Library committees, journal clubs, and conference presentations

I’ve kept myself pretty busy over the last 12 months. I alluded to what I’ve been up to in my latest update, but I thought I’d flesh that out a bit more. So jumping straight into it…

Learning the ropes in a hospital library

Having kickstarted my journey in research and university library environments, I suddenly found myself in a very different place, in a role as a health librarian at a general hospital. Last #BlogJune, I wrote some reflections on my first month as a hospital librarian, which was a particularly topsy-turvy but exciting time for me. Twelve months later, thankfully it’s still all very exciting and slightly less of a chaotic (read: personally awful) time in my life. I soon plan to write a blog post reflecting on my first year as a librarian in the healthcare environment, but I can say now that I’ve been learning at a million miles an hour and loved it. As someone with no previous specific fascination with the health sciences, I’ve found myself surprisingly captivated by the intricate but urgent mission of medical research and evidence-based health.

Jumping onto the Health Libraries Inc committee

Apart from voraciously reading health librarian blogs and books, I figured the other best way to learn was to get involved in a professional association. There are two main health-specific librarian groups to join: ALIA Health Libraries Australia (HLA), and Health Libraries Inc (HLInc). HLA are very strong at the national-level with big-picture issues like health library advocacy, while HLInc casts its focus on local Victorian events. Following the lead of one of the librarians before me, I joined the HLInc committee and took on the social media and current awareness portfolio as a general committee member.

Since then, I’ve been involved in organising the 11th and 12th HLI annual conferences and doing behind the scenes work to prepare the Pat Nakouz Award for 2015. It’s been great for meeting other hospital librarians and absorbing a broader perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise see in the narrow confines of my daily work. Plus we munch on Tim Tams and dips and cheese at committee meetings, which is always good fun. I’ve also written a few articles for HLInc’s journal, Health Inform, which I really enjoy reading because of its focus on health libraries in the Victorian context.

Journal club for librarians

One of the most rewarding things I’ve done has been to set up and co-run an informal medical librarians’ journal club. Every month, myself and a few other health librarians meet up at a café for drinks and discussion of a journal paper in librarianship that we’ve agreed upon and circulated by email prior to the journal club night. It’s all very relaxed and informal, but at the same time we never run out of things to talk about and it’s always a buzzing discussion. We learn so many lessons from each other – perhaps precisely because of the informal atmosphere where we feel comfortable sharing practical experiences with each other.

It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve joined the HLA Journal Club (and mostly lurked because I’m not hugely confident about my critical appraisal skills yet), which I can really recommend for anyone interested in deeply understanding how to read and analyse evidence-based literature. It’s run by Melbourne-based clinical librarian Catherine Voutier, who recently delivered a presentation on this journal club at the European Association of Health and Information Libraries conference (Storify including tweets about her session available here).

Coming up…two interstate conference presentations in two months!

The wonders of networking on Twitter reveal themselves once again, as I’ve ended up collaborating with Nikki May from Flinders University to present at New Librarians Symposium 7 (NLS7) next month, offering our reflections on our first year of health librarianship.

Rather than write about this ad nauseum again, I’m just going to link you to our #BlogJune piece on the NLS7 blog to give you a sense of what we’re going to present on. Oh yeah, I’m also flying to Sydney again (!) in August to present on mobile information in libraries for an Ark Group Australia workshop, so I’ve got my plate stacked full for the next few months!

Writing a journal paper

Despite my previously written journal paper (on archival science) being suspended in journal submission limbo land for now, I’ve already embarked on writing another one! The idea came out of the NLS7 partnership I’ve formed with Nikki May, and we decided to put our evidence-based background into practice by writing an LIS systematic review paper on the effect of library instruction on the evidence-based practices of health professionals. We’re only really just getting started, and systematic review studies are known for taking a notoriously long time to complete, but it’s exciting to me because I love reading the LIS literature in journals and have always wanted to write a paper to be published in one!


So that’s what I’ve been doing! Lots to keep up with.

In the short-term, I just want to hit my target of three entries for #BlogJune! I’m getting there.

I think the next little while will be about consolidating. Almost all of the above things are ongoing commitments that take a fair bit of energy to keep in motion. So I don’t think I’ll be jumping into many brand new projects for a while. I’ll just go with the flow and see where this takes me.

Returning to blogging for #BlogJune 2015!

Hi again. It’s been a while. One year, in fact. Too long. I haven’t blogged recently because of a number of reasons including settling into full-time library work for the first time, moving from one side of the city to the other for aforementioned work, personal difficulties, commitments to Health Libraries Inc, and preparing to write two conference presentations and a journal paper! Phew.

I’m participating in #BlogJune again for 2015, hopefully to kickstart an ongoing habit of blogging (for real this time…so he says!). But I’m going to dial down my expectations for myself. There is just no way I will end up blogging every day. I’m setting a target of three decent blog posts. A low target to shoot for, but therefore one I should be able to nail by the end of June.

Maybe it’s cheating, but I’ve already written my first piece. Except it’s a guest post for another blog! I’m flying to Sydney to present at New Librarians Symposium 7 next month. I’m collaborating with Nikki May from Flinders University Library to speak jointly on: Two new health librarians take on the world of evidence-based healthcare.

Really happy to see my piece featured in ALIA Weekly today (Volume 3, Issue 23, 10 June 2015)! Anyway, here’s hoping I’ll be able to deliver my three posts as promised. Good to be back.

Photo credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

My first month as a hospital librarian

My first 31 days have been a whirlwind of new sounds, sights, and hard work – complete with quirky antiquated workplace oddities and a steep learning curve. In many ways, medical librarianship isn’t radically different from other library fields. The fundamental principles don’t change. But it’s still noticeably different, and in certain respects, entirely unique.

The first immediately obvious signal that jumped out at me was hearing the continuous kaleidoscope of colour-coded emergencies and announcements over the hospital PA. Code blue? Medical emergency. Today, that meant summoning obstetricians, midwives, and nurses for a sudden caesarean childbirth in the wards. It’s a constant reminder that you serve at an institution where the core mission is to preserve human life and ward off the spectre of death. There’s something unsettling yet exciting about it even after you begin to adapt.

Western Centre for Health Research and Education
Like many information organisations, the hospital library serves distinct user groups with their own unique needs. It’s been a fascinating journey liaising with these core users and familiarising myself with their particular characteristics. Doctors can be seen rushing around in a hurry, with their beeping pagers blaring out and shattering the wall of silence that pervades the library between emergency announcements. I’m stereotyping a bit here, but they tend to be more demanding and even more time-poor than others. Perhaps understandably. However, that does make it challenging to patiently explain the library’s services and various quirks when faced with a consultant doctor impatiently tapping away at their stethoscope. Also, they often seek highly specialised evidence-based clinical resources, which seriously tests my currently mediocre knowledge of medical terminology (which is rapidly improving!).

The bulk of other library clients are an army of nurses and a wide array of Allied Health practitioners (psychologists, nuclear medicine technologists, speech pathologists, etc). They tend to use the library’s services to bolster their professional development, develop research projects, and supplement their formal medical studies. For all their various categories and differences, the central value that unites the library’s clients is a common passion for public health and patient care. It’s something that I find inspiring, particularly with the shadow of healthcare privatisation looming over us all.

Earlier, I signposted the sense of urgency you feel working as a health librarian. For me, this was best exemplified by my first experience with an urgent medical literature request, marked high priority and linked directly to patient care. On my third day, an urgent interstate request arrived for specific medical journal texts on comorbidity (co-occurrence of one or more diseases, usually resulting in complications). I will probably never know the precise clinical context that gave rise to this request. But that didn’t stop me from sweating and feeling a rush of adrenaline as I mashed out the appropriate concoction of search terms and fired off a hastily crafted reply with the full-text PDF articles attached. An exciting but daunting task for one’s third day as a librarian.

It ain’t always glorious or exciting though, as I’ve quickly come to learn. Honestly, I spend my fair share of time devoted to mundane, menial tasks. Mailing huge tomes between campuses, laminating A4 signs for the hospital wards, shelving journals, and fuming at tedious IT issues or mangled paper jams. Occasionally, I frown and begin to wonder why I spent 18 months on a Masters of Information Management and the relentless, grinding job search earlier this year. But most of the time, I fully appreciate the fact that I’m learning more about the profession and at a more accelerated pace than I ever have before. At long last, I’m mapping all that abstract theory onto a real environment and putting it into practice on a full-time basis. Nothing beats experience and witnessing the fruits of your own labour.

The last thing I’ll flag here is that adapting to full-time professional work on the opposite side of town has been a forbidding challenge for me. The daily 3-4 hour commute has been wearing me thin very fast. I’m slowly adapting, but getting up at 6am on cold winter mornings and arriving home at 7pm after a droning, jolting bus ride doesn’t leave me with much time or energy for much else. Previously an (overly) prolific social media maniac, I’ve dramatically cut down my use (an unintended blessing…?). Other major aspects of my life – soccer journalism, activism, and exercise – have taken a massive hit. It saddens me that I’ll inevitably have to sacrifice one of the three, especially when at least two of them are non-negotiables (if I’m to continue pursuing serious commitments based on my values). But such is life, hey?

New beginnings (redux)

So I’m hoping to put my history of numerous scrappy postgraduate blogs into the dustbin of history by settling down into this new blog for the long haul. Having a permanent librarian position to reflect on will probably help, this time!

I chose the title “Querying Libraries” to signal a sense of critical engagement with my own progression as an information professional, as well as the broader conversation around librarianship and information management. There is always a time and place for cheerleading our profession on, but there should be an equally urgent compulsion to continually question the directions our current discourse is steering us towards.

I’m also hoping to provide coverage of professional librarian events in Melbourne and ease myself into the habit of writing reports or reflections on them. There is an increasingly thriving scene of forums, talks, and other professional events in Victoria – I think it’s important that the conversations sparked at these events reach beyond the walls of their immediate venues.

So who am I, anyway? You can find out stuff about me here, but my LinkedIn profile is probably the best place to look. I only just started my first full-time librarian position three weeks ago (!!!), so my adventures as a brand new medical librarian are defining my life at the moment.

Like many fellow librarians, my background is in the Arts. I wrote an Honours thesis on Orientalism and early 20th century Chinese revolutionary history. This was followed by a Masters in Information Management and two years of ARC research into the impact of digitisation technology on archival management. Anyway, enough of my life story – maybe I’ll flesh this out another time.

To (hopefully) whet your appetite, here are some blog posts I have planned for the near future:

  • My first month as a librarian – what is life like as a hospital librarian?
  • Reflecting on the joint ALIA Victoria / VALA conference “SoundBites” forum I helped to organise
  • Looking back at themes emerging from my recent talk at the State Library presenting my digitisation/archives paper
  • I will review The New Professionals Toolkit by Bethan Ruddock, a handbook for new librarians (like me!)

Also, it seems the birth of this blog has been well-timed to coincide with #BlogJune (2014 edition!). It’s an initiative that kicked off on Twitter encouraging information professionals to (very!) actively blog throughout June each year. So yay for that!