Knowledge Specialist, Alfred Gumbwa, joins DCHFT library team

Alfred Gumbwa (in the centre of the photo, above) recently joined Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as a Librarian Knowledge Specialist. Alfred has over 20 years of progressive experience working abroad in academic and international organisations. Alfred’s areas of special interest are information and knowledge management, electronic resources, partnerships, information literacy and literature searches among others. Alfred holds a Master of Science Degree in Library and Information Sciences. Alfred is excited to be joining DCHFT because his work will help healthcare professionals make evidence-based decisions in patient care. Alfred’s hobbies are travelling, gardening, and watching soccer. Alfred is married to Novuyo and has two adult children.

Go Green for Libraries Week!

2nd-8th October 2023 is Libraries Week and this year the theme is Going Green. We’ve partnered up with Dorset County Hospital’s Sustainability Team to raise awareness of issues affecting the library and the organisation as a whole. Led by Beverley Lagden the team met with Library Services Manager, Morag Evans, to discuss how they could collaborate during Libraries Week and into the future. Next week, we will be displaying the work the hospital is already doing to improve its sustainability and here on our blog we describe the activities both teams are doing to raise awareness of these important issues.

If you are a member of staff who would like to learn how to be more sustainable in your workplace why not follow our top tips?

  1. Read DCH’s Green Plan:

2. Become a sustainability champion! You can read more about the work of Sustainability Champions at

3. Sign up to Ecoearn – Ecoearn encourages employees of Dorset Trusts to take both positive environmental and wellbeing actions. It recognises these actions through monthly rewards. The aim is to involve employees in sustainability and wellbeing activities, reducing our direct and indirect carbon emissions. Users are grouped into work teams and compete to earn the most Green Points as individuals and as a team. Performance points are displayed on the web and app leader board. Each month, the top 5 performing individuals are rewarded with £20 vouchers. 6 x £10 vouchers are also raffled across any active users.  

Go to

4. Did you know the Trust has a Wildflower Meadow? Turn left on your way to Sainsbury’s or up from the outside area at Damers restaurant. Tell us what you see when you’re there! So far this year we have seen a range of wildflowers, bees, butterflies, and other insects! Last year robins were a common sight, will they be back? (Robins and blackbirds move around the UK in winter).

5. Have a go at cycling or walking to work – did you know the Trust has bike sheds and shower facilities?

6. Find out more about sustainability and green issues by doing the training on ESR – search for Building a Net Zero NHS:

7. Visit Dorset Explorer to see different maps (including cycle routes and green spaces) of our local area.

8. The library has a number of ebooks on sustainability and green issues – browse our selection on Kortext via your OpenAthens username and password.

9. Drive to work on your own? Why not give a colleague a lift? Use NHS Dorset Lift Share!

10. Last but not least, every little helps, so whatever you can to be more green is great, whether that’s limiting your printing, switching off your monitor and lights at the end of work, walking or cycling to work, or appreciating nature during your lunch break! These actions can also benefit your health and wellbeing, with time in nature shown to help calm and relax us, and time outside in the day may even help you sleep better.

Next week the library will be sharing its pledges to become more environmentally friendly. Watch this space!

Jack receives prestigious library award!

This year marked the 125th anniversary of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), a professional body which represents libraries of all shapes and sizes across the UK. As part of those celebrations, a new list of 125 people was published during their annual conference in July to recognise a new generation of library professionals who are making an impact and leaders to watch out for.

Library Assistant, Jack, who started off at this library as an Apprentice in 2021 and passed in April this year, was one of those chosen individuals! He received a special medal to mark the occasion. He has now begun the path to achieve professional Certification.

For more information about CILIP 125 and the whole list of successful professionals that were awarded, please visit this site CILIP 125: The next generation of leaders – CILIP: the library and information association.

Joe’s Internship at DCH Library

At DCH Library, we are delighted to be one of the teams hosting a supported intern at the hospital. Since March, Joe Meades has been a member of our busy team. In this conversation, library assistant, Jack, asked Joe a few questions to find out how he’s been finding his time here so far.

Q: How did you find out about supported internships at DCH?

Joe: Through a friend at Weymouth College. I was doing the ‘New Directions’ course there, which was about finding different work experience opportunities in the local community.

Q: Who did you speak to about internships that were being advertised at DCH?

Joe: I spoke to my course tutor at the college and was supported by a job coach, and another tutor. Soon after, DCHFT’s widening participation coordinator, called Tom, came and met us. Tom asked us about our interests and where we would like to work, giving suggestions about where we would like to be. I chose to do my internship at the library.

Q: What was like when you first visited the library?

Joe: There was a lot of information to take in! I was surprised by how much work that is done in the library and it looked all in-depth. It was nice to meet the team and felt we would all work well together. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was keen to try out new experiences and get involved with the work.

Q: How were your first few weeks here with us and what did you learn?

Joe: I found the shelving was not going to be quite as difficult as I thought it was. On my very first day as an intern, I joined an online Knowledge Café, which was led by Jack, the library assistant It was pretty full-on and I took away a huge amount of information about the service.

For the first few weeks I shadowed Morag, the library manager, and Jack. I felt it was very beneficial and gave me an understanding of the different areas of work they do. Sometimes, I work with Morag, who does literature searches. The searches she does are quite enjoyable and feel rather immersive.

Q: What have you found most challenging about your time here so far?

Joe: When I first started supplying articles for the library’s users, I found this a bit difficult to start with. Trying to find the articles wasn’t always easy and scrolling to find the right one would be quite hard at times. Remembering passwords was also a struggle when I was given access to the IT systems, such as the library management system and OpenAthens. After a few weeks, I was able to find a way to remember the various passwords and thankfully now don’t have to keep resetting!

When a new system of locating and supplying articles was first launched, this was a sudden, new way of doing article requests, just as I was getting comfortable with the old way of sourcing articles! It’s something I’m still trying to get my head around it, but it’s a work in progress.

Q: What has been enjoyable for you in the role at the library and why?

I have got used to helping chase the overdue books and this has given me something to get stuck into. I have sent SMS reminders to our overdue users and some have responded to me which was a satisfying feeling when they did get in touch to return their books.

Q: What has worked well for you doing a supported internship?

It built a routine and structure into my life. It’s the main reason I wanted to do this by having that in place and having more work/life balance, where I found that not working can become boring after a while and just too much. It’s one of my first experiences being in the workplace and a role that keeps me busy and while we have plenty of work to do, there is always time for socialising with the team and feeling relaxed when I’m here.

Q: What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing a supported internship?

If you want to try something new, it’s worth giving it a go and you can only gain experience from being an intern – there isn’t anything to lose by at least trying!

Knowledge Café Open For Business at DCH Library

Jack Welch, Library Assistant, facilitated our first Knowledge Café

Jack Welch, our Library Assistant describes how he facilitated our first Knowledge Cafe:

“2023 has been one of firsts at DCH library. At the beginning of the year, I was looking ahead to the conclusion of my apprenticeship and, as part of this final stage, was to plan and deliver a project that would be the basis of a formal report. With the support of my colleagues, it was the perfect opportunity to host the first Knowledge Café (KC) inside the library itself and to invite colleagues around the hospital to be our first ‘customers’ (participants being the preferred term).

A Knowledge Café is certainly not an unknown or ambiguous activity – in fact, as part of our national strategic context, Knowledge for Healthcare (which oversees Knowledge and Library Services) champions KCs as a form of knowledge mobilisation. To put this in simpler terms, the purpose of mobilisation is to promote service improvement and build our knowledge base to support better decision-making.

The role of a KC itself is not too complex and not too many criteria to structure the event’s format of delivery. As described by David Gurteen, who is seen as the ‘guru’ of Knowledge Cafés “at its purest, [a Knowledge Café] brings a group of people together to have a conversation on a topic of mutual interest to understand an issue better.” It technically has no agenda, no minutes recorded and is not driven by facilitator-led discussion, as is a focus group – it is rather instead hosted. However, because I had to produce a report soon after this event, I did have to adapt some of those rules and have individual contributions captured in order to have the content written up and also harvested (more on that at the end).

To ensure the day went smoothly, there are some vital considerations that enabled the day to happen. The first of which was the question, which with the input of the library team, came to: How can DCH Library better work in partnership with other teams and support its diverse range of users across the organisation? How can we improve access to our services?

Secondly, is who to invite, and while it is important to try and have a broad base of potential participants, the reality is that a small number are most likely to engage. This can depend on the nature of the KC and the question which is being asked. As it turned out, while I welcomed a relatively small gathering, there was a mix of professions represented in the room such as Trainee Nursing Associates, Practice Educators and volunteers who support the work of the Research department.

Last, but also significant, if the KC is to be a success, is the space and presentation that makes participants feel welcome. Besides the relevant stationery and technology (where we incorporated Slido as part of our introduction) there has to be a feel of a café. Thanks to our combined efforts, the decoration of flowers on the tables and (aided by the baking expertise of our Library Manager) a homemade lemon cake to be the centrepiece of the morning, it creates a more authentic café atmosphere in the room.

While it is impossible to capture the depth of conversations that emerged in the course of the group exchanges, I soon identified some of the ideas to build for enhancing our library service:

  • Working with other teams to better understand what library resources they can access and what format.
  • Seeking collaboration with universities – students on placement should be better made aware of the library service offer.
  • Being proactive to better inform students about the training offer in the library, like study skills.

Although it might have been a small gathering, it was wonderful to hear of the enthusiasm participants had for the library and to continue seeing our service flourish and have a part to play in the wider Dorset health and care system. This has also sparked the development of future Knowledge Cafés to increase our scope in mobilising knowledge across different subject areas besides our own service. In the meantime, we’ll also be trying to act on the suggestions that this event provided and make changes where we can. It gives me great joy to know at least I have played a role in setting a new trend for the library.

(P.S. I also passed my apprenticeship soon afterwards!)”

What Career? Live

Our Apprentice Library Assistant, Jack, represented Knowledge and Library Services in the Olympia Exhibition Centre, London on the 11th November as part of a panel at the ‘What Career Live’ expo. He shared his experience working as an apprentice and advised potential future candidates considering a career in the NHS (and library services!) why they should apply. Thank you to Alison Day, Deputy Head of NHS Knowledge and Library Services (South – East/West), for inviting Jack to be part of the event!

A panel of three people, with Jack Welch on the left with a microphone, speaking about his experience as an apprentice

DCHFT Research Capacity Building Lunch and Learn Programme 2022-23

Organised by the Research and Library teams at Dorset County Hospital, the Lunch and Learn programme, starting in September, aims to provide taster sessions throughout the year at 1-2pm via Microsoft Teams.

With speakers from:

Bournemouth University
Research Design Service South West
DCHFT Research Department
DCHFT Patient Research Ambassador Team
DCHFT Library Team

the programme promises to be exciting, useful and relevant to those wanting to know about the research process and how to grow their research network.

See below for the full programme:

Please email to register your interest in the programme or to book a place on any of the sessions.

DCH Library Team visit to the Dorset History Centre

Jack Welch, Library Assistant Apprentice, describes a recent visit to the Dorset History Centre.

Whether it is searching for your family history or seeking to understand a bygone era of Dorchester and its historic legacy, Dorset History Centre is the one stop service to find this information and more. Formed out of the now defunct Dorset Record Office and the County Local Studies Library, the centre hosts a vast collection of personal, journalistic and significant – as well as minor – materials that are largely accessible to the public. As part of my apprenticeship, some of my assignments are specified on archives and preservation of information, including digital records.

One of the strong rooms in the Dorset History Centre with rows of shelving containing boxes.

Along with members of the library team, we set off to the Centre for an organised visit, hosted by their Community Engagement Officer, Maria Gayton. With a guided tour around the building, we got a taste of the impressive Bankes Collection, a large-scale partnership which has been underway since 2015 (and still going from the volunteers who we saw cataloguing documents onto the system!) Like libraries, archivists have a role in assisting users to identify interest areas from members of the public who request to see documents, helping to direct resources and information which may not have been previously identified by the user.

Since the advent of COVID, and the growth of smartphones, demand and usage of documents has changed substantially compared to how they operated in the past. With the press of a camera shutter, people no longer need to spend long periods consulting documents in the facility, but rather take the information away on their phones and return the archived material. Another challenge is with any archived material that is uploaded onto social media channels, such as Facebook, the ownership of such records is difficult to hold and is not something that can strictly belong to the archive. However, digitisation itself is simply not feasible for all physical archives, which will be an unending task itself, and there is not just the capacity to take on this kind of work.

We were also taken into the strongrooms, which are the repository of many valuable archives that need to be protected from wear and tear across different forces. Upstairs in the centre holds the film and sound archives. Damp, pests and fire are just some of the risks which can cause lasting damage to documents that are almost certainly very fragile from being around for a lengthy period.

A person holding a pest glue trap with dead spiders and insects.

Air conditioning allows control of maintaining the materials and withholding any instance that can inflict humidity, which in turn promotes mould generation (which is never a welcome sight!) It’s an expensive aspect of running an archive with the energy costs, but one that is very much necessary. There are also solar panels installed on the roof to harvest those resources in a more cost-effective manner.

We were also shown the effects of the havoc that moisture and poor temperature control can lead to with one poor artefact that is now otherwise ruined.

A person holding an artefact, damaged by damp.

One of the most fascinating processes is upstairs in preservation and the work which protects archived material and safe for hands to come into contact. Washi (otherwise known as Japanese Paper) is often used for conservation purposes, and it is with painstaking effort that archivists at the Centre have been making sure that recent railway related documents are preserved for the years to come.

The Centre has a publicly accessible catalogue online, which comprises of a rich and extensive range of archived material from research guides to oral histories and electoral registers. It is very much worth a look and browsing through the many centuries of history to be found Browse collections – Epexio (

The visit to the History Centre was especially informative in light of the fact the service is distinct from our own here at the library. While we might be providing the latest in articles and reading materials, the past and historic documents are more likely to be of greater interest to visitors over there, where you can find plenty about the history of this hospital.

An archive railway map and washi - Japanese paper - overlaying the material.

Reflections on running a Living Library

Morag Evans, Librarian, shares her reflections on organising the first Living Library at Dorset County Hospital.

The concept of a Living Library is not new. The first-ever Living Library (Menneske Biblioteket in Danish) was organized in Denmark in 2000 at the Roskilde Festival. The original idea had been developed by a Danish Youth Non-Government Organisation (NGO) called ‘Stop the Violence’ (Foreningen Stop Volden) as part of the activities they offered to festival goers. The aim of a Living Library is to challenge stereotypes, stigma, prejudice and discrimination. Please read more at

A living library works just like a normal library: visitors can browse the catalogue for the available titles, choose the Book they want to read and borrow it for a limited period of time. The only difference is that in a Living Library, Books are people and reading consists of a conversation.

Having conducted some research into how other Trusts and organisations had organised their Living Libraries I decided to run one at Dorset County Hospital Foundation Trust (DCHFT) where I work as a librarian.

The aim of DCHFT’s Living Library was to create a safe space for constructive personal conversations to take place between people who may not normally have had the opportunity to speak to each other.

It was hoped it would offer an opportunity to learn and understand better the diversity of roles and experiences of Trust staff and students and help to challenge some common stereotypes and prejudices.

The DCHFT Living Library’s objectives were to:

•           Promote understanding and clarity around the work that people at DCH do;

•           Provide an interactive experience that engages those who work at DCH;

•           Promote respect across the Trust;

•           Challenge common stereotypes and prejudice about experiences staff face;

Having recently completed a Project Management Lite course run by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) I attempted to run the Living Library as a ‘project’ and this approach worked well.

As a project the Living Library did have a beginning and end but I had to think carefully about scope. The Project Sponsor was the chair of the hospital’s network for staff with disabilities, now called “The Without Limits” Staff Network. I produced a simple Gantt chart of the various activities, timescales and people involved.

I also had a marketing plan for the Living Library – how I was going to promote it and ‘sell’ the idea. The concept was advertised in the Communications bulletin which goes to all staff and an invitation to volunteer to be a Book was extended to all staff.

Ideally, we wanted about ten Books to start with. This was the easy part – ten enthusiastic “Books” were recruited quite quickly and I met with them to describe how the Living Library was going to work. Initially we planned to hold it in the hospital restaurant like a ‘speed dating’ event in November 2021. I asked the Books to write a short ‘blurb’ about their ‘story’ and to choose a picture or image which could go on the front of their Book. This was then added to the Living Library “catalogue” which I prepared in print and electronically on Padlet. This was then advertised and promoted in the staff bulletin and on posters.

Unfortunately, I contracted Covid two weeks before the event and we had to postpone the Living Library.

Meanwhile, talk about the Living Library had caught the attention of the Inclusion Lead and the Chief People Officer who both expressed an interest in the concept and encouraged me to run the Living Library in April but have it as a week-long event to allow time for people to “take out” their chosen Book. I thought this was a great idea. So we planned to have a week long Living Library during the week of
4th-8th April. Instead of one event we invited people to contact directly the Book they had chosen, to meet at a date and time which suited them both.

To say the Living Library was a “huge success” would be an overstatement. Only a few of our lovely Books were “read” as the week we chose turned out to be one of the busiest of the year. However, the feedback we received about the Living Library was very positive, especially from the people who volunteered to be Books, for example:

“I often tell people parts of my…story and talk a little about my experience as a carer, but it is not often these days that I have an in depth conversation about all that happened. I found it therapeutic…I met the [Chief People Officer] and one of the things that we discussed was the support that is available for carers at DCH – I hope that I can be involved in improving care for carers.”

“A very open and honest discussion with a great person.”

However, less positive feedback was around lack of information and promotion of the living library, for example:

“I am still awaiting to meet with my reader. I think the idea is fabulous; it is disappointing there has been little update on this – may be due to hospital pressures.”

The lessons I have learned from running a Living Library have been numerous. I have learnt how to use Padlet, loved meeting new people and enjoyed running a project from start to finish. The Inclusion Lead has recommended that the Books are available on a “Living Catalogue” and that we run the Living Library maybe two or three times a year to fully embed it within the Trust and with the Books’ permission this is what we are intending to do.

I have found that the best thing about running a Living Library is listening to, learning about and facilitating the sharing of different people’s stories – they are all inspiring and I thank them for their enthusiasm for and dedication to the first Living Library at Dorset County Hospital.

DCH Library Apprentice shares experience and learning – at the start of National Apprenticeship Week

Today marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week and our very own Apprentice Library Assistant, Jack Welch, shares his experiences, learning and views about working at DCH Library. As you will see he is making great strides in the world of library work but the rest of the team at DCH Library are also benefitting from his enthusiasm and experience.

“Starting as the new Apprentice Library Assistant, there was certainly one expectation that was thwarted – our range of general fiction/non-fiction was smaller than expected! You can probably gather my knowledge about public libraries, as opposed to health libraries, was much greater. At the time of writing this, I will have been with DCH Library for four months now, which like most enjoyable pursuits has flown by without too much notice (and is always a positive sign). As part of a wider network of health libraries across the southern region, I have found we play a subtle, yet influencing, role in supporting effective healthcare for patients at the hospital.

Here is Jack at the Enquiry Desk in the Library

Alongside providing a range of textbooks, which has inevitably decreased in the internet age, we ensure members at this hospital and beyond are able to access scholarly articles with ease and swiftly respond to those requests when they come in. What cannot always be seen afterwards is the impact that might have after on our end, but the aim is geared towards the care of patients in practice. Secondly, and while it is not strictly part of the library function, we give extra assistance to staff who are having difficulty in logging onto their staff records and complete that all-important mandatory NHS e-learning!

As an apprentice, 80% of the time I will spend inside the actual hospital and my workplace environment (COVID guidance permitting) and one day a week from home to concentrate on any apprenticeship related tasks. This includes monthly assignments, meetings with my tutor online and completing other learning tasks that form as part of my eventual qualification. The team I work with in the library have been a great source of help in providing the resources and information needed to complete my assignments with all the evidence needed to meet the criteria. Crucially, a big part of that is down to direct work experience and drawing on situations that we might encounter – some more often than others.

Settling into this position has allowed me to look at how we can also improve some of the library’s systems and improving the functionality of user PCs available. Since I joined, they now have the latest version of Microsoft Office and, hopefully soon, will be more secure with automated erasure of any personal files/information that can be accidentally left behind. I am also able to put on my creative hat at times and design new signage to inform our visitors of necessary messages – including leaving the windows open in the winter for ventilation!

Getting to know the wider team across my department, and others in our space, has also been reassuring and I’ve already started doing a bit of extracurricular activity, such as joining the internal ‘Without Limits’ staff network and our forthcoming Living Library week! I’ve even been giving a few website and IT advice to other colleagues in the building, when the need has arisen – I have several ‘hats’ which I can wear besides being a Library Assistant. There is much more I found I could contribute to beyond my immediate job responsibilities, which is always an encouraging sign for building new skills.”