Another good thing about being a trainee here at the University of Essex is the enthusiasm shared by staff and students alike for learning and development. As part of our traineeship we have been provided with ample opportunities to visit various institutions and get a sense of what it is like to work within some of the widely different organisations that require the services of information professionals. As anyone who has read any of our previous posts will know we have visited a range of different libraries this year: the British Library, Colchester VI Form and the public library at Southend all spring to mind. This year marks the 70th birthday of the NHS, a much loved British institution that has played an important part in many lives. I can’t think of a more important service or an area where the ability to keep up-to-date with cutting edge trends in research and knowledge is more vital so I was very curious about what librarians get up to behind the scenes in a hospital environment.
Prior to our visit to Colchester Healthcare Library I was very much in the dark with regards to the activities and responsibilities undertaken by librarians in a medical setting. Obviously I was aware that doctors and nurses need to be able to find out information about a whole range of different illnesses and conditions in order to provide care for their patients but the precise activities involved were a mystery. Upon arrival at Colchester Healthcare Library we were greeted by warm and friendly staff with tea and biscuits (always much appreciated!) who were kind enough to answer all of our questions as well as show us around the library itself. Whilst being small in terms of its physical space the library operates on a 24 hour basis so staff and students are able to enter and leave the premises whenever necessary – it’s certainly true that hospitals never sleep. Thanks to the clear and comprehensive explanations of Victoria Petrakos, the Assistant Librarian, we were able to gain a valuable insight into the range of facilities and resources offered to those working on the frontline of patient care.
As well as offering some of the more expected services to the hospital (inter-library loans for articles and books as well as document delivery, training courses and printing/scanning) the library staff at Colchester Healthcare Library are proactively involved in conducting literature searches on behalf of staff and students looking to research specific conditions or treatments that are relevant to their patients. By offering training on the use of databases and search techniques as well as retrieving information themselves on a whole range of topics, library staff contribute towards the quality of service and healthcare experienced by patients using the hospital. I came away from our visit with a renewed appreciation for the relevance of librarian and information professionals in all sectors of our society.