I recently attended the 2nd East of England Health Libraries CanDoCafe event.  These events are based on Knowledge Cafe formats – championed by our very own @lawilk.

A small but perfectly formed group gathered in Cambridge.  @ilk21 chaired the day, smoothly and expertly.  Post introductions,  groups discussed the following question

Given that there is a perception that there are limits to the library’s reach within an organisation, how would you create, capture, share, utilise or reuse knowledge in the organisations you serve?”  (Any one who is following this blog and would like to comment will be happy to hear your thoughts).

Points were captured on post it notes.  For photographic evidence go to  Initially I was not sure where to begin with this as a topic – it is such a biggie!  But over gentle discussions with colleagues in my group  we came up with some good ideas.  For example –

  • creating more partnerships
  • increasing awareness and profile of the library within the stakeholders
  • offering  library space as meeting area for groups (Knowledge Cafes, journal clubs etc)
  • librarians as facilitators to the organisation
  • libraries offerings spaces/resources/skills for basic numeracy and literacy
  • Creating a local knowledge directory for new staff/members
  • Repository for publications

Clearly thought needs to be applied to ensure boundaries with other teams are not crossed and there is no confusion as the library is offering xxxx which is very similar to xxx offered elsewhere.

These group discussions are run on the lines of ‘speed dating’.  (As I am reliably informed!)  So when the alarm went off, a number of us moved around the room to continue discussions with other colleagues.

Suitably refreshed – the next discussion topic was;

“How can we work more closely with public libraries , social care and mental health to improve our information provision for patients and the public? Tweet as you talk, using the hashtag #candocafe”.

We stayed in our groups to debate this one.  Evidence of the day (including this discussion can be found via Storify of the event.

After lunch the afternoon we shared between 5 colleagues – “Sharing their stories”.  first –

Peter spoke about the successful partnership  between health and public libraries for Dementia Awareness Week

Seek out friendly, supportive staff, use their language, discover who is in charge of health projects.

Isla shared her work with Evidence Aid – Inspiring and enabling those guiding the humanitarian sector to apply an evidence-based approach. Papers/case-studies are provided to volunteers, who then read, synthesize & summarize publications which are then hosted onto Evidence Aids website.

Deborah Lepley (@DebsL72) spoke about project on making trust guidelines and policies easier to find at Mid Essex Hospital.  Great idea, good promotion of what libraries can offer and utilises the skills of library staff.

Penultimate presentation from helen from @wshlibrary talking ‘how to make a conference poster.  Excellent presentation – everyone in the room wants a copy of this poster! Useful information on what colours and font types work together (or clash horribly!), landscape is better than portrait.

Final presentation was mine – on the positive benefits of moving from a paper book ordering system to using an online method.  Book ordering form is a Google doc.  Responses tabulated in an Excel spreadsheet – meaning more reporting and filtering options, reducing the amount of time a piece of paper is handled, no more lost order slips and its better for the environment!

I left the CanDoCafe with a spring in my step!  The informal nature of the event, having a running theme and structured questions to debate meant (for me at least) a really good opportunity to ‘pick apart’ some of the large and small challenges facing us.  I spoke to new colleagues in the region and debated with colleagues who I don’t always get to see and network with.  Good ideas and practice were shared.  I came away with some ideas that I would like to explore for the library service I work in.  Isn’t that the point and real success of an event.

I would encourage colleagues in the region to attend the CanDoCafes in the future.  The intention is to run them on a quarterly basis.  Better still don’t just attend – get involved! You won’t regret it 🙂







2 weeks into the ‘new’ Medical Library

I am pleased to say that more gains have been made over this last week.

The Journals room is open for users to look at journals in the library.


The Medical Humanities has been relocated in the Share area of the library.  The collection consists of books – fiction and non-fiction titles with a medical ‘slant’ – a break from textbooks, plus a small number of DVDs.

Screenshot_Newsfeed_Medical Humanities2

The plants are back in place, also in the Share space.

Screenshot_Share space_1

The Medical Library is now dispensing, er I mean issuing noise cancelling headphones.  To borrow a set for the day please ask at the enquiry desk in the reception area of The Library.

Screenshot_Headphones and Earplugs

Of course there is still work to be finished, but it feels like we are getting there.  Library staff and users are pleased to be back ‘home’, as evidenced by the number of people using the library at lunchtime today.


Churchill Archives Centre

The most recent Cambridge Library Group event was to the Churchill Archives Centre.  This visit had a greater significance for me, as the general election is not far away.

After refreshments the group were taken to the Centre’s search room and shown by the archivists, samples of the papers and artefacts from the various collections the Centre houses.

The Churchill Archives Centre housed in Churchill College opened in 1973, founded by donations from US citizens and later assistance from the National Lottery.

The Centre holds papers and artefacts relating to over 600 individuals.  Notable collections include:

The ‘average’ collection has 800 pieces of paper per box, with the amount estimated for the Winston Churchill collection being over 1 million pieces.  The Churchill collection is still growing.

In addition to Churchill’s school reports – “… Rebellious character unwilling to conform to school discipline (St. Georges School – Ascot – Berkshire – aged 9 ½), the collection includes his first ever letter to his son Randolph (who was 4 years old at the time).  The letter was written from the Western Front.  There are numerous artefacts – a bronze cast of Churchill’s right hand, cigar cutter and butts, and unusually, a whole cigar from a collector in America.  The story behind this item being that as a young child he took the train from New York to the harbour to see Churchill when he was visiting.  It was raining heavily and he didn’t get to see Churchill.  He tried again the next day but was still unlucky.  A member of Churchill’s staff felt sorry for the boy and gave him a cigar as a memento.

Non Churchill items which made a real impression on me are, photos from Neil Kinnocks pop video “My Guy” with Tracy Ullman (1984).  In an anecdote one of the archivists mentioned that Neil Kinnock had helped her to pack up his memoirs (this probably does not happen very often).

The collection also includes a volume from a German encyclopaedia set kept by Hitler in his bunker in the grounds of the Reich Chancellery Berlin.

Amongst the Thatcher memorabilia is one of the handbags with the contents.  Apparently Mrs T liked Clinique and Estée Lauder makeup.  An early election pamphlet, Stanley, a black toy cat who ‘guarded’ the front door of the No. 10 Downing Street flat throughput the Falklands Campaign (2nd April – 14th June 1982), a black and white photo of Thatcher in trousers and with smiling miners and analysis of polling research on the public image of Thatcher and Kinnock are in the archive.

Letters, memos and press cutting from and relating to Enid Russell Smith (civil servant – who participated in the formation of the NHS) form part of the collection.

Apparently Enoch Powell’s archives were covered in sawdust when they arrived as he was having his roof repaired.

Obviously some of the collections are bound by the “20 year rule”.  Presumably the future collection will also include digital memorabilia – emails etc.

The group were also allowed into one of the strong rooms – which has a constant temperature of 17C.  A new wing was opened in 2002 by Margaret Thatcher.

The knowledge, anecdotes and thoughtful presentation by the archivists made this a really interesting, informative and unusual visit.  I am sure members of the group all had a favourite item.  I know I did!  When I asked the archivists, one replied that it changed weekly!

The Churchill Archives Centre is open to all.  However please contact the team in advance to make an appointment.  Contact details:

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Telephone: (01223) 336087 / Email:

I would recommend a visit to this fascinating collection to anyone, whatever your political views and thoughts on some of the people whose collections have been preserved for us all.

First blog post

As I sit at my desk in my office in the refurbished Medical Library, in the refurbished School of Clinical Medicine everything seems very familiar.  In some ways yes it is, back in our ‘old’ home after 9 months in temporary accommodation in the gloriously named Bay 13.   In other ways no.  A week ago we were all packing up to leave our temporary home, having coped with a much reduced space for the library, for user areas and for staff areas.

Library Bay 13

Over the last 9 months we have planned the refurbishment, layout and our return.

The library is now on one level rather than two.

Staircase pre-furb

The journals that were on the upper level are now housed in the Journals room adjacent to the enquiry desk.


The enclosed Wolfson pc room is now a silent working area – SHHH!

The PCs are in the main Share area.


Also in the Share area we have some great new comfortable furniture, the design of which encourages people to work and Share together –

and the Medical Humanities collection – titles, biographies, fiction for example which have a medical theme to them but are not textbooks.


Library users and the library staff are getting used to the changes and of course some things are a still work in progress – media screens, increased signage and the missing second date stamp!

All in all the Library team are very pleased to be back in our updated home, we like the changes and hope that you do too.