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J Med Libr Assoc. 2004 Jan;92(1):14-33.

Evaluating the effectiveness of clinical medical librarian programs: a systematic review of the literature.

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Wegner Health Sciences Information Center, University of South Dakota, 1400 West 22nd, Suite 200, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57105, USA.



This study was undertaken to determine if a systematic review of the evidence from thirty years of literature evaluating clinical medical librarian (CML) programs could help clarify the effectiveness of this outreach service model.


A descriptive review of the CML literature describes the general characteristics of these services as they have been implemented, primarily in teaching-hospital settings. Comprehensive searches for CML studies using quantitative or qualitative evaluation methods were conducted in the medical, allied health, librarianship, and social sciences literature.


Thirty-five studies published between 1974 and 2001 met the review criteria. Most (30) evaluated single, active programs and used descriptive research methods (e.g., use statistics or surveys/questionnaires). A weighted average of 89% of users in twelve studies found CML services useful and of high quality, and 65% of users in another overlapping, but not identical, twelve studies said these services contributed to improved patient care.


The total amount of research evidence for CML program effectiveness is not great and most of it is descriptive rather than comparative or analytically qualitative. Standards are needed to consistently evaluate CML or informationist programs in the future. A carefully structured multiprogram study including three to five of the best current programs is needed to define the true value of these services.

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