Cost-effective ways of delivering enquiry services: a rapid review

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Abstract

Background:

In the recent times of recession and budget cuts, it is more important than ever for library and information services to deliver cost-effective services.

Objectives:

This rapid review aims to examine the evidence for the most cost-effective ways of delivering enquiry services.

Methods:

A literature search was conducted on LISA (Library and Information Sciences Abstracts) and MEDLINE. Searches were limited to 2007 onwards.

Results:

Eight studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies covered hospital and academic libraries in the USA and Canada. Services analysed were ‘point-of-care’ librarian consultations, staffing models for reference desks and virtual/digital reference services.

Conclusions:

Transferable lessons, relevant to health library and information services generally, can be drawn from this rapid review. These suggest that ‘point-of-care’ librarians for primary care practitioners are a cost-effective way of answering questions. Reference desks can be cost-effectively staffed by student employees or general reference staff, although librarian referral must be provided for more complex and subject-specific enquiries. However, it is not possible to draw any conclusions on virtual/digital reference services because of the limited literature available. Further case analysis studies measuring specific services, particularly enquiry services within a health library and information context, are required.

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