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 https://library.nhs.uk/website 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:

https://www.somerset.gov.uk/libraries-leisure-and-communities/libraries/library-facilities/e-books-e-magazines-and-e-audiobooks/

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

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