2015

Compared to last year, 2015 has been low-key in terms of CPD. Last year I was working towards Chartership, and this year I took a purposeful step back from doing lots of library stuff. 2015 has looked different to 2014, but as with last year, I again only have 3 days of annual leave to last me to April.

Library stuff

My Twitter training is as popular as ever. I also started running reflective reading groups for nurses. Unfortunately, the turnout was low, but I have made adjustments for the next groups which will be running through 2016.

We’ve been putting a lot of effort into outreach within the organisation, and it’s wonderful to be seeing some reward for our efforts.

Personal achievements

My biggest achievement in 2015, however, was passing my driving test. I am very glad to have my Saturday morning lie-in back.

And not only did I learn to drive a car this year, I also got to drive a skidoo during my trip round Iceland.

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One of my resolutions was to rock climb outdoors, and this September I visited Portland in Dorset with some climbing friends. I climbed a few sport routes and even led one. Scary, but good scary.

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Searching and Beyond: The Librarian’s role in systematic reviews

This a day-long course on the systematic review (SR) process and the role/opportunities for librarians and information professionals was just what I was looking for. Knowledge of SRs is something I’d recognised as a skills gap, so I jumped at the chance to attend this course in Winchester last month.

There was a surprising amount of interaction considering this wasn’t a hands-on workshop, and the time passed quickly – it never felt like a lecture. Four members of ESMI (Evidence Synthesis & Modelling for Health Improvement) based at the University of Exeter took us through an overview of how SRs are undertaken and how info skills fit into a SR, including searching, reference management and screening.

What are SRs?

“A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making.” This definition is taken from the Cochrane Library website, an organisation which produces SRs and which I regularly refer to when searching for evidence.

SRs are at the top of the traditional hierarchy of evidence. Although the hierarchy is not a perfect measure, the idea is that SRs limit bias, aim for high reliability (replicable with the same results) and carry more weight.

Systematic review vs Literature review?

Both provide summaries of the literature, but there are important differences. The question, protocol, and process of selecting and evaluating studies, among other things, should be stated clearly in an SR, whereas a literature review has less emphasis on transparency and reliability.

The role of the info pro

Looking back over my information pack from the day, I see that two of the objectives were “confidence in your existing skills” and “Learn new skills”. On reflection, I am surprised how unintimidating the speakers made the whole thing. Yes, SRs are a huge undertaking, but I do have confidence in my skills and can see myself adapting to the SR process.

Understandably, searching is the primary way information professionals are involved in SRs. I know I have definitely done scoping searches for our staff in the past. But we can be involved in other less obvious parts of the process, such as screening results for inclusion/exclusion. The speakers showed how they use reference management software to screen, which is something I’d never considered. For a large scale literature search, I might now use free software like Mendeley or Zotero.

A lot of the attendees were healthcare librarians like myself – involved in literature searching for clinicians and researchers, but not currently involved in SRs, and possibly not in a position to be. SRs can take 12 months at least for a good one (roughly) so not something to get involved in lightly, but a lot of the methodology and processes are applicable on a smaller scale.

The course really clarified SRs and our role within them, I highly recommend it (and in fact there is another one running in Exeter in January!)