Like most health sciences libraries, particularly in academic medical science libraries, we’ve received an increasing number of requests for help with systematic reviews from our users at UAB Lister Hill Library over the past few years. Around 2015, we started a systematic review journal club for our librarians to learn more in order to assist our users better, and we formalized our systematic review service policies and procedures under the direction of the head of the Lister Hill reference department at the time, Lee Vucovich. I myself (Kay Smith) took leadership of the systematic review journal club around the same time.
Lee has retired since, but our systematic review service has grown and matured in some ways. The majority of reference librarians at Lister Hill work on at least one or two reviews a month, and consult with review teams on that many more. We provide tips on systematic reviews as well as details about our library services in our Systematic Reviews LibGuide. The guide spells out recommendations for things like librarian co-authorship and lead time on searching. We also try to give review teams a realistic idea of the time and effort it takes to produce a good systematic review. Too many of our users have the notion that this is a quick and easy route to publication. We disabuse them of that notion! One policy we’ve recently implemented requires would-be systematic reviewers to complete a protocol, or at least a protocol template, before we’ll continue to help them with the project.
Although we piloted Distiller SR over the past year as a systematic review support software program for the UAB community, it turned out to be fairly cumbersome to implement, both for us and our users. We have recently licensed Covidence for the UAB systematic reviewers, which we’re currently in the process of rolling out to users.
As for the librarians ourselves, we’ve often found it useful to divide up databases to search for the more laborious reviews. One librarian acts as “lead librarian” on the review and provides the collected results to the review team. Sometimes we’ll conduct all the searches for a review, especially if we’re particularly interested in co-authorship, and we have the time to devote to it.
Our journal club continues to meet monthly, with members taking turns identifying promising articles or book chapters to cover and leading the discussions. Sometimes librarians who’ve attended a particularly enlightening CE or presentation at a professional meeting will channel the learning to the group at a meeting. It’s really interesting to learn about the fresh approaches librarians in different settings take toward certain systematic review issues!
What about you? Have you been participating in more systematic reviews at your institution? What’s your experience?
Submitted by Kay Hogan Smith, MLS, MPH
UAB Libraries – Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences