2020 and Covid-19: library and knowledge services getting evidence into practice

2020 has been an extraordinary year. Covid-19 has presented many challenges, particularly in phase one, including redeployment of library staff and space, IT connectivity to allow working from home and the development of virtual and digital services. However, library and knowledge staff have risen to meet and overcome these challenges, demonstrating resilience and adaptability. Messaging throughout the pandemic has been that library and knowledge staff are accessible and services have remained open for business, even if the doors to some physical spaces have been closed.

The role that library and knowledge specialists play in mobilising knowledge and evidence into practice has supported individual and organisational learning and Covid-19 decision making. This has raised the profile of library and knowledge services in many organisations.

  • Library and knowledge service managers working for the Trusts leading the Nightingales, developed tailored service offers into the new hospitals. The national HEE library and knowledge services LKS team has worked with this group of service managers to facilitate a community of practice to support learning and sharing.
  • Services have provided evidence support for Boards and supported the management of incidents by gold and silver command groups by delivering rapid evidence reviews.
  • Library and knowledge staff have used knowledge management tools to facilitate discussions and share learning for example, using After-Action Reviews to capture lessons learned and running Randomised Coffee Trials to share learning and keep staff connected.

Across the networks, we have seen greater collaborative working between services, for example through the sharing of expertise and supporting colleagues where capacity has been reduced. Collaborative working has also resulted sharing examples of Covid current awareness sharing bulletins and in the development of the Covid-19 Search Bank. Since the launch of the Search Bank in May, over 200 search strings and strategies have been published. Feedback from participants and users has been very positive and we are looking at what this experience can tell us about supporting expert searchers.

There has been a move to making greater use of technology, strengthening delivery of virtual services, including training, demonstrating a capability for rapid and agile development. Most services are now offering some type of virtual training session, and there are examples of development of online and e-learning modules to support induction and critical appraisal. The national CPD offers to develop skills in facilitating virtual meetings have been well received by library and knowledge staff.

The HEE Resource Discovery team has supported remote working by ensuring off-site access to OpenAthens administration tools. They also optimised access to the evidence-base by collating trusted evidence resources, with sources on the vaccine currently being pulled together, and signposting developments with BMJ Best Practice and access to e-books through the Kortext platform.

Library and knowledge staff have continued to provide knowledge services remotely throughout the pandemic. In May, 45% of our physical library services were either closed or open but not staffed. By October 20 this had reduced to just 11%. All services have worked with their organisations to adapt both the working and learning space within the library to ensure it is safe. Many of you have shared your approach, together with pictures of the changes including:

  • changes in layout for PC and study space
  • self-issuing systems
  • screens around library counters
  • booking systems for workstations.

Some services have added to the ways in which the library is valued by NHS staff as a wellbeing resource, creating and expanding the health and wellbeing space and collections for staff.

We are aware that there is pressure on library space in some organisations. Accordingly, we have prepared policy recommendations that emphasise the importance of library learning space, which will go to the HEE Executive for approval in January 2021.

Over the last few weeks HEE’s library and knowledge service regional teams have been ringing everyone. It has been good to catch up with you and find out what is currently happening in your services and organisations during the second wave. We will be considering all the feedback to identify any themes where areas for further support or training have been raised. In talking to you all it has been amazing to hear that, despite the challenges faced, many of you are still seeking out the opportunities in your organisations and continuing to develop the service through innovation and adopting good practice.

During the pandemic, services have captured some amazing impact stories which we are delighted to share some with you here. Working with the HEE Communications team, we have been using these to raise the profile of NHS library and knowledge services on social media. Please do continue to collect your impact case studies and share them with us.

We would like to finish this blogpost with thanks to you. Your work in mobilising evidence and knowledge to support Covid-19 decision making, supporting the health and wellbeing of NHS staff, and ensuring that accessible, evidence-based health information is made available for patients and the public, has made all for the difference to many lives during the pandemic.

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