All posts by Richard Bridgen

Becoming digital champions

Library and Knowledge Services (LKS) at Nottinghamshire Healthcare sits within the Health Informatics (HIS) department. I’m fortunate that I am a member of the Senior HIS Management Team, which means I am strategically placed to advocate the skills and services of LKS within ICT. I realised that this had obviously worked when the Head of Digital Services (IT) asked if the LKS team would become Digital Champions for the Trust and support the role out of MS Teams across the whole Organisation during the pandemic.

If you have not come across this before, Digital Champions support digital inclusion through sharing their knowledge and experience to help others develop their digital skills. You don’t have to be an IT guru to be one, but what is important is being motivated to help others at their own pace, and most importantly admitting when you don’t know the answer but will find out!

As a member of the Digital Workplace Project Group, responsible for enabling our Trust to work more digitally, I knew the plan was always to roll out teams using a Digital Champion network within both clinical and non-clinical teams across our Organisation. However, COVID forced our hand. The roll out we had been planning was changed from months to days. The Teams pilot, which LKS had been part of, had to be upscaled to the whole Trust in record time.  The LKS team would become the Digital Champions for the entire Organisation to take the additional pressure away from our IT Support Service.

There was no remit of how this support should be delivered but COVID meant that we must deliver support virtually. A dedicated inbox was created to manage enquiries, although we also responded via telephone, MS Teams and email depending on the complexity of the enquiry, enquirers preference and the implied digital literacy level of the enquirer.  We applied the same level of customer service that we use in LKS to respond quickly and answer enquiries directly to keep the business of the Organisation moving.

Based on the frequently asked questions we were receiving we created an MS Teams support page hosted on our Intranet. We created short visual support materials and provided frequent updates to the ever changing functionally of Teams.  This enabled us to signpost to key guidance and encourage independent learning across the Trust. We began hosting weekly ‘Drop in Sessions’ to cover the basics of MS Teams, giving staff the opportunity to see demonstrations and ask questions, as well as providing sessions for individual teams if requested. Due to the success and high demand we now offer daily ‘Drop in Sessions’. We write communications for the daily Chief Executive staff bulletin and weekly Line Managers update highlighting any changes or new functionality and signposting to the help section if a query has been raised several times recently.  We created an MS Team consisting of the Digital Champions and IT Support Service to facilitate knowledge sharing and problem solving. We are now adopting a more strategic level approach to aid adoption across the Organisation by approaching Managers directly, gaining an understanding of their information needs and selling the benefits of using teams and suggesting appropriate tools they could use with their teams.

At project level I have been involved in all aspects of the rollout and decision-making process, including governance and permission settings. Our Microsoft partner recognised the importance of having a Knowledge Manager involved at this level and the enhanced benefits this can bring.  I have been able to argue for the functionality I believe the business needs, including the upgrade of Communities (Yammer), so we can pilot this tool for Communities of Practice. I am the critical friend representing the user point of view, constantly reminding that digital literacy skills vary across the Organisation, and one training style does not fit all. Personally, as a relatively new manager it has been a fantastic learning opportunity to be centrally involved in a project at such scale and to work so closely and learn from our Senior Project Manager.

We made the decision from the onset that we would be transparent about who the Digital Champions were to raise the profile of the library across the Organisation. This may have been considered risky, but I wanted to showcase to our Trust what LKS can do, and we may never have this type of opportunity again. Although I haven’t got any metrics to substantiate this, I believe this has been effective. We have had some fantastic feedback, and colleagues appreciate our swift response to queries and our excellent customer service. Our “can do” attitude has built stronger relationships within not only IT but also with other services across the Trust, where I’m hoping “from little acorns mighty oaks grow”.

Our involvement in Digital Champions will continue whilst the project group work to develop what the long-term support for MS Teams and wider O365 tools will look like for our Trust. In the short- term we are looking to knowledge share and offer further training to volunteers within local teams across the Trust to grow the Digital Champions Network further.

At the beginning we were all apprehensive about taking on this role and moving out of our ‘library comfort zone’, but we knew we had the skills to do this, even if we were still developing the knowledge. All of us have found Digital Champions hugely rewarding as well as challenging at times! Most importantly we can see the difference we are making supporting our colleagues to change their working practices to continue to deliver services in these difficult times.

Samantha Roberts
Head of Knowledge Services
Nottinghamshire Healthcare

Streamlining inter-lending and document supply 

In the NHS LKS community we have been pondering for years, if not decades, how we might streamline inter-lending and document supply processes, in order to:

  • make it quicker and easier for LKS staff to manage requests and source suppliers
  • make it quicker and easier and for end users to place and receive their requests
  • optimise use of NHS- purchased content and reduce the risk of paying external sources for articles which are in fact available within the NHS

In recent years, reciprocal inter-lending and document supply has extended to cover the whole of England. The INC scheme is a great example of working collaboratively across the country. However, the underpinning systems haven’t necessarily kept up. ILL staff have developed smart ways of working, but it can still be unnecessarily time-consuming to check different catalogues, copy and paste data from one system to another, or maintain holdings data and library user information in more than one place. The need to ensure compliance with copyright and data protection legislation adds to the complexity. The mechanics of requesting items are also different for end users across the country.

The arrival of the National Discovery Service and the plan to migrate towards fewer, regional library management systems presents an opportunity to review document requesting and supply workflows and consider what improvements may be made. Library services which have implemented local discovery systems report that this can increase demand for inter-lending and document supply services. We need sourcing and supply processes to be as efficient as possible to meet the demand and extend the reach of our services.

So, as the National Discovery Service and library management system work progresses, we will work with system suppliers and library staff to explore opportunities. Please look out for future requests for input from library staff willing to help us with considering workflows and test solutions. More news to follow in due course.

For more information on the National Discovery Service, have a look at the FAQs.

Jenny Toller, chair of the SINC Group which oversees the INC scheme

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