for librarians, researchers and educators interested in information management

Is there room for a maker space in the academic library?


A while back I wrote a post exploring the idea of a library-centred digital literacy scholars lab, a place of learning and collaboration between disciplines and areas of expertise or interest around new and emerging digital technologies that would be aimed at fostering the development of digital fluency – not just for students, but all members of the academic community.

While such a place could function solely as a virtual space, the physical presence of a ‘maker space’ as a corollary to that is an enticing idea.  People would come to the space to be involved in hands on activities – the possibilities of which are endless – where they learn through experiment, play and creativity.

While public libraries have been at the forefront of the development of maker spaces in libraries, academic libraries have also recognised the value and benefits, and asked what role, if any, they can play in fostering a maker culture.  Given that the educative role of the academic library is currently undergoing a significant expansion from its traditional areas of information literacy to encompass the fostering of metaliteracy or transliteracy, (as illustrated, for example, in the draft review of the ACLR information literacy standards), contributing to the development of a maker culture seems a natural fit.

Indeed, the elements that are characteristic of the Educator as a Maker Educator seems to resonate very well with the academic library as a:

  • Process facilitator
  • Lead learner
  • Resource suggester and provider
  • Normalizer of ambiguous problem finding and solving
  • Safe environment manager – where learners feel free to take risks
  • Relationship enabler and builder – face-to-face, online PLNs, mentors
  • Technology tutor
  • Tour guide of learning possibilities

As James Mitchell argues in Beyond the Maker Space, maker culture has expanded the idea of what libraries can do to create and disseminate information. He suggests it can build a dynamic learning environment, grow community through the library, and allow for a ‘unique production of location information’. Undoubtedly, a maker culture fits into the core mission of the university library, by enabling it to facilitate the many ways in which the academic community interacts with information.

There are a number of benefits to an academic library developing a maker space. Erin Fisher in Makespacers Move into Academic Libraries suggests that it:

  • Can provide opportunities for people to learn and experiment with their hands which adds to critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Is an ideal way to support changing modes of learning, which is shifting from a traditional teaching culture to a learning culture
  • Can help us adapt to changing student needs and support ‘knowledge creation in addition to knowledge consumption’.
  • Can provide opportunities for people from different disciplines to interact and collaborate

For some examples of maker spaces in academic libraries , see this Libraries and Maker Culture: A Resource Guide

Clearly, there would many things to consider in creating a maker space in an academic library environment, and it would require a considerable amount of planning and discussion. It would need to start small, and be based on forging relationships, which together build a community. A maker space should evolve organically, in response to needs, interests, projects, ideas, and always keeping in the forefront – not the tools or technology so much –  but the educational goals the library is seeking to achieve.







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This entry was posted on June 6, 2014 by in digital humanities, information literacy, library space.
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