Helen Pullen, Librarian, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

Helen Pullen

How did you first get into the information and library profession? Interestingly it wasn’t my first choice. I had my heart set on a career in environmental science and a desire to work outdoors. But after a Saturday job in a local library my parent’s persuaded me that I should consider this as a serious career option. And the rest is history!

What qualifications did you take? I enrolled on a BSc Information Management course at Manchester Metropolitan University. According to my colleague, I’m part a dying breed, it seems most librarians have varied backgrounds and go down the Masters route for their qualification.

What is your current job title? Librarian for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust but I was Deputy Library Manager before I left to have my second child. I don’t believe that a title should define who I am or my perception to others, it’s my job to make sure that users associate the title with our expertise and the work we do.

What does your job involve? I spend a lot of my time literature searching! It is one of the skills we have as librarians that we like to promote. So it’s really rewarding when someone comes back to the library to thank us for the hard work especially if it has supported change of practice or patient care. I’m currently part of a drive to do more outreach activities because of the recent Health Education England Knowledge for Healthcare Framework document Knowledge-for-healthcare-framework.pdf .

Consequently, I spend a lot of my time identifying new outreach projects which involves working with multidisciplinary teams across the Trust. I prepare current awareness bulletins for departments around the hospitals and load them, up onto the intranet and external website. I’m heavily involved with the implementation of our new training programmes which includes critical appraisal and an introduction to basic statistics. To a non-mathematician this was initially quite daunting but when you realise that you know more than the course participants it increases your confidence and the more training I do the more confident I become.

Over the years I have seen an increasing amount of my time spent marketing library resources and more recently the skills I possess as a librarian. And finally some of my time is spent at the reception desk but not a lot and if we have new books then I will catalogue/classify and get them out onto the shelves.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day?  As many librarians have already said on this blog, there is no such thing as a typical day. I usually start my day by writing a to-do list. This inevitably goes out of the window but I try to stick to it the best I can. I plough through my emails, deleting as many as I can! I scan through the weekly Trust News bulletin for any potential leads for outreach projects. If I’m not training, editing the latest current awareness bulletin or attending a journal club/meeting and I find myself with a quiet moment  I’ll probably try to fit in some CPD work, at the moment I’m preparing my Chartership application.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? It goes without saying that as information professionals you have to flexible and open to change. Good communication, customer service skills and a sound knowledge of ICT is essential. I still believe that our core librarian skills are important but in order to support the next generation we need to keep up to date with the advancement in technology.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Embrace the changes that are happening to our profession, don’t be intimidated but look at ways of developing and see the positive opportunities. Don’t underestimate the Chartership process, over the last year I have learnt many things just by visiting libraries in other sectors.

Continuing professional development is essential. I’ve learnt the need to horizon scan, whether that be for new career opportunities or emerging trends that could impact on the sector in which you work because it is those changes that will have an effect on its staff and finally on the library and us as individuals.

Get involved in the wider profession as much as you can, it’s not something I did when I graduated and I’ve come to regret that decision.

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