In 1999, staff at the universities of Sheffield and Oxford commenced an unfunded project to examine whether it is feasible to apply critical appraisal to daily library practice. This aimed to establish whether barriers experienced when appraising medical literature (such as lack of clinical knowledge, poor knowledge of research methodology and little familiarity with statistical terms) might be reduced when appraising research within a librarian's own discipline. Innovative workshops were devised to equip health librarians with skills in interpreting and applying research. Critical Skills Training in Appraisal for Librarians (CRISTAL) used purpose-specific checklists based on the Users’ Guides to the Medical Literature. Delivery was via half-day workshops, based on a format used by the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. Two pilot workshops in Sheffield and Oxford were evaluated using a brief post-workshop form. Participants recorded objectives in attending, their general understanding of research, and whether they had read the paper before the workshop. They were asked about the length, content and presentation of the workshop, the general format, organization and learning environment, whether it had been a good use of their time and whether they had enjoyed it. Findings must be interpreted with caution. The workshops were enjoyable and a good use of time. Although the scenario selected required no clinical knowledge, barriers remain regarding statistics and research methodology. Future workshops for librarians should include sessions on research design and statistics. Further developments will take forward these findings.