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Express Outreach Award Highlights: Supporting Open Access: Librarians as advocates, researchers, educators, and role models

by Lauren Maggio
Director of Research and Instruction
Lane Medical Library & Center for Knowledge Management
Stanford University Medical Center

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy requires that all peer-reviewed journal publications resulting from NIH funding be made publicly accessible within a year of publication in PMC. It is assumed that this policy will translate into increased information use by the public, including health professionals. However, studies of health professionals’ information use are rare, particularly in clinical settings and over extended periods of time. Research is needed to gauge the potential impact and contribution of the policy, as well as the effectiveness of libraries’ educational and marketing initiatives to ensure effective information use for evidence-based practice among practitioners. To contribute to this research, our 2012-13 NN/LM PSR Express Outreach Award investigated the information use of health professionals at Stanford University Medical Center (SUMC) using web log analysis and qualitative interviews, and translated our findings into hands-on workshops for librarians and information science students.

Using a mixed methods approach, our study focused on the popular information resources, PubMed and UpToDate. Based on our quantitative analysis, which was focused on web logs generated in 2011 at SUMC, we concluded that health personnel do access research literature in patient care, there is an emphasis on current articles, especially those published in 2011 (the year of the study), and that review articles were the most commonly accessed publication type. Full results from this study were published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association. For the qualitative arm of the study, twenty-two internists were interviewed. Once transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis, the interviews yielded information about participants’ perceptions of PubMed and UpToDate and the barriers to their use in clinical practice. For example, participants identified that the effort needed to successfully search PubMed was intense for practical use in clinical care, although they found it to be most relevant when searching for current information.

As stewards of knowledge, librarians have an instrumental role to play in supporting open access initiatives, such as the NIH Public Access Policy. Therefore, as a major component of our Express Outreach Award we developed and delivered a workshop, based on our data, to engage librarians in an active discussion of the current state of open access. The five-hour workshop was offered at three institutions, including Stanford University; University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Hawaii. Nearly fifty librarians and information science students participated in the workshops.

Data collected from our study was used to structure interactive case studies and provide authentic examples for all activities. In the sessions, participants were challenged to think critically about their roles as advocates, role models, researchers, collection developers, and educators, and to share best practices. Additionally, we demonstrated the methods utilized in collecting our data and brainstormed ways in which the librarian community can collaborate to continue growing this evidence base for open access.

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