8.1 Involving users

Involving the people who use the resource centre in developing the collection and services is an important way to ensure that the resource centre continues to meet users’ needs. It also helps to attract funding, because it shows that the resource centre is responding to a demonstrated need.

Encouraging users or staff from the organisation to become members of a resource centre advisory committee (see Section 2.2: Advisory committees) is a good way to involve these people. However, it is also important to encourage them to understand what part the resource centre plays in their own work, how it can help, and how their involvement in the resource centre can enhance both their own work and that of the resource centre. It can be useful to arrange meetings with groups of staff to talk about the how the resource centre can assist them. For example, the resource centre can help them to update their knowledge and support their personal development, or help them to complete a training programme or distance education course. If possible, these meetings should be held in the resource centre.

It is useful to spend some time during the strategic planning process (see Section 1.2: Strategic planning) listing different types of users and others interested in the resource centre, and then grouping those with similar interests together, and considering how to involve the different groups.

For example, groups of users may include:

  • health workers
  • allied health workers
  • rehabilitation workers
  • community workers
  • members of the local community
  • educators and trainers
  • students
  • members of health committees and health teams
  • programme/project staff
  • government staff
  • people from related sectors such as education and environment.

8.1.1 Involving key people

Within each group, it is worth identifying key people to promote the resource centre as information ‘gatekeepers’. It is also important to involve trainers and people linked with communities based away from the resource centre.

Information gatekeepers - It is useful to identify individuals within each group who have a particular interest in information, and encourage them to become champion resource centre users, or information ‘gatekeepers’ for their group (such as nurses, students or members of health teams). They should be encouraged to identify and share information with their group, encourage other members of the group to use the resource centre, and help them to use the materials. They should also gather information relevant to any team or committee meetings that they participate in, to encourage the use of information in decision-making.

Information gatekeepers also have the role of keeping the resource centre staff up-to-date on information needs and topics of interest, and highlighting which materials have been particularly useful for which types of activities, meetings or user groups.

As well as having information gatekeepers, it is useful to set up ‘journals clubs’. Each member of staff keeps up-to-date with the contents of specific journals, and shares this information with their colleagues.

Trainers - It is important to involve those responsible for training activities or continuing education. Training methods that involve the use of resource centre materials are increasingly being used for both initial training and continuing education. These include, for example, problem-based learning (where participants solve a problem or answer a question by seeking out information and discussing it), and individual course members taking it in turns to make presentations to colleagues.

Time could be allocated within official working hours for staff to visit the resource centre, as part of staff development or in-service training programmes. For example, they could visit the resource centre on a rota system, if other duties permit.

Close working relationships between resource centre staff and trainers and managers should be encouraged, to promote the use of the resource centre as a learning strategy. Managers should encourage staff to seek solutions to problems by looking for information in the resource centre. They should promote the resource centre as a source of information to help staff carry out practical tasks and answer queries arising from ward round or health visits.

Staff who are responsible for arranging training workshops can encourage participants to continue learning afterwards, by displaying examples of relevant materials during the workshop, and encouraging participants to visit the resource centre to find more materials.

People in the community - People who work in the community, outreach workers, or those who work for organisations based some way from the resource centre, should be encouraged to use the resource centre, and pass on information to the people they work with. It is important to ask them about the information needs of the groups that they are working with.

8.1.2 Ideas for involving individual users

Individual users can be involved in a number of ways, such as:

  • asking them to give new users an introductory talk or reference interview (see Section 7.4: Advisory services), and encouraging them to ask questions
  • asking users to help identify gaps in the collection and suggest materials to add
  • inviting users to take part in planning meetings
  • asking users to distribute an annual report or regular newsletter - this is particularly relevant to those who work in the community or are members of teams or committees, as it helps to publicise the resource centre more widely
  • encouraging users to write down their comments on the services provided and suggestions for how to improve them, and putting these in a ‘suggestions box’ in the resource centre.

Giving introductory talks or reference interviews is especially useful for people who are running training courses, as they can then encourage participants to use the materials as part of their training, and they themselves will develop a good knowledge of what is available on the subject area. Carrying out reference interviews with new students or staff also helps trainers to know more about the current knowledge and information and training needs of the user.