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Case study: The National electronic Library for Health (NeLH) Specialist Libraries. An example of a Community of Practice. What are Specialist Libraries?. Specialist Libraries (SLs) form part of the National electronic Library for Health (NeLH).

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Case study: The National electronic Library for Health (NeLH) Specialist Libraries

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Case study the national electronic library for health nelh specialist libraries

Case study: The National electronic Library for Health (NeLH) Specialist Libraries

An example of a Community of Practice


What are specialist libraries

What are Specialist Libraries?

  • Specialist Libraries (SLs) form part of the National electronic Library for Health (NeLH).

  • They are online information resources which “contain collections of clinical and non-clinical resources within specialty themes”.

  • The SLs share the aim of the NeLH: to provide health care professionals with the knowledge and know-how to support health related decisions (NeLH website)


Case study the national electronic library for health nelh specialist libraries

Cancer

Cardiovascular Diseases

Child Health

Clinical Genetics

Diabetes

Emergency Care

ENT & Audiology

Health Management

Learning Disabilities

Mental Health

Screening

Musculoskeletal Diseases

Oral Health

Respiratory

Skin Conditions

Women's Health

Health Informatics

Knowledge Management

Public Health

What are Specialist Libraries?In total there are 24 SLs which cover a wide range of medical and health related specialities. 19 of these are active and 5 are currently in development. For an example of the range of SL specialities, see the list of active SLs below:


Communities of practice

Communities of practice

  • As we saw yesterday, Communities of Practice (CoPs) can be defined as:

    “Networks of people who work on similar processes or in similar disciplines, and who come together to develop and share their knowledge in that field for the benefit of both themselves and their organisation(s). They may be created formally or informally, and they can interact online or in person.” (2)


Specialist libraries as a community of practice

Specialist Libraries as a Community of Practice

  • The SLs are a formally created CoP.

  • The CoP was formed by the NeLH because despite the differences in medical and health related information that each SL provides, the SLs use common technology and follow common guidelines and quality assessment criteria for the publication of information on the SLs.

  • Knowledge and good practice is shared in the CoP to ensure that those working on SLs are informed about SL related matters and to ensure that each SL provides information which is relevant, has a high standard of quality and has a high level of presentation.


Specialist libraries as a community of practice1

Specialist Libraries as a Community of Practice

  • The CoP is particularly useful for SLs that are in the development stage because they are provided with the facility to learn from the more established SLs.


Specialist libraries community of practice stakeholders

Specialist Libraries Community of Practice Stakeholders

There are five main groups that are involved in the SL CoP:

  • SL Information Specialists

  • SL Managers

  • SL Clinical Leads

  • The central NeLH Team

  • SL Reference Groups


Sl information specialists

SL Information Specialists

Role in the CoP:

  • The Information Specialists share knowledge and good practice with each other to aid their ‘day-to-day’ work on the Specialist Libraries.

  • The Information Specialists also share knowledge about issues encountered during their day-to-day work on the SLs with the entire CoP to aid the development of the SLs.


Sl managers

SL Managers

Role in the CoP:

  • The SL managers manage the SLs and oversee the work of the Information Specialists (Sometimes Information Specialists or Clinical Leads function as the SL Managers)

  • They regularly liaise with the senior managers within the central NeLH Team, the Clinical Leads and the Reference Groups in order to discuss SL developments


Sl clinical leads

SL Clinical Leads

Role in the CoP:

  • Each SL has a Clinical Lead who is an expert in the topic of the SL

  • The non-clinical SLs have Leads that are experts in the field of the SL speciality

  • The Leads share their knowledge with the SL Information Specialists and the SL Managers to advise on the content and the quality of the information that is inputted into the SLs

  • The Leads also liaise with the wider CoP members to discuss SL development issues


Central nelh team

Central NeLH Team

Role in the CoP:

  • The central NeLH team is made up of the SL senior managers and the SL Information Technology (IT) personnel.

  • The senior managers share knowledge with the CoP members to inform them about developmental and policy matters relating to the SLs.

  • The IT personnel share knowledge by providing help and guidance to the CoP members regarding the technological aspects of the SLs.


Sl reference groups

SL Reference Groups

Role in the CoP:

  • Each SL has a Reference Group which is made up of representatives from external organisations that are of relevance to the SL topic.

    The Reference Groups share knowledge to guide the development of the SLs by:

  • ensuring that the content of the SLs is responsive to the needs of users within the specification set out by the NeLH programme; and

  • encouraging creativity and innovation in the SLs.


Other cop stakeholders

Other CoP stakeholders

The five CoP groups that have been discussed are common to all of the SLs. However, some SLs have extra CoP members such as:

  • Editorial teams (advise on the content of the SLs)

  • Organisational groups (External organisations that are related to the topic of the SLs and work with the SLs in order to guide content so that the content meets user needs more effectively)


Knowledge sharing facilities

Knowledge sharing facilities

  • The members of the SL CoP meet regularly both online and face-to-face in order to learn and share knowledge.


Online knowledge sharing

Online knowledge sharing

  • In order to share knowledge online, the SLs utilise a knowledge sharing forum called the “NeLH SL Online Community” which is hosted by the ‘Smart Groups’ server

  • This forum is used by the Information Specialists, SL Managers, Clinical Leads and the NeLH central team.

  • The advantages of the online community are that as the SLs are spread throughout England, the online forum enables the SLs to share knowledge with each other easily and on a regular basis. In addition, as information is stored in the online community, the forum enables members to learn from the messages or queries and answers that have been previously posted by other members…


Nelh sl online community

NeLH SL Online Community


Online knowledge sharing1

Online knowledge sharing

The online community enables the relevant CoP members to:

  • Provide each other with information

  • Ask questions and receive answers about SL related matters


Online knowledge sharing2

Online knowledge sharing

Types of knowledge shared:

  • News and current awareness

  • Details of events

  • Minutes and presentations of SL meetings and conferences

  • Policy and guidelines

  • Tips and advice

  • Good practice

  • Reports of and solutions for SL technological issues


Face to face knowledge sharing

Face-to-face knowledge sharing

Face-to-face knowledge sharing takes place in a number of ways:

  • SL ‘working groups’

  • SL regional meetings

  • Annual SL meetings

  • Reference group meetings

    NB- Many of the face-to-face meetings also involve communication via the online community, email and telephone before and after the ‘physical’ meetings have taken place


Sl working groups

SL ‘working groups’

  • Small groups of SLs often meet and work together in order to test new or existing features and functions of the SLs (for e.g. navigation, searching functions, classification etc) in order to aid the development of the SLs

  • Their findings are reported via the online community and face-to-face at annual meetings


Sl regional meetings

SL regional meetings

  • As the 24 SLs are spread throughout England, it is difficult for them all to meet on a regular basis. Although the online community is beneficial for the sharing of knowledge, it is useful for the SLs to also meet ‘face-to-face’ to discuss SL related issues

  • Therefore, members such as SL Information Specialists, SL Managers and Clinical Leads from SLs that are located within the same region meet on a quarterly basis

  • Minutes from these meetings are recorded and sent to the SL senior managers within the central NeLH team. Any queries or questions contained in the minutes are then answered by the senior managers

  • Information of relevance to other SLs is made available on the online community


Annual sl meetings

Annual SL meetings

  • Two national annual SL conferences are held each year.

  • The first conference is held in July and the purpose of it is for the central NeLH Team to inform SL Information Specialists, SL Managers and SL Clinical Leads about current and future policy and technological developments regarding the SLs

  • The second conference is held in December and the purpose of it is to enable the central NeLH Team, the SL Information Specialists and the SL Managers to discuss issues relating to the ‘day to day’ work and the development of the SLs


Reference group meetings

Reference group meetings

  • SL Reference Groups meet the members of their SL (Clinical Leads, SL Managers, Information Specialists) and the central NeLH team once or twice a year.

  • During these meetings, ideas about new developments for the SLs are shared and those working on the SLs are able to gain valuable user feedback about the SLs from the external Reference Group members


Specialist libraries as a community of practice the background

Specialist Libraries as a Community of Practice: The background

  • The current SL CoP model is based on research findings from the “NeLH Communities of Practice Evaluation Report” which was conducted by Alison Yeoman, Christine Urquart and Susan Sharp by request of the NeLH in 2002 (3)


Specialist libraries as a community of practice the background1

Specialist Libraries as a Community of Practice: The background

  • At the time of the research, the SLs were still being piloted and were known under their former name, ‘Virtual Branch Libraries (VBLs)’.

  • Each of the VBLs had been created and developed individually and independently because they were not intended to be developed as CoPs (4).

  • However, the NeLH came to realise that despite their differing topics, the VBLs shared many commonalities (4)

  • The NeLH requested the research study to evaluate the effectiveness of the VBLs and to discover how the VBLs could collaborate as a CoP


Specialist libraries as a community of practice the background2

Specialist Libraries as a Community of Practice: The background

  • The research study was based on interviews that were carried out with the VBLs.

  • The researchers found that it was viable for VBLs to be utilised as a CoP and that all of the stakeholders (e.g. external organisational groups) involved with the SLs should be included in the CoP (3).

  • The NeLH went on to create the current SL CoP on the basis of this information when the VBLs were re-launched as SLs in November 2002.


Specialist libraries as a community of practice the background3

Specialist Libraries as a Community of Practice: The background

Other CoP improvements as a result of the “NeLH Communities of Practice Evaluation Report” (3):

  • In accordance with the study’s recommendations, in order to aid the creation of a CoP by ‘branding’ or unifying the VBLs, the format and design of the VBLs was standardised when they were re-launched as SLs (4)

  • As well as ‘branding’ the SLs, the technical infrastructure of the SLs was also standardised through the adoption of the Resource Management System (RMS) and the Central Management System (CMS) for all of the SLs.

  • This technical standardisation means that all of the SLs use the same technology to edit their sites and that the SLs can now be searched simultaneously using the National Library for Health (NLH) Single Search Environment (SSE) Function.

  • As recommended by the research study, to aid the creation of the CoP, a “quality standard” has been developed for the SLs. A number of guides and policy documents have now been created for the SLs which provide guidance and advice about the content and quality of information that is published in the SLs (4).


References

References

  • University of Leicester. 2002. A quick guide to the National electronic Library for Health. [Online] [Accessed July 2005]

  • NeLH Knowledge Management Specialist Library. 2005. NeLH Knowledge Management glossary [Online] [Accessed July 2005]

  • Alison Yeoman, Christine Urquhart and Susan Sharp. NeLH Communities of Practice Evaluation Report. University of Aberystwyth; 2002. [Online] [Accessed July 2005]

  • Alison Yeoman, Christine Urquhart and Susan Sharp. “Moving communities of practice forward: The challenge for the National electronic Library and its Virtual Branch Libraries”. Health Informatics Journal. Vol 9, No 4, December 2003; pp 241-251.


Resources

Resources

  • The National electronic Library for Health website.

  • The NeLH Specialist Libraries


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