I applied and was thrilled to receive funding from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) office for the Greater Midwest Region’s Professional Development Award. This award enabled me to attend the 2.5-day workshop, Systematic Review Workshop: The Nuts and Bolts for Librarians at the University of Pittsburgh’s Falk Library of the Health Sciences from July 17 to 19, 2017. As a newbie in the systematic reviews (SR) world, the workshop was ideal—it clarified my confusion in distinguishing among meta-analyses, SRs, and other types of reviews (e.g. narrative review) and the role of librarians as well as the importance of PubMed. We examined several types of reviews. Despite following the same standards (e.g. Institute of Medicine and PRISMA), some SRs may be of poor quality. I am planning on incorporating the information we learned about report bias in SRs in a September workshop in my library at the University of Akron.
At the Welcome Reception, I met my librarian colleagues. The class consisted of 24 academic and hospital librarians who came as far away as California and Florida and included other non-health sciences librarians: one engineering and one instruction librarian. I enjoyed visiting the scenic Duquesne Incline and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The host city had an extensive banquet of food choices that were in close proximity to the Falk Library. A friend from Pittsburgh told me that the city has over 700 bridges!
It was clear to us that the SR process is not easy—it is time-consuming, complex, challenging but it can be rewarding in supporting researchers. Not all libraries represented had a formal SR service. The first day of the class focused on theoretical concepts such as introduction to systematic reviews, study design, advice on the reference interview and communicating with the SR team. The instructors gave us examples and urged librarians to always ask for the protocol from the SR team. Clear and ongoing communication is essential. I was surprised at the number of resources, including open access resources that index SRs. On the second day, we concentrated on the heart of the librarian’s role in the SR process—-the literature search. We identified databases, namely PubMed recommended for SRs and several grey literature sources. PubMed was recommended for its comprehensiveness and currency in lieu of licensed MEDLINE databases. Another take home message for me was the importance of searching PubMed effectively—proficient use of PubMed was a must! We also worked in small groups to brainstorm, build a search string and test it using PubMed. The instructors shared examples they had completed with SRs teams and their experiences. Overall, I am more confident and prepared to address questions pertaining to SRs than prior to the workshop. Although we don’t have a current formal Systematic Review services program in my library, the foundations for providing SRs research services are beneficial and core aspects of health sciences librarianship. Being familiar with conducting SRs and honing one’s expertise in advanced PubMed searching contribute positively as we help users with their information seeking research and interests.
Submitted on behalf of Marilia Antúnez, Assistant Professor of Bibliography and Life & Allied Health Sciences Librarian at The University of Akron.
The photos below show the Systematic Review Workshop in action and Marilia and other workshop attendees in front of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh dinosaur.