I have been in NHS libraries for 12 years – always in an operational capacity and for several of those years I had thought there was a lack of CPD opportunities for the operational side of library work.

So in August 2019 I approached my colleague at East Lancashire Foundation Trust, Operational Librarian Clare Morton, and ran my ideas past her just to make sure I wasn’t alone in thinking we needed more representation at a regional level. Thankfully she agreed, so I began the process of setting up a new group.

There is a process you need to follow in order to set up a new group (which I wasn’t aware at the time), but an email to Gil Young pointed me in the right direction. I wrote a proposal of my ideas and sent it to Gil who then forwarded it to the LIHNN committee for approval.

After I got the nod from Gil, I sent an email to the North mailing list to tell people about the new group and ask if they were interested in signing up to a new mailing list that had been set up.

If you are interested and haven’t signed up yet, use this link to sign up now https://lists.lksnorth.nhs.uk/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/operations.

I had over 40 people sign up so, geed up by this, I had another meeting with Gil to set about arranging a first face-to-face meeting, which we scheduled for March 20th 2020 at a hotel in Leeds, and sent out the event details for people to book onto (you know what’s coming!).

During this time I started to plan the first event alongside two of my library assistants, Louisa Halton and Karen Hithersay. We knew we wanted the first meeting to focus on networking and a planning session for the group to frame how it would run going forward, but we also wanted a bit of best practice sharing so I asked for some volunteers to speak about anything operational that had worked for their library service.

Everything was ready to go. But unfortunately the week before we were due to hold our first meeting we had to postpone because of COVID-19. It was rescheduled for September, however as September drew nearer I realised that this meeting was also not going to happen. We needed to go virtual…

So, one sunny morning in March, a keen group of ten people, who work in health related library posts across the North of England, attended the first virtual Northern Operational Meeting.

The aim of this first meeting was to plan out and decide the direction the group would take. To this end, following an introduction by Sarah Woodhall, the breakout room group discussions centred on the following three areas:

1. The purpose of the group
2. Topic areas that the group should cover in future meetings
3. How the group should communicate and the practicalities

Participants had already shared some of their ideas ahead of the session on a virtual whiteboard, and now they had the opportunity to discuss these and more ideas in full via breakout rooms.

These ideas were voted for using the thumbs up facility during the break. The most popular options for the purpose of the group were ‘Sharing good practice’, ‘A CDP opportunity’ and ‘Developing ideas to improve services’.

The favourite topic areas that were voted for were ‘E-resources, promotion and marketing’ and ‘How we move forward post COVID to encourage and re-engage users’.

Following a discussion around communication and practicalities, it was agreed that the meeting of the Northern Operation Group would take place four times per year with a chair that rotates every two years. The group would mainly take place via Teams, but when possible it would be advantageous to meet in person once a year in easy to reach locations (mainly work venues) in order to facilitate better networking between members. Communication would happen through a variety of ways including a twitter group @NorthOpGroup, an area on the HCLU web site Northern Operational Group – LKS North and emails using the operations mailing list.

If you would like to look at the wide selection of ideas generated on the IdeaBoardz then click here: IdeaBoardz - Northern Operational Group.

The Northern Operational Group encourages any library staff who cover the operational side of their library service, especially library assistants, to join them at their next meeting on the morning of Thursday 8th July (exact time to be decided) where we will be sharing best practice and hearing presentations on the topic of e-resources and their marketing and promotion. If you would like to find out more or take part in this new dynamic group then please contact sarah.woodhall@lthtr.nhs.uk and if you would like to share some best practice at the meeting in the form of a presentation then email Sarah too, with your topic and how long you will need. We already have Becky Williams from HEE doing a session on e-resources and promotional material and an introduction from Michelle Dutton to her role as Athens Administrator for the North.

See you there!
Sarah Woodhall, Operational Librarian, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Karen Hithersay, Library Assistant, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust