Background and introduction
Throughout the UK North West Health region the library services provided to health professionals who need information for patient care are varied. Some libraries promote their mediated search services, whereas some focus on training health professionals to locate information for themselves; others have implemented specialist posts such as dedicated library trainers and clinical librarians. As services are rarely evaluated, little is known about which are effective or costeffective, or the impact they have on the health professionals’ ability to locate information for patient care. Furthermore, there are a number of problems and a lack of validated tools with which to evaluate health library services routinely (Brettle, 2003). This paper outlines some of the issues involved in evaluating the impact of health library services (particularly the provision of information skills training). It then goes on to describe a research project that evaluated the impact of library and information services on health professionals’ ability to locate information for patient care.
Evaluating health library and information services
Evaluation is essential in determining whether services are useful and effective. There is little point in providing services if they are of no use to the intended users, nor if they are not delivering what they are meant to. Although health librarians are being urged to evaluate the services they provide, there are a number of issues that should be considered before embarking on any evaluation, including an awareness of the limitations of the available tools. One of the main areas of service provision for health libraries is information skills training to enable health professionals locate evidence for practice. Before describing a research project that involves evaluating the effectiveness of information skills training compared with mediated searches, this paper will consider some of the issues involved in evaluating information skills training.
There are four main problems or issues involved in evaluating health library and information services (and these may not be restricted to health libraries): these should be considered before beginning any evaluation.