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Around the province: McMaster faculty-member-in-residence promotes research

Professor Brian Detlor presenting at the Fostering Research Conducted by Librarians workshop he ran at McMaster University this February.
Professor Brian Detlor presenting at the Fostering Research Conducted by Librarians workshop he ran at McMaster University in February.

McMaster University Library broke new ground in July, when Brian Detlor was appointed as its first Faculty Member in Residence. Seconded from his regular faculty position at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, Detlor worked in the library for one year to conduct his own research and to help librarians think about and conduct research themselves.

Several important outcomes were achieved:

  • A collaborative research project between Brian and Kathy Ball, the library’s Director of Assessment and Accountability. Together, they analyzed textual comments from the library’s LibQUAL survey data and will report their results at CARL’s inaugural Librarians’ Research Institute Symposium this May.
  • Joint research opportunities between McMaster University Library and the Hamilton Public Library were explored. One joint endeavour currently underway is the Love Your City, Share Your Stories digital storytelling project. This project involves the creation, storage, and dissemination of digital stories concerning Hamilton cultural icons.
  • Individual research consultations were held with librarians and staff. In this capacity, Detlor met individually with library personnel and gave advice on research projects they were working on, or had interest in conducting.
  • Two research workshops were held. The first was a knowledge café where attendees fleshed out potential research collaborations. The second event was a more formal workshop that explored the context of librarian research, and presented an opportunity for librarians to self-assess their own research projects.

A variety of factors led to the success of the residence program. Detlor has a strong background and interest in library research. He was given an office in the library that facilitated his closer and daily interaction with librarians. The library’s senior leadership team strongly supported the initiative and, importantly, there was considerable flexibility in how the Faculty Member in Residence program played out.  Neither Detlor nor library staff established formal outcomes at the beginning of his tenure nor was any librarian or staff member mandated to conduct research — Detlor merely encouraged research to occur.

We recommend Faculty Member in Residence program to other libraries, although success is largely dependent on some critical factors: one, gaining senior library management buy-in; and two, finding suitable and willing faculty members to take on the role. The latter may require libraries to better market the rich research opportunities that exist within the library as well as to offer some form of incentives as a means of enticing faculty.


Professor Brian Detlor is a Faculty Member in Residence at the McMaster University Library.

Vivian Lewis is University Librarian at McMaster University.

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