Librarian Zahra Premji is passionate about teaching and research


You are the new Health Research Librarian. Tell us about your area of expertise and which faculties/depts. do you most work with at UVic?

The programs that I support include Neuroscience, Exercise & Physical Health Education (EPHE), Public Health and Social Dimensions of Health, as well as supporting multidisciplinary health research.

Furthermore, I have expertise and experience conducting evidence synthesis reviews and supporting teams embarking on these kinds of projects. So, I tend to be involved in a lot of review projects, mostly from the researchers in my subject areas, but sometimes from other departments due to the multidisciplinary nature of certain research areas. This support can take the form of training or workshops, consulting or advising teams, and sometimes collaborating as a coauthor on the reviews.

I am also interested in data management as it relates to evidence synthesis, given its direct impact on reproducibility. For those who are not familiar with the term evidence synthesis, it is a review/summary of existing literature or studies on a specific topic, and is done following an explicit methodology so that it is comprehensive and transparent.

What did you do/where did you work prior to coming to UVic Libraries?

Prior to arriving at UVic Libraries, I worked as a research and learning librarian at the University of Calgary, initially as a joint business and medical librarian, and eventually shifting over to solely support the undergraduate business programs. It is here that I learned and obtained extensive experience supporting evidence synthesis in a variety of disciplines.

What library projects are you currently working on?

I think you’ll see a common theme in my work, and that is evidence synthesis. A lot of my current and near future library projects have to do with evidence synthesis collaborations or education. Teaching evidence synthesis methods is something I really enjoy, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to lead the 2023 Evidence Synthesis Institute for librarians in Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. This four-day institute provides training for up to 50 librarians from across Canada on how to support evidence synthesis at their institutions. I co-led the 2022 institute in Canada, alongside the original US Evidence Synthesis Institute creators, and we received overwhelmingly positive feedback. I'm so excited for the 2023 institute!

And secondly, this might not count as a library project per se, but I'm really excited to be co-instructing a brand-new graduate course on systematic reviews with a Social Dimensions of Health faculty member. We are both passionate about teaching and about research methods, and we hope to make this class both fun (can’t teach without good memes) and meaningful.

Do you have any new year’s resolutions that you can share with us?

Even though I moved in Summer of 2021, most of 2022 felt like it was busy with settling; both into my new role as well as into a more permanent housing situation. So, this year my hope is to explore more of the nature that we are blessed with on the island. I hope to spend time bird watching,  spotting wildlife in the ocean (hopefully see my first whale), and enjoy the spring flowers. I also hope to take up riding this year, as I plan to get a bike this spring.

You have published/co-authored an impressive volume of work covering topics about COVID, sexual rights, postsurgical pain, non-oral hormonal contraceptives, and so much more. What new research projects are you working on in 2023?

I really love the variety of topics I get to work on, as part of a team on a systematic or scoping review, and to then see the impact some of these reviews eventually have on policy or practice. In 2023 it will be no different; I already have plans to collaborate on a few systematic or scoping reviews with researchers from Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health (IALH), Public Health, and EPHE this year. Some of these are part of larger grant-funded projects on topics such as access to palliative care, interventions for street-involved youth, and food security to name a few.

Aside from the reviews themselves, one research project that I am currently working on is around sharing practices of systematic review searches especially given the current expectations for transparency and completeness of reporting in evidence synthesis. My collaborator, another Canadian librarian, and I are currently in the data collection stage and we hope to present this work at a Canadian conference later this summer. I also have a few other research projects in the works, but I can’t say anything yet; I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.

Since moving to Victoria from Calgary, have you discovered a new outdoor activity or favourite restaurant?

While I don’t have a favourite restaurant per se, I do have a favourite dish – chicken and waffles, and I have been working my way through every restaurant that offers this on the menu. My favourites so far are Jam Café, Spoons Diner, and The Ruby.

And, with the temperate climate and expansive access to oceanside pathways, I have really been able to indulge my love of walking which began during the early days of the pandemic. So, I can typically be found walking near Dallas road, Beach drive, Cadboro Bay, or any other road that has a water view, on the weekends. Often these walks are two to three hours long. I think I'm drawn to the water because I was born and raised on a tropical island off the coast of Kenya, called Mombasa.

And so I’ll end on an invitation: If you are reading this, and also have a love for walking along the water, send me an email and who knows, we might end up going for a walk sometime.