CISSWeb search system

Published on 01 March 2022, by Pip Divall

Service delivery, Literature searching, Use of technology

About the CISSWeb system in use at University Hospitals of Leicester to track evidence searches

In 2010, at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust we developed CISSWeb (, a clinical evidence search tracking, reporting and delivery system, hosted online.

We developed this in response to the realisation that requesters were accessing library and evidence services in a variety of different ways, often through the librarian they had a previous relationship or connection with, and the work was being done and recorded in separate statistics by those individual librarians working at different sites.

At UHL we have a team of four part time clinical librarians (CLs), and two professional librarians in the wider library team who perform literature searches.  We also found that sometimes requesters were approaching more than one librarian to do the work, or more commonly, where clinicians were working in teams across specialties, each would contact their CL for the same topic. Adding into the mix that we work across three hospital library sites, it became clear that there was a need to record searches centrally.

This also coincided with us having looked at how we branded our output and how we packaged our search results into “decision ready packages” for the requesters. At that time, we were working closely with the Trust’s e-learning team, who had expertise in web and graphic design.

They helped us conceive a logo for both the Library and CL teams, and when we explained our needs in terms of workflow and branding, they designed a system for us that captured the details of a search request, allowed it to be assigned to the right person for the task, and stored the results as well as sending out the search summary and results package.

CISSWeb is designed to be a light piece of software that records the details of a search request, and then sends out a template email with results as attachments. As we weren’t entirely sure how we would use it in the first instance, the team deliberately made as much as possible customisable.

Development discussions led to us asking for four main features:

  • a way of knowing who was working on what search questions,
  • recording and sending results to requesters in a standardised but customisable format,
  • recording evidence search statistics, and,
  • gathering feedback.

Since its initial design and implementation, we have worked with an external web design company to improve on what we had, and we are now able to request for extra design features when needed.

For example, allowing searches to be assigned to library staff at the point of entry to the system, as well as re-assigning to different staff if needed.

CISSweb dashboard showing team members' data and data specific to one member of the team

When a search is entered onto the web form, it can be instantly assigned to a member of library staff, or left to be triaged on a pending requests page. The system automatically sets a deadline of 10 working days for searches to be returned to the requester, and sends reminders to the assigned librarian the day before it is due.

This can be altered from within the admin end of the system. Searches can be completed on any platform, and the results can be uploaded in any file format. Summaries are placed within the body of the email that is sent with the attachment.

This feature was important to us because of the experience we had had with occasionally forgetting to add attachments to emails and requesters responding that summary gave them all they needed to know anyway! Having the option to provide any file format is especially flexible when requesters have asked for Excel spreadsheets, or Word plus .ris files for those who may be writing with a view to publishing their work.

When the emails are sent from CISSWeb, the librarian completing the search is also copied in, as well as a copy of the results and attachments saved to the system. Where full text articles are sent as attachments, these can be set to expire and be deleted from CISSWeb.

There is also our standard but customisable disclaimer that goes into all emails, and a list of links to the resources that have been searched.

When the requester receives their summary email, there is also a feedback link at the beginning and end of the summary, which leads them to a simple form on CISSWeb. Designed to be like eBay starred feedback, we ask for three ratings regarding to the speed of service received, the quality of the results, the impact the results have or will have on the clinical area, and a free text box.

These four questions can also be altered from the admin panel within the database. CISSWeb sends a reminder email about the feedback, and this is currently set to 28 days after the original email is sent.

It is also possible to go into the database and send a feedback reminder for individual searches that have been completed. The feedback is intended to be quick to complete and not onerous for the clinician, the idea being that we can always follow up for more details if needed.

The statistics panel shows which professional groups the requests are coming from, what the intended purpose of the evidence is, and how the requests are received. Again, this is deliberately light, as we do not want to collect information for its own sake.

The simplicity of CISSWeb is its major selling point for us in UHL. It isn’t a complicated system that focusses too much on the formatting of results and it allows us flexibility in how we answer evidence search requests. We hope to have designed the system so it could easily be used by anyone.

If you’d like to know more about CISSWeb, or see it in action, please contact me.


Pip Divall

Clinical Librarian Service Manager

[email protected]