#citylis Reflections and Research: Lyn Robinson on #HASlibcamp: a health and science library & information unconference


#HASlibcamp 2016 photo by @lynrobinson cc by

On 23rd April 2016, #citylis was delighted to host HASlibcamp, an unconference for health and science library information professionals. The day provided a unique, informal forum where over 40 colleagues from public, academic, NHS, charity and other library and information services came together to discuss current issues and catch up with each other. I was especially pleased to see so many #citylis former and current students at the event.

I am a huge fan of unconferences. The benefit to attendees of being able to suggest issues to discuss (pitch a session), rather than being faced with a ready-made agenda is enormous, especially for new professionals, and for anyone who feels their ideas and opinions get overlooked in times of management frenzy. Even for more established professionals, there is always much to learn by listening to what is of current interest amongst colleagues. From the point of view of a course director, I felt very lucky to be treated to such up-to-date ideas, which will certainly help with our quest for innovative content at #citylis!

This is not to say that conferences with fixed agendas are a bad thing in any way, but that the unconference format offers a great compliment to more formal outlets for professional conversations. In a session led by Gary Green (@ggnewed), on how public libraries can support health and well being, participants observed that there was not currently a forum where public library practitioners could meet with NHS or other health library staff to share good practice. A possible role for @CILIPHLG?

At HASlibcamp, I think we were able to accommodate all the sessions that were pitched, and I would certainly recommend that unconference organisers allow for as many physical spaces as possible, so that everyone’s ideas can be accommodated. Sometimes, it can be daunting to suggest or pitch an idea, incase no-one is interested, but the supportive atmosphere at HASlibcamp meant that everyone’s ideas gained an audience. Overall, the approach led to a marvelously diverse range of topics, shown on the image below. This range of topics highlighted the breadth of interests held by health and science LIS professionals, and is a fantastic testimony to the value of a career in LIS.

Session board

Session Board for #HASlibcamp 2016 photo by @lynrobinson cc by

It occurred to me that in this kind of environment, it was easy to realize that none of us are the only person to face particular concerns –the feeling of not being alone is a significant factor in raising morale, and at a time when most LIS services face negative news about cuts in funding, de-skilling of staff members and devaluing of the qualified professional, this is very important.

Medical Information Resources

I have a longstanding interest in health and medical information, and I pitched a session on the ‘future’ of medical information resources. My focus was on ‘human documents’ or the quantified self. What does the proliferation of apps collating human data mean for LIS professionals? My wonderful colleague Ka-Ming Pang (@AgentK23) had the brilliant idea of talking about App Swap (#Appswap) – where libraries encourage sharing and exchange of ideas on health and medical related apps. We decided to combine our sessions, which resulted in a lively debate on how to stay up-to-date with new apps, understanding and promoting privacy, evaluating apps and the issues of who should recommend apps. Apps are used by many people, including students, and the library is rarely included in the choice of apps, or their evaluation. There is clearly a need for at least a framework of the issues this involves. Medical and healthcare apps collect personal information, and users need to be aware of not only what interpretation of the data means, but also of what happens to the information and who might benefit – insurance companies for example, might be very interested in blood glucose levels, fitness or sexual health indicators. Network security is rarely considered and many app users may be unaware of the amount of personal data that is being ‘leaked’ to third parties. A suggestion of using CASP like indicators to evaluate apps fed into a later session during the day.

[The idea of App Swap originated from the University of Brighton, which uses the same hashtage. Review of apps can be found on the St George’s University of London Library’s Guide to Mobile Resources.]

Sessions were allocated an hour for discussion, and it was a good sign that several sessions overran due to exuberant engagement and interest . Many more aspects could have been discussed and I think that HASlibcamp could have been extended to the whole weekend with no loss of interest. With regard to medical information resources, other topics which could easily have pervaded the whole day included genetic information, big data, neurological data, virtual reality and psychology. A huge field waiting to be explored. I am biased, I know:).

Other Pitches

There were many other topics of interest including diversity (@tashasuri), information literacy, the importance of software as a research output and the issues of adding approprite metadata (@biostew), current awareness, design of library induction session (Pirates!), preservation and access of games, and user needs. Those of you who need more should have joined us (!), but you can check out other blog postings and@HASlibcamp on Twitter.


A short but significant mention should go to the amazing food sharing – the input from all attendees who brought food to share cannot be overstated. The food created a party atmosphere – it was great to see so many talented chefs strut their stuff. More. Food is a good thing! The need for a warm and positive atmosphere in the workplace is overlooked these days – this is a bad thing.

photo credit Andy Mabbett @pigsonthewing

Photo by Andy Mabbett @pigsonthewing


I would like to conclude with a massive thank you to the organizing team who made all this possible – events look like they emerge into the forest like mushrooms – they don’t. This event was down to:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 21.50.46

And finally – the value of HASlibcamp:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 16.49.17

Last year #citylis hosted #citymash; you can read about it from Ludi Price (@ludiprice) and Kathryn Drumm (@dourgirl).

See the HASlibcamp website for further reviews.


This post was originally published on thelynxiblog on April 25th 2016. Lyn Robinson is on Twitter @lynrobinson.

Find out more about postgraduate study in Library and Information Science at #citylis, meet alumni, current students and staff on our next open evening on Wednesday 8 June 2016. Register here.

If you are a current #citylis student or alumni and would like to contribute a post, please contact our Editor, James Atkinson.

About James

Information Assistant (Academic Services) in the Library at City, University of London.
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