Virginia Tech Libraries Collaborative Research Grant Program


Program Co-Director: Charlene Eska, Professor of Linguistics, Department of English, Virginia Tech; 2022 Guggenheim Fellow

External Funding

Zhiwu Xie (PI), Tyler Walters (Co-PI, Dean, Virginia Tech Libraries), Charlene Eska (Co-PI, Professor of Linguistics, Virginia Tech Department of English), Mark Phillips (Co-PI, Associate Dean, University of North Texas Libraries), Sarah Ryan (Co-PI, Associate Professor, University of North Texas Department of Information Science), Jamie Wittenberg (Co-PI, Assistant Dean, University Libraries, , University of Colorado Boulder), Vanessa Seals (Co-PI, Assistant Dean, University Libraries, , University of Colorado Boulder), Martin Klein (Co-PI, Los Alamos National Lab Research Library). Joint Professional Development Institute To Cultivate Collaborative Library Scholars. $499,966 federal funding + $321,903 cost share.


The future of academic libraries hinges on our capability to transform the library research and learning service model from a reactive, supportive intermediary to a collaborative specialist with sought-after expertise. Our workforce must be able to directly contribute to the university’s research and learning goals. Past research has identified that, besides knowledge and skill gaps and innate factors such as self-motivation and confidence, a number of persistent institutional barriers also impede librarians from deep, effective research partnerships. These include but are not limited to: the lack of systematic training to conduct research; the lack of constructive criticism and mentorship associated with the training; the lack of growth opportunities and experiences engaging in multidisciplinary research and scholarship; the lack of startup funding; and the lack of designated time release to pursue research endeavors.

To address the startup funding and the experience gaps, Zhiwu proposed an innovative internal seed grant model and initiated this program at Virginia Tech Libraries. This program features: 1) equal partnership between library employees and academic faculty; 2) research topics are not dictated by the library administration or limited to well recognized library scopes; but 3) must leverage library resources and expertise; 4) short, clearly defined, with measurable deliverables; and 5) instead of a substantive merit review, the selection is made through a lottery after satisfying the scope review

Preliminary Results (Updated Feb 2024)

The pilot has since funded 48 diverse and pertinent collaborative projects in research topics far exceeding the previously identified library research strengths. Funded projects have won one award and 3 external grants, from NARA, NEH, and Mellon, producing a 300% return on investment.

For detailed deliverables of the funded projects, please visit the program website.