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

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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.


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


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


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.


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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