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New Research Tool Kit Supports Collaboration Between Public Libraries and Post-Secondary Institutions

As a Researcher-in-Residence at the Hamilton Public Library, Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr. Kaitlin Wynia Baluk worked with library workers to produce a research tool kit to aid in the development and advancement of meaningful, mutually beneficial research partnerships between Public Libraries and Post-Secondary institutions.

Aug 16, 2022

Back in May 2021, Kaitlin Wynia Baluk started a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Health, Aging, and Society and joined Hamilton Public Library (HPL) as their researcher-in-residence. The development of the Researcher-in-Residence role was an important outcome of ongoing partnership work between the HPL and McMaster's Community Research Platform (CRP). As HPL’s researcher-in-residence, Wynia Baluk helped support research collaborations between HPL staff and McMaster faculty. Supervised by Dr. James Gillett, she likewise conducted a research project that sought to identify the research questions of public libraries and how universities can best help answer them. This position was funded by a Mitacs Accelerate Grant. Mitacs Accelerate Grants aim to foster innovation by bringing together students and postdoctoral fellows with industry, non-profit, and public sector organizations to conduct research.  

This Mitacs Accelerate project, entitled, Toward the Development of a Framework for Research Collaboration Between Public Libraries and Post-Secondary Institutions, culminated in May 2022. It was built on the idea that public libraries and universities can be natural research partners, with shared goals and complementary strengths. For example, public libraries can help universities connect with research participants and ensure that research is rooted in community needs and interests. Universities can likewise aid public libraries in collecting and using data to make informed decisions about services and organizational practices. While they have much to gain in partnering in research, partnerships are often ad-hoc and few and far between.

To promote sustainable and mutually-beneficial partnerships, Kaitlin created a public library research toolkit. The toolkit is likewise a resource for public library workers who may be unfamiliar with research partnerships. It is grounded in a synthesis of literature and frameworks relevant to developing strong research collaborations. To tailor the synthesis to the public library context, Wynia Baluk also drew on experiences as HPL’s researcher-in-residence. The toolkit is divided into three sections that focus on (1) identifying research needs and questions and considering the benefits, and challenges of pursuing a research partnership with a university, (2) planning and carrying out a partnership, and (3) developing formal research partnership agreements.

While the project has ended, HPL and the CRP plan to continue the researcher-in-residence position. You can access the Public Library Research Tool Kit here.