The expert searcher, able to deliver high-quality searches in challenging or pressured environments, is central to accessing and utilising information (Lasserre, 2012). One key example is that health care professionals require reliable, evidence-based information to inform ‘high quality decision-making, learning, research and innovation to achieve excellent health care and health improvement’ (Health Education England, 2014, 9).
Library and information science (LIS) professionals who become expert searchers come from a variety of backgrounds with different types and levels of experiences and training (Booth and Beecroft, 2010; McGowan and Sampson, 2005; Tran, 2017). Training fulfils various roles and it may be required to support:
• New professionals
• Information professionals looking to move into roles who need to improve their search skills
• Information specialists experienced in literature searching but without the relevant discipline knowledge.(Booth and Beecroft, 2010; Tran, 2017)
Different types of expert searcher roles have different degrees of involvement in searching, ranging from roles in which the main focus is on searching (for example, information specialists supporting the production of systematic reviews), to roles where searching is embedded within a wider role description (for example, clinical librarians). Consequently, they will have individual learning and development needs.
This chapter will focus on the knowledge, skills and attributes required of an expert searcher. It will look at how LIS professionals acquire and develop them through training and continuing professional development. It will highlight the extent to which higher education LIS programmes prepare graduates for expert searcher roles; how LIS professionals prepare themselves for the different roles; the subject and contextual knowledge and skills required; and how different approaches to training and development can help LIS professionals acquire the types of knowledge and skills required.
Knowledge and skills required of the expert searcher
To begin to understand the training needs of an expert searcher, we must first recognise what knowledge and skills the role requires. In the absence of a formal expert searcher qualification, frameworks such as the Systematic Review Competency Framework (Townsend et al., 2017), Competencies for Librarians Consulting on Systematic Reviews (Jewell, Foster and Dreker, 2017) and the Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies (PRESS) guideline document (McGowan et al., 2016; Sampson et al., 2009) identify expert searcher competencies (see Table 10.1 opposite).