Some in Saskatchewan Find The Cochrane Library Useful after Promotion, Access and Training Efforts

Shandra Lee Protzko

Abstract


A review of:
Forbes, Dorothy, Christine Neilson, Janet Bangma, Jennifer Forbes, Daniel Fuller, and Shari Furniss. “Saskatchewan Residents’ Use of The Cochrane Library.” Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 2.2 (2007).

Objective – To evaluate the use of The Cochrane Library by librarians, health care providers and consumers in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Design – Volunteer telephone interviews and surveys of training participants at multiple time points; usage statistics.

Setting – Saskatchewan.

Subjects – Ninety-four volunteers participated in the study. Participants were self-selected from approximately 300 health practitioners and 100 public library staff attending training sessions, located primarily in rural areas. The majority of public library staff who attended training sessions were not professional librarians, although 31.5% of the study participants were librarians. Nurses made up the next largest group (16.3%), followed by therapists (7.6%), library support staff (5.4%), pharmacists (4.3%), physicians (3.3%), other health care providers (20.7%), and other (9.8%). Most were 40-65 years of age (71.6%) and female (92.4%).

Methods – Forty-six training sessions were provided upon request between October 2004 and December 2006. Attendees were invited to participate in the study. Telephone interviews were conducted at three, six, nine, and twelve months following training sessions. Demographic information and data on the use of and satisfaction with The Cochrane Library were collected. Additionally, monthly statistics were tracked by Wiley-Blackwell for user sessions, number of searches, and the number of full-text articles and abstracts visited.

Main Results – Telephone interviews revealed that 65.2% of participants had accessed The Cochrane Library at three months; 64.2% had at six months. At nine months access dropped to 45.2%. At twelve months only 27.4% of participants reported using the resource. Of those who used The Cochrane Library, 16.4% reported at the three-month interview that it was not helpful. This number decreased at six months (11.6%), nine months (7.7%) and twelve months (11.8%). 57.5% of respondents claimed to have learned something from The Cochrane Library, although a few (11.1%) reported that the information found had no impact. Others reported that the knowledge gained confirmed their beliefs (26.1%) and/or helped in decision-making (32.6%). No time points were reported for the data collected about the use and helpfulness of information found in The Cochrane Library. Three-year data from Wiley-Blackwell showed that The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews was most frequently accessed (abstracts=26,016; full texts=15,934). The Cochrane Central Register was accessed 5,640 times and Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects was accessed 1,612 times. Periods of low usage corresponded with summer and Christmas breaks. The type of search strategy used was tracked; the authors note that an emphasis on MeSH during training between October 2004 and December 2006 corresponded with the higher number of MeSH searches during the same time period. Participants reported using The Cochrane Library in response to patron requests, to prepare educational materials, and to support health care policy and practice changes. Reasons for not using The Cochrane Library included lack of time, limited access to the Internet, forgetting how to find and use the Web site, and disappointment with the content.

Conclusion – Since the fall of 2004, The Cochrane Library has been promoted and made available free of charge to all Saskatchewan residents. Usage fluctuates during the year, with less use during the summer and winter holidays; it is reasonable to presume that students use The Cochrane Library during the academic school year. Most telephone interviewees who used The Cochrane Library reported that it was somewhat to very helpful; this number increased slightly over time while the number of respondents who used the resource fell measurably over twelve months. In other words, those who continued to use The Cochrane Library over time were more likely to report a higher level of satisfaction with the resource. Interviews indicated how librarians used The Cochrane Library, why they do or do not use the resource, and their level of satisfaction. The study revealed less about how others, such as practitioners or consumers, use the resource. Based on the limits of the telephone interviews, follow-up studies should try to capture more detailed usage data to describe the attributes of those who do and do not use The Cochrane Library. The authors note that additional data collected through online surveys or the Wiley-Blackwell website could help determine how to sustain use of the resource.

Keywords


The Cochrane Library; evidence-based research; mixed methods approach

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