Catherine Jacob, Information Specialist for NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)

Catherine_JacobHow did you first get into the information and library profession? I have fond memories of my dad taking my brother and me to our local library in Leeds, and it stuck with me. When I was at university I visited a careers advisor and asked about Librarianship but it wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to go for it. I was lucky enough to get on the graduate trainee scheme at (what was) Archway Healthcare Library in North London. At the time I’d only had a few hours experience in libraries so the scheme seemed the perfect opportunity for me. I had a fantastic year and have never looked back.

What qualifications did you take? My undergraduate degree is in Sociology but after I completed my graduate trainee year I did my MA in Information Services Management. Since then I have chartered with CILIP and completed a PTLLS qualification (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector).

What is your current job title?  I work as an Information Specialist for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

What does your job involve? I work as part of the Evidence Services team and my job is really varied. Part of my job involves searching for and tagging new evidence for NICE Evidence Search – an open access search engine aimed at health and social care professionals. I’m also responsible for producing a monthly public health awareness bulletin which provides links to, and a short summary of, a selection of recent publications of interest to the public health community. NICE also produces Evidence Updates, which are publications highlighting new evidence relating to published NICE guidance. My job involves writing the project brief which details all inclusion and exclusion criteria, creating a suitable search strategy and proposing relevant databases to search. Once the scope has been agreed, I’ll carry out all the searches and sift through the retrieved references to find the articles that match the agreed scope. I also critically appraise articles.

Can you describe a “typical day”? I start work quite early at 8am. We hot desk in the office and if I’m lucky I’ll get one overlooking Piccadilly Gardens, a good spot to start the day which I do by checking my emails.

After this I check our internal database for a list of sources that I need to search and I’ll add relevant content to NICE Evidence Search. Among others, I search the World Health Organization, Sport England and Alcohol Research UK. Primarily I’m responsible for public health content – but anything that’s published by one of my sources is my responsibility so I’ll often add evidence that is more clinical or social care related. I search each site as systematically as possible and assess all new content for eligibility. I ensure I catalogue each document carefully so our users can easily find them.

Today is our monthly meeting where myself and my colleagues discuss the work we do checking our sources and cataloging the evidence we find. Today we’re looking at a number of papers to talk about which publication types we think they fall under and what tags we can assign to the record. This is all to ensure that users of NICE Evidence Search can easily find the content we add and to maintain an element of consistency between us.

Before lunch I’ll do some work on preparing the public health bulletin. I’m looking for the most recent, relevant and varied evidence which I think will interest the public health professionals reading it. I compile a list and include a short summary of each.

After a short lunch I’ll move to one of the new standing desks which have been installed in the office. I’m currently working on an Evidence Update for promoting physical activity in children and young people. We’ve had to sift through over 13,000 references looking for the ones that meet the agreed inclusion and exclusion criteria for this particular topic. We’re nearing the end of the sifting so myself and my colleague are busy quality assuring each other’s work. We each check a selection of articles the other has worked on to see if our decisions match. Before I leave for the day I’ll go through my ‘to do’ list and plan my next days’ work. At 4pm I head home to feed our cat and likely watch a crime drama!

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professionals? To some extent this really depends on what area of the information profession you work in. If you’re working with students then things like empathy and friendliness are so vital. If you work in cataloging, then maybe skills like attention to detail are more important.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Try and get a few different role experiences if possible. The library and information sector is really varied and you might find you are more suited to a particular job. I’ve worked on helpdesks, I’ve delivered training sessions, I’ve worked in cataloguing and acquisitions and now I work at NICE in an environment very different to the traditional library I had been used to. Getting a range of experiences will hopefully help you decide which aspects of the profession are right for you.

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