Determining COVID-19’s impact on an academic medical library’s literature search service


  • Courtney Wombles Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine/University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN
  • Kelsey Grabeel Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine/University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN
  • David Petersen Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine/University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN



COVID-19 pandemic, health science libraries, literature searching, library services


Objective: At many institutions, literature search services are an important aspect of health science librarianship. This exploratory study analyzes how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the use of an academic hospital medical library’s literature search service.

Methods: To evaluate the pandemic’s impact on literature searching at The University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Preston Medical Library, data were analyzed for changes from the year before the pandemic (March 1, 2019 to February 29, 2020) to the first year during the pandemic (March 1st, 2020 to February 28, 2021). This was accomplished using LibWizard, a library feedback and assessment application, to review literature search data during the two periods. Variables of interest included total searches, purpose of searches, affiliation of the searcher, and searches with a pandemic-related research question.

Results: A 36.6% drop in literature search service usage was reported from the pre-pandemic year to the during-pandemic year. There was a 55.3% decrease in searches intended for research, as well as significant decreases in the number of searches requested by all patron affiliations. After March 2020, 10% of all searches concerned a COVID-related topic.

Conclusion: The overall decrease in literature search requests, decrease in research searches, decrease in searches among all patron affiliations, and increase in searches on a COVID-related topic suggest that healthcare worker and institutional priorities changed during the pandemic. The results revealed research interests during the first year of the pandemic, as well as an overall change in library service functionality.

Author Biography

Courtney Wombles, Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine/University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN

Graduate Research Assistant, Preston Medical Library, The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine



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Original Investigation