All posts by Jayne Lees

Partnership working with Public Libraries- Health Information Covid-19 and Beyond

As we embark on Libraries Week 2020 alongside the context of Covid-19, it is timely to reflect on how we find stability in the professionalism and expertise of our colleagues locally, regionally and nationally, and extend this to collaborating with colleagues in other sectors.

Enabling the flow of quality information and evidence is not only a strategic driver underpinning all that we do (knowledge management); it is the ethos with which we take professional pride. Actualising this is our superpower!

Partnership working with Somerset public libraries has allowed Somerset NHS Foundation Trust library and knowledge services to see some successes in these challenging times.

Signposting to sources of trustworthy health information for Covid-19 and beyond

Establishing a good working relationship with the Development Officer (Health and Wellbeing) for Somerset Libraries worked well this year, especially for Health Information Week in July.

Previous years’ activities centered on engaging library users who physically visited the public library sites, and were promoted through a media campaign which included presence in the local press and BBC Radio Somerset. This year we had to find a different way of meeting health information needs, instead condensing activities into a coordinated social media campaign, highlighting the health information available through both services.

To set the scene, we provided public library staff with the following to inform their practice:

  • Health Education England’s national Library and Knowledge Services team has made available the which hosts information resources which front line staff can use to help them communicate effectively with patients, clients, and their families around Coronavirus.
  • The resources support NHS and social care organisations fulfil their obligations under the Accessible Information Standard to provide information for patients, service users, carers and parents with a disability, impairment or sensory loss.
  • HEE’s Library and Knowledge Services team identified that it is difficult to find information about COVID-19 in accessible formats and for specific patient groups. In liaison with Public Health England, NHS England/Improvement and the Patient Information Forum, they have compiled information:

The website includes easy read, sign language and Makaton formats as well as other communication guidance.

Poster for Somerset Libraries 2020 Health Information Week Campaign

As a result of our Health Information Week collaboration, Somerset libraries are going to build on the above by adding a section to their website giving advice for accessing health information. We are exploring the possibilities of an interactive web version of the poster or linking to our own soon to be established website.

‘Working with the staff at Musgrove Park Hospital library has been so helpful in providing us with the expertise and knowledge to ensure we are providing the public with the best information in accessing reliable health information. In particular, their training on finding reliable health information online, has been invaluable in this period of ‘fake news’ and our staff are now better equipped in signposting the public to the best available resources.’
Alex Cunningham-Scott, Development Officer (Health and Wellbeing,) Somerset Libraries

 Training the public library staff- finding a friendly socially distanced solution

Pre-Covid-19, we delivered face-to-face workshops to public library staff at various locations across the county. It allowed us insight into the challenges they faced, and the logistics of releasing and bringing staff together for training. Nonetheless, our ability to bolster skills for supporting health information was well received. Now we are faced with an additional challenge: how best to produce a digital version of our training. Training for public library staff is increasingly moving online, making the logistics of meeting less of a challenge. Perhaps a webinar would work best? Or if we recorded it, then we’d only need to do it once. These challenges are mirrored not only when we consider delivering our training offer to service users within the Trust, but in conversations across our health libraries network regionally and nationally. Now is the time to illustrate just how adaptable we are in our profession.

Promotion of public library electronic and audio book collection

In March, just before the lockdown, we facilitated a meeting between trust staff and the public library’s development lead, outreach librarian, and (perhaps most crucially) their digital technician to discuss the practicalities of enabling access to their electronic collection for our patients and carers.

We recruited trust staff with the following:

“We are currently working on a number of projects with our colleagues from the public library service. One of the ideas we have is around how best to utilise the public library electronic book/magazine stock and audio books for both staff and patients. These resources would promote wellbeing and also add to the patient experience while in hospital. You can find out more here:

Those who attended the meeting saw great potential for our patients; especially those staying with us for longer or undertaking rehabilitation and occupationally deprived.

Handling personal information, age restrictions/censorship etc. were raised, but balanced with the positive outcomes of more digitally literate trust staff, and the public library service signing up at least 5 new members!

As a result, a teacher in the hospital school described how We have laminated the fliers and dotted them around the wards to advertise the service.  We are hoping that patients will be able to use their own logins/devices to access the resources whilst patients and also when they leave us.”

We are early on the journey to capturing the impact of this partnership project, but (apologies for over- egging the metaphor pudding) there is some surety to be found that when navigating the Covid-19 infodemic/misinformation storm, we can ride the tide together to lead patients and the public to quality health and wellbeing resources they can trust. The mutual benefits of the partnership are already evident.

Siobhan Linsey
Deputy Library and Knowledge Services Manager
Somerset NHS Foundation Trust


Place of the Library in the Prison Regimes

MKC_HMYOI Aylesbury Lib Brochure_PPoint

The Prison Rules 1999, and Young Offender Institution Rules 2000, as amended, place on the Secretary of State the responsibility for ensuring that each Prison Service Establishment has a library, and that, subject to any directions of the Secretary of State, the prisoners of those establishments have facilities to use and exchange books. To complement success in education and vocation courses delivery, the Prison Library provides an accessible service. Through its collections, it supports learning, improving literacy and removing barriers to effective resettlement. It also promotes reading for pleasure and opportunities for wider cultural engagement by the prisoners.

The Library as a unique facility and knowledge repository is present in any establishment or Society aiming at capacity building, research promotion and knowledge acquisition. The Prison Library at Aylesbury Prison is no different as access to materials stocked is boundless despite the prison being a locked-up facility. A comprehensive collection is provided – as books for curriculum support, well-being (on foods, nutrition, healthcare), as well as fiction, magazines and audio books including prison newspapers. Examples include Inside Times, Converse, and VOICE (newspaper for the BAME) Also, of importance is how library spaces are utilised and facilities provided.

Services on offer

Readers’ Services – loaning of books and magazines, information /enquiry services provision

Outreach Services – taking reserved books to the cells of the young offenders who have constraints in visiting the library. Library Book return boxes (painted red) are located in all the Residential Blocks for prisoners to return loaned books and is emptied weekly by the library staff.

Readers Advisory Service – due to the fact that some of the young offenders are from various backgrounds – some with their first language not being English; others who have no formal education; some from the Travellers’ group and those from the English-speaking countries. A prison librarian needs subtle interactions aimed to inculcate reading habit and by extension promoting reading culture amongst them. As improvements are made, all are encouraged to enrol for some education courses.

Activities engaged in

The Prison Library liaises with various bodies for different activities as detailed below:

Six-Book Reading Ahead programme – organised annually by the Reading Agency to promote reading among young offenders. The completers attend Award ceremonies, where each completer has the Governor’s handshake and a 1:1 chat for 2 minutes.

Story Book Dads – this scheme is for young dads and those who wish to have contacts with their siblings. Stories are read from shortlisted books and recorded unto a CD for to send to their named recipients.

Shannon Trust – A charity aiming to support reading activity among the young offenders through supply of some guidebooks and workbooks and stationeries to work with.

The Bucks Association for the Care of Offenders (BACO) – which aims to bring about positive change to people serving sentences in Buckinghamshire’s prisons. They provide small funds to cover distance-learning courses (course books & materials, plus art/craft materials), radios, smart clothing for interviews, to attend a Parole Board and family days amongst other things.

Guest Personalities and Authors’ visit – A number of ex-prisoners who have made their mark in the community visit for chats and to share their personal life experiences with the young offenders in custody. Some of these ex-prisoners are now authors of books, which they distribute free free-of-charge to the young offenders and for the library. There was a time that the World Boxing Champion, Anthony Joshua visited and had a down-to-earth talk with the young offenders on how to live outside of prison and be better persons, using himself as an example to emulate.

We had finalised arrangements with the National Reading Agency to bring JaQuavis Coleman – one of the authors of the popular Urban fiction – “The Cartel” Series from the USA to visit our prison for a chat. Sadly, the COVID-19 lockdown has disrupted this event.

National Literacy Trust – has an ongoing 3-year partnership with HMYOI Aylesbury on “Working with Young Offenders”, as sponsored by the Rothschild Foundation – mainly to develop a discursive book club, enable mini wing libraries to ‘sell’ reading to their peers, authors’ discussion groups and workshops, amongst others. The Trust, through one of its subsidiaries, ‘Books Unlocked’, supplies books for the use Wing libraries.

Prison Reading Group in collaboration with Give-a-Book charity – regularly donating books to the library and sponsors the Librarian to attend their annual training day, usually held at the Roehampton University, London.

Going extra miles – The backsets of health-related magazines are made available to the Health Care Unit, as appropriate. This ensures regular access to those who may be more vulnerable and less able to access the main Library.

Health and well-being and the COVID-19 – With COVID lingering and social distancing being observed, big changes have been made in the prison. Education including Library staff are not allowed entry to the Wings for now. In addition, the labels (DO NOT SIT HERE) have been placed on some chairs to ensure that the visiting population will be about 30% of total.


Ayo Onatola, BSc (Hons) Biochem, PGDE, MLS, ACLIP
Prison Librarian, Milton Keynes College
@HMYOI Aylesbury, Bucks.

Learning Journey – Apprentice Library Assistant

My transition into an apprenticeship and the start of my time in the NHS followed a long journey of higher education, part-time work and an ongoing unfulfillment with my professional progress. Initially pursuing an undergraduate degree was driven as the next logical step after my A-Levels, and my postgraduate degree seemed to temporarily fill a gap I thought needed filled. Alongside my educational career I worked in various administration roles in different sectors which made do at the time but never left me satisfied. Working in a library was always a goal of mine, but I was never quite sure how to get there. The librarian felt like a role you were born into, and the path towards it seemed almost hidden.

Getting into my apprenticeship with Southmead Library was a fruitful result of a vigilant library career quest, including countless job searches and CV tweaks. When I saw the opportunity to join the LKS team as an apprentice I was immediately excited – professional and educational development? That was the dream! I was lucky enough to be picked for interview and when I received the congratulations call I was overcome with happiness and relief. My time in my role has far exceeded my expectations thanks to the brilliant team I have come into and my ever-growing understanding of what the role can encompass. A most recent example of this is getting the opportunity to look into decolonising the library collection, looking into expanding the diversity of both authors and visual content alongside compiling lists of reading materials and resources to implement. Being able to take on this project was not only relevant to me from a racial perspective, but highlighted the constant development of healthcare library collections and the potential for building more representative resources. I would never have imagined getting to undertake this kind of work so early in my role, so it has been a fruitful endeavour. In just under a year I feel I have come such a long way in my role thanks to the professional guidance of my colleagues, getting to grips with the daily operations of a healthcare library and opportunities to take on new responsibilities.

Though my journey to my current role felt longer than expected I do not regret any of my experiences. Undertaking two degrees allowed me to hone my writing capabilities and the academic research has largely helped with searching for articles and navigating library classifications. Whilst administration was never my long term goal, it meant I developed a wide set of transferrable skills of working with different systems and responsibilities that are found across many office-based jobs. Doing an apprenticeship at this stage in my life has allowed me to put my goals into action and given me clear direction on how I want my career to progress. Assignments set by LMP and projects arising in the workplace equip me with both a broad and specialist insight into library provision.

As a young professional, I hope my apprenticeship experience so far can help inform and encourage others looking for focused development to look into apprenticeship opportunities – it can introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities!

Shakira Rawlins
Library Assistant
Library and Knowledge Service, North Bristol NHS Trust
Southmead Hospital
Bristol BS10 5NB