E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship


Date of this Version

Summer 2007

Document Type



Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship (Summer 2007) 8(2). Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v08n02/hutchinson_t01.html.


Copyright 2007, the authors. Used by permission.



This paper discusses the key ideas that librarians need to know about the movement for “evidence-based” policy and practice. The most important is the methodological quality of research, particularly the importance of randomized controlled experimentation in estimating the effectiveness of interventions. In the early stages of the spread of evidence-based ideas into a new area, librarians will have clients who have a limited appreciation of these ideas, and who may not be clear about the different interpretations of this phrase (e.g., specifically referring to the pre-eminence of randomization, versus a wish for some empirical data). It may also be the case that randomized experiments are largely absent, those that have been conducted are not to be locatable because of inadequate indexing, and there is no consensus on what weight to give to “low quality” research. Librarians in other disciplines will probably seek to learn from those in medicine; there are existing courses for librarians on evidence-based methods in medicine that could be a basis.