Health & Science Library Camp #HASLibCamp


About a month ago I attended HASLibcamp at CityLIS, which was a library camp (informal unconference style event) focused on health & science aspects of libraries, librarianship and knowledge management.

I pitched a session on how public libraries can support health and I also attended 3 other sessions during the day. There was a mix of people attending – including librarians in the health sector; those who supported academic health courses; private and public sector; and information and library students. I have to say I was surprised that I was the only representative from public libraries there, especially as one of the Society of Chief Librarian “Universal offers” in public libraries is focused on health.

I attended 3 sessions and pitched a session myself on how public libraries support health.

The first session I attended was focused on health apps and stemmed from an app swap session that happens regularly at St George’s Medical School (London). During the session people discussed the type of health apps that were available; the emergence of related technology such as fit-bits; how health apps can be useful for people to understand and take control of their own health literacy. Many of these apps rely on recording users data, so the discussion also covered concerns around data privacy for health apps; possible use of health data for things you don’t want it to be used for eg health insurance; lack of governance on medical data privacy in apps; and how we (as information professionals) could play a role in educating users about data privacy.

From a public libraries & techy perspective I’m keen to promote health apps on health awareness days that come from reputable providers. eg mental health; living healthier. But the difficulty for me is identifying those apps.

The next session I attended focused on Wikipedia and Wikimedia editing. It was interesting to hear about the background to both resources; how they link together; how they link to other resources (for example The British Library is busy digitising images from out of copyright materials, & detailed subject tagging of the resources on Flickr for them is sometimes created by Wikipedians); and the role of a Wikipedian in residence as someone who is able to focus on specific subject areas for an organisation.

The final session I attended focused on an initiative at Imperial College to archive software that has been created as the result of research projects. It covered questions such as… How can this software be identified? How can it be archived, given that hardware, operating systems and platforms are constantly changing, with some now obsolete? Could virtual machines and emulators be used to run the software? What are the licensing requirements for archiving the software and the platforms they run on, especially if the software produced as the result of a research project is released as a commercial project?

I also mentioned that I pitched a session on how public libraries could support health initiatives. My intention was that I was keen to find out more about how public libraries could do this, as well as sharing some thoughts about areas I knew about. This was a very useful discussion, with around 10 other people in attendance from a variety of health backgrounds. I spoke about the sort of things my library service is involved in including the Society of Chief Librarians health offer; Books on prescription; mental health support; provision of a reminiscence collection; accessible computers and technology; services for those unable to visit the library; dementia awareness training for library staff as part of a bigger “Dementia Friendly Surrey” County Council campaign; the privacy benefits of self-service issue/return; alternative versions of reading materials inc large print & audio books, and Penfriend; creative writing workshops for survivors of domestic abuse; partnership working with local hospitals, health organisations and national organisations inc signposting to reputable healthcare information; producing health related reading lists linked to our catalogue.

Other areas that were discussed were the blocking of sites in public libraries that genuinely provide helpful health related information; providing open access to medical information in public libraries and the best way to do this; the development of sign-posting to further health information; the value of signposting to information on ageing in general; the value of health information professionals coming into public libraries to train staff on signposting.

I have to say that I found this session useful, but at the same time I felt like I didn’t have many of the answers to questions that others attending were asking me about. My day-to-day focus isn’t health in public libraries; it’s tech and digital, and in this instance, I could only really give detailed answers about where tech and digital is used to support health initiatives in public libraries. Hopefully, if this event is run again there will be other representatives from public libraries attending who are better placed to answer the questions I couldn’t.

I thought it was a really useful and interesting event, and I can see the benefit of having other library camps with a focus on specific subjects like this. Well done to all who helped organise it and those who were involved in the session discussions on the day.

If you want to read about other sessions run during the event take a look at this page on the HASLibCamp site.

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