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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2005

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Book Reviews

Evidence-Based Practice for Information Professionals: A Handbook

Bette Anton
Head, Fong Optometry & Health Sciences Library
University of California, Berkeley

Evidence-Based Practice for Information Professionals: a Handbook / edited by Andrew Booth and Anne Brice. London : Facet, 2004. 304 p. ISBN 1856044718 $100.

This book is an important resource for information professionals interested in developing and improving their practical skills and/or in improving the quality of research in library and information science. There are several, similar definitions of evidence-based medicine (EBM). Sackett, et al., in the "bible" of evidence-based medicine defines EBM as "...the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients" (Sackett 1997). Evidence-based healthcare (EBHC) extends the principles of EBM to all healthcare professions; both have the goal of improving the quality of care. From healthcare, the concept of "evidence-based" practice has moved into the social sciences. The premise of Evidence-based practice for information professionals: a handbook is that the principles and practice of EBHC can and should be carried over into the research and practice of information professionals. This is referred to here as both evidence-based information practice (EBIP) and the narrower evidence-based librarianship (EBL).

Booth's book, whose intended audience is information professionals, is divided into three parts. The first discusses why one might want to use evidence-based practice, gives a brief history, and discusses such practice in the context of libraries and librarians. The second part, the "how-to" section, comprises seven chapters providing a step-by-step approach to such practice. One of the book's aims is to present readers with many of the skills and resources necessary for EBIP, thus the subtitle, "a handbook." Several chapters focus on the steps involved in evidence-based practice: define the problem, find evidence, appraise evidence, apply results of appraisal, evaluate change, and redefine problem. The last section applies the skills to everyday practice; it includes chapters on applying EBIP to reference services, educational activities, collection management, management, information access and retrieval, and marketing. Each of these chapters also includes a "Special Topic," intended to provide a practical example of the application of EBIP to the subject matter of the chapter.

The final chapter speculates about the future of EBIP and includes both short- and long-term goals. This chapter recognizes the fact that currently, the interest in EBIP is primarily limited to librarians who work, or have worked, in healthcare librarianship, "early adapters" because of the important role they have played in promoting EBHC. It also encourages initiatives that develop EBIP skills in educational institutions and through continuing education. One of the stated challenges for EBIP is to promote it in the international arena, and collaborations similar to the Cochrane Collaboration are encouraged. Some initiatives in various countries are mentioned and the Medical Library Association is recognized as an important player in policy development and the promotion of EBIP.

Evidence-based practice for information professionals clearly delineates and defines principles of EBIP, and the arguments are well laid out; each chapter builds on the previous one to explain and promote EBIP. The language and techniques described will be familiar to librarians involved in EBM/EBHC. The editors and contributors have strong backgrounds in teaching evidence-based skills in libraries and/or healthcare settings. All but one of the contributors are from institutions in UK/Commonwealth countries, suggesting that those countries are further along in the process of adopting EBIP than we are here in the U.S.

Overall, this is a very interesting book, and one that should be read in library/information programs, and by anyone serious about research in library and information science. Of course, EBHC itself has not been immune to criticism, much of which focuses on the fact that "evidence" may devalue clinical judgment. The same may be said for EBIP. Also, for certain types of questions, qualitative studies might actually be preferable, because they are more able to get at what people think, and more importantly, why. The editors themselves recognize, and do not exclude, other study designs, but this is brief, and only in making the case for EBIP. Nevertheless, librarians should be (and of course many are) in the forefront of bucking Google's seductions by promoting rigorous methods of research, searching, and evaluation and this may mean adopting EBIP when appropriate. How we are realistically to get to that point is another matter. Those of us who train medical students and physicians -- who deal with life and death issues -- know the difficulties associated with such training. Nonetheless, Evidence-Based Practice for Information Professionals highlights the importance of carefully reviewing and evaluating the literature and of creating reliable research. EBIP is an important goal and one that should be promoted. This book is highly recommended for science and social science libraries and for libraries that serve information and library programs.

Further information may be found at {}


Sackett, David L., et al. 1997. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM. New York: Churchill Livingstone.

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