The Embedded Public Health Librarian: A Case Study

The role of the ‘librarian’ (Public Health Evidence and Knowledge Specialist) is embedded within the Bolton Public Health Team as a core member of the Public Health Intelligence Team (PHIT). This approach to Library & Knowledge Services (LKS) provides value to the organisation as public health (alongside public health partners and stakeholders) have direct access to the services that support professional practice, without the traditional costs and issues that go with a LKS – such as a physical space, stock development, staff cover etc. Although this may not be preferable to all services to some, we know this is the best way forward for us.

As part of PHIT, core library and knowledge services (information consultancy/literature searches, document supply, current awareness/horizon scanning, information skills development & Knowledge Management) are provided as part of the wider Public Health Intelligence Team offer: the fundamentals of evidence-based public health work – Intelligence, Research, Evidence and Evaluation. In this particular case, the other members of the PHIT are so well thought of and established as key intelligence providers, it has allowed the librarian an excellent platform to physically join the team (having been part of the team for years – albeit based off-site within the library). The librarian can now provide the services the wider public health team (inclusive of commissioner linked to public health) uses yet become more holistically involved in the work of said public health team and especially the PHIT as the work emerges, which in turns provides this new work with a solid foundation from the evidence base. Examples of these work-streams include:

  • Cross-organisational work on the anti-poverty agenda including:
    • housing poverty
    • food poverty
    • financial inclusion
  • Perinatal wellbeing & service delivery
  • ‘Staying Well’ evidence base
  • Work on the wider public sector reform/health & social care integration
  • Support in Health Impact Assessment, Health Needs Assessments etc.

The development of this embedded role also allows the continuation of an important aspect of public health librarianship – the “personalisation of evidence”. That is to ensure that the information and evidence shared with the wider public health team is relevant to their current work, remit and interests rather than in a generic field. Although this is particular relevant in the sharing of current awareness it is also linked to searches or information consultancy. It is not a case of presenting *all* the information on a given topic, for example weight management; rather that information that is relevant to the needs of the individual such as the obesogenic environment or perinatal interventions etc. It is important to note that this should be done proactively, not upon request. Find out what people are working on and support that. This may not viable when in a traditional library setting as often there is no way to either access the individuals to the level an embedded librarian can or the time to provide this level of service. As an embedded librarian, it isn’t outreach librarian work, it isn’t clinical librarian work – it’s talking to and supporting a colleague. And the librarian role is a supporting one. It is also at its core, knowledge sharing.

Within Bolton, the Public Health Evidence and Knowledge Specialist also plays a role within the JSNA, not only in the development, maintenance and management of the website – but also ensuring that the work stemming from it is supported from an evidence perspective. However in Bolton, the role is not restricted to that of *just* a librarian, it also includes:

  • Leading on departmental social media and wider marketing approach
  • Leading on Web presence integration within new organisation
  • Regional LKS work to provide best practice & value to the service
  • Health Promotion Resource Service development
  • Project Management of departmental wider health promotion based projects
  • Ad-hoc support to public health projects

What a Public Health Librarian Can Do:

  • Support professional practice. Not just books!
  • Directly support the commissioning process
  • Personalisation of current awareness, horizon scanning and more!
  • Searches: literature searches & information consultancies– with the focus becoming increasingly on innovative practice and best practice as a collaboration with traditional evidence & guidance
  • Information & knowledge management
  • Information skills development (ad-hoc rather than formal)
  • Provide evidence alongside PHI provision of intelligence, research and evaluation
  • Much, much more!

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