leaking roof threatened to destroy our print journal collection. In my third week builders managed to break through a wall exposing part of the library to the Manchester weather. In month 3, pandemic! I got to work at the hospital for all of 3 months before we all had to adjust to working at home. Despite everything, The Christie is a fantastic place to work and the team are genuinely brilliant.
Throughout my 6 years in the NHS I’ve had experienced a fair bit of change and I’ll briefly reflect on some of what I’ve learned as a manager and what I hope the future might hold for librarianship and librarians.
Physical interactions are still vital to the mobilisation of evidence and knowledge.
If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can ensure that evidence and knowledge is available at the point of need, no matter where a librarian is based.
Yet one thing which I have missed recently is the opportunity to engage with people in corridors, on the wards and across the hospital. These interactions generate tons of opportunities to deliver evidence services, promote access to resources and make connections across the organisation.
This reminded me that librarians thrive in these opportunistic moments and that many great projects have their origins in a conversation which started while waiting for a kettle to boil. David once said that the best librarians are the ones who can’t walk through the corridors of a hospital, because they keep being stopped and asked questions. Even in our new connected world, I think this is still very relevant.
Attracting New Library Professionals to the sector
Throughout my time as a manager in the NHS, I have always been amazed by the technical skills, enthusiasm, ambition and confidence of new library professionals. Many are coming in to healthcare with incredible skill sets and a passion for innovation.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with many new professionals over the last few years and they have all gone on to do great things. However, if I have learned one thing during my time in the NHS Libraries , it is that we need to attract graduates to the profession.
Fortunately I think we do a pretty good job in the North. The health libraries module which is now on the curriculum for MA students at MMU is delivered in partnership with HEE. We also have a good track record of giving new professionals lots of opportunities within the regional networks and there seems to be loads going on with apprenticeships right now. This needs to continue. In my opinion we can’t afford to lose our future librarians to other sectors.
Networks and collaboration have been
Finally, we’re incredibly lucky to have such established networks in the North for the purposes of collaboration. Two schemes which we are currently involved in at The Christie (Greater Manchester eBook Consortium and the GM Early Adopters) would not have been possible without our networks.
We need to maintain these networks and keep our partnerships going. For anyone who has ever worked in other library sectors, I’m sure you will agree that they can feel insular and cut off from other professionals. Our networks are powerful tools in the procurement of resources, advocacy and the development of modern library and knowledge services.
Library Operations Manager
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust