Specialist Librarians Study Day

Know your worth….

…this was the message taken away by around 50 librarians from the Specialist Librarians Study Day held in London on 12th March 2019. Funded by Health Education England the day saw a variety of elements intended to provide attendees with a set of tools and tips to help manage some of the emotional aspects of working as a librarian in healthcare.

Emotional impact

Understanding and coping with the emotional impact of working as a librarian within healthcare was a recurring theme for the day. A sample Schwartz round led by June White allowed participants to share stories of difficult and uplifting experiences in a safe setting, and provided further areas for further thought about how to manage what can be traumatic aspects of our role. Effective support mechanisms, and the need for an outlet (such as Schwartz Rounds) for the sometimes emotionally hard hitting aspects of our roles was highlighted.

This was further explored during Amanda Stearn’s hour long exploration of tools to promote emotional resilience. Pulling together tools from the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) based Penn Resilience Programme, we were taken on a whistle stop tour of six strategies to build resilience including the intriguing concept of active hope. Unfortunately the looming spectre of our excellent lunch meant that there was no time for more than an overview of the strategies, and perhaps time to explore one or two of the techniques in more detail would have enhanced this part of the day. It’s a wellworn expression, but from both of these sessions I took away the assertion that “I am enough”.

Who are you and why are you here?

The second clear theme of the day for this attendee was that of answering the question oft posed to librarians- “Who are you and why are you here?” with a panel of four librarians sharing their ways of answering the question, Pip Divall leading a workload prioritising discussion, and Jo Walley encouraging attendees to develop and deliver elevator pitches.

The panel of librarians in embedded roles (Lisa Burscheidt, Tom Kelly, Erica Rae, and Kevin Burgoyne) was, for this new Clinical Librarian, reassuring. Reassuring to learn that even experienced embedded librarians recognise the issues of advocating for the benefits librarians bring in healthcare settings. Key learning points were around developing relationships with clinicians, recognising and developing library champions, focussing on what we can do for them and then delivering, and (my favourite) knowing your worth.

Pip Divall’s section of the programme focussed on prioritising your workload, taking a different spin on this most difficult of areas. Presenting us with a series of scenarios from her own experience, we were invited to discuss how we might have responded to the specific demands set out. Again, I took away the need to know your worth as a librarian, to value your contribution and be able to articulate that in your workplace.

The final part of the day was devoted to developing an elevator pitch. This was a natural culmination to the day’s topics, as Jo Walley asked us to focus on our unique contribution to our workplace and how we embed it into practice. We each developed a pitch and delivered it to someone we’d not met before, also giving and receiving feedback. This felt like a tangible solution to the problem of “Who are you and why are you here?” Having a considered, practised, and (very importantly) brief answer to this question is a means of enhancing confidence in advocating for the contributing we’re able to make to healthcare.

Summing up the day, I’d describe it as an empowering experience, reassuring and challenging in equal measures, with enough take away messages and actions to keep me moving forward for quite a while. I am enough, and I know my worth!

Lisa Mason
Clinical Librarian
William Harvey Library
George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust

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