CILIP Visit to Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection – two reports

Jayne Cardew, Senior Library and Information Assistant at Falmouth Library and Falmouth Information Service describes her visit to the Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection at Derriford Hospital:

“As a recently joined member of CILIP and recently enrolled candidate for Chartership this was my first foray into visiting a completely different setting to the public library I work in. After nervously booking the visit I was relieved when the day arrived and having caught the train to Plymouth successfully met up with my lift to Derriford Hospital’s Discovery Library where the collection is held.

The first part of our visit to the historic collection was a comprehensive introduction to how the Discovery Library came to be in its current home, the trials and tribulations of fund raising and the innovative way that the library itself was designed using local designers and artists.

The next part of the visit was about the collection itself and how the Plymouth Medical Society founded in 1794 by a group of local physicians bought texts that they shared between themselves to develop their knowledge and skills, medical text books being very expensive at the time. Most of the books are from the 19th century but it does include earlier works pre-dating the society

Predating the ever increasingly used Google as a source of information the books included diagrams and plates containing the most fabulously detailed drawings of the body beneath the skin.  One of the most interesting, from a local point of view, was the fact that Edward Jenner was introduced to the word “vaccination” by local doctor Richard Dudding, while Jenner himself was working on a cure for smallpox.

Though there were only 4 of us making the visit the added benefit was talking to other librarians working in different settings having reached their roles via different routes. On the whole a most enjoyable and educational visit.”

Chris Gower from Exeter College also reports on the day:

“I had the pleasure of visiting The Discovery Library at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and the Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection that is housed there with CILIP South West on the 9th February.

We had two really informative talks from Sarah Johns, Library Manager and Tom Arnold, one of the seniors who looks after the collection before getting to meet some items from their secure storage area.

The Discovery Library

This is a library with many hats – it is not just a service to help clinicians make evidence based decisions with the latest information in print and electronically, but it is also an academic library with a user base of students and learners, some returning to formal education after a while, to post graduate level students.

It also houses the Medical Society Historic Collection and is an important destination for researchers and students alike who wish to examine some of the valuable items.

The current library is the result of hard work of Library Services Manager Sarah Johns and her team.  Sarah was fundamental in the development and realisation of a new library service for Derriford, overseeing the move from the cramped conditions on Level 7 to a new spacious purpose built space on Level 5 in 2006.

Funding for the current library space was gained from various sources including the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, a generous bequest from Donald Johnson, The Kirby Laing Foundation and a Heritage grant from the National Lottery; the bulk of the funding for the new library came from Peninsular College of Medicine and Dentistry.  It was opened by Sir Ranulph Fiennes on the 21st August 2007.

Library staff had input into the design of the library.  The journal shelves were designed and built by a high-end shopfitting company, the library desk and certain fittings were designed and built by local artists, creating unique feature fittings that conveyed the character of the room.

The core customer base comes from Plymouth NHS Trust hospitals, local GP services and the South Western NHS Ambulance Trust.

Strategically the service is guided by ‘Knowledge for Healthcare: a development framework’, published in 2015 which drives the current library strategy.  It receives operational funding from Health Education England and the Plymouth NHS Trust.

The Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection

The library curates and administers this collection on behalf of the Plymouth Medical Society.  The collection contains lecture notes; minutes of society meetings; detailed engravings and detailed medical publications.  It was collated and collected to be used as a resource for the whole society.

The society itself was established in 1794 and is the seventh oldest of its type in the UK.  There are around 400 items dating from the late 1600’s.

The main aims of the project were to ensure its preservation and to allow access to the local community and beyond. Preservation can include many different areas, not just about the physical safety of the collection – examples of best practice were consulted including the National Library of Australia and standards such as BS5454 and guidelines from the National Preservation Office.

Secure Storage –
Secure storage was created to house the collection away from daylight.  Although not temperature controlled, the area is a vast improvement to the conditions that the collection had been stored in before.  During our visit we did not see the storage area, but Tom gave us information about it.

Monitored access –
Within the library itself, a camera monitored area was created near to the desk where visitors could view and make use of books selected by them.  Visitors are encouraged to book an appointment ahead of time so that the necessary items can be prepared and to ensure appropriate members of staff are available to assist.

There is a permanent display of select items from the collection in display cabinets near to the issue desk with information about the displayed items and the collection for visitors to read.  This gives the collection visibility and context to interested users.

Access –
For the first time in its history, the collection is fully accessible electronically and physically.  The items were catalogued and digitised for greater access. was set-up to allow remote electronic access to the collection via a hosted secure gallery of images.

Policies –
Collection management policies were created.  This codified the remit of the collection in terms of new acquisitions, and provided guidance on disposal of items that might be beyond feasible repair.  Terms and Conditions were drawn up too which set out expectations of the user whilst physically using the collection, especially for users who were not staff members.

Conservation –
When the library acquired the collection, there were many volumes that were in bad condition.  A few were beyond repair.  This was an important part of the project and was undertaken by professional conservators.

After our talks we were able to get our hands on some really amazing examples from the collection.  The engravings, the eye to detail and craftmanship made us realise what utter treasures these items were.  Sarah and her team made us feel very welcome throughout our visit.

Thank you to Valerie, Tom, Sarah and her team for a really amazing day.”

Below are images collected on the visit of some of the most amazing illustrations:



Transforming CILIP, a new definition of Information Literacy, CILIP Conference, reduced prices for training and more…

There’s lots going on in CILIP at the moment which we discovered through the Spring CILIP Member Network forum. This meeting featured motivating presentations from Nick Poole, CEO, CILIP and Jane Secker, Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group and showed us that there is a lot to be excited about!

At the forum Nick Poole gave a snapshot of the ongoing internal CILIP transformation process. With a new organisational structure from June 2018 there will be a more agile organisation focused on delivering value for members. This will mean empowering people to work together across teams and putting capacity where it’s needed – in delivery and support for Member Networks, thus working towards a more ‘decentralised’ CILIP. We’ll no doubt find out more soon

Following Nick, Jane Secker presented a new definition of information literacy which involved cross-sector collaboration with members and the Information Literacy Group committee. LILAC 2017 feedback highlighted the need for a definition to be in plain language and for all, not just information professionals, since it’s about developing ‘informed citizens’ of the information society in which we all live. The new definition for 2018 reads: “Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society.” Information literacy can be used in everyday life, in citizenship, in education, in the workplace and in health. You can find out more online

Also at the forum, Jane Daniels provided information on CIG’s partnership with Library Juice Academy. Any member of CILIP is eligible for 20% discount on LJA online courses, so why not take a look at what’s available?

Dates for the diary:

  • With the CILIP Conference less than a month away (4th-5th July) please have a look at the latest programme – you can see it here – it’s not too late to book your place
  • 8th-13th October is Libraries Week #LibrariesWeek – this year’s focus is on wellbeing and libraries across the country will showcase how they bring communities together, combat loneliness, provide a space for reading and creativity and support people with their mental health. How could your library get involved?

Clinical Librarian Community of Practice Launch

The Clinical Librarian Community of Practice Launch attracted many clinical and outreach librarians from all over the South. The meeting proved to be very useful indeed, with discussions revolving around what librarians do, and what sort of qualities are needed for their roles.

What do clinical librarians and outreach librarians do?

CC0 image from Pexels

Clinical librarians routinely head out of the safety of their libraries to attend multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings, or participate in ward rounds (or both!) to support health professionals on the spot, and educate them about the support they can get from the library. They’re often asked to do literature searches, and support teams within the hospital with research and projects. Some clinical librarians may be assigned to a department on a temporary or permanent basis, to support health professionals with evidence-based information.

Outreach librarians will often have to venture outside of the main hospital, to assist with research and projects in the local community. Like clinical librarians, they may have to attend meetings with health professionals and advertise library services.

Especially for smaller NHS trusts, librarians may have to undertake aspects of the clinical librarian and outreach librarian roles as part of their job, too.

What sorts of qualities are needed?

CC0 image from Pexels

Both clinical and outreach librarians are ambassadors for the library service, and need to be amicable and approachable. They should be flexible too; to change their schedule on short notice (or on the spot) and be able to prioritise their workloads effectively.

It’s also important to have entrepreneurial qualities. By venturing out of the library to provide a service, they must be proactive in finding work. It’s likely that many health professionals simply don’t know about the sorts of things their library can offer, and clinical or outreach librarians can establish a rapport with clinical colleagues. Being reliable and trustworthy are good qualities to have, too, as it’s likely that clinical and outreach librarians will work with the same people on a regular basis.

Mutual support and advice.

CC0 image from Pexels

The Clinical Librarian Community of Practice will provide support and advice to those who work in medical libraries. It’s also about sharing best practice and ideas, so that librarians can work on improving the service at their trust. This is especially useful for new librarians and clinical or outreach librarians, who want to learn from their experienced peers.



CILIP South West Member Network AGM and Members’ Day 6th April 2018: Exploring Data and Open Data

Report by Susan Lee

Thirty library and information professionals from across the region attended the day held at the University of Exeter Old Library. The Chair, Emma Wellard, welcomed everybody and read out her report. She highlighted the professional development events that were run last year including 3 Library Safaris and visits to Britannia Naval College and National Meteorological Library and Archive. The Treasurer, Andrew Hutchinson, then gave his report and emphasized that 88% of all expenditure supported member interests. Catherine Chorley was voted on as Vice Chair and welcomed to the committee. Emma then presented the Harry Galloway Prize to Nicky Turner for her dissertation on the role of the school librarian in improving information & digital literacy skills in Secondary Schools and the transition to HE. You can read more about Nicky’s research here –

Dr Beverley Hawkins from the University of Exeter Business School was the first speaker with her dynamic presentation about the Unlimited Value Project: The project is a collaboration between Libraries Unlimited, University of Exeter Business School, Open Data Institute and Real Ideas Organisation. The project is looking at how to capture the social value of libraries, connect social impact to financial value and how library leaders can best respond to working in a more socially enterprising way. One strand of the project is Technology and Data Analytics – using data to develop a better understanding of service user patterns and mapping onto other data sources for wellbeing, literacy etc. The second is Staff Development to empower staff to lead change around social value.

After an enjoyable networking lunch David Ball, independent consultant, gave an informative presentation ‘Open Data and its significance for the research process’: He described the changes from the subscription journal model through to Open Access, Open Science and Open Peer Review. This change has accelerated knowledge developments and made data available to researchers in less affluent countries who don’t have access to funding.

The final speaker was Dave Rowe, a Geo-spatial Software Developer with Carto and a Libraries West Library Systems Officer, who gave an absorbing presentation ‘Using open Geographic Intelligence with library data’:

He explained geographic information, location, coordinates, geo-spatial data and geocoding. He gave fascinating examples of using geographical data and assured us that data that includes geography and libraries is always fun. Examples ranged from distance from a library and Environment Agency open data to Global Book Map which shows the books set in the local area (65 books were set in Exeter).


I came away from the event with not only a better understanding of open data, but with the confidence to explore data sets to find out more about library users and the local population and therefore improve my support of the community. It was great to meet up with people from such a diverse range of library and information sectors and discuss the differences and similarities of our work.

Nicky Turner – 2017 winner of the Harry Galloway Prize

This year’s Harry Galloway Prize was awarded to Nicky Turner. Here we read about her dissertation and work on secondary school students’ information skills.

Nicky studied for an MSc in Information Management at UWE Bristol from 2015-16 as a full-time student. Previously, she had been an English teacher for twelve years and was looking for a change of career which still enabled her to use her existing skills. Nicky felt that the course offered a broad and varied introduction to the evolving world of information management and its relevant current digital landscape.

During her studies, Nicky worked as a school librarian which enabled her to closely observe, first hand, the information and digital literacy skills of sixth form students. This led her to research this more thoroughly for her dissertation where she focused specifically on students who were planning to make the transition to higher education, and the role of the school librarian in supporting the teaching and development of these skills.

From her previous teaching experience, Nicky could see that it was clear that secondary students’ information skills were frequently unsophisticated, despite their confidence in using digital technology. Studies conducted by university libraries indicated that undergraduates’ skills of searching, evaluating and referencing information were consistently weak, which was echoed by the findings of her own teacher and student surveys, and observations. Nicky taught a series of lessons to help students improve their competency in these areas and noticed that they found the tasks challenging due to their lack of practice. From here, she went on to consider the obstacles for schools in improving the IDL skills of students and found that resourcing, time pressures and political decisions affecting the curriculum were particular barriers. It was also evident that teachers’ own information skills were largely self-taught and they lacked confidence in teaching them. This led her to explore how the school librarian, in his/her capacity as an information expert, could help to overcome these challenges and play an important role from an early age in supporting curriculum development and the teaching of these skills.

On completion of the course, Nicky accepted a role in the Policy and Strategy Team at UCAS. This role has made use of many of the skills she learned on the course, and she is currently leading on the development of an information flow strategy for the team. She has also been able to take a continued interest in the transition skills of young people entering higher education, through internal presentations about her dissertation topic, and attending events about the value of the EPQ following the recent reforms which have seen the reintroduction of terminally-assessed A levels and GCSEs.

Nicky was delighted when she heard that she had won the Harry Galloway Prize – she had really enjoyed learning so many new skills and knowledge; her dissertation allowed her to really get her teeth into a topic that she cared about, so receiving this award has added an extra shine to her experience.




CILIP SW Members Network Visit to the Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection, report by Des Mogg

On Friday 9th February 2018 a small but select band of the CILIP SW Members made a trip to the Discovery Library at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth to have a private view of the collection of the Plymouth Medical Society.

First thing, we had a presentation by Sarah Johns, Discovery Library manager, about the background to the library and how it came about. The library at Derriford was originally housed in a small space on the 7th floor, so an appeal was launched to raise funds for a new purpose built library. Funding was eventually achieved from individual donations, charitable trust, a Heritage Grant from the National Lottery, and the largest sums from Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry and the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, which is based at Derriford. Sarah showed a slide of Sir Ranulph Fiennes opening the library in August 2007!

The current library service is funded by Health Education England South, which covers the South-West, Thames Valley and Wessex. The catchment is approximately 17000 people from Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, GP services, Livewell Southwest, and South Western Ambulance NHS Trust (SWAST), as well as students on placement from Plymouth Medical and Dental School.

The Heritage Lottery Grant was for the preservation of the historical collection, which had previously been kept in a cluttered basement room. Tom Arnold, librarian at the Discovery Library, gave an excellent detailed presentation about the history and practicalities of preserving and making the collection accessible. As explained in his presentation, the Plymouth Medical Society dates from 1794 (one of the oldest medical societies in the country), and the donated collection consists of around 400 items, some of which date from the late 1600s. The members used to share the texts among themselves, and the collection consists of many fine illustrated volumes as well as case and lecture notes among other items.

The main initial aims were preservation of the collection, according to established guidelines and standards, and conservation, which was done by professional conservators. Tom said that most of the collection was quite sound, with most conservation being repairs to bindings which were worn through use.

Secure storage was a requirement of the Heritage Lottery Grant. The collection is in a secure environment with security cameras in the storage and access areas. Access is supervised and the usual requirements for consulting rare materials are observed – no food or drink, clean hands, pencil only for notes etc.

Electronic access has been key to the accessibility of the collection. It was decided that some items would be digitised in their entirety, such as the John Hunter lecture notes and the Society minute books, as they are fragile and e-access would minimise handling.

An Image Database has also been set up from the many fine illustrations in the collection.  E-access can be found here:

One of the strategic aims of the Lottery grant is to reach out and widen access to the collection. Approaches have been made to schools through the Devon Education Service, and Tom is using the collection material in a Special Study Unit (SSU) with 4th year medical students.

Tom summarised his talk with some advice for anyone who may be setting up a similar collection, to enable best practice and save having to ‘reinvent the wheel:

  • Use established standards
  • Use examples of best practice
  • Use institutions and experts who offer training and advice
  • Talk to people who have similar experience

Later in the morning we had a chance to have a closer look at some items from the collection.

We saw some beautiful examples of 19th century illustrated books while Tom explained the development of anatomical illustration, from skeletons in classical poses to hyper realistic depictions of dissections.

This was a fascinating morning, which really gave us a sense of the riches of a local medical society, and the value of preserving and making such an archive available.

Many thanks to Tom and Sarah, and to Valerie Bearne for organising the day.

CILIP SW Visit to the National Meteorological Library and Archive, Part Two

In a second report on the recent CILIP SW visit to the National Meteorological Library and Archive, Susan Lee, Library Supervisor at Crediton Library, describes the day:

“Sarah Pankiewicz, Library & Archive Manager, showed us round the Met Office Library which serves both Met Office staff and the public. The six library staff come from a variety of backgrounds; library and information, astrophysics, Met Office scientist, etc. Their roles include cataloguing, procurement, journal management, digitisation and quality control, systems management including collections management and the digital library and archive, supporting various archive projects and answering 150 – 200 enquiries per month. The team have had to transform the way they work due to wider Civil Service aims for increasing efficiency. This, together with a recent reduction in staff, has also led to more integration between the library and archive with their roles necessarily evolving in order to maintain service levels.

The library has Met Office records, journals, records from organisations across the world, books, computers and displays of historical met office equipment and material from the archive. Work is on-going to scan Met Office material which is carried out either on site or sent out for digitising when the budget allows. This helps preserve the material and is more accessible for the public and researchers. The library has books on meteorology, physics, climate and expeditions,  but also has begun to concentrate on the purchase of eBooks over the last couple of years and usage statistics indicate that staff are making very effective use of these resources. The journal budget is being increasingly directed towards online journal subscriptions with a significant reduction in print journals. The long term aims of reducing physical stock, lowering shelf height, making the library more user friendly, increasing access, all resonate with those of my sector, public libraries.





Next was the visit to one of the supercomputer halls. There are 5 supercomputers which rank the Met Office as the 15th largest in the world. The halls are rows and rows of IT along with 20 air conditioning units to cool them. There are dual systems, automatic backing up of data and backup diesel generators to ensure no data is lost due to power failure.

Then we visited the Operations Centre which is a 24/7 environment with staff working 12 hour shifts. I was struck by the size and amount of monitors the staff were using and the atmosphere of quiet concentration. The centre is made up of different units: forecasting, global, flood forecasting, hazard, aviation, IT, media and customer service. The centre not only monitors the weather and makes forecasts but looks at trends, probabilities and impact.

The central part of the Met Office is an internal street. It is covered in slate paving slabs, has street lamps, a stream running through it, cafes, seating areas, etc. Public libraries are increasingly evolving into social and cultural hubs but it will be a challenge to think of ways to bring this brilliant social space into a library. We ate in the cafeteria decorated with clouds hanging from the ceiling!

The Met Office Archive is by appointment only and situated in Great Moor House, a few minutes’ walk from the main Met Office building. It shares the building, public search room and staff workroom with the Devon Heritage Centre, but has separate strongrooms. Catherine Ross, Archivist, took us for a tour of 2 of the 4 Met Office strongrooms. There are fire shutters, fire doors, buffer corridors and gas suppressant systems to protect the stored material. An air curtain starts up as you enter the strongroom to help keep the temperature at 15–18°C. A large part of the archive comprises historic weather observations in the form of tabulated data (information written in numeric form) and autographic data (the original data). There are also collections of ships logs, historic equipment, expedition diaries, weather diaries, etc. It was fascinating to hear how the Met Office evolved, see the first synoptic chart 1859, the 5th June 1944 meteorological chart relied on for planning D-Day, Admiral Beaufort’s diary with original Beaufort Scale and by the 1807 diary the revised 12 stage Beaufort Scale and much more. Digitising records is ongoing, though reliant on funding, to help preservation and to improve access for the public and researchers.

I would recommend a visit and also having a look at their online resources. I explored their website and checked out the weather on the day I was born when I got home!”