What I’m Reading


This annotated bibliography is intended as a foundation for my exploration of makerspaces and participatory learning in school libraries. Sources were selected with the specific focus of the school library makerspace in mind. However, some resources were intentionally chosen to cast a wider net on the maker movement as a whole, in order to develop my understanding of the historical roots of makerspaces and their current manifestations in other environments such as museums, public libraries, academic libraries and community spaces. Grasping the broader makerspace footprint has served to position the role of school library makerspaces within a meaningful context.

In my search for makerspace literature, one thing became very clear: there is a scarcity of research on makerspaces in libraries.  This lack of evidence-based research is well-documented in several of the studies that I read. For example, Sheridan et al. (2014) described the “dearth of empirical research on makerspaces” (p. 529). Moorefield-Lang (2015) also contended that research on makerspaces in libraries is limited, explaining that much of the information available is covered in popular literature such as blogs, magazines and trade publications. However, according to Moorefield-Lang (2015), the “body of peer-reviewed and scholarly research on makerspaces is growing” (p. 358).  Kurti et al. (2014) also reported that “even though the map to educational makerspace success remains vague, pioneers in the field are pushing forward and reporting their findings” (p. 20). Finally, Slatter and Howard (2013) determined that, to date, “the overwhelming majority of research into makerspaces has been conducted in the United States” (p. 275).

This annotated bibliography reflects a sample of a growing body of research, professional literature and popular source reporting on the topic of makerspaces. I encountered many more valuable articles and books that did not “make the cut”. These sources will likely find their way into my blog reflections at some point.

makers, the new industrial revolution

Image source: Enigmabadger  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Anderson, C. (2012). Makers: The new industrial revolution. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart

Anderson, a journalist and editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, advocates for the growth and development of today’s maker movement, identifying it as the new industrial revolution. “We are all Makers. We are born Makers”, claims Anderson (p. 13). Examining the maker movement from his front line position of both observer and participant, Anderson does not claim to be impartial. He predicts that the maker movement will have significant impact on our economic future due to its “low barriers to entry, rapid innovation and intense entrepreneurship” (p. 225). According to Anderson, “the past ten years have been about discovering new ways to create, invent and work together on the Web. The next ten years will be about applying those lessons to the real world” (p. 17).  Computers have changed our lives in extraordinary ways, giving people the means to create, share ideas, and develop communities, new markets and movements, observes Anderson.  On the education front, Anderson argues that the maker movement in schools is aimed to “create a new generation of systems designers and production innovators” (p. 19).  Today’s version of “Industrial Arts” has had a radical overhaul and “as desktop fabrication goes mainstream”, Anderson argues, “it’s time to return to “making things” to the high school curriculum…in the form of teaching design” (p. 55).  Anderson provides an excellent, journalistic account of the maker movement, its history, current status and future potential. Offering fascinating insight into ‘what could be’ his book is of interest to makers and educators who wish to gain a better understanding of the maker movement’s origin and potential future.

Bevan, B., Gutwill, J. P., Petrich, M., & Wilkinson, K. (2015). Learning through STEM-rich tinkering: Findings from a jointly negotiated research project taken up in practice. Science Education, 99(1), 98-120. doi:10.1002/sce.21151

Authors Bevan, Gutwill, Petrich and Wilkinson examine tinkering—a branch of making that emphasizes problem solving—to document how children’s learning is manifested in a museum-based tinkering program.  Bevan et al. argue that their study “adds to the research literature on making by articulating key dimensions of learning through tinkering…that can, in the future, be more explicitly defined and tested in particular disciplinary contexts” and applied to different learning settings such as schools (p. 21). Their “Tinkering Learning Dimensions Framework” explores four dimensions of learning through making and tinkering: Engagement; initiative and intentionality; social scaffolding, and development of understanding. Arguing that while tinkering and making have the potential for creating powerful learning contexts and are deeply rooted in leading learning theory, the authors acknowledge that these makerspace practices “challenge many stakeholders’ ideas of “what learning looks like” (p. 25). Therefore, their study attempts to articulate key dimensions of learning and contribute to emerging theories focusing on learning through making and tinkering. This jointly-negotiated research study is valuable for educators as it creates a means to identify and classify student learning within makerspace environments.

Makerspaces a Practical Guide for Librarians front cover

Image Source: Michelle Davis

Burke, J. J. (2014). Makerspaces: a practical guide for librarians (Vol. 8). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Burke’s book, part of a professional series entitled, “Practical Guides for Librarians”, is an exploration of makerspaces in academic, public and school libraries that examines how the maker movement manifests in each of these settings.  Burke, an academic librarian and director of a university library, argues that makerspaces are well situated within the library’s core functions and traditional purposes in that they provide resources that assist with the acquisition and creation of knowledge, offering materials that might not otherwise be available to patrons. According to Burke, “by providing the space and the means of making, libraries can spur learning, invention, creativity, and innovation” (p. 2). Making can have an educational impact, according to Burke, with educational applications in both Henry Jenkin’s concept of participatory culture and Seymour Papert’s constructionism theory. Burke’s makerspace exploration is based on the results of an informal, online survey completed by 143 respondents representing public, academic, and school libraries from eight countries. Based on his survey results, Burke concludes that “community is the defining element of the maker movement” and makerspaces must reflect a community’s interests, engaging and serving its members’ unique needs and interests (p. 12). Burke also argues that makerspace-hosting libraries have an advantage over other entities in that they can display their patrons’ creations as well as support creations that will improve library services. Finally, Burke encourages librarians to be well-prepared to meet with resistance to the idea of library-hosted makerspaces, advising that a rationale is necessary to address challenges.  With its thorough profiles of 17 library makerspaces, detailed survey results, examination of library makerspace rationales and inclusion of numerous resources designed to assist librarians with establishing makerspaces, this book is a valuable resource for librarians and other educators.

Compton, E., Yusko, S., Teeri, S., Lewis, J. and Boese, A. (2014). Making in the   library toolkit. 1st ed. [ebook] Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/MakingintheLibraryToolkit2014.pdf

Authors Compton, Yusko, Teeri, Lewis and Boese created their toolkit as a means to equip teen and tween library workers with resources to successfully integrate a maker mindset into their programs and services.  According to the authors, libraries can increase their relevance within their communities by embracing the maker movement and revitalizing their services to provide teens with the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.  Compton et al. assert that, “libraries can provide access not only to information, but also the hands on use and experience necessary to be a citizen in a digital world” (p. 7).  The authors define making as having an emphasis on “learning-through-doing in a social environment …where students can develop new knowledge and skills that often can contribute to academic achievement or career preparation” (p. 3). The authors, who are librarians representing both public and school libraries, offer a well-reasoned and researched rationale for why libraries should embrace makerspaces.  Additionally, they address numerous considerations such as challenges and benefits of makerspace programming and present resources for librarians wishing to adopt a maker mindset in their school or public library. With its focus on young adults, this toolkit is a valuable resource for public and school librarians and educators interested in exploring a maker mindset in their library.

Worlds of Making, front cover

Image Source: Michelle Davis

Fleming, L. (2015). Worlds of making: Best practices for establishing a makerspace for your school. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Fleming, a school librarian and one of the early pioneers of a school library makerspace, identifies the maker movement’s impact on education as “profound”, arguing its potential as a significant catalyst for educational reform.  According to Fleming, not only are makerspaces a means to maintain the school library’s relevance, they promote student-centered, participatory, and self-directed learning that extends beyond the traditional separation of curricular subject areas. Fleming asserts that school librarians who are willing to innovate and experiment with a makerspace “can serve as powerful agents of change” enabling a school community to reimagine its approach to learning (p. 44).  Rooted within the constructivist philosophy of education, makerspaces offer a form of differentiated learning that moves students from being content consumers to creators, fostering creativity, embracing collaboration, encouraging a growth mindset, tolerating risk and failure and ultimately, according to Fleming, leading to better thinking and questioning.  Fleming describes the outcome of maker education for students as one that leads to “determination, independent and creative problem solving and an authentic preparation for the real world” (p. 48).  Fleming’s makerspace advocacy is a well-balanced blend of personal experience and research.  While much of her book outlines the processes involved in developing a school library makerspace, Fleming has interwoven these processes with a well-researched rationale, adding an intellectual rigor that elevates it well beyond a “how-to” book on makerspaces.

Hlubinka, M., Dougherty, D., Thomas, P., Chang, S., Hoefer, S., Alexander, I. &    McGuire, D. (2013). Makerspace playbook: school edition. Retrieved from: http://makered.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Makerspace-Playbook-Feb   2013.pdf

The Makerspace team, of Hlubinka, Dougherty, Thomas, Chang, Hoefer, Alexander and McGuire developed the Makerspace playbook for the purpose of introducing schools to the world of making. As a leader in the maker movement, Maker Media (publisher of the Makerspace playbook) is also the publisher of MAKE magazine and the originator of Maker Faire. Arguing that making is a source of innovation and experimental play, the authors claim that through making, new ideas emerge that can lead to real world applications.  It is through play that real learning, innovation and creativity occur, according to Hlubinka et al., as opposed to formal education which leaves little room for play. The authors contend that making presents many problem solving opportunities for students, and fosters character-building traits such as grit, creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, persistence, social responsibility and teamwork. Asserting that makerspaces train students with the skills needed for the future, Hlubinka et al., explain, “We have no idea what the world will be like [in the future]…therefore it is crucial to develop timeless skills such as curiosity, creativity and the ability to learn on one’s own” (p. 4). Maintaining that making is about helping students develop their full potential, the authors’ intent is to transform education, desiring that “the agents of change will be the students themselves” (p. 3).  An oft-cited resource in makerspace literature, The Makerspace Playbook: School Edition is a valuable resource for educators wishing to understand the nature of makerspaces from originators of the movement. Advice for establishing a makerspace and accessing resources is extensive, making this a key publication for makerspace investigation.

Kurti, R. S., Kurti, D., & Fleming, L. (2014). Practical implementation of an educational makerspace: part 3 of making an educational makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 42(2), 20-24.  Retrieved from http://www.teacherlibrarian.com/2014/12/17/educational-makerspaces-2/

Authors Kurti, Kurti and Fleming explore a case study of a makerspace within a high school library, reporting the transformation that took place within this environment. Arguing that “a culture of innovation in an educational makerspace arises from student ownership rather than the presence of high-tech tools”, the authors promote makerspaces as the “ideal environment to foster…independent exploration” (p. 20).  Describing the humble beginnings of the case study makerspace, Kurti et al. explain the various phases of the makerspace’s progression: observations and planning, student engagement, development of student ownership and progression to intermediate level tools and skills. The authors assert that administrative support is essential to the successful implementation of a school library makerspace.  Furthermore, they argue that a lack of budget and technical skills should not stand in the way of creating an educational makerspace.  Rather, having a vision and the disposition to risk and try new things are vital ingredients in makerspace implementation according to Kurti et al.  This article provides both a case study perspective and practical steps in school makerspace development, making it a useful read for school librarians, administrators and other educators.

Loertscher, D. V., Preddy, L., & Derry, B. (2013). Makerspaces in the school library learning commons and the uTEC maker model. Teacher Librarian, 41(2), 48-51. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/utecmakermodel/

Authors Loertscher, Preddy and Derry examine the idea of makerspaces in school libraries and present their uTEC Maker Model, explaining the developmental principles of what a maker looks and acts like.  Their article explains the progression of a maker’s skills through four levels of expertise: Using, Tinkering, Experimenting and Creating (uTEC) and identifies this progression as moving towards the top level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The authors contend that teachers and teacher-librarians can use this uTEC model as a framework for thinking and use it to identify aspects of maker progression in the school setting. Arguing that making has always been a part of vibrant library programs, the authors identify the maker movement as “a more focused, dedicated, and intentional effort blending creativity, inquiry and kinesthetics” (p. 48).  Loertscher et al. also identify three disposition levels present at all four levels of uTEC expertise: personal expertise, cooperative group work and collaborative intelligence.  They concede that the makerspace effort “could be a fad, but it is unlikely to fade when so many find such exhilaration in the act of thinking, making, creating and building” (p. 51). The article provides a useful focus on the maker movement in schools from the perspective of authors who represent different fields of librarianship (academic, public and school). The authors’ uTEC model is especially valuable as a framework for incorporating a makerspace within a school environment.

Invent to Learn, front cover

Image Source: Michelle Davis

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing modern knowledge press.

Martinez and Stager passionately advocate for making and tinkering in schools as a powerful means of learning. According to the authors, making empowers and liberates students—through direct, hands-on experience—to move from passively consuming to actively creating and innovating, stating that “making lets you take control of your life, be more active, and be responsible for your own learning” (p. 29). Educational making, argue Martinez and Stager, exposes students to opportunities that they might not otherwise encounter, welcomes problem-solving strategies, embraces the exploration of multiple intelligences and results in intellectual and social benefits. Anchoring their arguments in Papert’s constructionism theory, the authors contend that it is constructionism that, “most strongly resonates within the maker movement and should be taken seriously by anyone investigating classroom making” (p. 31). Further advantages of educational makerspaces, according to Martinez and Stager, are that concrete maker experiences provide a meaningful connection to classroom theory and concepts, combining, rather than artificially separating, disciplines and expose students to previously unconsidered career opportunities.  Invent to Learn is an extensively cited seminal work in promoting makerspaces within educational settings. As a research team, Martinez and Stager thoroughly and thoughtfully build their argument that educational engagement is best wrought through designing, building, tinkering and making.

Moorefield-Lang, H. M. (2014). Makers in the library: Case studies of 3D printers and maker spaces in library settings. Library Hi Tech, 32(4), 583-593.   doi:10.1108/LHT-06-2014-0056

For the purposes of describing the insights, challenges and successes of implementing makerspaces and/or 3-D printing in libraries, Moorefield-Lang examined six case studies featuring libraries at three different levels: K-12 school, public and university. The author argues that while makerspaces offer an exciting element to library programming, their implementation comes with both successes and challenges and requires certain considerations. According to Moorefield-Lange, librarians intending to establish library makerspaces, “have to be fearless in implementing the technology, willing to learn on their feet, and be excited to explore” (p. 583). The author advises that the following considerations are important for librarians establishing makerspaces: establishing rules, policies and agreements for the space and equipment, providing training for staff, faculty and patrons, sufficiently planning and fund-raising for the space.  Finally, Moorefield-Lang promotes the exploration of makerspaces in library settings, asserting that, “the library is not just a place to absorb or take information but to create opportunities where their clients can actually make and give back” (p. 584).  By focusing on two case studies per library type (school, public and higher education), Moorefield-Lang’s range of makerspace examples makes her article valuable to librarians working in various settings.

Moorefield-Lang, H. M. (2015). User agreements and makerspaces: A content   analysis. New Library World, 116(7), 358-368. doi:10.1108/NLW-12-2014-0144

Moorefield-Lang examined 24 makerspace user-agreements from public and academic libraries to identify themes, commonalities and purpose and to provide a groundwork from which future user-agreements could be developed.  According to the author, while makerspaces in libraries represent a new expansion in services, user agreements for these spaces are even more recent: the agreements accessed for this study were between 6 months to a year old. Moorefield-Lang used content-analysis, identifying several commonalities across makerspace user agreements such as identification of eligible patrons, guidelines for use of the space, neatness, cost, safety, liability and intellectual property. Moorefield-Lang asserts that the purpose of makerspace user agreements is to create “an avenue of understanding for library users, instead of rules” (p. 366). These agreements explain expectations, provide instruction and parameters for use, as well as describe the technologies and training that are available. The author found that each of the user-agreements accessed for her study were tailored specifically to each library’s community and clients and were “consistent in the use of a positive, welcoming tone while making clear the outcomes of using the maker location in an appropriate manner” (p. 366). Moorefield-Lang’s study is relevant for any librarian planning a library makerspace.  It stresses the importance of user agreements for strengthening a library’s services and maintaining safety, while increasing understanding of the makerspace opportunity for patrons.

Moorefield-Lang, H. M. (2015). Change in the making: Makerspaces and the ever-     changing landscape of libraries. Techtrends, 59(3), 107-112.       doi:10.1007/s11528-015-0860-z  

Interviewing 12 librarians—four from K-12 school library settings, four from public library settings and four from university settings—Moorefield-Lang conducted a thematic analysis of how makerspaces were integrated into library environments.  As a result of her study, the author identified the following themes with regards to makerspace implementation: a rationale and decision to implement, staffing models, librarian training and patron training. Moorefield-Lang asserts that librarian training, the development of a professional learning network and accessing online resources are necessary elements of successfully implementing a library makerspace.  She also argues that “there is a fearlessness required in working in these spaces, being vulnerable to failure, offering new classes, accepting aid and training from peers and volunteers, building new connections, and working with new tools and technologies” (p. 108).  The author maintains that there is a need for long term studies on the effects of makerspaces in all areas of library environments: school, public and academic. Moorefield-Lang’s study explores where few have preceded, providing vital insight into themes of makerspace implementation. Her exploration of libraries at various levels makes this a relevant study for those representing various fields of librarianship.

Sheridan, K., Halverson, E. R., Litts, B., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T.   (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three    makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-531.      doi:10.17763/haer.84.4.brr34733723j648u

Seeking to determine how makerspaces function as learning environments, the authors Sheridan, Halverson, Litts, Brahms, Jacobs-Priebe & Owens undertook a comparative case study of three community makerspaces. Through their case study, the authors identified three unifying themes from the makerspaces studied: 1. the multidisciplinary nature of makerspaces fuels engagement and innovation; 2. makerspaces feature diverse learning arrangements; 3. makerspace learning is deeply embedded in the making experience.  According to the authors’ investigation, makerspaces involve the following features: “participating in a space with diverse tools, materials and processes; finding problems and projects to work on; iterating through designs; becoming a member of a community; taking on leadership and teaching roles as needed; and sharing creations with a wider world” (p. 529). While this study is limited by the diversity of the makerspaces examined, it is significant in its identification of the unifying features of makerspaces as learning environments. This article is useful for educators who wish to comprehend the range of makerspace practices and the nature of the learning that takes place within these spaces.

Slatter, D., & Howard, Z. (2013). A place to make, hack, and learn: Makerspaces in   Australian public libraries. Australian Library Journal, 62(4), 272-284. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1627660135?accountid=14739

Slatter and Howard examine the nature of makerspaces in Australian public libraries, addressing issues and challenges, highlighting successes and making recommendations for progress and areas of future research. The authors argue that the role of the public library must change to reflect technological advances and the changing needs of library clients, advocating for makerspaces as contexts which “provide opportunities for community engagement as members gather, collaborate and socialize while learning new skills” (p. 272). Slatter and Howard also contend that the “general consensus of the literature is largely supportive of the library makerspace movement” and report on a number of the benefits of these spaces such as community engagement, access to new technologies, and “future-proofing” libraries (p. 274). The authors maintain that there are significant challenges and barriers to makerspace development in Australian libraries, citing copyright, budget constraints, liability and resistance to change as some of the hurdles. Advocacy, awareness, research and contributing to the movement are all factors that contribute to the success of library makerspaces, according to the authors.  Despite the small sample size in this qualitative research, this article offers useful insights for educators and librarians into the development of makerspaces beyond North America.

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