Continuing education for systematic reviews: a prospective longitudinal assessment of a workshop for librarians




Systematic Reviews, Librarians, Professional Role, Professional Development, Continuing Education, Evaluation, Survey Research


Objective: This prospective, longitudinal study explored the impact of a continuing education class on librarians’ knowledge levels about and professional involvement with systematic reviews. Barriers to systematic review participation and the presence of formal systematic review services in libraries were also measured.

Methods: Participants completed web-based surveys at three points in time: pre-class, post-class, and six-months’ follow-up. Descriptive statistics were calculated for demographics and survey questions. Linear mixed effects models assessed knowledge score changes over time.

Results: Of 160 class attendees, 140 (88%) completed the pre-class survey. Of those 140, 123 (88%) completed the post-class survey, and 103 (74%) completed the follow-up survey. There was a significant increase (p<0.00001) from pre-class to post-class in knowledge test scores, and this increase was maintained at follow-up. At post-class, 69% or more of participants intended to promote peer review of searches, seek peer review of their searches, search for grey literature, read or follow published guidelines on conduct and documentation of systematic reviews, and ask for authorship on a systematic review. Among librarians who completed a systematic review between post-class and follow-up, 73% consulted published guidelines, 52% searched grey literature, 48% sought peer review, 57% asked for authorship, and 70% received authorship.

Conclusions: Attendance at this continuing education class was associated with positive changes in knowledge about systematic reviews and in librarians’ systematic review–related professional practices. This suggests that in-depth professional development classes can help librarians develop skills that are needed to meet library patrons’ changing service needs.


Yost J, Ciliska D, Dobbins M. Evaluating the impact of an intensive education workshop on evidence-informed decision making knowledge, skills, and behaviours: a mixed methods study. BMC Med Educ. 2014 Jan 17;14(1):13. DOI:

Brandt KA, Sapp JR, Campbell JM. “Current topics in health sciences librarianship”: a pilot program for network-based lifelong learning. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1996 Oct;84(4):515–23. (Available from: [cited 25 Sep 2019].)

Konn T, Roberts N. Academic librarians and continuing education: a study of personal attitudes and opinions. J Libr. 1984 Oct;16(4):262–80. DOI:

Smith D, Burgin R. The motivations of professional and paraprofessional librarians for participating in continuing education programs. Libr Inf Sci Res. 1991 Oct–Dec;13(4):405–29.

Kirkpatrick DL, Kirkpatrick JD. Transferring learning to behavior using the four levels to improve performance. 1st ed. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2005.

Page MJ, Shamseer L, Altman DG, Tetzlaff J, Sampson M, Tricco AC, Catala-Lopez F, Li L, Reid EK, Sarkis-Onofre R, Moher D. Epidemiology and reporting characteristics of systematic reviews of biomedical research: a cross-sectional study. PLoS Med. 2016 May 24;13(5):e1002028. DOI:

Gore GC, Jones J. Systematic reviews and librarians: a primer for managers. Partnersh. 2015;10(1):1–16. DOI:

Cooper ID, Crum JA. New activities and changing roles of health sciences librarians: a systematic review, 1990–2012. J Med Libr Assoc. 2013 Oct;101(4):268–77. DOI:

Crum JA, Cooper ID. Emerging roles for biomedical librarians: a survey of current practice, challenges, and changes. J Med Libr Assoc. 2013 Oct;101(4):278–86. DOI:

Hartman LM, Folb BL, Klem ML, Ratajeski MA, Saleh A, Wessel CB, Ketchum AM. What happens after: outcomes of a systematic review course. Presented at MLA ’13, 113th Medical Library Association Annual Meeting; Boston, MA; May 2013.

Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, The PRISMA Group. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. PLoS Med. 2009 Jul 21;6(7):e1000097. DOI:

Institute of Medicine Committee on Standards for Systematic Reviews of Comparative Effectiveness Research. Finding what works in health care: standards for systematic reviews. Washington, DC: The Institute; 2011.

LimeSurvey. Release 2.00. Hamburg, Germany: LimeSurvey; 2013.

StataCorp. Stata Statistical Software. Release 14. College Station, TX: StataCorp; 2015.

Desmeules R, Campbell S, Dorgan M. Acknowledging librarians’ contributions to systematic review searching. J Can Health Libr Assoc. 2016;37(2):44–52. DOI:

Knehans A, Dell E, Robinson C. Starting a fee-based systematic review service. Med Ref Serv Q. 2016 Jul–Sep;35(3):266–73. DOI:

Ludeman E, Downton K, Shipper AG, Fu Y. Developing a library systematic review service: a case study. Med Ref Serv Q. 2015;34(2):173–80. DOI:

Ross-White A. Librarian involvement in systematic reviews at Queen’s University: an environmental scan. J Can Health Libr Assoc. 2016;37(2):39–43. DOI:






Original Investigation