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Published November 6, 2018

Learning in a public library ‘makerspace’

Creating new opportunities to assess library learning

Sam Abramovich, assistant professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction and the Department of Library and Information Studies, in collaboration with the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, has been awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop reliable and valid ways to measure the learning and associated benefits of Makerspaces in libraries.

The three-year project focuses on supporting and evaluating library Makerspaces, also known as Hackerspaces, Fablabs and DIY (do it yourself) labs, which are designed to offer library patrons new opportunities to learn and create through exploration, creation and play.  Many Makerspaces are equipped with 3D printers, electronics, craft supplies, tools and software for all ages.

“Evaluating creative hands-on learning activities in our public Makerspace is critical as libraries continue to evolve and expand services to meet community needs,” said Mary Jean Jakubowski, director of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.  “Understanding the value of such services and being able to determine measurable components of learning and education can aid us when seeking and advocating for funding, developing additional partnerships and demonstrating the fundamental realization that ‘libraries are education.’ ”

Additional partners on the grant are the University of Wisconsin and the Madison Public Library. The data obtained will be a valuable resource for libraries across the country because library Makerspaces continue to grow in number and similar assessments are needed. Among the activities planned is the creation of a suite of openly licensed educational tools and regional workshops to help local Makerspaces better use measures of learning.

“Driven by new technologies, learning experiences are the natural evolution of what libraries can offer their communities,” said Abramovich.  “Our goal is to build a variety of assessments that inform learning for everyone involved in Makerspaces — the library patron, the librarians and the rest of the community. We believe we can help create and recommend assessments that are for learning and not just of learning.”

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