Value and impact in libraries - A joint event run by the Academic Library Network (ALN) and NHS Knowledge and Library Services which took place on 24th April 2024 via Teams

I booked onto the ‘Value and impact in libraries’ event not fully knowing what to expect but aware of the importance of demonstrating how valuable and impactful our work is to our colleagues and stakeholders. In the current economic climate, it feels more important than ever to have evidence at our fingertips for financial decision making, service improvements and meeting quality standards.

The group facilitating the event was a collaboration of healthcare and academic library professionals. There were a range of presentations from librarians and knowledge specialists in both fields which meant that ideas of showing value and impact were addressed from differing perspectives and environments. It was great to see such effective collaboration between the two sectors and the presentations demonstrated how much we have in common.

The presentations were short and fast paced but there was time for questions and the opportunity at the end of the session to reflect and discuss what we had learned and what ideas we would take away and put into practice.

First up was Michelle Halpin from the University of Sunderland. She demonstrated a very impressive dashboard that had been developed in-house to identify how customers were engaging with library collections and digital resources to inform digital strategies and ensure value for money.

On a similar theme, Steve Glover from University Hospitals of Manchester NHS Foundation Trust explained how usage data is analysed within his trust to influence which resources are purchased and to ensure best use of the library budget. One example he gave was that even though anecdotally many people tell us that they prefer physical books, e-book usage demonstrated better value than physical books when comparing cost per download with book issues.

Julie Cleverley at Leeds Becket University was conducting a piece of research looking at the potential relationship between use of course reading lists and student scoring on the National Student Survey for library resources. Understanding how students engage with course materials and library resources is an important topic for us all to consider.

Sally Frost and Linda Moses-Allison from the University of Cumbria talked about how they had gathered user experience feedback in creative and fun ways based on Ned Potter’s approach. This feedback was used to assess engagement and ensure that the service was continuously improving in line with what students want.

Dominic Gilroy from NHS England explained the background of a piece of work commissioned by Health Education England that summarised the financial benefits of library services across the NHS entitled “The gift of time”. The report concluded that potentially, across the UK, healthcare libraries make a net benefit of £77 million per year!

The final presentation was delivered by Susan Smith (Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and Heather Steele (Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust). They talked about the work done by the ‘Value and Impact Group’ including the Value and Impact Toolkit and Impact Case Studies. The Value and Impact Toolkit will guide you through the planning process of deciding “what are you going to measure and for whom?” to which tools to use. Impact Case Studies highlight individual areas of impact and are currently open to new submissions.

The sessions were certainly thought provoking and shared some good practice happening across the region. I took away some ideas that I intend to put into practice including trying out more informal methods of eliciting user experience and looking more rigorously at user statistics. There was such an array of ideas to choose from. The value of such an event was reflected in some of the feedback from the breakout rooms. One attendee said, “sometimes it’s hard to find the time, so this idea sharing is worth its weight in gold” and another comment was that having these events “helps us feel confident in what we as librarians do”.


Useful links
Health Education England (2020) NHS Funded Library and Knowledge Services in England: Value Proposition – The Gift of Time –  
NHS England (Reviewed 2024) Value and Impact Toolkit


Karen Hithersay
Clinical Librarian
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust