FAQs for library staff 

Q.  I would like to discuss with my local public library about running health information searching sessions with their staff but I’m not sure what areas to cover? 

A.  If you are networking with your local public and are offering joint training sessions why not consider covering the following:

  • Resources page: plenty of training materials you can use e.g. Going beyond Dr. Google, appraising websites etc. 
  • Signposting to health information that is easily accessible and aimed at the right level for the audience rather than using clinical databases and literature searching.
  • Your library could offer to do more complex literature searches when this occasion arises. 
  • At the bottom of the Useful links page is a list of good websites for signposting public to and then a List of open access websites for anyone wanting more detailed information. 
  • In particular you might be interested in Access to Research,it gives free, walk-in access to over 15 million academic articles in participating public libraries across the UK.

Public librarians may not be aware of this access to research and may not have the training to use this resource effectively, this could be an opportunity for helping them. 

Q.  Where I struggle with these partnerships is at the point when then information request to us from the public library turns into a literature search.

One free literature request per month I can cope with on top of our in-house requests but any more would be stretching us. 

A. You could discuss with your public library contact to get a feel for how often a complex query comes in before offering a level of support for these.

Evidence from several library services suggests this will happen less than once a month!

Another option to investigate public libraries could refer an individual to the health library to do their own research and they could have walk-in access to Open Athens perhaps, if that was set up in advance.

All options could be explored but all parties need to understand the limitations of capacity and be happy with the arrangements. 

Q. If a member of the public comes into the library with a health information query, how should I deal with the enquiry?

A. You should start by finding out what format and level of information they want.

Q. What are the types of things that our library can do to take part in Health Information Week (HIW)?

A. You can start by looking the information about Health Information Week and ideas from previous years and the Ideas Bank and you could consider: 

  • holding a pop-up library somewhere in your organisation 
  • contacting your local public library – they may have an event that you could join, or you can take this opportunity to suggest doing a joint event. E.g. run health information searching tutorials, promote the training resources 
  • contacting public health or health promotion staff and hold a health & well-being event for staff and public e.g.: smoking cessation, healthy eating etc. 
  • promoting reading groups or initiatives like Mood-boosting Books or Books on Prescription 
  • Joining in with the twitter campaign using #HIW2021 

Q. Do you have guidance on a digital service? I’m hoping to be able to email patients with links to patient information (from NHS website/ Patient UK etc.) but not sure about guidelines for using emails to patients. 

A. You would need to discuss this with your Trust and see what their guidance is. You could take it to Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or similar, but there might be a policy on your trust intranet. You can contact your Information Governance Team too. 

Q. Do you have any guidance on how to collate usage details of a patient enquiry service? I’m not sure what details we should and can collect in line with GDPR? 

A. It would be worth asking PALs as they collect patient enquiries and may be able to guide you in what information they collect.

Q. My library service cannot be accessed by the public because of its location, what can I do to support HLPI?

A. Support for HLPI does not have to mean opening your library to the public. Support can also be indirect – e.g. you can support other healthcare staff with health literacy and signposting. There are many examples in the Ideas Bank and the Types of Service on the HLPI website.