Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
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Hawke’s Bay District Health Board

Viv Kerr, Education and Development Manager at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) has transformed her library in to an integral part of the community. 

Leading the HBDHB’s Library, Learning and Development, Programme Incubator, DHB Records and Education Centre is all in a librarian’s work day for community-education focussed librarian Viv Kerr. In this Q & A session with Librarian Jo Barnes, she shares her passion for her role as the Education and Development Manager and her clear vision of the value her library contributes to the community.   

HBDHB has played an important part in Viv and her family’s life.  In 2002, Viv’s husband had an unexpected medical event that would turn their lives upside down and catapult Viv on a journey of becoming a librarian. Her husband’s brain aneurysms and stroke and subsequent vascular and neurosurgery resulted in Viv reassessing her career while still working part-time as a teacher aide at her local intermediate school. Viv, with the support of her school community, embarked upon a library degree programme with the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand which prepared her for becoming HBDHB’s Library Manager.

“I have never forgotten the challenges I have faced, the opportunities that were given to me, and the support that I have been lucky enough to have during that  time. I gained my degree and have continued my professional development. I believe we should be the best we can be in our chosen fields…Librarians are known to be tenacious,  innovative and knowledgeable. That’s a combination that is pretty hard to beat.”

Q: Who uses your library service?

A: Our library users are health professionals, working within both the hospital and in the community, as well as clinical students that include nurses, doctors and allied health professionals.

HBDHB library users

Q: What aspect about librarianship are you passionate about?

A: I’m passionate about our patrons – our wide community of users. Ensuring we are always making quality improvements to our service for our users is really important…providing what is relevant to our users is crucial for being a vital part of your community.

Q: What was the catalyst for igniting this passion?

A: I love working with people. People are so interesting. For instance, a small conversation can lead on to so much personal and professional learning. We are capable of learning and gaining great insights if we have an inquiring attitude.I aspire to learn at least one new thing every day…also it’s great to see the world from another person’s perspective and use that to expand your own personal and professional perspective.

Q: What is the one thing you wish everybody in your user community knew about the library?

A: We are more than books and databases…Libraries contain so much more than printed material, we are a hub of knowledge and expertise. I’d also challenge our users to expect more, librarians and libraries are progressive, innovative and reflective – always looking to improve and enhance the user experience. .

Q: Librarians are renowned for their competence and resourcefulness.  How do you think the LIANZA Registration Scheme complements this?

A: The registration scheme is an important professional tool for librarians. It demands we have a reflective professional practice, that we comprehensively use professional development and it enables us to build learning pathways for areas needing professional development attention. Sometimes as librarians, we are not able to attend all the development sessions we would like, so as professionals we recognise that our whole work day is an opportunity for development. We can find many professional development opportunities in our day-to-day roles…we just need to understand ‘reflection’ and I think the registration scheme empowers us to do that.

Q: We are in changing information environment where new technologies are both expanding and limiting who has access to information. What role does the Medical Library have in ensuring the right people get the right medical information at the right time?

A: The medical library is for health professionals only. We are not accessible to the public. We make sure our users have the information they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently by providing access to relevant and useful scholarly and medical databases and other holdings, and by making sure our users have the right approaches needed to access them. Our part in the patient journey is to ensure our health professionals have the most current information at their fingertips so they can make well informed decisions relating to diagnostics or research.

Hawkes bay District Health Board LibraryQ: What is working well with your library’s programs?

A: The library is part of the Education and Development Team. This means that as a team, we have to work across each other’s roles to ensure we can deliver on our scope. We are fully integrated into the education of health professionals as our team design and build the online learning component, of clinical and non-clinical education, for both internal and external stakeholders.

Library skills are a key part of anyone’s education. An important part of delivering our training programmes is to ensure our people have the relevant skills to access and locate resources.

We are also responsible for the management of Programme Incubator that is run not only here but in Taranaki and the South Island. This is the HBDHB workforce development programme. It is a ‘grow your own programme’. In Hawke’s Bay we work with year 12 and 13 students from 22 local high schools. They come into the Education Centre and two or three of our own health professionals, as well as community health professionals, will come into the sessions and talk about who they are, and their journey to how they got to where they are…not so much a career talk but a very informal conversation. There are also health messages that are taken home via these students as well. This programme has been very successful resulting in students entering into health-related tertiary study, and evidenced by HBDHB-wide support.

Q: Why is it working well?

A: The embedded information model works well. There is natural synergy between all the areas I look after, making it easier to bring the different information services together to deliver well-balanced health programmes…we do what makes sense in light of our community’s needs.

Q: What is most challenging about offering this program?

A: The most challenging part about offering this programme is running it with a small team. Our professionals used to do school visits but this was too demanding upon our resources, so in the spirit of resourcefulness, this year we run an in-house programme at the DHB.It was a significant change to the way we delivered the programme, but I’m pleased to report that this has been a quality improvement for all involved. We run approximately seventy-five, 1.5 hour long, sessions per year. Coming in-house has resulted in a better array of speakers as they can pop in and speak for 15 minutes and then resume their working day and the schools like the environment as well.

Q: How do you measure the programme outcomes?

A: We keep in touch with our students as they progress into, and move through, tertiary education. We offer support as well as monitor their progress. We know we’ve touched young lives and made a difference to the way they perceive the health profession. I’m glad to report that past students who had been a part of our programmes have returned to the DHB and are now health professionals who choose to work in our organisation.

Q: What have you found to be the most effective way to reach your users in promoting the programmes?

A: We use word-of-mouth only. It has proved to be the most effective way to convey the value of the programmes to busy health professionals. Staff are happy to be involved with the programme and some even come in on their days off.

Q: Do you work with a health board council or advisory group?

A: I work with everyone across the DHB. I do not have a special group I work with in regards to the library. The library belongs to the people that use it. If I want advice, feedback or just other’s professional viewpoints or opinions I’m able to talk with a wide range of professionals on a range of topics. I value everyone’s feedback, I am always open to learning, and I have exchanges with everyone from the Executive Management Team to the senior doctors and the nurses and students who use us.

Q: What do you think is the greatest challenge for users of the HBDHB medical  library?

A: Time. The hospital is so busy that people don’t get time to come and read. I have to ensure that they can access us electronically and if they need something, we can send it through internal mail or email. Accessibility and availability of us and our resources is key to the success of our library.

Q: What makes your library an integral part of the community?

A: As part of the Education and Development team we play a key part in developing and delivering education and learning programmes. The library is a part of the bigger health sector picture, where ongoing professional development and a commitment to life-long learning is valued and supported. Information literacy is a necessary skill, and is an area the library really shines in and contributes to.

Q: How does your library maintain and enhance community relationships?

A: As part of the wider team we are always communicating and networking.Our relationships are really important to us and to the smooth running of the HBDHB’s core business – helping people get well. Support is reciprocal, we receive a lot of support from our community and we are proud and keen supporters in return.

Q: What project, that you have worked on/led are you especially proud of?

A: I would say the centralisation of Education and Development (four years ago). This brought the different teams together and was the start of what we have today. This change transformed the way we operated and enabled us to work smarter and faster.

Q: Tell me about a challenge you have encountered while working at the library and what strategies you have used to overcome/resolve it?

A: I would have to say the biggest challenge was to get people to understand that there is so much more to libraries than what you see on the shelves. There is such a great skill set librarians offer and often users are not aware of this. The centralisation project has helped overcome that barrier resulting in the library being the first port of call for most people.Our unique skill set and quiet expertise has a wonderful, positive reputation within the HBDHB. I am proud to be part of an organisation which has progressive outlook and vision. The HBDHB has developed a Transform and Sustain programme which aims to empower all staff in their roles and encourages innovation and progression. It is a very exciting time for us right now.

Q: Viv, it’s been wonderful hearing all about the amazing service you manage for the HBDHB. In closing, what advice would you give to other librarians to maintain their levels of energy and drive, so that we may all aspire to have your level of enthusiasm? 

A: Always remember why you are doing what you do. Embrace change and don’t be afraid of it.Be proud of the skills you possess. Don’t be afraid to own those skills and take a chance on an idea or role. After all, a small chance can open up so many exciting doors.


Jo Barnes is the Information Services Librarian at the Deane Memorial Library, Laidlaw College – an academic theological library in Auckland.She holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Library and Information studies from Victoria University, is LIANZA registered and loves libraries and life-long learning.

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