For the first time, a module focusing specifically on health librarianship has been added to the programme for the MA Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. The module is led by Dr Geoff Walton, and provides an overview of the knowledge and skills required to provide library and knowledge services to an NHS or health organisation. Students on the module, like me, were fortunate to receive guest lectures from 17 health librarians, who each gave an insight into their career as well as exploring topics related to the field of health libraries.
The module provided a comprehensive overview of library and knowledge services in the health sector. Throughout the module, we had lectures from librarians working in a variety of trusts, as well as organisations such as NICE, Cochrane Library and NHS England. What became apparent as the term went on was the wide variety of services in the sector and the different skills needed for working in each service. Specialist roles such as Outreach Librarian and Clinical Librarian were also spotlighted, examining the skills required for these roles. A focus on professional development was apparent throughout the course of the module. We discussed the use of reflective practice and the CILIP PKSB in the sessions, and all guest lecturers shared experiences from their own careers that led them to their current position. From these discussions, we were able to gain insight into the types of careers available within health librarianship, and start to consider how our own skills and interests may relate to our goals.
As well as covering the roles within the sector, topics discussed on the module related directly to aspects of a health librarian’s role. Mobilising evidence, engaging with stakeholders, measuring impact and the procurement of digital services, for instance, were all covered, with lecturers relating the topics to their own experiences and their organisations. Being able to discuss these aspects of health librarianship with experienced professionals provided not only an understanding of what the topics meant, but also allowed us to see practical examples of how they were implemented within different services. A highlight of the module was a visit to Manchester University Foundation Trust’s library where we had a lecture on the procurement of digital services from the trust’s Head of Library Services, Steve Glover. We were then given a tour of the library and its resources, and introduced to the library staff who described their roles. This was a really insightful experience that offered a lot of context to the subjects we had discussed on the module so far, allowing us to see how the different aspects of health librarianship are delivered in a practical sense.
To conclude, this module was an insightful and interesting look at health librarianship, underpinned by theory but demonstrated by practical examples from professionals within the field. It is often acknowledged that health librarianship can be elusive to new professionals, with many being unaware of what health libraries are and do. A module such as this, which shows new students not only the sector as a whole, but highlights the diversity of roles within the sector surely has the potential to be beneficial to the profession.
Graduate Library and Knowledge Services Trainee
Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust