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Championing evidenced-based librarianship and the North of England

19 February 2019   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Rob Mackinlay

Championing evidenced-based librarianship and the North of England

Last year’s President, Ayub Khan, wrote about his thinking, experiences and passions in this column, and I hope to continue in the same way through 2019. Following Ayub’s fantastic year will be a challenge; he put his energy into so many areas, in particular his international theme.

Our new Vice President, Judy Broady-Preston and I have already started on our working relationship with a “get to know you” phone call and an agreement that we will try to share out this year’s workload; the opportunities to speak, the services to visit and the desire to meet as many of you as possible. The Presidential team is the voice of CILIP’s membership; we don’t “run CILIP”. That’s the job of the Board, the Chief Executive and his team of employed staff. The Presidential team attends Board meetings, contributes to discussions and raises matters from members. We also travel the length and breadth of the UK meeting members, acting as a conduit between all of you working in library and information services and CILIP’s strategic and executive functions.

From early days in health

So, a bit about my early career: unlike Ayub, I was never a Saturday assistant in a public library. I started in 1978 as a library assistant at the University of Birmingham’s Barnes Medical Library, giving my future career its health basis. I then did the postgraduate diploma in librarianship at the City of Birmingham Polytechnic and the same year, 1981, joined the former Library Association (LA). Qualifying in recession-hit 1982, I discovered there were no jobs anywhere. I remember the LA’s Vacancies Supplement being a single sheet of A4 paper with no more than 10 or so jobs in it. Not an easy time. I was unemployed for nearly a year, trying to make the best of my time in voluntary work – more of that in another column. Finally, securing a maternity leave post, I joined Bilston College of Further Education as Deputy Librarian and 12 months later moved to Greenwich and Bexley School of Nursing, as Library Manager. Both posts provided me with great experience of managing staff, resources and designing services to meet customer needs – and both would provide pages of examples of “mistakes I made”. Thirty five years later I have had a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding career in health libraries, almost all of it in the NHS, and all of it in England. During that career I have always been someone who pops his hand up to volunteer; as a committee member, as a part of a project team, as secretary, as treasurer or as chair. This has always provided an extra dimension to the day job and I believe it is an essential part of being a qualified, professional librarian.

Evidence-based librarianship

Being your President for 2019 is an honour beyond anything I ever imagined as a library assistant in 1978. Like all recent Presidents, I have a theme for the year, in fact I have two. Firstly, I want to highlight the need for a powerful, co-ordinated approach to building the evidence base for what we all do. The health sector has long believed that all aspects of health care should be evidence-based. It did not take long for health librarians (in the USA, Canada and the UK) to pick up this theme and begin the “evidence based librarianship” (EBL) movement. I attended the very first EBL conference in Sheffield in 2001 and I am delighted to be giving a key note address at the EBL conference in Glasgow later this year.

Power up North

My second theme is “the North of England”. Living and working in the North for the last 20 years, I know that there are great people working in our sector and I want to showcase and celebrate them and their work. I have written to the Chairs of CILIP’s regional member networks and to the sub-regional groups of Libraries Connected and Sconul so I can meet them and find ways of making this real over the next 12 months. Research and the North are big enough themes in their own right but there will be much more this year. Brexit, a new long-term plan for the NHS, the future of local government and public libraries. There is always more to do. I’m looking forward to a busy year! IP

Contributor: David Stewart, Regional Director, Library and Knowledge Services for the North HEE, and

Published:February 19 2019

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Simonetta M. Taylor says...
Posted 11 April 2019
Enjoyed your energetic presentation yesterday at CILIP South West AGM.
Francesca Emmett says...
Posted 25 February 2019
Excellent introduction David! I'm based in the North West - keen on sharing your passion to showcase and celebrate information and knowledge professionals. All the best, Francesca Emmett

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