Health Centre Staff Are Satisfied with Librarian-Mediated Search Services, Especially When Librarians Follow Up




A Review of:

McKeown, S., Konrad, S.-L., McTavish, J., & Boyce, E. (2017). Evaluation of hospital staff’s perceived quality of librarian-mediated literature searching services. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 105(2), 120-131.


Objective – To determine the effects of the professional designation and communication method on clinical, educational, and research activities and related users’ reported satisfaction with and perceived quality of a librarian-mediated literature searching service.

Design – Online survey.

Setting – A large teaching hospital in Ontario, Canada. Subjects – 237 health sciences centre staff who were requesting librarian-mediated literature searching over a one-year period.

Methods – From February 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015, one-third of the health centre staff members requesting searching services, representing a systematic sample of the user group, were invited to participate in the survey. The survey centred on questioning participants on a critical incident, which, according to the critical incident technique, is an actual event upon which recollections are made, rather than hypothetical situations. In the case of this study, the critical incident was the service they received upon requesting literature searching by a librarian who was blinded concerning the originator of the request. With a 71% response rate, the researchers received 137 responses to the survey by health sciences staff. Participants were asked how many literature searches they had requested in the previous year, the reason they requested the service, how they submitted the request, and whether the librarian followed up for further clarification of their need. They also reported on the relevance of the results and their method of delivery, along with their perceptions of the overall quality of the service.

Main Results – The results came from 137 completed surveys, for a 71% response rate. Physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals comprised 85% of the responses, at 35%, 27%, and 23% respectively. Scientists, researchers, research coordinators, and other staff made up the remainder of responses. Responses indicated frequent search requests, with the average number of searches being five, and 68% of respondents reported searching for the information themselves before contacting the library for assistance. Most searches were for research/publishing (34%) and teaching/training (20%). Requests were submitted via email (44%), online form (32%), in person (17.5%), and phone (6.5%), and most respondents rated themselves extremely satisfied (54%) or very satisfied (42%). Most respondents (72%) reported that the librarian followed up for further clarification of the request, and staff who received follow-up rated themselves extremely satisfied at a significantly higher rate than those who did not (p=0.002). Respondents whose request was submitted verbally (i.e., by phone or in person), in comparison with those whose request was submitted by email or online form, rated themselves extremely satisfied at a significantly higher rate (p=0.004) and rated the quality of results as excellent at a significantly higher rate (p=0.005).

Conclusion – The need for comprehensive and expert searching when publishing or completing research and the availability of easy to use point-of-care resources may be why librarian-mediated literature searching was used for research and publishing at a rate much higher than for patient care. In addition, the fact that the institution was also engaged in efforts toward evidence-based standardization of care and electronic health records during that year may have also affected results. While satisfaction with the service was higher for those communicating verbally with a librarian, it is unclear whether this was caused by other factors or differences between staff members who engage in phone or in-person communication and those who submit forms and online requests. Because following up was correlated with higher satisfaction, adjustments in service encouraging librarians to follow up are recommended. Following up in person and via phone may help further.


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Author Biography

Peace Ossom Williamson, The University of Texas at Arlington

Director for Research Data Services




How to Cite

Ossom Williamson, P. (2018). Health Centre Staff Are Satisfied with Librarian-Mediated Search Services, Especially When Librarians Follow Up. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 13(1), 43–46.



Evidence Summaries