Library as Research Lab

Engaging graduate students in critical research questions


  • Justin Schell University of Michigan Library
  • Meghan Sitar University of Michigan Library



Information literacy at the graduate level can happen at the intersection of research method education and mentorship into a disciplinary community of practice with its own traditions of inquiry, communication, and knowledge creation. Funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Library as Research Lab Project at the University of Michigan enables graduate students, academic librarians, and information science faculty to engage in a series of research activities together, illuminating tacit knowledge in information studies and librarianship, both as a discipline and as a profession.

In the project, three interconnected labs pursue authentic research questions emerging from challenges faced by the Library while providing School of Information students with mentorship, new skills, and a fellowship stipend. A common curriculum across the labs includes research ethics, publishing, project management, and current issues in higher education research. Engaging with the frames of “Research as Inquiry” and “Scholarship as Conversation” from the Association of College and Research Libraries Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education​, students also learn how to effectively discuss, iterate upon, and present their research activities to different audiences. At the end of the fellowship, students enter the profession with an understanding of complex challenges facing libraries and with new strategies for responding to ambiguity and pursuing new solutions through research.

As we complete the final year of the grant, the librarians from the Design Thinking for Library Services Lab will reflect on lessons learned and share student perspectives as a way of discussing how similar initiatives might facilitate positive and critically engaged research projects at other institutions. Attendees will be able to describe strategies for developing similar environments in support of authentic research experiences and will be able to apply strategies documented in a mentoring handbook from the project in their own work.