Reflecting on the last twenty years, has been interesting and surprising when I realise just how much has changed for northwest health libraries.

My initial encounter with David was in Cardiff at my first Health Libraries Group (HLG) conference in the early nineties and my second when David stepped into the formidable shoes of Valerie Ferguson. A very different style and vision, but one I very much appreciated. Gone were repetitive conversations about photocopy charges and the ethics of levying fines and in their place were discussions about how to get libraries on the NHS map and the value of the profession.

I know David, doesn’t want this to be about him, but there is no denying the role he has played in changing the environment in which most of us now work. The combination of David building relationships with key senior academic and NHS leaders over lunch, alongside the introduction of tools to help librarians prove their worth has made a difference to how we are now perceived.

For example, financial training to utilise costing and pricing tools helped translate our services into language NHS managers understood plus enabling us to create realistic service level agreements helped place our services in the same financial context as the other health departments.

David’s tenure also introduced a full education and professional development training packages for all staff groups which ran the gamut from marketing to assertion skills, mind mapping to software and skill development. This regional approach wasn’t new but the formal nature of programmes and the recognition of qualifications became a sound basis for both personal and professional development. These sessions became networking events, opportunities to share ideas and experiences, provide timeout to plan and build teams across the region as well as enjoying the hospitality of various hotels and venues across the patch

We became a group with shared vision and values and a shared drive to be better than other regions. David’s push for us to pilot programmes etc gave us the satisfaction of being ahead of the game and with David’s links nationally we became sort after to present at conferences, leading to a predominance of northwest librarians contributing and driving the national agenda.

I have only highlighted a few things and maybe they can be accredited to the timing and the changes of the NHS agenda, but with a less focused, connected, driven and flamboyant regional director we would not have made the strides we have.  Even though the pandemic is impacting library staff and services, I think libraries will come back strong with no little thanks to David Stewart  

Tracey Roberts-Cuffin
Head of Library & Knowledge Services
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust