Research Engagement of Health Sciences Librarians: A Survey of Research-Related Activities and Attitudes

By Lessick, Susan; Perryman, Carol et al. | Journal of the Medical Library Association, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Research Engagement of Health Sciences Librarians: A Survey of Research-Related Activities and Attitudes


Lessick, Susan, Perryman, Carol, Billman, Brooke L., Alpi, Kristine M., De Groote, Sandra L., Babin, Ted D., Jr., Journal of the Medical Library Association


Health information research is essential for health sciences librarians to create new knowledge and advance evidence-based practice. The Medical Library Association (MLA), with more than 3,700 health sciences information professional members, has long recognized the importance and benefits of research in health sciences information practice through research policies [1-3], peer-reviewed publications, and funding and recognition of research projects. Studies on the extent to which health sciences librarians are engaged in research are outdated or limited in scope, having been conducted prior to developments in evidence-based librarianship (EBL) [4], the emergence of the informationist role of the health sciences librarian [5, 6], and MLA research initiatives, such as the 2007 Research Imperative: The Research Policy Statement of the Medial Library Association [3] and research agenda [7].

The goal of this study is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the research activities and attitudes of health sciences librarians. The research questions are:

* To what extent do health sciences librarians read library research literature and apply the results of published research to their practice?

* Do they conduct their own research or participate in research grants, and if so, how and what do they study and does the use of research improve their libraries?

* Where and how do they share their findings?

* Are their research activities and attitudes affected by work affiliation?

* What do they perceive as their research skill levels and the benefits, limiting factors, and potential of collaborative opportunities and additional training to increasing their participation in research?

METHODOLOGY

In February 2011, the MLA Research Section conducted an online survey using SurveyMonkey to assess the research activities and attitudes of MLA members as part of a broader planning process that informed the MLA Research Section Vision Statement and Strategic Plan 2012-21016 [8]. A nine-member planning team developed and pilot-tested the survey instrument, consisting of thirty-five closed- and open-ended questions with integrated skip logic (Appendix A, online only). The survey was announced via MLA-FOCUS to all MLA members and available online between February 1 and February 25, 2011. Two reminders were sent during this period.

The survey was reviewed and determined to be exempt from human subject review by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Illinois at Chicago on July 24, 2012. Internet protocol (IP) and email addresses were stripped before the data were analyzed. Analysis for closed-ended questions included descriptive statistics and significance testing across subgroups based on institutional affiliation, educational level, and years since obtaining a master's degree in library science. Using SPSS, the team performed Pearson's chi-square analysis with significance threshold set at p^0.05 for each closed-ended question by institutional affiliation: academic medical library, hospital library, and ''other.'' For each open-ended question, two authors independently coded the responses using the constant comparative method [9], and discrepancies were resolved through discussion. Five broad subject categories were also applied [10, 11]. Online only Table 1 outlines the subject classification scheme with broad and specific subject categories and definitions.

RESULTS

Demographic and institutional information

Based on the MLA membership at the time of the survey [12], the survey response rate was 17% with a 63.58% margin of error (95% confidence interval). Academic library respondents represented almost half of all respondents (49%), while hospital library respondents represented more than one-third (37%). Most of the respondents (61%) had received their master 's degree in library science more than 10 years ago, and the vast majority of respondents had earned a master 's degree in library or information science (90%). …

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