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University of Michigan School of Information


A new model for training tomorrow’s librarians

Friday, 09/22/2017

“Librarians are increasingly expected to demonstrate the effectiveness of new library services, and to contribute to the larger teaching, research, and service missions of their universities,” says UMSI Associate Professor Soo Young Rieh

UMSI is committed to preparing librarians and other information professionals for these expanded responsibilities, Rieh adds. But today’s educational programs are not quite up to the task.  

“The ‘old’ educational model focuses on breadth, generalist librarians who can perform a range of library tasks,” Rieh says. 

UMSI and University of Michigan Library faculty members will work to reinvent librarian training with a $399,009 grant for their project “Library as Research Lab: Immersive Research Education and Engagement for LIS Students and Library Professionals.” 

The grant was awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, RE-95-17-0104-17. 

Principal investigator Rieh joins co-investigators Elizabeth Yakel, UMSI Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Information, and Nerea Llamas, Associate University Librarian for Research (Interim). 

Recent discussions have centered on defining new core competencies for librarians, says Yakel. “This project will establish a new education model, library as research lab, for student-librarian-faculty teams to learn, practice, and engage in evidence-based approaches to complex problems. We will focus on improving students’ and librarians’ research competencies so they will be better evidence-based practitioners.” 

Working closely as partners, UMSI and University of Michigan Library faculty will create three research labs. Thirty MSI students and six librarians will engage in a variety of research projects over three years. The labs will be co-led by one of the grant investigators and a senior librarian. They will be joined by a junior librarian, and two to four MSI students. 

“These lab members will engage in research projects to develop better services to address complex library problems,” Rieh explains. 

The goals are to assess the library’s role in student learning; create a new model for professional development of junior librarians; measure the library’s impact on research and scholarship; and redesign library services to accommodate changes in higher education. 

In one lab, Designing Thinking for Services, students will apply the processes of problem definition, brainstorming, researching, prototyping, and feedback to current and future challenges of redesigning library services. 

Those in the Library Assessment in Student Learning Lab will utilize existing data, or collect empirical data, to assess how well library resources, services, and spaces contribute to student learning.    

The Library Assessment for Research and Scholarship Lab members will investigate how to support research and scholarship throughout the research lifecycle. 

Overall, Rieh says, the project will create new educational programs for students’ co-curricular experiences. They will learn how to apply evidence-based approaches to practice. Students and librarians also will experience a new mentoring model in the research lab, rather than traditional one-on-one mentoring. 

Ultimately, this project will benefit LIS educators, LIS students, and academic librarians who seek alternative practical experience programs, “because they will be able to replicate and adapt the research lab model," Rieh says.


The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 123,000 libraries(link is external) and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook(link is external)Twitter(link is external) and Instagram(link is external).

- UMSI News Service