A very different Health Information Week

A very different Health Information Week

The idea

Back in January (which now feels like an eternity ago) we were happily planning Health Information Week (HIW) (#HIW2020) activities for the 6-12th July with our Warwickshire Libraries and Coventry & Warwickshire Partnership Trust colleagues, blissfully unaware of what the next few months would throw at us all.

The pandemic situation meant that face to face interactions were unwise, and so a health literacy awareness session for our public library colleagues at Nuneaton Library was postponed, and we soon sadly realised that an information stall at Nuneaton Library wouldn’t be safe or possible this year. With us all spending more time online both socially and to find answers to all those questions we had (and still have) about COVID-19 we felt that we needed to find another way to reach out to our community and pass on tips on finding reliable health information online.

We have made good use of the excellent Reading Group Collection sets the last year for our GEH Wellbeing Reading Group and collaborated on previous promotions so follow @warkslibraries on Twitter. We were impressed how well they were managing to maintain relationships with their users and promote services via social media during lockdown, their innovative lunchtime (#LunchtimeLibraryChat) Twitter chats particularly catching our attention.

After taking part in a couple of lunchtime chats and whilst chatting about our plans for HIW inspiration struck! What about a collaboration with our Warwickshire library colleagues? Perhaps a special edition HIW chat or Twitter takeover – similar to the regular health library Twitter chats run by @UKMedLibs. We know promotions in public libraries are often planned well in advance so were really excited to hear one late Friday afternoon that the idea had been approved and that an extra lunchtime chat could be scheduled during HIW. Hurray! It would be a very different HIW than the one planned but we were pleased we could still collaborate with our local library colleagues.


Lisa, Rayanne, and fellow NHS Librarian Andy Hough from Coventry & Warwickshire Partnerships Trust met Warwickshire colleagues Deborah Hateley and Emily Davis via Microsoft Teams to discuss how the chat might work in practice, our audience, discuss topics, hashtags and promotion. We decided on a Q & A session with Warwickshire Libraries asking NHS librarians set questions about finding quality information online, and well-being resources –all tied in with the focus of #HIW2020. Key aspects to highlight were the features of a trustworthy website, awareness of quality marks, signposts to recommended websites and resources for physical and mental health, and (inevitably) those all important websites for COVID-19 information. We also wanted to promote well-being resources such as the Reading Well collections available at Warwickshire Libraries via their brilliant BorrowBox service (@BorrowBox) which  includes ebooks on controlling anxiety, stress management, sleep and relaxation, long term physical health conditions as well as books to simply chill out with. The chat also proved an opportunity to talk about the role of librarians working in the NHS and the increasingly important issue of health literacy.

On the day

Benefitting from our Warwickshire Libraries colleagues’ Twitter experience we scheduled a question every ten minutes so to allow responses from users and time for interaction. Emily produced attractive promotional tiles for each new question to structure the chat and keep us all on track. A parallel Microsoft Teams meeting during the chat was invaluable to alert each other to notifications, direct and support each other through the session. It certainly helped to calm the nerves of the less experienced Tweeters amongst us. Although having ready prepared Tweets/replies and a list of website links to copy and paste into replies saved time, we ran over our allocated slot. It was tempting to carry on for another hour (beware of unleashing health librarians talking about one of their favourite topics) but could be slicker with a bit more preparation and anticipation of follow-up questions. The mix of health librarian expertise was interesting for us, with Andy bringing an extra mental health element to proceedings. Time flew by- being able to communicate throughout made it a really enjoyable team experience.

The future is bright, the future is Twitter…

With limited advance promotion we didn’t see as much interaction with users as we hoped but had several likes and retweets. Users following at the time would have picked up some tips on finding reliable health information as well as being guided towards some of our favourite quality websites. We were all pleased with how the chat had gone and have identified ideas to refine and repeat it. So watch this space! Just as dogs are not just for Christmas, Twitter takeovers are not just for HIW! Our intention is that our first virtual HIW collaboration will be regularly repeated with the aim of increasing the health literacy skills and well-being of our users and community.

The complete HIW Twitter chat is available to view here @warkslibraries and more information about books and well-being resources available at Warwickshire Libraries on their excellent HIW blog post: https://librariesblog.warwickshire.gov.uk/2020/07/07/health-information-week-2020/