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

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