Thing 20: Library routes/roots

5 11 2012

As a Clinical Librarian in the NHS, I work alongside doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to provide access to the best research evidence to support their work.  I absolutely LOVE my job and I have learned so much since starting in this role in 2008.

Libraries have always existed in my consciousness; from an early age our family routine on a Saturday was swimming then a trip to the local public library.  However, working in public libraries never really appealed to me.  Into my third year of an English Literature degree at Lancaster University I still had no idea what my future career would entail.  I did know, however, that I wanted to work in a profession that helped people, and I wanted to do something that made a difference. 

A significant moment in my library ‘calling’ was walking through Lancaster University library (in which I’d spent a lot of time during my degree) and commenting to a friend, “You know what? I’d really love to work in a library”.  I’m sure a lot of people have similar fantasies (there’s certainly something inspiring about being surrounded by all that knowledge), but it planted a seed in my head that didn’t go away.  Soon after, during a visit to the careers service, I found out more about the wide range of information professional roles that exist.  I am naturally organised, enjoy working with people and love finding the answers to difficult questions, so I guess I also had librarian tendencies that have always been part of my character!  It seemed that my future career had revealed itself at last.

I qualified as a librarian in 2004 but had limited practical experience.  While still living at home and applying for any ‘information’ jobs going, I came across an advert for a part time Library Assistant in my local hospital.  I didn’t even know that health libraries existed!  I got the job, and progressed to my first professional Librarian post.  Four years later I was successful in applying for the Clinical Librarian post, and bagged my dream job. 

A large part of my role is to find the clinical evidence to answer healthcare questions, such as, “Is drug x more effective than drug y?” and “What is the best treatment for patients presenting with x condition?”.  I also train healthcare staff in searching for the answers themselves.  I attend ward rounds alongside doctors and help them to find information to treat patients in the best way.  I support staff who are studying to further their careers, and I’m branching out into supporting business and management decision-making within the organisation.

I am still working in the same library service and I’m still only 4 miles from home.  I had expected my career to take me further afield, but now I have a home and family of my own it couldn’t have worked out any better for me.  I feel fortunate that I have a job that allows me to fulfil my original career aims.  I get to help and support healthcare professionals in finding the information that they need to look after patients.  And I get paid to do it!  There’s no better feedback than a customer telling me that information that I provided helped them to improve patient care.  Its a role that continues to challenge me.  No day is the same, and while it can be pressurised it is wholly rewarding. 

If anyone wants to find out more about working as a Clinical Librarian in the NHS, you might be interested in watching this film that I made earlier this year to explain my role.