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To fine or not to fine? That is the question…

In the SWIMS Network we’ve recently put fining for overdue items under the spotlight.  We’ve been looking into whether SWIMS Network library services charge fines or not, and their reasons, and also trends in library fining generally. 

 Here’s why we did that, and what we found out. 

 In March 2020 we went live with replacement regional library management system. A new system needs a lot of configuration, and with limited capacity available we need to decide priorities for the work.  Most of the configuration work benefits all library staff and end users, and so this is our highest prioritybut some libraries request local configuration requirements.  One of these is management of fines, as a small number of our libraries charge fines for overdue items. 

 It became clear that configuring the system for fines management would require a fair amount of work, which prompted us to review library fining generally.  We carried out a survey of our 29 library services.  How many libraries charge fines?  What are their reasons?  Have any stopped recently, and if so have they noticed any consequences?  We also looked at literature reviews on the subject. 

 A literature review carried out for the BASE Patch1 in the West Midlands in 2019 didn’t find any particular trend in health libraries; however it did reveal a trend away from charging fines in both public and higher education libraries 

 An update to that review carried out by the Health Education England Knowledge Management team in 20202 confirmed this trend away from library finingThe review summarised a number of arguments in the literature for not charging fines: 

  • they are discriminatory from a socioeconomic angle 
  • they are unnecessary membership barriersand  
  • they are bad for reputational risk especially if seen as income generation (even if there is re-investment in resources).  

The review concluded that it is hard to see a case for them.  

 These arguments were also reflected in the results of a 2020 survey of libraries in the SWIMS Network.  Reasons not to fine or to stop fining also included: 

  • they can jeopardizcustomer relations and staff can feel uncomfortable imposing them  
  • they incur administrative burden and cost including of having a cash register 
  • they may deter people accessing resources they need  
  • they may be seen as some kind of fee to use the service so actually encourage users to keep items longer 
  • they may not be in line with trust guidelines 
  • with increasing use of cashless payments – especially in light of coronavirus – there is a barrier to collection for libraries without the necessary technology 

 Reasons to fine included: 

  • they encourage people to return their books in good time so that they circulate 
  • they generate some income 
  • historical reasons (unspecified! 

 Both libraries which fine and those which don’t mentioned the need to consider alignment with other services in the locality, including higher education libraries. However, a further consideration with regionally-shared NHS library managements system like ours – which enable users to easily move between library services as they move between employers – is the administrative complexity involved where users with outstanding fines move to libraries which don’t fine. 

 Neither the literature reviewnor the survey provided any concrete evidence for the benefits of fining, either on stock circulation or user relations.  In terms of impact on stopping fining, one comment from the SWIMS Network survey stands out: 

 “Along with letting people eat in the library, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done 

 We would be interested to know if colleagues in different parts of the country have differing views on this question! 

 Jenny Toller 

Library and Knowledge Services Development Manager, South West and South East (Thames Valley and Wessex) 


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

KfH blog celebrating key milestones and success

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Søren Kierkegaard

As we come to end of 2020 and look forward to a new year of opportunities, building on the great work already done, it is a good time to reflect on all that has been achieved in the health literacy and patient information workstream since 2016.

In our first blog posting, Carol-Ann Regan and Natasha Howard described how approaching senior stakeholders in their Trusts had led to the development of work to support patient information.

Those initial conversations led to the development of a toolkit of ideas to help us all to make the case and understand the drivers for librarians and knowledge specialists to support patient information. Good practice was also shared in the Ideas Bank. Different ways of supporting patient information were identified, from providing evidence for patient information leaflets, signposting information accessible to all and training volunteers and healthcare professionals to find quality, evidence-based information online.

Although we have a key role in supporting patient information, partnership working with other information providers, healthcare professionals and organisations is needed. In 2018/19, a group taking the Health Education England funded CILIP Leadership Development Programme formed a Health Information Team. With representatives from Trusts, NICE, Public Health England and the voluntary sector, they worked together to develop a regional initiative called Health Information Week into a national one.

Different health information teams have worked to support us and in 2020 our “do once and share” approach saw a new logo and branding, poster templates, and a social media toolkit – quick and easy ways to enable us all to participate. Health Information Week in July is now part of our yearly calendars.

In 2018, we began to prioritise raising awareness of the importance of Health literacy amongst the healthcare workforce, enabling them to recognise the impact that low health literacy has for patients, carers and our healthcare system. The key statistics show 43% adults aged 16-65 do not understand words-based health information sufficiently well to act on it; when numbers are added, 61% adults aged 16-65 do not understand. Truly shocking statistics which have implications for both individuals and the health system. Health literacy month in October is also a fixture in our calendar each year and exciting things are planned in the next 5 years

Our lives have changed hugely since the start of 2020. Reflecting on the changes, participants in the HEE funded Senior Leadership Development programme described how Health hasn’t been just the primary concern for health and care professionals or those individuals with health conditions, it has been the predominant topic for everybody globally.” This blog encourages us all to share examples where we have supported patients and healthcare professionals during the pandemic.

Our key role to support patients and colleagues to be health literate, to make best use of health information and the health service, is even more pressing. The shortlisting of the coronavirus resources site for an HSJ award is amazing

Alongside our roles in health literacy and patient information, we have also been proactive in providing resources to support the health and wellbeing of all: an ever-growing and ever-more important resource. Look out for further news in 2021.

There is a huge amount to celebrate and be proud of as we have adapted, upskilled, and collaborated. If you want to know more please contact Ruth Carlyle or Sue Robertson.