Value Statement: How the HSE National Health Library & Knowledge Service is responding to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed unique burdens on the Irish health services and the wider society they support. The response of the National Health Library & Knowledge Service (NHLKS) in these critical times has been swift and decisive, providing crucial support to our frontline professionals and decision makers.

Organisational Flexibility

On Wednesday 11th March 2020 the WHO declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. Within days most NHLKS physical libraries had been shut, and the remainder re-purposed as support facilities. Online services were quickly reorganised around the virtual teams set up in the NHLKS Strategic Plan 2018-23 as the service pivoted to face the threat of the coronavirus. A number staff were redeployed to contact tracing, helpline and other duties while the remainder shifted to a remote working model.

The NHLKS has been responsive to the shifts in practice required by successive waves of the pandemic, closing and re-opening facilities in accordance with the latest guidance. Library users are urged to check the current status of their local library.

Evidence Informed Healthcare

The NHLKS Evidence Team was expanded and focused on producing up-the-minute summaries of evidence to guide frontline professionals. These summaries, along with all health service guidance and research, are captured in the dedicated Covid19 HSE Clinical Guidance and Evidence repository for access at the frontline.  The summaries are also captured in a dedicated collection at the HSE’s Lenus repository for immediate and universal access. The team works in collaboration with senior clinical and managerial offices within the HSE, including national clinical programmes and Clinical Design and Innovation.  Daily online triage and discussion meetings assist with getting the right information to the right people at the right time. Their expert information searching and evaluation skills have greatly accelerated and streamlined the work of clinicians and decision makers, and have been acknowledged at the highest levels of the organisation.  

Digital solutions

The NHLKS Digital Library Team has been busy throughout the crisis, reorganising the hselibrary website as a Covid-19 resources and research centre. The rapid shift to remote working was made seamless thanks to early adoption of Slack as a communications and file sharing tool, creating a robust and flexible network of information professionals from Blanchardstown to the Burren. To compensate for the closure of physical libraries, the Digital team has introduced a Virtual Desk service. The Virtual Desk replicates online many of the functions of a physical issue desk, and enables HSE staff to access library services remotely. A Live Chat function allows library users to get professional library advice in real time.  The Virtual Desk service is staffed by a team of  library staff, located throughout the country.

Reliable Information Resources

Throughout the pandemic, NHLKS has continued to provide an extensive suite of high-quality electronic resources to equip healthcare workers with the latest evidence and guidance in the fight against Covid-19. Clinical databases and journal collections have been available uninterrupted, while diagnostic and reference tools like the British National Formulary and DSM-5 are also accessible online. Nationwide access to the BMJ Best Practice decision-making tool has placed this powerful clinical tool in the hands of every health professional in the country. 

Knowledge Skills

The NHLKS Information Skills team circulate details of online training available to all staff, including for example Endnote, Web of Science and CINAHL.   The team offers a remote training programme which will support evidence informed decision making and practice.


From the earliest stages of the pandemic the NHLKS has shown itself to be flexible, responsive and proactive in supporting our healthcare workers in their work. Its informational expertise and nimble adoption of the appropriate tools for an unprecedented public health emergency has allowed it to play a key part in the fight against Covid-19.

A snapshot of services