Medical Librarian Citation Manager Use and Instruction across the United States

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Objectives: This study is an examination of the state of citation manager use and instruction by medical librarians across the United States and US territories. It focuses on librarian preference for citation managers and related instruction. The purpose of this study is to reveal barriers to and preferences for citation managers and citation manager instruction in hospital and academic libraries.

Methods: A literature review performed prior to undertaking this project revealed minimal current literature on citation manager instruction in health sciences and medical libraries. Citation managers evolve quickly, negatively impacting the relevancy of older literature. In effort to capture current reflections on citation manager use and instruction in health science and medical libraries, a qualitative survey was devised and disseminated via medical library listservs in late summer 2017. Questions included in this survey as well as the survey platform and data collection procedures were approved by East Tennessee State University’s Institutional Review Board. Questions discussed librarian citation manager use preferences, instruction styles, barriers to instruction, and perception of value. RedCap was utilized for survey dissemination and analysis. Survey recipients received two weeks to respond to survey questions after which data was compiled and analyzed by researchers to reveal trends.

Results: This survey garnered 238 responses, 61% from academic librarians, 27% from hospital librarians, and 12% from other librarians. Respondents identified Zotero as the most utilized free citation manager and EndNote as the most utilized paid citation manager. Lack of patron interest was the most significant barrier identified by hospital librarians while lack of citation manager awareness was the greatest barrier for academics. Although 97% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that citation manager use instruction falls within library instructional domains, 82% of librarians surveyed report that they did not receive citation manager instruction while pursuing their library degrees.

Conclusions: As librarians assume responsibility for citation manager instruction and use, time must be dedicated to training of librarians to utilize citation managers and effectively teach them to others. Whether this training should occur in school or on the job is debatable and subject to circumstance. Additional recommendations include increased promotion of citation manager availability, purpose, and instruction opportunities in institutions where this is feasible. Limitations of this study include a small sample size with a bias towards respondents familiar with citation managers working in institutions with citation manager subscriptions.


Atlanta, GA

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