Using focus groups to evaluate a multiyear consumer health outreach collaboration


  • Tara Malone Robert M. Bird Library, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  • Shari Clifton Robert M. Bird Library, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center



consumer health information, outreach, qualitative research


Objectives: Academic health sciences librarians sought to evaluate the efficacy and future of the Health Information Specialists Program, a five-year consumer health information outreach collaboration with public libraries across the state.

Methods: Five focus groups were held with participants from all five years of the program. Thirty-four participants from the program attended. Facilitators used structured interview guides consisting of eleven questions regarding the impact of the collaboration on participants’ abilities to connect themselves or others to health information; the usefulness of materials or knowledge gained and its applications; any consumer health outreach projects that arose from the program; and suggestions for future topics, formats, or modifications. Data was hand-coded and analyzed using the framework analysis methodology for qualitative research.

Results: Participants reported feeling improved confidence and comfort in providing health information services to their patrons. Numerous instances of knowledge transfer—in their personal lives, with their colleagues, and for their patrons—were described. Participants reported improved abilities to both find and evaluate consumer health information, and many adapted class materials for their own programming or teaching. Suggestions were provided for future class topics as well as a program website.

Conclusion: Based on data from the five focus groups, the Health Information Specialists Program has positively impacted participants in a number of ways. Primary among these were self-reported improvement in both health information retrieval skills and the ability to evaluate the reliability of health information online, as well as in the confidence to help patrons with their health information needs.

Author Biographies

Tara Malone, Robert M. Bird Library, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Assistant Professor & Head of Serials

Shari Clifton, Robert M. Bird Library, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Professor, Associate Director & Head of Reference


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Original Investigation