12 Apr 2013

Visible Evidence: HSLG Annual Conference, 11-12th April 2013

I was fortunate enough to make this year's HSLG conference as both an attendee and a presenter, and the theme of the conference - Visible Evidence - was both timely and inspirational. Following last year's focus on the findings of the SHELLI report, this year the emphasis shifted towards implementation and the logistics of putting the recommendations into practice.

The keynote from Jean Shipman set the tone for the first day, by showcasing some of the innovative projects and roles that the library in the University of Utah has adopted in recent years. Increasingly, books and journals are being removed in order to free up physical space for collaboration, reflecting the Library's emerging role centred on organising people rather than collecting resources. Anne Murphy and Aoife Lawton from the HSLG's SHELLI Working Group (I'll disclose my membership conflict of interest here :)) brought us up to speed regarding the recommendations and actions for establishing a body of evidence, developing staff and services, and identifying champions.

The variety of presentations over the two days articulated the breadth of roles within health science librarianship, from upskilling in an academic library context (Donna Ó Doibhlin, UL), strategic planning as a solo librarian (Laura Rooney Ferris, IHF) and the practicalities of designing promotional brochures (Niamh O'Sullivan, IBTS). It drove home the point that as an LIS professional working in HS, you can potentially take the role in several different directions, drawing out the aspects you see as key services for your users now and in the future. At the same time, we have a real responsibility to ensure our services are both informed and driven by high quality and meaningful evidence.

Publishing and disseminating our own research can also play a part in increasing our visibility both inside and outside our institution, and Friday morning's session provided an opportunity to hear from three librarians as authors (including myself). No doubt others will be inspired to think about how we can communicate our evidence-base to others from Joanne Callanan's bibliotherapy study and Greg Sheaf's report on integrating and evaluating information literacy instruction for midwifery students. Greg's presentation was a personal highlight, as I am always looking for interesting ways to measure the impact of our services, and analysing search histories from Firefox is an excellent idea I may be borrowing in the future!

It was particularly refreshing to get the input of non-LIS professionals also, including Dr Declan McKeown, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Dr Ian Callanan, Clinical Audit Co‐Ordinator in SVHG. Both presentations served as a reminder to us that we do not work alone and can only continue to deliver and improve our services by collaborating and working with others. Over the two days, the real take home point for me was that each and every one of us has a role to play in both influencing and determining the future of health science libraries in Ireland. Staying the same is simply not an option, and it is up to all of us to reshape our services to drive this change. The snapshots from the presenters showed some great projects and initiatives that are already underway. However, the challenge remains to build on this platform and sustain these efforts in the face of an uncertain future for health libraries.


  1. Good concise synopsis and insight Michelle. I agree completely with your take home point. I think we are an active and vibrant group, we just need to work on getting our case studies and evidence visible to the broader health professionals - beyond librarians - into the medical/nursing/allied health and of course - managerial spheres. I enjoyed the input of the non-librarians and I think this is the way forward for future conferences. We can't and don't work in information silos...

  2. Thanks for the comment - agree completely! We need to continue to integrate ourselves within our disciplines as much as possible and become as embedded as we can.