The case of the disappearing librarians: analyzing documentation of librarians’ contributions to systematic reviews


  • Amelia Brunskill University of Illinois Chicago
  • Rosie Hanneke University of Illinois Chicago



systematic reviews, Librarians, documentation


Objective: The study aimed to analyze the documented role of a librarian in published systematic reviews and meta-analyses whose registered protocols mentioned librarian involvement. The intention was to identify how, or if, librarians’ involvement was formally documented, how their contributions were described, and if there were any potential connections between this documentation and basic metrics of search reproducibility and quality.

Methods: Reviews whose PROSPERO protocols were registered in 2017 and 2018 and that also specifically mentioned a librarian were analyzed for documentation of the librarian’s involvement. Language describing the librarian and their involvement was gathered and coded, and additional information about the review, including search strategy details, was also collected.

Results: A total of 209 reviews were found and analyzed. Of these, 28% had a librarian co-author, 41% named a librarian in the acknowledgements section, and 78% mentioned the contribution of a librarian within the body of the review. However, mentions of a librarian within the review were often generic (“a librarian”) and in 31% of all reviews analyzed no librarian was specified by name. In 9% of the reviews, there was no reference to a librarian found at all.

Conclusions: Even among this set of reviews, where librarian involvement was specified at the protocol level, librarians’ contributions were often described with minimal, or even no, language in the final published review. Much room for improvement appears to remain in terms of how librarians’ work is documented.


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Original Investigation