All posts by Richard Bridgen

Homeworking and improving poor home WiFi

Like many of you, when COVID hit I was expected to work from home for much of my working week. I quickly put dibs on the dining room table. I borrowed a work laptop that had recently been upgraded to Windows 10, which meant that I could easily connect to my computer files and Trust’s intranet. I purchased a computer chair after a week or so of enduring what I once thought were comfortable dining chairs and an ergonomic mouse that stopped me from getting RSI. All sorted.

But there was one huge elephant in the room.

Poor wifi connection – lots of coverage blackspots and our devices regularly fell off the wifi connection. We live in a weirdly shaped bungalow – it’s very long, with rooms going off at strange angles and lots of thick walls in the way. The router was located at the very back of the house in an extension the previous owners had built, and it was on a separate electrical network. This is an important point for trying to sort out connectivity issues.

Ever since moving in, we’ve been trying to sort out this problem. I’ve spoken to our wifi providers – we’re on the fastest coverage possible for our area. I’ve spent a couple of evenings on the phone to them trying to tweak our set-up to get maximum oomph out of our connection, which included switching between different frequency channels depending on which ones were less well used at that particular point, and making sure there was nothing near it that could be stopping the signal etc. That didn’t make any difference.

We investigated and purchased a wi-fi extender. The first one we tried was a powerline adaptor – these devices use existing electrical wiring to transmit data between them and extend the reach of the wifi. This is when we discovered that our router is on a different electrical circuit to the rest of the house, so that didn’t work. We next tried a general wireless extender, which acts as a relay to re-broadcast the signal onwards to other parts of the house. This made a small improvement, but we still had blackspots and devices dropping off wifi and needed a separate password.

I investigated getting Virgin cable connected to our house. Note to self – never, ever purchase a house on a private road which can only be accessed via another private road. The Virgin technician very cheerfully told me I was a hiding to nothing there as I needed written permission from every home owner to say that they could tunnel under the roads, and did I have any inkling of the costs involved.

A colleague mentioned to me that they had purchased a more expensive router which had sorted out their issues. Upon further investigation (I really recommend the free articles on the Which website), I came across the idea of mesh routers. These are a network of hubs or satellites – one of them plugs into your existing modem (these days your router is often a combined router/modem) and the others are placed strategically around your house (we have our second hub in the loft). They are a more expensive solution but they have worked brilliantly for us. No more blackspots, no more dropping off wifi. I can get connectivity from any corner of the house. Most importantly, we can now watch television over the internet with zero buffering!

Before purchasing anything as expensive as mesh routers, do your research. Check that the one you are planning on purchasing will be powerful enough for your size of house. Check that it really will eliminate all blackspots if this is your issue and how many devices it supports. I recommend Techradar as a good place to start; they also cover Black Friday deals if you fancy a bargain.

Catherine Micklethwaite
South Devon Healthcare Library Service
catherine.micklethwaite@nhs.net

Moving to regional library management systems: the journey begins

In January 2020, in a letter to all NHS library service managers, Sue Lacey Bryant announced that Health Education England has approved an ambitious programme ‘to provide NHS staff with a single, coherent national gateway to their trusted library and knowledge service, connecting them seamlessly to quality resources, services and support tailored to their needs’.

Sue explained that this would involve not only procuring and implementing a national discovery system. HEE is also funding an ambitious programme to deliver a more efficient and coherent infrastructure of library management systems (LMSs). The present LMS landscape in complex and costly with over 91 separate systems across England. This will be reduced to a small number of regional systems delivering improvements for library staff and end users.

The transition to regional library management systems is a significant programme of work. Local LKS engagement in the selection, configuration and implementation of shared systems is critical to their success. We believe that regional LMS will deliver the optimal balance between local ownership and streamlining efficiencies.

The journey has already started. HEE has been working with LKS in the South West, Thames Valley and Wessex to procure and implement a new regional LMS spanning 30 services, and with library teams in the North East to upgrade an LMS shared by 7 services. ‘After Action Review’ and ‘Retrospect’ have been used to capture lessons learned.

Attention now turns to the East of England and Kent, Surrey and Sussex. These regions already benefit from HEE-funded regional LMS, but with contracts due to expire, need to prepare for re-procurement.  ‘Peer Assist’ was used to help ensure they benefit from the experience and insights of the team involved in the procurement in the South West, Thames Valley and Wessex, and Ken Chad, a very experienced library technology consultant, has been engaged to help with next steps.

HEE is also supporting LKS in the West Midlands as they prepare to build on the success of locally-shared LMS to create a joined-up, scaled-up regional LMS. This is a library-led, ‘bottom up’ approach to achieving the same goals: a consolidated knowledge base of regional holdings, a consistent experience for service users across the region, and time-savings for library staff.

Finally in this first phase, Senior Leadership Programme participant projects will help library teams in other parts of the country start to explore the benefits, opportunities and practicalities of shared LMS, using models of change and knowledge mobilisation tools to capture and share learning.

Below Ken Chad explains a little more about the work planned with the library services in the East of England and Kent, Surrey and Sussex:

“The approach we are taking involves three pre-procurement phases: 1) communication, engagement and preparation; 2) formulating requirements 3) determining the solution to meet the requirements.

We recommend communication and engagement with a diverse range of stakeholders — influencers as well as system users. Not everyone will be engaged in the same tasks, but diversity helps to bring fresh thinking and challenge assumptions.

Workshops with library staff will address some key questions. What are the problems we need to solve for NHS staff and learners? What are the problems we need to solve for library staff? Why do we use LMS is the way that we do?  Is there opportunity to standardise policies to give users a more consistent experience?  Can we streamline procedures to ensure less time is spent on administration and quicker delivery times for customers?

We will also be analysing the LMS market to find out the opportunities for change and what vendors can realistically offer to meet the specific needs of the NHS.”

Questions? Suggestions? Please contact the HEE lead on resource discovery in your region: North Becky.Williams@hee.nhs.uk, Midlands & East: Richard.Bridgen@hee.nhs.uk; London and KSS: Helene.Gorring@hee.nhs.uk

Black Lives Matter in Health Libraries

“To show up imperfectly but open to change is better than not showing up at all”
@shopsundae, Instagram

On Friday 17th July, 76 healthcare knowledge and Library staff joined us for the Black Lives Matter in Health Libraries virtual discussion. It was led by Hong-Anh Nguyen and Natasha Howard who have previously delivered sessions on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to the healthcare library workforce and have acted as beacons in this work.

Natasha, Hong-Anh and I started to discuss ED&I learning opportunities last year. We wanted to push forward open conversations and galvanise us as a workforce to take more action. It might not come as a surprise that our initial idea was to have face to face workshops across each region, but due to the pandemic we had to explore the idea of doing something virtual. Then the world watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered by the people who were supposed to protect him and the Black Lives Matter movement exploded. I, like many white people or people with privilege, was suddenly uncomfortably aware that I wasn’t doing enough. That I wasn’t being anti-racist and that I needed to take action. Fully confronting your privilege and complicity is a deeply uncomfortable but necessary process, and once you have come to accept it, it is time to get to work. Seeing how many people booked on to this session made me realise that many of us feel the same way and that taking action in our professional lives can help make the changes we so desperately want to embody.

We asked the network which topics you wanted to discuss and we had some great questions. When we looked through them ahead of the event there were some clear themes emerging. These are the main questions that we worked through, although further questions and experiences were shared by participants throughout;

  • How can library staff, regardless of level or role, effect positive change and influence upwards where resistance is being met?
  • What does it mean to decolonise a library in the healthcare context?
  • How can libraries promote their EDI collections and encourage engagement with this topic through the resources they provide?
  • What should library collections relating to EDI or BAME groups be called? What language would be most appropriate and least offensive?

From our discussions it was clear that many of us are worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, but the clearest message I took away was to educate myself when feeling unsure. That’s why we have created a reading list of resources for you. This covers a wide range of media (articles, books, podcasts), educational tools to work through, broad themes on the topic to more specific information on diversity in libraries. We have made the recording of the event which is available on request to members of the UK health libraries networks (email your request to the address below). Hopefully these resources will be the starting point for us in taking action in dismantling inequality in health libraries and our workforce.

One of the key things I’ve learnt so far is that it is not the responsibility of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic friends and colleagues to educate us about discrimination they may face to work, nor how our services contribute to that discrimination. Those of us with privilege can undertake that learning ourselves. I have made the commitment to being an ally through a process of lifelong learning. With that comes the understanding that I might not always get it right, but as long as we are trying then change can begin to occur. I hope you will join me.

Holly Case-Wyatt
LKS Development Manager, HEE London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex
lks-lkss@hee.nhs.uk