The Future of Peer-led Research Services

Guest editor(s)


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted traditional service models in academic libraries. However, out of those disruptions emerged innovation, reconceptualization, and shifts in how and who delivers front-line services. Often out of necessity, libraries and information organizations have increasingly turned to student employees to maintain critical service points in physical and virtual spaces. This special issue of Reference Services Review (RSR) will explore how peer-led research services have evolved and what opportunities the future may hold for peer research support. 

Peer-led research services are not a new concept within academic libraries. Most academic libraries already rely on peer-led services such as writing centers, research mentors, and tutoring programs. Peer-led services at the reference desk have arisen for several reasons, including the need for tiered public services and to answer for staffing shortfalls due to budget cuts. In some cases, access to highly trained graduate or library school student support have created a ready pool of qualified consultants. In others, rising institutional interest in creating more accessible experiences for students seeking support have changed the landscape around student employment opportunities. Finally, with many campuses focusing on student engagement and professional formation, peer-led services create opportunities for the campus library to directly support our student’s academic and professional growth.  

RSR seeks articles for Volume 51 Issue 2 – a special issue on peer-led research services. Topics may include innovations in program development or justification, training and onboarding, analysis of the day-to-day management, assessment, and evaluation, and forecasting of how these programs may continue to evolve. Peer-led research services may occur at many levels and in many contexts, including, but not limited to in-person, virtual, or hybrid research services; undergraduate or graduate levels; work-study programs or specially-funded internships/positions; general or specialized research support; and general or special collections. 

We welcome distinct types of papers, including the following –  


  • Empirical studies, quantitative studies, qualitative studies, mixed-methods, and multi-methods 

  • Broad studies of multiple programs/initiatives that have proven successful in both in-person, remote, and/or hybrid environments

Longitudinal studies 

  • Studies that explore the design, implementation, and impact of student-led peer research programs 

Viewpoint or conceptual paper 

  • Reflections on key terms and core concepts, i.e., the history of peer-led research programs and their development 

  • Reflections on the transition from librarian-led to peer-led research support 

  • Reflections on improving engagement by creating a peer-supported environment  

Case study 

  • Studies that explore the transition to peer-led research support service models 

  • Studies that focus on practices toward training, onboarding, and providing professional formation to student consultants 

  • Studies that focus on advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism through peer-led support services  

  • Studies that focus on the assessment of peer-led support service models 

  • Studies that focus on peer-led information literacy training 

  • Studies that focus on the work that library/archive associations and/or library consortia are doing in this space 

  • Studies that focus on professional formation, and specifically on the work library staff are doing to support the growth of student employees 

Literature review 

  • Annotation and/or critique of the literature on practices for peer-led research services 

  • Annotation and/or critique of peer-led research service models – either in-person, virtual synchronous, or virtual asynchronous 

  • Overview or examination of ongoing mentoring for student consultants within professional development opportunities  


Abstracts and Topic Proposals

Topic proposals should be submitted via the webform at:  


Previous Special Issues 

Examples of previous special issues can be found in RSR issues ( 

  • Anti-Racist Action in Libraries (50.1, 2022) 

  • Academic Libraries and the Costs of Higher Education (48.3, 2020) 

  • Academic Libraries and the 45th President (48.1, 2020) 

  • Library Services to People with Disabilities (46.3, 2018) 

  • Emergent Literacies in Academic Libraries (46.2, 2018) 

  • Transfer Students and Students in Transition (45.2 and 45.3, 2017) 

  • Health Information Literacy (44.2, 2016) 

  • Entrepreneurship (43.3, 2015) 

Anticipated Publication Schedule 

The anticipated publication date is June 2023 (51.2). The anticipated development schedule is: 

  • June 26, 2022: Abstract submission deadline. 

  • July 19, 2022: Abstract acceptance notification. 

  • September 26, 2022: Manuscript due. 

  • October 24, 2022: Manuscript revisions notification. 

  • November 14, 2022: Revision 1 due. 

  • November 30, 2022: Revisions notification. 

  • December 14, 2022: Revision 2 due. 

  • December 21, 2022: Final revisions notification. 

  • January 4, 2023: Final revisions due. 


Guest Editor 

Reference Services Review is pleased to welcome back Christopher Granatino as Guest Editor for this special issue. Christopher is the Director, Research Services at Seattle University, where he serves as the Co-Lead for the Student Peer Research Consultant (SPRC) program – which will soon be starting its fourth cohort. Christopher will play a key role in curating high-quality contributions on the topics described above and driving the editorial review process for this special issue. Christopher previously served as co-Guest Editor for the special issue on Academic Libraries and the Costs of Higher Education (48.3, 2020). 

Christopher Granatino (he/him)  
Director, Research Services, Lemieux Library & McGoldrick Learning Commons, Seattle University, Washington, USA 


Sarah Barbara Watstein, Editor 
Dean of the Library, Lemieux Library, Seattle University, Washington, USA 

Elizabeth M. Johns, Associate Editor 
Associate Faculty, Department of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, Indiana, USA