Using Technology to help deliver the Health Offer: An interview with East Riding Libraries
Rebecca Tallon, Health Lead & Librarian and Gary Smith, Digital Services Officer (Libraries) at East Riding of Yorkshire Council discuss their innovative and holistic approach to providing the Health Offer. Through working with other council departments, such as Public Health and Archives, East Riding have been able to do more for their users’ health and well-being, whilst generating income for the library service and further proving their worth.
Delivering the Health Offer: East Riding of Yorkshire Libraries
Rebecca Tallon, Health Lead & Librarian…
The Health Offer is really important to East Riding Libraries. It generates income for us, it builds relationships with Public Health and other local health providers and it also gives our staff a different dimension to their work. We really try to build on the work we had already done previous to try to develop and reach different people.
What is your approach to delivering the Health Offer in East Riding?
We look for as many new relationships as we can, we ask staff about relationships they would like to build or groups they would like to run. And we look for national initiatives that are running, such as Dementia Awareness Week, Macmillan Cancer Support. We do as much as we can with as many people as we can
Who else do you work with to deliver against your objectives?
We work with other council departments. So we’ve got a really strong relationship with our Archives team, who provide lots of resources for our Reminiscence work. We also work with Public Health really closely, who actually commission us to deliver lots of different projects against their own objectives and agendas. We also work really closely with local charitable organisations, including the Alzheimer’s Society, Macmillan. It’s also a lot to do with working closely with our own staff, so within the branch libraries themselves and what their communities actually need.
Why is a holistic approach so important?
Because it encompasses everybody. We really need a holistic approach, because it makes sure that everybody in the smaller communities that we work all get joined together and can come and use everything we have to offer
Why has working with leisure centres and Public Health been so important in the project?
Leisure and Public Health actually commission us to deliver services for them. So whilst libraries have traditionally never generated an income, this has been a really good opportunity for us to sustain ourselves and to prove our worth.
How has working closely with the council Archives helped?
Working with archives has been really important for our reminiscence outreach work. They have been able to provide us with some really good resources to be able to instigate conversation and make real person-centred connections with our customers. The relationship has developed over time and grown and has really allowed us to develop the outreach we can do.
How has the library and the work you’ve been doing helped other services?
The work that we’ve been doing in libraries associated with health has really made sure that leisure centres and archives and lots of other internal departments actually see the importance of libraries. And the fact that we’re still here and we’re still doing an awful lot of really important work, so they see the importance of the work we’re doing and then they develop their own work. It has led to lots of reciprocal working and it’s really benefited the people in our small communities.
Gary Smith, Digital Services Officer (Libraries)…
How popular is the Health Zone page of your Arena site?
When we measure Arena on Google Analytics, it generally gives us its main core features which is the account features, so they’re normally in the top ten page views. But Health Zone comes in the top 15. When we consider that we had 1.1 million page vies of our catalogue last year, Health Zone is really up there.
How else have you been using Arena?
We use Arena to market and promote our hard copy stock – paperback and hardback, specific stock like reminiscence and long term conditions but also our e-book and e-audio stock, e-magazines. So we use different portlets. If we didn’t do that, I’m not sure what platform we could use.
Do you think it’s important to be about more than books?
Nowadays, if libraries were just about books, we wouldn’t survive, so we have to do a lot more. It’s not only with health, we do learning, we do digital stuff, IT things. It’s also a place for the community. Community event and activities are really important. And health is a big part of that, getting out the house and mixing with other people is a very subtle way of improving your own health.
Do you think projects like this help show the added value libraries provide our society?
It does show the added value but then there’s the importance of getting that value out to the public and to other people in the council to say ‘this is what we do’. I don’t think a lot people realise what libraries do. It’s about event, activities and supporting health, supporting wellbeing, etc.
How are you measuring success or impact?
We use Google Analytics to measure the success of our catalogue. But the other way we measure our success is customer feedback and customer insight. What we also like to do is follow customers on their customer journey; from the start, their progress and then to the finish.
What role has Axiell technology played?
Without Axiell technology, we wouldn’t be able to promote our Health Zone, for example. Without Arena, we probably couldn’t offer as much. But then also on the council website, that is for information, so we provide that information and then we have hyperlinks back to Arena as well.