On Saturday I attended #HASlibcamp, a health and science libraries ‘unconference’ hosted at City University. Alongside studying for an MA in Librarianship I’m currently working as an Information Officer at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) so when I heard about #HASlibcamp I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about health librarianship in other contexts. I was also lucky enough to win a travel bursary, sponsored by UKeiG, which enabled me to attend.

I was particularly intrigued by the unconference format, and it did not disappoint. At the start of the day anyone interested in leading a session had 30 seconds to pitch, and then conference programme is put together on the spot. This allowed for some spontaneous collaboration as some people pitching sessions on a similar topic or theme decided to combine their ideas into a single session during the pitching process.


The finished conference programme

Once the programme had been assembled we had a few minutes to gather around and decide which sessions to attend. Unlike most conferences there is no pressure to stay at a session until the end, you are free to switch sessions at anytime. 

The first session I chose to attend was on future docs and app swaps pitched by Lyn Robinson and Ka-Ming Pang. We talked about how users are simply unaware of how much personal data they are giving to health apps, and subsequently give little thought to the privacy or security of this data. This led us to consider our role as LIS professionals; we could advise users on which apps are ‘safe’, but equipping users with the skills to evaluate apps for themselves is far more valuable. Ka-Ming then told us about the app swaps she holds at St George’s, these events give staff and students the chance to talk about apps they use, or in some cases have developed. These events also allow staff and students who might not normally interact with each other to swap knowledge and experience.

It was really hard to choose which session to attend next! In the end I settled on the ebooks session, pitched by Frank Norman, where we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of ebooks, particularly in terms of how well they meet user needs. Our collective experience said that users often prefer physical copies of books yet libraries are, in some cases, choosing to only purchase ebooks. This led us to question what is driving the move toward ebooks; user needs/ demand, or space and financial considerations. We didn’t come up with any answers but it’s certainly a question worthy of further consideration.

Then it was time for lunch! Lunch was ‘crowdsourced’ – everyone brought along something to share which meant we ended up with a good (if rather eclectic) spread of food. I really enjoyed this aspect of the unconference format.

After lunch I went along to the online induction treasure hunt session led by Catherine Radbourne and Fiona Paterson from City University. Catherine and Fiona created a pirate themed online induction treasure hunt quiz for nursing students at City to introduce them to the library resources. Crucially the quiz got students using resources to answer questions relevant to nursing, ensuring students could see the relevance of what they were doing. After showing us their induction Catherine and Fiona put us into groups so we could have a go at creating an induction quiz. The group I was in came up with an A&E scenario where a patient had presented with an allergic reaction, and students had to use library resources to help diagnose and treat the patient. The activity we devised was by no means perfect (we only had 20 minutes!), but it’s certainly a good starting point.

Creating an induction quiz

This session led into a second session discussing online quiz based inductions, I stayed for the first 15 minutes or so but then decided to switch to the user needs session. I was thrown straight into a group discussion about how a billionaire might get his son to break up with a gold-digging girlfriend, without the son knowing he was involved(?!) – a conundrum intended to get us to think outside the box. This led onto a discussion about the necessity of information literacy skills to serving user needs.

During this final session I was really struck by how many of the conversations we had throughout the day came back to information literacy. The need to empower users to find and evaluate information for themselves was a recurring theme, and the value of these skills really must not be underestimated.

If you’d like to read more about the day then #HASlibcamp have created a handy list of write ups, it’s also worth having a look at #haslibcamp on Twitter. Thanks to the #HASlibcamp team for organising the event, #citylis for hosting, and UKeiG for sponsoring my travel bursary.

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