Year in Review

I write this on my second-to-last day as a trainee in Torquay. Reflecting on my time here, I cannot believe  how quick it’s all been and how much I’ve managed to learn in such a short time.

In my final weeks I’ve been working on our Summer Entertainment Campaign, where I get to deliver fiction (books or DVDs) directly to our users at work. It’s a good excuse to explore the hospital and a fun way to increase membership. As part of this project, I have also created some web pages to promote our health and well-being collection. After graduating with a undergraduate psychology degree and a specialty in fiction/reading, I find myself drawn to working with our non-clinical and mood boosting collections in particular. To deepen my understanding of the impact reading and fiction can have on well-being, I also enrolled in a MOOC about literature and mental health earlier this year. I really appreciated the support I had from my team to pursue my interests with CPD.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a library traineeship without reflecting on smaller jobs such as book stamping, form processing and answering those all-important questions on the help desk – a.k.a. “where is the cafe” and “can I park my car here.” (Why must NHS parking be so challenging??) In all seriousness, because our team is quite small, I started working almost immediately and have been able to dip into loads of projects. I’ve processed new books and journals, answered and requested inter-library loans, and even helped complete a journal weed. We’ve also been developing marketing strategies, and to help sell the library to the rest of the hospital I’ve been creating presentations and animated videos. I’ve even been on the wards, getting to meet clinical staff and see the hospital “in-action.” No doubt one of the benefits of working in a health library is the variety!

Besides work, I’ve also really enjoyed exploring Devon. While the rain did take some getting used to, I’ve managed to spend a lot of time walking on the moor, meeting alpacas and even tortoise racing. Making friends post-university was a challenge, but everyone here has been lovely and joining teams and classes (candle making and netball anyone??) has really helped.

On my first day of work Lucy and Tim got out a tape measure to check if the computer monitor was the appropriate distance from my face. I remember emailing a friend saying “what have I got myself into.” Almost a year of NHS health and safety policy later, I feel comfortable and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been gifted. I’ve visited libraries all over the country, learned about catheters with nurses, gone to a library Christmas meeting and much, much more. With some sadness, I am ready to close this chapter and leave Devon. Thank you to everyone who has hosted me and helped me over the last year. Good luck, and I hope the next Torbay graduate trainee provides you with as least as many snacks as I did!

Critical Care Presentations

After seeing students come in and out of the library everyday, it was nice to be invited to their end of year presentations. For each set of presentations a librarian gets invited to help mark and this time I was free to shadow the whole 1/2 day event.

On this course, each student wrote an essay/made a presentation about a “Mr. Brown,” a case study of a patient that died in hospital due to a number of (human) errors. This is especially relevant in the context of the last few weeks, as there was a national inquiry over the death of a 3 year old from our trust.

  1. Report:
  2. Recent updates:

Each student presented a different aspect of “Mr.Brown’s” treatment, including the importance of communication and the use of different drugs. It was very interesting, and good to see a tangible result of our work here in the library. It’s also nice to see the NHS prioritize continuing education, as everyone on this course was a practicing clinical staff member (from nurses to those in anesthesiology).

Summer Entertainment Campaign

As I am getting ready to leave Torquay (just under five weeks to go!), I have been working on an independent project, the Summer Entertainment Campaign. This is based off of the Winter lucky-dip and is a way that hospital staff can have a book or DVD delivered directly to their ward or office. All they need to do is fill out an online form, and I sign them up to the library, match them with an item and then go and deliver it straight to their door. It’s a fun way to explore the hospital. As part of this program, I have also been learning how to use Modx to develop webpages to promote our health and well-being collection. This includes books on prescription, reading agency recommended fiction and a selection of health-based DVDs.

I like working with our non-clinical/mood boosting collections because, having previously studied reading in the context of psychology, I know how much of an impact reading and fiction can have on well-being and health. For example, you can read here about the evidence behind self-help books. I also took this online course about literature and mental health, which was very interesting.

To find out more about the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme, click here.

Neurodiversity Day

A few weeks ago I joined the horizon centre for a day of neurodiversity training. Here we discussed how to best support neurodiversity in the workforce using a strengths-based approach. It was useful to discuss accessibility and learning differences, particularly in the context of libraries and medical education/re-validation. It was also a great way to network with different staff, and it reminded me a lot of the intergroup dialogue classes I took at Oxy.

Library 101: Cataloguing

On Wednesday I got to have a go at some cataloguing. For those of you not familiar with library-speak, cataloguing is the process by which books, journals, audio-visual materials etc, are put into a database. Every title is described in a separate record, and each record contains searchable information plus computer coding. The coding is called MARC (machine readable cataloguing), and it allows the user to search in small elements (e.g. date, format, location…).

I have to admit this is not the most riveting thing that I’ve done, although it is one of the more traditional library tasks. What I found most interesting was classification (think Dewey Decimal) and MESH terms. We use the Wessex Classification scheme, which is “a revision of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) schedules incorporating current UK medical and health practice.” I think classification is the most creative part of cataloguing, as it is up to you to determine which sub-headings/topics an item belongs to, and which terms are most commonly used when users are searching for similar items.

Field Trip

Last week I visited Plymouth’s Discovery library, one of the biggest NHS libraries in the region. Although they have twice the number of staff and more than four times the amount of physical space, we share many of the same functions. I saw students and staff reading journals, researching and completing e-learning. Something unique to Plymouth, though, is their historic collection. The library houses the Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection, which contains Hunter’s handwritten notes and a book containing, what they believe to be, the first ever use of the word “vaccination.”

In addition, they also support the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, which provides medical care to British research stations and ships in the Antarctic. On our visit a librarian regaled us with stories of long-distance calls and Antarctic literature reviews. How interesting!

MOOCs, Meetings and a Flu Shot


Week two started off quickly, with more book processing and bookmark making. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot of this in the upcoming year!

On Monday I also shadowed my supervisor at the All-Managers meeting, where the hospital’s senior staff (e.g. director of nursing, directors of finance), come together to brief on the hospital’s state-of-affairs. This was very informative, and provided a greater insight into the NHS as a whole, and as a political entity.

Then, I got a flu shot! A good thing about working in a hospital is that they are very health-focused (obviously!), and thus they were offering flu shots in my building all week. It took five minutes away from the desk, and hopefully it’ll mean that I won’t get the flu this year.

Apart from that, I’ve started a MOOC.


Two other staff members are enrolled, and this particular MOOC is run by an NHS librarian. The LIHNN (Library and Information Health Network North West (of England)) Introduction to Literature Searching MOOC “aims to provide librarians with the knowledge, skills and examples to provide an effective literature search service.” 

I worked at the Occidental library my senior year as a Peer Research Advisor, and my favorite aspect of that role was helping students with literature searches. Hopefully this course will prepare me to do the same in my new role, but with medical students and staff.

And yes! That’s week two. Tonight it’s Halloween, and I’m going to go watch Suffragette with a co-worker. Because what’s scarier than the denial of civil and political rights?