UHMLG 2012 Summer Conference – York – Monday 18th June

The UHMLG Summer Residential Conference was held at the Royal York Hotel in York this year. Our theme was Measuring value, demonstrating impact: the importance of health libraries in a changing world.

Our first speaker was Stephen Town, the Director of Information at York University. Stephen brought us the benefit of his personal interest in the value of libraries. He spoke about transcendent values – one which are wider than immediate ‘quick wins’ and got us all thinking about the important of demonstrating the value of what we do rather than collecting quantitative data. He introduced his developing Value Scorecard and left us deep in thought about how we might show our value through more qualitative measures.

A new development for UHMLG this year were our New Professional bursaries, and Eli Bastin from the Bodleian Health Care Libraries and Lesley Firth from the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust gave very interesting personal presentations about what had impacted on their professional development to date. Eli spoke about what had brought value and motivation to her in her journey to her current post, and Lesley was very informative about how social media has helped her to develop.

Prof. Ian Rowlands then gave us some insights into the data gathered by CIBER for the RLUK report Demonstrating value – student satisfaction and library provision. He managed to talk about statistics for 40 minutes in a way which engaged us all, and had us questioning the value of all the data we collect! It was most gratifying to see that libraries are outperforming their academics colleagues in the NSS – something that none of us knew, but will definitely be taking home with us to disseminate more widely.

Wayne Sime, Director of Library Services at the Royal Society of Medicine took us up to afternoon tea with his personal reflections on the recent review of the RSM Library. It was clear that the original raison d’etre for the founding of the Library was still alive, well and relevant today, with members commenting that the enquiry services were highly valued – and obviously this has an impact directly on patient care. The results of the review showed that specialist libraries such as the RSM have a very real relevance in the health knowledge economy of the 21st century.

After tea and cake, we listened to Hannah Spring, Senior Lecturer from York St John University, who gave us ten extremely useful tips on how and why librarians should be researching. Hannah was practical, motivating and entertaining. I heard many comments from the audience later saying ‘Yes, we should get together and do something’ or ‘I hadn’t really had the confidence before, but I think I might give it a go’

Our final speaker of the day was Dr Judith Broady Preston who travelled all the way from Aberystwyth University to speak to us. Judith took us on a whirlwind tour of the many possibilities for measuring impact – from economic effectiveness to the need to capture social returns. She made us consider what our truly ‘core’ services are, and pointed out that whatever surveys or measures we take, “if your customers think you’re rubbish – you are!” She returned again to the centrality of narrative, echoing our first presentation by Stephen Town, and emphasised the importance and the difficulties of obtaining qualitative measures and data.  Her talk left the audience buzzing – a real achievement at 5.20 in the evening!

After the AGM, we were lucky enough with the weather to be able to have drinks on the terrace before a wonderful confernece dinner. A memorable day was brought to a close by a late night fire alarm which brought us all outside – half the delegates from the bar and half from their rooms clad in pyjamas…

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