Library, knowledge and information services
Library and knowledge service staff make sure crucial evidence and information is available and accessible when and where NHS staff need to use it.
Their work supports decisions about patient treatments and care, funding, policy, research and innovation.
Information has never been available in such abundance or variety, but evidence does not speak for itself. Library and knowledge staff deal with information in lots of formats (such as online journals, databases, books, websites and social media) to ensure that healthcare staff can find, access and use the best available information to do their jobs.
Staff might work in a physical library space handling enquiries from healthcare staff, supporting users and promoting the service. Or they might work in a virtual service helping maintain online resources and offer training on how to use a range of digital resources to find information.
The work is varied, stimulating and rewarding. Library and knowledge staff:
- are creative in promoting their services to demonstrate how the right evidence and information at the right time can save healthcare staff time and make their lives easier
- are outgoing and enjoy talking to people. They work with everyone in their organisation to ensure they have the evidence and information they need in a way that is useful to them. For example, a clinician might ask you to collect evidence on a treatment option and summarise the results in a report. This is sometimes referred to as literature searching or evidence summarising
- are interested not just in knowledge found in books or websites, but also in the knowledge and experience that people have. They look for ways to help staff share learning and experience with each other
- work with different IT systems and embrace new technologies that support their work and the work of healthcare colleagues
Roles in library, knowledge and information services
Library and knowledge staff work in different types of library, knowledge and information services. Individuals might be based in a hospital with a physical library base, or an office with other healthcare staff delivering virtual and in-person services for colleagues.
You could work with staff out in the community or with specific healthcare disciplines such as public health, healthcare science or mental health.
Library assistants are the front-line staff of the library or knowledge service. The role involves:
- running the enquiry desk and helping users with their questions, for example finding a resource, helping them access training or supporting them with their professional development
- using information resources to research enquiries, from medical textbooks to online databases via the web
- ordering books, journals and other library resources
- administrative tasks such as answering and writing emails or dealing with enquiries over the phone
Senior library assistants may supervise library assistants and take on additional responsibilities, such as managing more complex requests for resources or liaising with more senior staff.
Healthcare librarians have a variety of roles in different settings, for example hospitals, community, mental health or public health settings. You might:
- work on the front-line helping healthcare staff access quality information to inform their decisions
- search the resources available to find information that helps answer an enquiry or question and package that information in a way that is useful to healthcare staff
- create updates to help staff stay up to date with the latest evidence
- deliver training for healthcare staff on assessing the quality of information, or demonstrate techniques for finding reliable information
- work with patients and service users, as well as staff, so they can find reliable information about their own health
Clinical librarians attend clinical meetings and accompany staff on ward rounds when they visit patients. Outreach librarians go out and about a lot, working with a range of staff such as GPs, paramedics or IT managers. And knowledge specialists take the lead on organising activities and events that help capture, disseminate and share knowledge in an organisation.
Library and knowledge services manager
As a library or knowledge services manager, you’ll:
- lead and inspire a small diverse team allowing them to see the difference they make to frontline staff and patients
- shape the strategic vision for your service and take responsibility for delivering it, as well as moulding and implementing the national strategy
- promote the service so staff from all parts of the organisation are aware of the resources available to them, and the expert support you and your team can provide
- be responsible for the day-to-day running of the service and work autonomously to tailor services to meet the needs of users and organisational objectives
- support your team in developing their skills and continued learning
- champion and facilitate activities and initiatives that encourage staff to share knowledge, learning and experience across the organisation. Where this is the primary focus of the role they may be referred to as knowledge managers
Want to learn more?
- Find out about the entry requirements for libraries and knowledge management
- Find out more about the training and development opportunities in libraries and knowledge management
- Read a Knowledge for Healthcare blog for more information about the different roles available
Pay and conditions
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Most jobs in library, knowledge and information services in the NHS are covered by Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. This pay system covers all staff except doctors, dentists and the most senior managers. Staff working in library, knowledge and information services in the NHS will usually work standard hours of 37.5 per week. Terms and conditions for non-NHS employers and contractors will vary.
Where the role can lead
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There are opportunities to progress your career in a number of ways, for example moving into senior management roles and working collaboratively with different teams in the organisation. Library and knowledge staff are actively encouraged to develop skills throughout their careers and continue learning from colleagues. There are opportunities for accredited professional development through our professional body CILIP, the UK’s Library and Information Association.
Job market and vacancies
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If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the values of the NHS Constitution apply in your everyday work.
Most NHS organisations advertise their job and apprenticeship vacancies on NHS Jobs. You can find some of the current vacancies below.
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For further information about alternative routes into library, information and knowledge professions:
- Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (CILIP)
- Health Libraries Group (HLG) – the UK-based network of individuals working in or professionally interested in health and social care
To visit a local health library, contact your regional library lead: