Category Archives: Training

The Importance of Blogging

I recently attended the CILIP West Midlands Member Network Annual Member’s Day. The day’s speakers had a focus of marketing and promotion for Libraries, and it was actually really interesting, because the speakers kept repeating each other, especially about how blogging is the future of Social Media – if only because as a platform it will outlive everything else!

Because my notes for the day get a bit repetitive, I’m trying something new with my write up, so please bare with me! As a member of the organising committee for the event I didn’t take my notes during the day, but rather wrote a list of ‘takeaways’ that had stuck with me afterwards, which I have written up below. Both Neil Infield and Adam Koszary spoke on the subject of Social Media, Neil from a Small Business point of view and Adam from a Library Promotion point of view. Their sessions were generally very different from each other but I think this made it all the more interesting when they were stressing the same good practices. We also heard from Andy Ryan, who directs CityRead London who spoke about promotion from an events planning point of view, but again she repeated something Adam said about not being afraid to take risks, which again emphasised the importance of their point.

There was also a session from Nick Poole, Chief Executive at CILIP, but I want to write about this separately and will post a link here when I have published it.


Blogging is key – both Social Media speakers agreed on this point – it creates new and updated content for your website, as well as populating your various Social Media streams with regular content, which in turn helps drive traffic back to your website (and therefore to your business/service). Blogging platforms are also more secure long term than Social Media, Social Media platforms will come and go, but your website will remain (even if you end up changing service provider/blog platform etc)

Blog post titles should fully explain the article content (no mysterious riddles!) and all important points should be summarised in the first paragraph, for two reasons: 1) Google will include some of this in the search results so it will help inform readers why they should open your site, as well as meaning Google finds the relevant key words from the search term 2) skim readers won’t necessarily make it to the bottom of the page, make you point early and then back it up, rather than only making your point at the end of the page.

Good blog posts include images and are a suitable length for the audience (as a general rule, no longer than 500 words, but there are examples of longer posts working well, particularly in academia).

You need to clearly define your target audience and define what you want to achieve out of your social media channels.

Make use of Twitter’s trending topics to know what people are talking about – even if you use the subject on a different platform! Signing up for a Google+ page will also make your service more findable online, as Google includes these in search results! (Often worth having simply for this purpose, even if you don’t then populate it regularly)

Most Social Media platforms are image centric, as they are attention grabbing as users go through their feeds.

When using Twitter, make a point of engaging with your followers (the point of the platform is to have conversations!)

Two speakers both said “Don’t be afraid of taking risks!” (Adam and Andy) Marketing is iterative, you need to constantly evaluate what works and what doesn’t (and keep going/stop as appropriate) but you need to try new things as well as sticking with what has worked in the past. Don’t let fear of mistakes stop you – and it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn something from it!

For Andy, who spoke a lot about event promotion, a programme of events and marketing are intertwined: you can’t have one without the other.


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Project Management and Time Management Tips!

We had our annual Team Away Day today, a day away from our normal libraries/offices to get together and have a training session, and some group discussions (probably not coincidentally just before we decide the Delivery Plan for the next financial year!)

The main topic of discussion today was Project Management – the Library Manager is hoping to equip everyone with the skills to lead on a Delivery Plan project next year, not just the Librarians! We had a very interesting training session from a member of the IM&T Project Team, and we used some of our current projects as worked examples, which was particularly helpful as one of the projects was mine! Working in small groups we put together a list of tasks that were needed for the project, and it gave my colleagues a chance to ask questions about the process that I hadn’t thought ahead to yet (I have to have done a big bit of it by 31st March so I’ve been focussing on that rather than the whole picture, which meant I hadn’t planned certain parts of it yet!) I now have a plan of action for the whole project, and while my group didn’t get around to setting timescales for the tasks yet, it’s certainly been a big boost to the project for me, and it won’t take long to throw together a timeline/Gantt Chart for the project.

After lunch, we had a session by the Associate Director of IM&T about the Trusts proposed Digital Strategy which is something he’s been working on (and the library has done some literature searches for him toward it!) He also talked us through a SWOT analysis for the library service, but tied it back by saying ‘how can the digital strategy help this?’ because he would like to see us respond to the proposed strategy as a team, not just as individuals as he believes that the library could be central to some of what he wants to achieve with the policy (which he summed up with the phrase “digital by default”)

The technique for the SWOT analysis was interesting. We split into two groups (we had four people in each group, but it could be done in bigger groups too) and each group sat in a circle with our backs to each other. We had a pile of post-it’s each and spent ten minutes on each section of the SWOT analysis. What you do is you write an idea ie a strength on your post-it in five words or less and then pass it to the person on your right (we attached them, unsuccessfully,  to the chairs, but if you’re comfortable with each other you could place them on the next person’s leg!) The next person then adds to it in some way (again in five words or less) and then passes it along. If it triggers a new idea you start another post-it for it, so each post-it has a unique idea on it. You should end up with a few post-its going around! At the end of the ten minutes you get up and go to a bit of wall or desk and work to group the ideas together in themes. The theme phrases then go on the SWOT analysis, we used a flip chart. It was certainly interesting to see what themes emerged, and how often they came back to the same principle.

For the last few minutes we did an ideas exchange for time management tips. There were some very useful ones, which I’ll list below, but I would be interested to know what other tips people have (comments welcome!)
1) Breaking big To Do tasks into smaller tasks which are easier to cross off
2) We have  large shared folder for all of our documents, and one of the staff members has a folder on their desktop with shortcuts to their often used one (it saves trying to remember where it’s filed!)
3) Turning off email alerts to avoid distractions and tangents
4) Creating a To Finish list at the end of the day, so you haven’t got to try and remember the half finished stuff tomorrow morning
5) One staff member plans to undertake a Time Audit to find out where her time is going (which I might investigate!)
6) 1:3:5 To Do lists. Each day you do One big task, Three medium ones and Five small tasks.  For me as a Health Librarian that might be a Literature Search as a big/time consuming task. Three smaller, but not simple tasks such as a training session, some admin work or the spreadsheet I’m working on, and then five small tasks like sending a quick email enquiry,  or making a phone call.


Edited 24/02/2015 to correct some typos I would have spotted if I’d proof read the post before publishing!

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My thoughts on Augmented Reality

I read with interest Liz McGettigan’s CILIP Guest Blog about Augmented Reality.

It’s something I’ve dabbled in a little – I’ve been running a series of drop-in training sessions on things like Twitter, LinkedIn, Prezi and other online tools and services for the staff at the hospital. One of the sessions I ran was on Augmented Reality (AR). It wasn’t the most popular session – I’ve found that the ones with the best turn out were the ones that the staff could see an immediate use for (like the three listed above) but as a part of the AR session I ‘augmented’ our Library cards.

If you scan the card with the correct app (in this case Aurasma, but others are available!) you can see a screenshot of the Library Catalogue with annotations showing you how to log in and renew/reserve books online. It looks like this:

Screenshot of a Library Card when scanned with and Augmented Reality app

A screenshot of what you see when scanning a Shropshire Health Libraries Card with the Aurasma app

One I would like to do would be to ‘augment’ the Self Issue Machine with a video demonstration of how to use it. Being a hospital library we allow our users to access the library while it is unstaffed – and while our self issue machine does offer instructions, I think a video would be very useful. I haven’t had the time to invest in doing this unfortunately, and it’s not exactly a priority on my ‘To Do’ list!

I think the potential is limitless – especially in libraries. Liz’s example of the ‘Mythical Maze’ app as part of the summer reading program is well chosen: it made the library interactive and fun beyond just the traditional books and reading aspect. AR could even be fun for older library users, I’m sure my limited ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, and librarians are, amongst other things, a creative bunch!

The only downside I find with Augmented Reality is that you – and your users – are tied to a specific app. Unlike QR codes which have an ISO standard – which means that codes created by any program can be read by any scanner – scanning my augmented library cards with a different app won’t find anything. It means that if I did make an instruction video for our self issue machine I can’t just put a sticker on it saying ‘Scan me for a video tutorial’; it would have to read ‘Download and install the Aurasma app to scan me for a video tutorial’. Let’s face it: how many users are going to bother?

Of course with something like ‘Mythical Maze’ downloading the specific app is part of the fun, and to a certain extent part of the branding. Maybe all we need to do is use the same app – or maybe develop one ourselves and name it appropriately?

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Using Technology in Libraries Study Day

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to writing this up!

On the 28th April I attended the ‘Libraries for Nursing’ study day on Using Technology in Libraries. It was held at the Create Centre in Bristol which is a brilliant conference facility in a converted factory. I also bumped into two people I know from the NHS Midlands Regional Trainer’s Forum which was nice because we had a chance to chat and catch up, which also breaks the ice for others to jump in and join the conversation!

The first session was from Ben Skinner, Head of Library and Knowledge Services for Brighton and Sussex LKS. Ben was talking about the web-based tool he has helped develop called KnowledgeShare which is replacing the Library’s current awareness Access spreadsheet, but will eventually incorporate their Literature Searching facilities and ILL requests and log training and will include the ability for Library users to login online (using OpenAthens to save having even more passwords) to request these services and edit current awareness alerts directly. Because all of these services are centralised it means Librarians will have greater access to statistics, not just for time spent literature searching and training, but also for the number of current awareness emails sent – and hopefully in the future to be able to see how many of these were opened and which links were followed.

It was very interesting, particularly how they are branching out to include other library services, partly to recover costs of development, but also to help spread out the workload of uploading new articles for the current awareness features (in a ‘do once and share’ way). However I have to confess a little part of me wants to know how his current awareness Access Database worked!

Ben’s presentations can be found at

Patricia Santos, Research Assistant at UWE, then talked about their involvement with  the ‘Learning Layers’ research project, trying to find out more about Healthcare staff research and learning network needs (Such as how people move from their personal learning network to asking within their shared learning networks). It was very interesting, but of no direct interest to me: The focus groups have already been selected so we can’t participate and add to their knowledge and the results seem to be directed to developing a social network for personal development; which is still some years away (they are 18 months into a 4 year project) although a trial version is available at

Patricia’s Presentation can be found at

After a delicious lunch Georgina Parsons, Systems Librarian at Brunel University, then talked about how her library service has embraced web technology to benefit staff and students. This is not just limited to Social media marketing, but also to the staff’s use of iPads and related apps to assist in enquiries when roving and at the enquiry desk. Georgina took us through all of the apps and websites that they have used some of which I already use in work, such as Twitter and Facebook, where it was nice to see other suggestions for use, and others which I might consider such as Pinterest for sharing new books stock and general online promotion of the library and Chilli Fresh which Georgina uses to add reviews and ratings to the library catalogue. Some were tools she had used to develop their mobile friendly website – which wouldn’t be applicable to my Library Service as we recently transferred our website to a WordPress CMS which includes a mobile friendly version – or for Room Bookings etc which again isn’t relevant to my library service, but it was still good to see what is available for libraries.

Georgina’s presentation is available from

Nick Gregory from Apache Solutions came to demo their Augmented Reality projects – which was of definite interest to me as a technophile! They showed us some 3d explorable models used for selling yachts at a trade fair and one that was used by Sony to sell televisions – and twos medical one used for discussing infection and for exploring a 3d anatomy model.

It would have been nice to see some library/ library applicable examples of these – I used the break to show some people the one I’d done with our Library cards to show users how to login online and renew books and talked about my plans to create a video to show users how to use our new self service machine – which was of far more interest to the library staff as it was something they could see a use for and it was something they could potentially do themselves.

Nick’s presentation is available from

Following this we had a discussion Workshop so that we could discuss and troubleshoot each other’s experiences and problems with using technology in our library services. I didn’t take any notes from the discussion so I can’t remember which topics we touched, but it was a good way to end the day, especially how we were all still brimming with ideas!

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NHS Midlands Regional Trainer’s Forum

I haven’t had much time to blog recently, so I’m only now getting round to writing up my notes from this year’s annual Regional Trainer’s Forum (RTF) conference in October. During the year we mostly communicate by email – sharing anything relevant, but our annual conference is a chance to get together and actually talk to each other face to face!

We started as always with the Chair’s Annual Report which summarized the year, including our merger early in the year between the West Midlands RTF and the East Midlands – and our subsequent rebrand as the NHS Midlands Regional Trainer’s Forum. We then had an overview of how changes within the NHS organisation had impacted the group – more indirectly, but it’s nice to have it summarized for us!

We then had an overview of progress from the various project groups we have running. Some are making excellent progress, one group has even won a innovation award for their project*, and some have unfortunately stalled for one reason or another, either because of group members moving out of the area or like the project group I’m working with from technical issues in the implementation!

Then we had a half an hour presentation from Blackwell’s about their eBook platform – it was very interesting to see what they offer, but I don’t have any say in purchasing for my library so it wasn’t really relevant to me, but I know that in the room I was an exception in this regard. After lunch, provided by Blackwell’s, and some networking (read: had a nice chat and a look round the health library!) we then split up for the afternoon sessions.

I attended a session on using Open Source software – which was really interesting. the Softaculous software we were shown looks really easy to use and provided the Stafford PGMC library with lots of options, including a blog and FAQ section, which had previously been almost impossible to implement. I have to say, that if my library service hadn’t recently made the switch from our Trust’s software to the WordPress interface I would be passing this information to my boss – as it stands we can do everything we want with WordPress, but I’ll be keeping my notes handy in case we ever want to look at other options, or want more features on our website!

Overall, it was a really good day – I got to talk to a few colleagues I don’t see regularly; learnt about some new software (the techy in me loves this!) and I got to have a nosey around someone else’s library! Not a lot you can against that really is there!

*I distinctly remember this being on someone’s slides, but apparently didn’t make a note of whose in order to cite it, sorry!

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Critical Appraisal Training

In my years as a Health Librarian no subject has struck fear into the hearts of colleagues and library users alike than Critical Appraisal! (For those of you who don’t know Critical Appraisal is reading a Journal article critically to decide whether the article, or more particularly the research it describes, are of value both generally to the relevant field of medicine and to you in particular).

Last week (it’s been a busy few weeks it’s taken me until now to get around to writing about it!) I went on a Librarian’s Training Day on the subject of Critical Appraisal. Because I’m relatively new to my training role I have no previous experience of Critical Appraisal, either teaching it or using it. For my Masters dissertation I was looking for Case Studies and Editorials so ‘academic’ value wasn’t something I appraised articles for! My colleagues who attended with me were all rather nervous of the subject, but most admit they don’t use their Critical Appraisal skills very often and are therefore out of practice. So I was a bit nervous about what to expect!

The tutor, Michelle Maden from Edge Hill University, was fantastic! She knew that most of us were a bit nervous so she started us with the scary bit first – the dreaded statistics! When the article authors are talking about trials they present lots of figures to back up there findings, so in order to appraise an article (or trial) you need to be able to understand the principles of what these figures are saying. There were a few figures which Michelle pointed out we don’t have to know how it’s calculated, we just have to know how to read it (and they are typically compared to something so you just have to know what you’re comparing it to!)

Michelle took us through it all in very easy steps (if anyone is interested in me writing a summary article of Critical Appraisal, let me know and I will!) The main thing I took out from the session though is that the session was repeatable. If someone were to ask me for Critical Appraisal Training I wouldn’t be afraid to have a go or to try and answer a question. Don’t get me wrong the first time I teach a Critical Appraisal session I’ll want my Line Manager there as back up, but I’m no longer scared to give it a go, because now I know what I’m talking about!!

The day also gave me a chance to have a nosey round someone else’s library (Stafford Hospital) which I love doing and although I didn’t get a chance to take pictures this time, I did get a great idea for bookmarks with QR Codes on them to direct people to the NICE and BNF smartphone apps!

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Twitter and QR Codes

Ooops! I wrote this a month ago and never actually pressed ‘Publish’!

Earlier this week I ran an in-house training session on Twitter and QR codes as part of our Library Assistant’s Training Day – I was kind of excited; this was the first time I’ve attended as a presenter, not trainee!

We ran the sessions as short 15 minutes taster sessions on a variety of topics, which also included augmented reality – using Aurasma – Prezi, LibraryThing, Pinterest and Flickr.  I only really covered the basics, but for most of the library assistants this was ideal; many had never used Twitter before and most were only vaguely familiar with QR codes, some that had seen them in the library didn’t know how easy they are to create!


We planned some practical demonstrations of Twitter on the day – using the #shelibmobile hashtag. This has the added benefit that I could use it to demonstrate the search function – it helped that two of the librarians who weren’t attending (covering the libraries) were tweeting (despite one trying to claim he was rushed off his feet within minutes of me spotting a tweet from him!). I would have liked to have demonstrated a  Twitter Wall like the one I saw at the CILIP WM day in Feb, but for the number of Tweets we sent it wasn’t necessary – maybe that’s something to build on for a future training event?

We mostly use Twitter for marketing/promotion – I’m curious as to how other Libraries (particularly Health Libraries) use Twitter although I know potential uses include:

  • Marketing/Promotion
  • conversations with users – not just problem-solving/troubleshooting!
  • conversations with stakeholders and other local libraries

QR Codes

I wanted to show off the versatility of QR Codes, so I put together some examples of different uses:

  • Contact details on library bookmarks – inspired by embedded vCard information on business cards
  • Links to a feedback page on our website – inspired by a card I picked up in a Burton Menswear shop!
  • Links to library website on posters, particularly shortcuts to searches on the catalogue
  • I’ve seen articles online about using QR Codes for treasure trails in libraries which I mentioned, but wasn’t able to provide a demonstration for
  • I’ve seen them used in the Herbert Museum, Coventry to provide more information about a piece of artwork

Is there any other way you or your library is using Twitter and/or QR Codes? I would love to hear about it, either in the comments below or on Twitter @LBasini

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