I was fortunate to be offered a sponsored student place to attend “It’s Great Up North!” this year. As I was just finishing up my LIS studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, the conference promised to serve as a strong introduction to the professional network and community of health information professionals in the region. As it happened, before attending the conference I secured my first professional role as an evidence reviewer for NHS Mersey Care and was due to start a week after “It’s Great Up North!”, so the conference turned out to offer a wonderful transitional experience from student to professional in health librarianship.
The conference offered me vivid and valuable insight into what I already understand as the community’s two main assets: who we are and what we do. The latter came in the form of presenters sharing material ranging from how to deliver statistics training to medical staff, to supporting critical appraisal education, to promoting evidence-based patient information. As someone just finishing up my LIS degree, it was useful to be able to make practical connections between what I had studied and specific applications within health librarianship, especially in terms of searching, evidence reviews, and teaching.
Alongside a variety of useful content, of course, was the crucial social side. The pre-conference meet-up and coffee breaks allowed me to reconnect with some people I had met during my studies (either as visiting speakers or through my role as student representative on the CILIP NW committee) and some people I had never “met” but “knew” through twitter. In turn, this has helped me feel even more fully part of the health-library-twitter community since the conference ended. And, of course, I got to meet a number of new colleagues, from the NHS, Health Education England, Public Health, and beyond.
The friendly welcome that people universally offered made for a reassuring start to my new career in health librarianship. The inclusion of new professionals and early-career speakers as presenters, poster givers, and conference organisers also signalled a supportive community. I feel confident about participating in a professional community that genuinely welcomes and supports new colleagues.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention one of the great pleasures of my visit to Harrogate which has nothing to do with the conference, but enhanced my stay at the Old Swan: “It’s Great Up North!” took place in the very same hotel that Agatha Christie stayed in during her notorious 1926 disappearance. The hotel still has the feel of inter-war style, and offered a lovely setting for a fruitful conference in general, and a professional transitional experience for myself.
Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust