My last few months as a Librarian/Clinical Evidence Specialist

Natasha S. den Dekker
14 min readJul 22, 2019


As I stand on the cusp of yet another career pivot, I thought I would take a look at the past 6 months and how *exactly* I got to this point. It may look linear, but really it’s not. Somehow this year — well the first half anyway, it’s been full. I actually have no idea what the next 5 months will hold and that’s kinda wonderful and kinda scary. I am also sure that The Universe is somewhere literally wetting itself. I’m going to start from January and work up to the present, so you have an idea of where I’ve been putting my energy when I’ve not been working or at the gym or planning/dreaming of holidays!

NHS Leadership Academy — Stepping Up Programme (BAME) Find out more here

(February — April 2019: Leeds/Sheffield)

For many reasons, I kept this under wraps but yes, I applied in November 2018, and was very happy to be accepted onto this course for the 2019 Northern (lol!) cohort. Blurb from the site:

The Stepping Up programme is a leadership development programme for aspiring black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues who work within healthcare (the NHS or an organisation providing NHS care). It aims to create greater levels of sustainable inclusion within the NHS by addressing the social, organisational and psychological barriers restricting BAME colleagues from progressing.

The programme involved x2 2 day sessions across a period of 3 months (Feb-April in my case) and there were multiple cohorts being run across the country — in my case I was sent to Leeds. As a Band 6 NHS staff member, I did the session geared towards people looking to get into management/leadership roles. For anyone interested; there is a Band 7/8 specific programme that (I hear) focuses on leadership skills like influencing and negotiating. I was really looking forward to this for lots of reasons, but mainly the fact that I was an ethnic minority would be factored into the way we were going to be taught. And to a certain extent I was right, and the first day when I walked into a room of 40+ people and there wasn’t a single white person my brain basically went into shutdown. I have never NEVER seen that before in my life. (I’m only 32 but still — how many of you have been in a professional environment where there are *no* white people at all?). There was big discussion around where we had come from and our identities and our journeys. In fact prior to the session we had had to prepare a poster on our ‘journey’. It was probably around that point where the alarm bells started going off in my head. I won’t go into every detail, but yes some of it was useful, yes I did learn that my experiences as woman of colour in Britain were not just mine, that every man/women in that room had experienced discrimination of some type but how we were all incredibly driven, smart individuals and had overcome that to be in that room.

To be honest the first 2 days were really emotionally draining for me. We also had homework, group-work (to be fair, I had an excellent group!), buddies on top of that, had to conduct 180s and have them conducted for us. And then we had to go back for the final 2 days. I didn’t really want to go back (we watched videos on the second day and then discussed the videos #filler), but I learnt about myself in a way that I hadn’t expected and well, I will never be a fan of group hugs with strangers. If you are reading this, and thinking about applying — you should. The NHS is one of most diverse places I’ve ever worked and while it is awful in a lot of ways (the bullying culture is rife at most hospitals), there is an understanding and appreciation of its history and the people that populate it, that I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else. Also, nope; don’t want to manage. It’s not for me at this point in my career (maybe ever? who knows). All I know is that I lack that vital component of patience and understanding that makes for good managers and I’m ok with that!

Chartership Find out more here

(February — May 2019: Work/Home/Trains) [Submission accepted — 19 June 2019]

Right. There are many, many more people than me who have outlined their feelings about Chartership and their journey more effectively than I can. I embarked on Chartership purely because it was mandated by my then manager. Honestly, there was nothing else on my 1 yr development plan. So I ponied up and paid my membership to CILIP and started the whole process in February (£60). Bearing in mind I was asked to do this in September, and I had to make myself do it. I didn’t enjoy it. I started it in February and submitted in May (another (£60) . I was sold Chartership as the ‘Thing to Do if I want to Progress’, which is probably the only way my manager could make it fit into the Slytherin workings of my brain. Whereas I know some people come at it from the ‘self-reflection of my career and understanding that I’ve actually done a lot of things and contributed to the profession’. I had one meeting with my mentor, didn’t do any of those group meetings and then thanks to support of some great people I wrote most of it in March (I was on holiday for most of April) and then fine-tuned and made it look pretty on the dashboard in the CILIP site, which was an epic undertaking on its own.

I think my only memory of this, was coming back from my final Stepping Up module session, being sat at home writing up what I had learnt/developed and being excited to go on holiday the next day. What a rush! <- said no one.

The reason I wanted to get it done quickly (3 months was still too much time to be spending on it IMO), was because my contract was finishing in August and I was hoping that if I got it in within 2 months of August I might get the results back and then maybe I could stay on and apply for one of the other roles. As ever, best laid plans and all that, that hasn’t happened and while I suppose it was fun to list all the Things I’ve Done (although that’s what Linked In is for, but fine) and cherry-pick what to put in my portfolio, it was incredibly hard going for me, blood from a stone really. 1.5 months later, I don’t think it’s added anything to the way I think, and while I have passed and can add MCLIP to my list of post-nominals, I’m interested to see what effect this will have on my career.

Oh for gods sake now I need to go and update my CV and Linked In.

Job Hunting

(May 2019)

Yup you guessed it! More job hunting for me this first half of the year! (I hope that I’ll have one year in the next few years where I’m NOT doing job applications). In a nutshell I was rejected from every library job, I turned down interviews (not libraries) in knowledge management and information management and I have got a new job (details to follow in a few weeks). But it wasn’t fun. It’s also a very niche market in this region — there’s a reason why a lot of the non-NHS librarian/information jobs are in the south of the country. I started applying as soon as I was back from holiday and due to the lack of jobs, there weren’t that many applications to do. BUT a combination of Indeed and Linked In Premium yielded some pretty good results. I even had an interview at Warwick Medical School (me?!), but I knew I wasn’t right for that job and it’s not quite where I see myself going, so turned it down. I happen to know the person who did get that job, and I can’t think of anyone who would do a better job. I would be silly to not follow my own advice, and I had my portfolio ready to go (have you got yours?) and wore my trusty interview dress and I was good to go.

I found a job quicker than I thought I would, and it was sad but also gratifying to see what while library managers were struggling to understand what on my CV meant that I could do one of their jobs, in other places, they enjoyed my ‘variety’ of experience and how it highlighted a lot of the skills that they were looking for. So while my next job isn’t in libraries, and I don’t know when I will work in some sort of library-based role, never say never!


I have had a rather full conference season, but in the best possible way! I’ll talk about the conferences I’ve attended below:

UXLIBSV (17–19 June 2019: Royal Holloway)

This one was probably my favourite, because I got to learn a lot of new things and connect with people in sessions that really made me think. The location was great, and I was lucky enough to fill one of the left behind slots as someone dropped out last minute (Thanks Andy!). Content was great, food was alright and while I did leave early during the entertainment, I really enjoyed the general vibe of this conference. Barring the VR keynote, I thought the keynotes were great, really fun, engaging speakers that made a topic that I’m only just starting to get to grips with, really come alive.

It felt like everyone was there to learn and all contributions were welcomed. And the practical element of the sessions really resonated with me, and what I think sets this conference apart from others — that opportunity to apply what you’ve learnt in a proper scenario-based exercise. Also attending just as a delegate was fun! None of the pressure that come with being a speaker. Loved it! (Small details as well, like bedazzling our lanyards, different types of lanyard, group tasks, breakout sessions at the end of the day).

NoWAL Conference 2019 find out more here

(Friday 28 June 2019: Liverpool)

I attended NoWal as a speaker/workshop speaker/leader (what’s the proper term?) Myself and Hong-Anh submitted a topic ‘So You Want to Hire the Good Immigrant’ and it was accepted!

Which was great, but also meant we had to put a workshop together. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology — mainly google docs, we put a workshop together that focused mainly on everyone else doing the work and us acting as facilitators. The theme of this conference day was ‘Diversity in the Profession’ and while, yes the attendees were predominantly white, it did feel positive, with people actively engaging with the content. I won’t say that *everyone* engaged with the content because that’s rarely the case. And the guy (white, of An Age) who decided that the concept of ‘community’ needed to be deconstructed ahead of being used to describe marginalised groups may have been the most uncomfortable.

As with UXLIBS I was honoured to meet some wonderful people, and have some good conversations and engage with people that I’d only seen on Twitter. (Best thing about conferences IMO). Also, for the first time, I actually took advantage of take a time out. It sounds silly when you think of this podcast where I talk about how to get the best out of a conference. But I was exhausted and actually spent a session just taking a pause and re-centring myself ahead of the session that I was co-presenting (hosting?). So do that as well — there’s a lot to be said for acknowledging when you’ve hit peak and need to take a break so you can be more present for the next round of sessions.

I think our session went well. We tried to get people to understand what inclusion and diversity actually means on a day-to-day basis. We used a privilege walk, which while being a lot of fun, was also food for thought for attendees (I think!) and set us up nicely for the next activity. Which involved questions, post-its and sharpies and generated a lot of discussion. You will notice that myself and Hong-Anh didn’t do a powerpoint, or talk at the room. We let the attendees direct themselves, it was only the questions we provided that they had to discuss, following a discussion/summary at the end. If you’re interested in the outcomes the padlet is here and some of the notes p

eople took.

If you wanted to see what other presentations there were on the day you can go here and check them out!

CILIP Conference 2019 Find out more here

(3–4 July 2019: Manchester)

I guess this is the biggest one on the calendar? I was already down as a panellist on Day 2, but thanks to a bursary (always apply!!) from UKeiG I was able to attend for both days and stay overnight in Manchester (by this point I’m basically not even bothering to unpack my bag). I have written a piece for eLucidate, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this conference, you hear mixed reviews ‘It’s great’ or ‘It’s pretty boring’. I would say that I come down between the two of those. I was patronised a fair amount while I was walking around, to check if I knew where I was going, or if I was in the right place which never really helps.

As with all conferences, some sessions are good, some are really truly boring and some you thought would be good are actually pretty bad and vice versa! I thought the keynote was ok — she was great, but I think the content wasn’t really new? Or it shouldn’t have new (although going from the gasps in the audience who knows?) I especially enjoyed someone showing me ‘Algorithms of Oppression’ by Safiya Umoja Noble on their phone as I was sat next to them (Bear in mind that the author of aforementioned book was the keynote at this year’s SLA Conference and the topic of the book I had probably heard of it). As per the conditions of my bursary I attended as many (relevant) sessions as possible and actually the Health Seminar was good and the session with the different information professionals from different organisations was really interesting. I love hearing what other people do, and how they do it — especially enjoyed hearing about the Royal Horticultural Society and the London Met Police.

But as it always the case, when you’re on a panel, you’re kinda half there? And I only really took a breath AFTER I did my bit on the panel. I did attend the drinks in the evening and when I mentioned the panel I was going to be, it just got a bit awkward *sigh*. I did however enjoy the drunk guy who was so drunk that he started spilling trade secrets everywhere. Networking folks — you gotta love it! BUT and there’s always a BUT, the people! The people make it all worthwhile. I got to see so many people I haven’t seen for a long time — and that I’ve only spoken to on Twitter. The thing about the CILIP conference is that *a lot* people go (not everyone clearly because not everyone can afford it or get the time off work) and it’s a nice way to feel like you’re part of something.

How did my panel go? I think it was ok?

Hong-Anh (who I have now seen more than my gym in the past few weeks) was the Chair and how she did this after delivering (obviously) an excellent keynote I will never know. But I am incredibly honoured to have been able to share a long table with these wonderful people (Binni Brynolf, Tom Peach, Heena Karavadra) and have people listen to us. I won’t say it was fun, because actually it wasn’t, it was pretty nerve-wracking. And I walked out of that room feeling absolutely exhausted. BUT I did look at some of the comments/conversations on Twitter later and as always, some of it had landed, some of it had not, and even at the conference people were heard asking for solutions and not stories and I made my decision that I wouldn’t be doing a panel like this again. It’s the right decision for me, and also this is my third session of this ilk (4 if you count NoWal) in less than a year, and I think it’s time for other voices to be heard.

Learning How to Ride a Bike

(Thursday 18 July 2019)

RIGHT!!!! This is probably my biggest accomplishment of the year!! I am 32 years old and not being able to ride a bike has been such a big source of embarrassment to me. So, after I was bought a bike last year (!!) I finally looked into lessons and found some via the council and booked in for a 2 hr lesson just down the road. I was so nervous, anxious etc. Because Rob has tried to teach me and I’ve never really beyond the whole SCOOP AND GLIDE thing, but then somehow one foot was on the pedal, and the other, and I was CYCLING!! It might seem like a small thing, but growing up I never got off stabilisers, and for varying cultural reasons and economic, I never really had the time and space to learn and also to not feel embarrassed sharing that I couldn’t with people. Luckily I have better people in my life this time, and I have gently nudged to learn and I did!! There is now a whole world waiting to be explored via a different mode of transport. I feel like I have to go back to all 38 countries just so I can do a cycle tour.

And that sums up the last 6/7 ish months. It’s been x10-infinitely better than 2018. I feel that regardless of what comes next, a year of being on a good team with support I’ve built up my confidence and resilience again. I have the privilege of being able to do all the extracurriculars because I have a good support network and all those people that told me to keep going or in a few cases, to stop (lol) thank you! I know I haven’t mentioned my Rising Star award (I did devote a previous post to this). I know that my campaign for ‘ Director of the Board ‘ for SLA is live — I won’t know the results until September, so I’ll see if my experiences add up to some worth writing about then. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to starting my new job, cycling a bit more, going back to climbing and generally taking a step back (a bit).

Originally published at on July 22, 2019.



Natasha S. den Dekker

User researcher, Ex-Librarian. Microsoft, Oxfam, NHS. Civica. Hyperlearning AI, Lexis Nexis exercise. Probably drumming, lifting weights or planning a holiday.