Then and now: Two days in the life of a MIDIRS Information Librarian

By Jackie Mitchell on 01 July 2024

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Hello. My name is Jackie Mitchell, I’m one of the Information Librarians on MIDIRS Library and Information Services Team, helping to update and maintain the Maternity and Infant Care (MIC) database, providing literature searches, answering information enquiries from subscribers and non-subscribers, and supporting other staff members and teams in any way we can.

I have worked for MIDIRS for over 21 years now, and in that time I have seen many changes in the way we source and deliver information, mainly due to advances in technology, and also, more generally, in the way we work. In 2019 we became part of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). During the COVID-19 pandemic we all worked from home all the time, but we now employ a system of hybrid working: I often work from home but at least once a week I join the other members of MIDIRS in the office.

Today is an office day. It’s two buses from my home to our Bristol office and once there I log into my emails and open up the database. I guess like most people, my working day begins by checking my emails and dealing with anything urgent. This could be anything from answering a reference query from a staff member for a paper they are working on, to dealing with an invoice from our subscriptions’ agent, Ebsco Information Services, as I have responsibility for dealing with the journals we purchase.

Initially this morning there is nothing that needs a response, so I continue working on a guideline I am preparing for staff use: The Referencing Toolkit. MIDIRS librarians have recently taken on the task of checking and formatting references of all RCM publications, and we are working with a new system, so the aim is that this guideline will assist those who are unsure of or who are new to referencing and promote consistency within our publications.

After that, I answer an email enquiry that has just come in from our Digital Content Editor regarding a literature search on hyponatraemia, needed for the All Wales Midwives Journal Club (AWMJC). I prepared this search before Christmas but there was so much good material on hyponatraemia and related topics, such as hyponatraemia and sodium levels in general, that I am developing it into a Search Pack (or maybe two, depending on which focus I decide to take and what needs to be included). This will be freely available to MIDIRS subscribers and can also be purchased by non-subscribers in the next few weeks.

Orders for our journals (needed to add information to MIC) were placed with our subscriptions’ agent towards the end of last year, so my next job today is to transfer the information from the invoices to the computer records of each individual journal: this will make it easier for us to look up renewal dates, costs, journal format (print; print and online; or, increasingly these days, online only) etc. This takes me the rest of the morning.

After lunch, which was spent in the kitchen downstairs, chatting to friends from the other organisation who work in our building, I join in an email conversation we are having in response to a query raised by one of our Information Librarians, Emma, regarding the description of our search pack on dietary supplements in pregnancy: P187 (Search Packs are pre-prepared literature searches on a variety of popular topics). We decide that the description should be amended to reflect the more comprehensive nature of the pack contents.

Then, my colleague Michelle (one of the other Information Librarians), our administrator Jake and I head down to the basement where our information collection is currently housed, as we have been asked for our input regarding storage solutions for our journals and other material when we move out of Brunel House later this year. Before we went down I was looking at records of our print collection and made a few notes about material that is not accessible online. We have a good look round and make a few more notes, but there are lots of things to consider, so we agree to meet again the following week when we can discuss this with our manager, Louise.

Back upstairs in our office, I return to work on the database. A large part of the team’s work involves selecting material for the database, all within UK copyright law of course! We examine over 400 different sources for relevant items, marking them to be added to one or more of our Search Packs and our Latest Research Update (LRU), where appropriate. Records on the database always include bibliographic details, such as title, author name(s), source, volume and page numbers etc. and an abstract.

In some circumstances, lists of selected material are passed to Jake, who will then create the records on the database for us. This afternoon, I am choosing articles from a print issue of Midwifery Matters. The articles are mainly personal experiences and commentaries that don’t have abstracts so I am adding these myself, writing the abstracts, and adding indexing terms to the records. Record-keeping is important, so when I’ve finished, I enter the number of records I’ve added from that particular issue to our spreadsheets. 

I check my emails again and respond to a message from our subscription’s agent regarding a query I had over one of renewals. She is awaiting an answer from the publisher, so I make a note of this on my calendar to follow this up in two weeks if I haven’t heard back from her, knowing this probably won’t be necessary as our subscriptions’ agent is excellent at keeping me informed of progress.

Tomorrow I will be working from home, so at the end of the day I pack up my laptop and make sure I have everything I need with me before heading out to the bus stop.

Of course, no two days are exactly the same. MIDIRS Information Librarians have a rota for various tasks so that we share the work equally and this also provides us with more variety. So, if it’s my turn to monitor the inboxes I will be checking parliamentary questions, debates or statements from DODS (our political monitor), and adding records to MIC of anything that will be of interest to our subscribers, or I could be performing a bespoke search for a customer, requested through Customer Services, or checking our news feeds.

Every quarter I assist our Copy Editor, Kim, with proofreading for MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, which is one of my favourite things to do. I love reading all the articles and learning about everything that midwives, student midwives and MSWs are undertaking. Every quarter, at the invitation of our Editor, Sara, who is very supportive of our professional development and keen for everyone to get involved with as many different aspects of MIDIRS work as possible, I attend Editorial Board meetings, which I find very interesting and helpful.

When we are working from home we stay in touch through our WhatsApp group and Teams, having regular catch-ups and meetings.

On Mondays, along with all RCM staff, I will attend the Huddle. This is a weekly meeting where staff can share information about the different ways we can help our members, any current initiatives, requests for support, and anything else of interest. We attend bi-monthly meetings of the Professional Team online, and any relevant briefings and training sessions.

In addition to our shared day-to-day work, each member of MIDIRS Information Team has their own specific role: Michelle undertakes all the referencing and creates the index for MIDIRS Midwifery Digest; Anastasia produces our weekly Latest Research Update (LRU), and until recently has supplied weekly updates of our COVID-19 Search Packs; Emma is currently looking into making improvements to our database, as well as assisting Heather, our Digital Content Editor, with website changes. We are a supportive team and learn each others’ roles so we can step in to cover annual leave or support each other if, for any reason, our workloads are heavier than usual. And heading up all this and looking after us is our Library and Information Services Leader, Louise, who used to be an Information Librarian herself.

Our Information Librarians and other team members often sit on different RCM groups and project team meetings, providing literature searches and answering information queries. These include, but are not limited to: the Workforce Planning Group (Michelle), the Fatigue Impact Group (FIG) (Emma), the Re-Birth Project (Louise) and the All Wales Midwives Journal Club (Jake). I was a member of the Expert Clinical Advisory Group (ECAG), set up to produce briefings for midwives and other frontline staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I love my job and having the opportunity to take part in traditional and non-traditional library roles, and being a member of such a great team.


Tuesday 18 June 2024

MIDIRS has recently moved from Brunel House in the Clifton Down area of Bristol to the more centrally located Tony Benn House, home to Unite the Union South West. Today is my first full day in our new office – I was there when we moved our office furniture and equipment in a couple of weeks ago, but I have been working at home since then.  So, my day starts with unpacking my Surface Pro and settling into my new desk, with the help of my colleagues, Michelle and Jake, who help with locating cables and plugging everything into the correct sockets – I am not the techiest of beings and always need assistance with these sorts of things.

Once set up, my first job of the morning is to check my emails and deal with anything that needs immediate attention. As mentioned before, I have responsibility for subscriptions to the journals that are needed in order to select material and add information to MIC. The majority of these are ordered through our subscriptions’ agent, Ebsco Information Services, who we have worked with for many years. Today there is an email relating to two subscriptions which will be expiring in the next few weeks. I have a query about one of them, so I email our contact at Ebsco and will await his reply before I check with my manager whether we would like to renew these subscriptions.

There is also an email from Ebsco concerning auto-renewals. The majority of our subscriptions run from January to December, although there are one or two exceptions, as with the subject of the previous email, so I usually try to submit our requests by mid-November each year. Auto-renewal subscriptions, as the name suggests, will renew automatically unless the publisher is advised directly that a subscriber wishes to cancel, usually by August or September. In this particular case I don’t need to take any action, so I move onto the next task.

An alert pops up on my screen that there has been activity in a group conversation on Teams concerning one of our Search Packs. MIDIRS Librarians keep a check on the content of our packs, so that changes can be made as topics evolve and grow, so that we keep the packs up to date, relevant and sensitive to the needs of our users. The conversation today is concerning the title of one of our Search Packs, which has recently been updated from ‘LGBT+ parents’ to ‘LGBTQ+ parents’ in order to widen the scope of this Search Pack and be more inclusive.

Next, it’s back to subscriptions. My manager has approved an invoice for a journal so I forward this to our Finance Department by email for processing and payment, entering the details on our budget spreadsheet and updating the individual journal’s record.

Now, time for lunch. I pop out to the local supermarket for a meal deal, which I eat at my desk while reading a chapter of the latest in Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series The Last Devil to Die. Not brave enough to have my lunch in the kitchen yet, maybe next time.

I spend the afternoon checking sources for relevant material to add to our database. I am the last one to leave the office today and spend a couple of minutes struggling to turn the remote controlled/sensor lights off, with no success at all! I sheepishly explain my incompetence to the kind gentleman on reception, who assures me they will switch themselves off, so I head out to the bus stop: it’s just one bus journey home now.

It might take a bit of getting used to, being in a new building after more than nine years at our old offices where I knew where everything was and how everything worked, but everyone here is very kind and helpful and it looks like MIDIRS has made a good move.