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Category: Library Projects

UAB to Host Library Carpentry Workshop Series

Library Carpentry Logo

UAB Libraries’ application to host the Library Carpentry workshop series sponsored by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) has been approved by NNLM. This online training provides an introduction to core concepts in data science and software development to help prepare librarians, researchers, and academic faculty to interact effectively with data as an evolving information resource. Individuals with no prior programming or data-related experience are highly encouraged to consider attending. The virtual workshops are scheduled for January 22, February 26, March 26, and April 23 of 2021 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Attendance at all sessions is not required, attendees may select specific workshops to attend.) In partnership with ALHeLA, we are opening registration to Alabama health science librarians. Please visit the workshop registration page to receive updated information and registration links as we get closer to the workshop dates. Please note that attendance is capped at 20 registrants, and it is likely we will not be allowed to record the session – so, register early!

Questions about the Library Carpentries workshops at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Libraries may be directed to Kay Smith ( or Dorothy Ogdon (

For more information on Library Carpentry please visit the Library Carpentry Lessons webpage.

Teaching Citation Managers & Screening Tools at UAB Libraries

Practical Planning for Managing Research Materials slide

Submitted by Becca Billings, MLIS
University of Alabama at Birmingham Lister Hill Library

Greetings, wonderful folks of ALHeLA!  As librarians, we are always expanding our knowledge of our many and varied resources and tools in order to share them with our students and faculty as they attain their research endeavors.  Many universities purchase an array of great tools for specific parts of a project, like EndNote or Mendeley to create and manage their library of references for writing a paper, or Covidence and DistillerSR to help researchers fulfill their screening steps when conducting a systematic review.  Most faculty have a favorite tool that they ask students to use as well, and in many instances, these faculty call on the librarians to cover the training. 

Practical Planning for Managing Research Materials slide
An image from PPT slide used in the PhD instruction session

No matter how many times I schedule a class or consultation on EndNote or another tool, I feel like it will never end!  Part of me feels like I could do something differently to save time and energy.  I believe as librarians, and I don’t think I’m the only one, many of us think it’s our responsibility to learn how to use all of our tools in order to better serve our patrons.  During my most recent instruction session with the UAB School of Nursing, I found myself needing to cover a variety of different reference manager tools and screening tools for students in the PhD program, but instead of attempting to teach the students how to use each possible library tool, I, along with my colleague, Dorothy Ogdon, developed an instruction session called “Practical Planning for Managing Research Materials.”  I found it to be a somewhat liberating experience to focus on such a different angle of library resources, not how to use each one, but choose each one, and wanted to share a few things.

I think that it was a good experience to teach students on how to plan for their research projects before they actually start them, which encourages students to really think about what tools they are already comfortable with, what each tool is made to do, and how to incorporate a tool appropriately into their work at the right time.  By focusing more on the planning part of a research project workflow, rather than focusing so much on how to use every possible tool that they could use within the process, I think it helped put resources into a different perspective for students, and helped them understand that they have options!  If they don’t feel comfortable with a specific resource or database, there is something else available for them to try instead.  It also allows them to ask the right questions like, “Is this tool useful for my group that has members outside of my university?” or “Will I have access to this screening tool when I leave my university, or am I confortable with purchasing an individual subscription when I graduate in order to still have access to my work?”

During the instruction session, Dorothy and I first talked about the importance of planning a workflow and how to document your project so losing your work is less likely.  Steps for the planning, implementation, & end-of-project stages were all discussed.  We also focused on research steps that might occur in various projects and how to work with group members and how to select the best tools in each stage to use.  We broke up this part by focusing on what to ask before selecting citation management tools with specific attention given to EndNote, F1000 Workspace, & Mendeley, & later focused on considerations to make for screening tools like Covidence, DistillerSR, & Rayyan.  Each of these databases, while not instructed on how to use, were given a pros and cons list based on our experiences with using the technology.  More resources were provided as well to give students a chance to make their own decisions.

Once the presentation portion was covered, we allowed students to get hands-on experience with both F1000 Workspace, a citation manager, and Rayyan, a free screening tool.  We created a practice project so that students could get a better idea on how to use the tools and what limitations they had.  We got some good feedback and the students really seemed to appreciate a different approach to library instruction that wasn’t black and white but gave them options to make their own decisions.  It is the librarian’s job to provide our students and faculty with the resources to make their own decisions, and I think teaching this session reminded me of that purpose rather than knowing absolutely everything myself.  If you’re interested in seeing the PPT slides and the activity handout, please let me know!

rayyan project image
An image from PhD Project in Rayyan as part of the students’ hands-on activity
F1000 workspace
An image from PhD Project in F1000 Workspace as part of the students’ hands-on activity

Systematic Reviews at UAB Lister Hill Library

UAB Systematic Reviews LibGuide Screenshot

Submitted by Kay Hogan Smith, MLS, MPH
UAB Libraries – Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences

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.

UAB Systematic Reviews LibGuide Screenshot

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?

Grandview’s Print Collection: Rearranged

Grandview Book Collection

Submitted by Alanna Cole
UA MLIS graduate student

Grandview Book Collection
The final result after rearranging all books within the print collection to be in call number order.]

The Kahn-Sibley Medical Library at the Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, AL recently underwent a huge change.  All books in the library’s collection were originally alphabetized by subject and then by call number under each “subject.”  The library’s print collection followed this organizational system for some time, but the McMahon-Sibley Medical Library at Princeton Baptist Medical Center, a sister library, already followed the National Library of Medicine classification system.  Emily Harris, solo librarian at Kahn-Sibley, felt all collections within the Brookwood Baptist Health hospital libraries should follow the same classification system to help create a consistent user experience.  Harris, along with MLIS intern, Alanna Cole, reorganized and shifted the entire print collection.

After two days of shifting and going through the print collection at Kahn-Sibley, the monograph materials were successfully arranged by the NLM call number order.  The tremendous task of shifting allowed the collection to be thoroughly inspected for out of date and miscataloged materials.  Book shelf labels were updated to better represent the “subjects” of the newly-ordered books.  New signs clarified the NLM subject classifications to help patrons find books after the completion of the project. Harris stated, “I believe residents, doctors, and medical students are going to have an easier time finding the exact book they need thanks to this shifting project.  The goal is to allow materials to be found as quickly as possible – with a little help from new signs and labels!”

Surgery titles with blue labels
Surgery titles with blue labels

For instance, blue labels were added to all surgery books and signs were made to note these changes. This labeling system was to ease the transition for surgery residents as they most frequently use the physical books in an eBook era. There have had frantic questions about why cardiothoracic atlases, for example, are no longer shelved with ALL other surgery texts.

Any medical librarian intimidated by the thought of undertaking a massive reordering of materials within the library can rest assured that the project will have ample benefits in terms of collection development and collection knowledge.  Do not hesitate to reach out for help by seeking out other librarians, volunteers, or interns to help expedite the project as well.