Supplier Speed Dating with Welsh health libraries

I’m often rattling on about play in libraries at this site – from online games to live action roleplay – but this week I wanted to point out that a playful attitude to knowledge can apply at many levels of library service.

Wendy Foster is Knowledge Services Manager for Glangwili Library at West Wales General Hospital and chair of the All Wales Health Information & Libraries Extension Service (AWHILES).

Every year at the AWHILES conference, library suppliers attend as sponsors, exhibitors, and participants. It can be hard to give all of them sessions to talk with the delegates who attend from across Wales, so this year Wendy’s team of healthcare librarians hit on a novel approach: supplier speed dating.

In groups, the delegates toured the conference’s fourteen exhibitor stands, with six minutes to quiz each supplier before they moved on.

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The Rules of Supplier Speed Dating

  1. Delegates need to be in pairs or small groups
  2. When the session starts, each group should go to an exhibitor’s stand – one group to each stand.
  3. The exhibitors get six minutes with each group during which to sell their products and services.
  4. At the end of the six minutes, a bell will sound signalling that all groups should move clockwise to the next exhibitor.
  5. You need to stick strictly to the timetable in order to get the opportunity for all the delegates to meet all the exhibitors.

Attendees enjoyed the speed dating activity and found it useful; the London & South East Health Libraries NHS conference will adopt the idea in November.

“We found it helped that the delegate groups were from the same NHS Health Board or Trust, as they were likely to have similar concerns,” says Wendy.”Each group got 6 minutes with each exhibitor, again just dividing the time we had by the number of exhibitors. However, afterwards I talked to most of the exhibitors about whether or not they felt that this was enough time, and they all said yes.”

Wendy says that she and her team will continue to refine the game at upcoming events.

“We’ve decided that next time, we’ll do this early on in the conference as that will give delegates time to go back to the exhibitors if they later think of other questions or wanted to know more about something.”

“There are also little things about the game to tweak: for example, using a different bell to announce the tea break. This year some of our delegates missed the mid-way break because they assumed it meant ‘next exhibitor’!”

I’m so pleased to see librarians from outside the usual public library sphere thinking in playful terms about their events – and recognising that this kind of activity requires practice, experiment, and adjustments even for minor practicalities like bathroom breaks. (One of the funniest bits of the 2012 and 2013 zombie sieges I devised for Parkes Shire Council in Tullamore, Australia was working out ways to incorporate bathroom facilities into an ongoing zombie siege scenario. What we came up with was probably the most frightening comfort break anyone in the town will ever take…)

To find out more about AWHILES’ Supplier Speed Dating game, contact Wendy Foster at

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