Friday, 8 July 2011

Thing 4: Current awareness

When I signed up for cpd23, the last thing I expected was to be a Twitter addict within a week. But here we are.

There's already been some interesting discussion about just how useful RSS is for work purposes. I know it works for some, but personally I subscribe to very few health / library related feeds, and half of them get deleted en masse unread. Twitter on the other hand, seems promising.

Since last Monday I have:
  • Started tweeting (again. The first time I tried I was told by a friend that I sounded "bored". This time I will persist)
  • Participated in my first hashtag discussion: #uklibchat
  • And stumbled across my own KnowledgeShare service being discussed by three people I've never met. Which was odd.
I have been surprised and amused and been pointed in the direction of dozens of interesting websites and articles... and it's not even been seven days.

Last time I tried I had no one to follow and no one to follow me (apart from my old friend @tomwe who probably doesn't want to hear about knowledge management and commissioning support all that much). Thanks to cpd23 I now know who to follow, and a whole new world has opened up. I discovered the yoono add-on for Firefox, which lets me keep a constantly updated twitter feed at the side of my screen, and suitably kitted-up I expect to be tweeting for quite some time to come.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Understanding how commissioners use evidence and why librarians don't

We had our second library journal club today and it went well. Two presentations and lots of debate.

First of all, we discussed The need for clarity in evidence-based commissioning, published in May 2011 in the Health Service Journal. This is a very important study into how commissioners use evidence in their decision-making, and where they get their evidence from. Some of what they found was encouraging - guidelines and other secondary sources rank surprisingly high; the use of management consultants was blessedly low - but there is much to worry a traditional NHS library service.

Commissioners need a far wider spectrum of evidence than most health care staff, wider than NHS librarians are used to providing. They need research evidence, yes, but they also want public health data, local benchmarking data, expert opinion, examples of best practice and narratives of implementation. How much better are we than anyone else at providing this information? We need to be better. We need to be flexible enough to learn new approaches and provide what commissioners want. The Commissioning Wiki is a good start but it's up to us to use it and demonstrate our value to a whole new user group.

Next up was a 2006 commentary by Andrew Booth in Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice: The unteachable in pursuit of the unreadable. A typically obfuscatory Boothean title questioning whether librarians are willing or able to learn from trials and meta-analyses of library practice. Is evidence-based librarianship generating the right sort of evidence; the sort of evidence that library professionals are actually going to use?

Despite Booth's presumably intentional ruffling of feathers, there are some interesting points here. Librarians make decisions based on consultation, literature reviewing, focus groups and user evaluation... why then is evidence-based librarianship shoe-horned into the medical model of controlled investigation and synthesis? Perhaps EBL should simply be about doing what we're already doing, but writing it up at the end for others to consider and interpret.

There is still a requirement to carefully formulate questions and identify meaningful outcome measures - no easy task, either one - but this form of EBL is appealing, and something that we all agreed to give some thought to over the coming months.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Thing 3: Considering my personal brand

There's another Ben Skinner out there, and like me he's a professional surfer. The only difference is that he uses a surfboard while I use a keyboard. Also, he's famous.

Like most people, I have occassionally performed a "vanity check" on Google, but have never given a lot of thought to the overall impression my online persona conveys. Luckily, adding "library" or "brighton" to my name gets past the many references to skindog surfboards fairly handily and I soon start to emerge from the Google cacophony.

It occurs to me that one way of differentiating myself from surfer Ben would be to more consistently use my second name in online profiles, and I will try that from now on. I also like Jo Alcock's idea of using a consistent background image across multiple sites.

This latest vanity check has been helpful in prompting me to delete an old and defunct last.fm profile (the only prominent non-work-related reference to me) and to update my job title in a couple of places. It's also raised an important question about why my work website does not appear higher in the list. I'm not sure what to do about that, but it bears consideration.

And lastly, what of my profile picture? I have been using the pop-art style photo for a few years but I think it might be time for it to go. Now I just need to find an image of myself that I can bear to spread around the interwebs...

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thing 2: Investigating other blogs

The blogs I pay attention to are not work-related blogs. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is because 90% of everything is crap and I just haven't worked hard enough to find the 10% of library blogs that are worth reading. cpd23 is going some way to rectify that, by forcing me to explore the world of library blogs a bit more widely.

Browsing the list of cpd23 participants on Delicious turned out to be more fun than I'd anticipated... I dropped in on most of the health-tagged blogs, commented on one or two, and added a few more to my feed reader.

Over at (the) health informaticist the conversation turned to whether or not people actually read the feeds they're signed up to. I am big on the "mark all as read" option, but then my failure to make time to read library blogs is just part of my bigger failure to make time for anything more than the bare minimum of professional reading. I read "just in time" but never "just in case". To counter this I have started up a library journal club at work, so that keeping up-to-date with the library literature becomes as much a part of what we do as anything else.

Finally, I was surprised by a number of comments implying that health librarians are in some way less forward-thinking or technologically minded than librarians from other sectors. I saw this at Daffodils in the library and at passionatemedicallibrarian. Is this other people's experience? I have always felt that us lot in the NHS are remarkably proactive and innovative, especially given our relatively small budgets and profile.

Surfing from blog to blog, seeing what works well and what not so well, and realising just how disparate the participants of cpd23 are, has been illuminating. I'm looking forward to the next task.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

23 Things for Professional Development: Thing 1

I have a love/hate relationship with blogging. I love to read blogs and I am at least curious, if not yet completely convinced, about the benefits of writing them. What I don't really understand is how anyone finds the time to do either.

I am a librarian and have worked in the UK health sector for seven years. I'm signing up this Summer for cpd23, aka 23 Things for Professional Development, an online programme aimed at improving one's understanding of Web2.0 technologies and using them to reflect on career development.

In Thing 1, participants must write about why they are taking part in the course. I suppose, among other things, I am curious to see whether I can really make blogging, tweeting and other social networking work for me in a professional context. Apart from "will I find the time?", I'm also interested in finding out how many of the issues that I deal with day-to-day will be suitable for public consumption. Problems with one's users, one's colleagues, one's suppliers, etc. would seem to be largely off-limits... Will I be able to reflect on work in a meaningful, interesting way, without being able to spell out the details? I wait to find out.

I have recently been appointed as the head of a large NHS library and knowledge service and have an awful lot to learn. For that reason, the benefits of reflection, reading and engagement with CPD are enormous for me at the moment, and these are things that I have struggled to make time for throughout my career. Should I even be spending the time to write this now, I wonder, while watching my email inbox rapidly fill up? It really is hard to carve out that time for personal development, and hopefully cpd23 will be the push that I need to do just that.