From LA to…Torquay?? – Jessica Lorimer

This week’s post comes from Jessica Lorimer. Jessica moved from the US to the UK to start a graduate traineeship at an NHS hospital library. Here she tells us about her experience moving to the UK and the first few months of her traineeship. You can read more from Jessica on her blog.

I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people I moved 5,000+ miles to pursue a library traineeship here in Devon. Giving up sunny Los Angeles for what – rain and cream teas? What on earth was I thinking?? Well, I’ve been the graduate library trainee at Torbay Hospital for just over three months now, and while I sometimes (ok, always) miss the warm weather, I’ve also gained valuable experience and met some really amazing people. I thought I’d share some of my experiences for all of you out there looking for training schemes and/or job in healthcare librarianship.


Looking for library jobs -and jobs in general- after graduation can be rough, and I came into healthcare librarianship by somewhat of an accident. After graduating in May, I was in the same position as many recent university graduates: sending out a ton of applications, getting a handful of interviews, and ultimately going nowhere. As a student I worked at my university library and really enjoyed it. I also grew up internationally, and while I had never lived in the UK, I knew I wanted to take advantage of my dual citizenship. So when I was offered this job it seemed a perfect match, and I packed up my things and moved to Torquay. My move to the UK was an impulsive one, but all in all, I’m glad I did. Now I work for the NHS.

Wait…the NHS?

When brainstorming library jobs, what comes to mind? Normally old buildings and sprawling university collections, right? At least, that’s what I first thought. Despite the stereotypes, that’s simply not true. The NHS is the largest public sector employer in the UK, and it holds over 215 library services. That’s huge! It’s a great and often overlooked sector for recent graduates interested in librarianship or who have a background in healthcare (although a science degree isn’t required).

Hospital libraries provide a range of services to healthcare staff and students. Some of the projects that librarians at Torbay are working on include:

  • Information consultancy
  • Information skills training
  • Current awareness
  • Digital and print collection management
  • Literature reviews

It’s really rewarding to be in this sector, as your work can lead to changes in diagnosis, choice of tests and treatment, length of stay, and the overall quality of experience for patients. In addition, it’s a dynamic field and we often go beyond practice to look at policy.

What do you do?

Because our department is quite small (four), I started working almost immediately and have been able to dip into a lot of projects. I’ve processed new books and journals, answered and requested interlibrary loans, and even completed a journal weed. One of the benefits of working in a health library is the variety. We have met with local public libraries to set up public health seminars, and I’ve even been on the wards, getting to meet clinical staff and see the hospital “in-action.”

What’s next?

So far I’ve enjoyed living in Torquay and have been taking full advantage of this new adventure: exploring Dartmoor, going to pantomimes and eating lots of Cornish pasties. If any of you are planning on moving for a traineeship or first job, I’m not going to lie – it can get lonely. But joining different clubs and activities (candle making and netball anyone?) outside of work makes meeting new people a bit easier.

On the library side of things, what I’m realizing now is that I need a degree if I want to progress in this field. For those of you who are international, or don’t meet the residency requirements in the UK, I would strongly recommend looking into distance learning courses. There are many options that allow you to study part-time, and these can be much cheaper than international rates.

Ultimately my advice to you all out there is to consider working in a health library! Maybe it’ll be your calling, and if not, you’ll still have received some excellent training and transferrable skills.


Parts of this post originally appeared on Jessica’s blog.


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