Affinity Diagramming Makerspaces

The EiTM Lab is working with Horizon Productions to begin the development of a virtual reality makerspace! The Lab is currently in the 2nd phase of the Equity in the Making: Investigating Spatial Arrangements of Makerspaces and Their Impact on Diverse User Populations project. During this phase, the Lab will work with Horizon Productions to develop the VR makerspace environment. The environment is a critical feature of the design study: the Lab will capture real-time reactions, thoughts, and impressions of students entering a makerspace for the first time. 

During a recent visit to the UNC Chapel Hill campus, Horizon Productions came and checked out the EiTM Lab and two BeAM makerspaces. The goal of their visit was to gain a better understanding of this fundamental question: What should the VR makerspace look like? To answer their question, we drew from the findings from our first phase of the project and Rachel Rodney (EiTM Research Assistant) created an affinity diagram based on 14 out of the 19 makerspaces found in universities across North Carolina. Some of the makerspaces did not have images on their websites or social media, and were omitted. 

Rodney visited both the makerspaces’ websites and Instagram accounts to compile images that reflected each of the spaces. The images were organized into an affinity diagram; a way to organize the images based on similarities to see what components were included in makerspaces. For example, if pictures included 3D printers, they would go into one category under types of tools. Or, if the picture showed the whole makerspace, they would go into a category together under space configuration. By grouping images by similarity, Rodney was able to identify commonalities between spaces that would lead to defining what components built a makerspace. The diagram resulted in 6 categories:

  • Space Configuration. This category showed ways that makerspaces were organized.
  • Tool Stations. Each makerspace showed “tool stations” which were established places that users could 3D print, solder, etc.
  • Coworking Space. Centered in each makerspace were tables for users to collaborate and create things. 
  • Presentation Space. Some of the makerspaces included areas where people could present their work and progress.
  • Computer Stations. Some machines often found in makerspaces, such as laser cutting and 3D printing, require the use of a computer. Makerspaces had computer stations that people could use to interact with the machines.
  • Project Display. An area where previous projects, or project ideas, are shown.
Categorized images by similarities

Example of some categories in the affinity diagram

Top 3 Findings

Based on the categories, Rodney defined some findings that informed general findings about university makerspaces:

  1. Most makerspaces include a coworking space, computer station, and tool stations. This shows that makerspaces prioritize both the ability to work with their tools, as well as open spaces to continue working on the project or to collaborate.
  2. The size of the space can inform on the type of tools the space is geared towards. Smaller spaces cater more towards tech projects, including 3D printing, laser cutting, soldering, etc. Larger spaces are more organized for sculpting or wood working.
  3. Coworking spaces include tables in the center of the room, with tools and materials surrounding it, showing that ‘making’ is the priority. 

Using these findings, Horizon will be able to develop a Virtual Reality makerspace that includes typical tools and spaces within which students might encounter in university makerspaces. This will enable the EiTM Lab to research the everyday information seeking practices of students from underrepresented STEM communities. 


New JELIS Article: By The Book

Cover of JELIS journalAdvance access and a pre-print PDF are now available for our new article published by the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science (JELIS): By the Book: A Pedagogy of Authentic Learning Experiences for Emerging Makerspace Information Professionals.


Can LIS curricula dedicated to makerspaces provide an authentic learning experience for future librarians interested in makerspace-adjacent careers? This article presents a case study in which an authentic learning framework is applied to a newly developed LIS graduate-level course on makerspaces. We detail how one class project—entitled “Bibliocircuitry: Old Books, New Ideas”—challenged students to use their newly learned skills to upcycle a hardcover book into a personalized artifact. This article outlines emerging patterns and themes from an analysis of survey responses from 13 of the 15 students in the course. Findings reveal the project readily maps to authentic learning standards, encourages learning, and facilitates reflection (including the negotiation of uncertainty, overcoming debilitating perfectionism, and transformative joy). The study broadens curricular design interventions for LIS educators, highlights the need for deep learning with technologies, and offers an opportunity to narrow the preparation gap between information professionals and the technical and social competencies required in makerspaces. The implications of these findings for the field of LIS pedagogy emphasize the importance of an authentic learning project both to disrupt the absence of LIS maker curricula and to reimagine current one-shot, pressured, makerspace training.

The final version of this article will be published in 2022.

Recommended citation:
Melo, M. & March, L. (2021, October 11). By the Book: A Pedagogy of Authentic Learning Experiences for Emerging Makerspace Information Professionals. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science (JELIS). DOI: 10.3138/jelis-2020-0046


Dr. Melo Published in Inside Higher Ed

Dr. Maggie Melo recently published “Where’s the ‘Video Off’ Button in Face-to-Face Instruction?” on This opinion piece highlights the benefits for students to turn off their computer cameras during remote instruction and questions how a similar effect could be implemented within in person learning. When teaching remotely, Dr. Melo observed ways that students benefited from being able to turn off their cameras and explore creatively by themselves, including being able to customize the environment they were working in.


inside higher ed logo

“Having a virtual classroom with the ability to turn off our cameras offered a generative, unusual sweet spot for learning …. It’s an environment where students were supported but also weren’t being observed by their instructor or peers — one where we could take a collective exhale from the performative demands of the classroom with a simple click of the “stop video” button.”


View “Where’s the ‘Video Off’ Button in Face-to-Face Instruction?” on



Oscillation Mural

Summer 2021 EiTM Updates

Welcome, Rachel & Emily!

The EiTM Lab is excited to welcome two new team members: Rachel Rodney and Emily Arnsberg. Read more about them, and other members of the lab, on the EiTM Team page.

Pedagogical Violence and Language Dominance

Dr. Maggie Melo’s chapter, “Pedagogical Violence and Language Dominance,” will be published in the forthcoming book, Hybrid Pedagogy: Pedagogy, People, Politics. The book will be released tomorrow, February 23, 2020.

Cover of Hybrid Teaching: Pedagogy, People, PoliticsBook Description

How can education survive in a post-truth era full of alternative facts and a reality-TV star armed with nuclear codes and a Twitter account? We must recognize that teaching is political. Schools need to help students counter the social erosion of trust in knowledge. Preserving that trust, we have seen, can help preserve democracy. Trust, like politics, involves people. In their classes, people learn to see themselves as members of communities and also to engage the world around them. Schools have a responsibility to support students as they learn. With the rise of anger-fueled nationalism around the world, it is clear that caring for others has never been so vital.

It is also clear that technology and capitalism will not solve education’s problems. Social media companies promise connection but create echo chambers and conspiracy-mongering. Ed-tech companies promise insights and solutions while delivering surveillance and suspicion. Education must connect the personal to the technological—it can no longer afford to work offline. All teaching is necessarily hybrid.

Pedagogy, people, and politics influence each other, and educators of all stripes have an opportunity—a responsibility—to build human connections with ethical technology.

Gathering the voices of over two dozen progressive educators, this volume combines perspectives from across academia and around the globe. The authors in this book use critical digital pedagogy as a guide for navigating today’s turbulent global political climate. Timely and accessible, Hybrid Teaching challenges higher education faculty and administrators to consider the political implications—and the political power—of teaching.

Read more on Hybrid Pedagogy’s website.

Webinar: Makers Gonna Make

Makers Gonna Make: Maker Ed in Remote/Hybrid Learning Environments

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 – 12pm ET/ 9am PT

Webinar Signup

Many libraries use makerspaces to teach and engage, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, buildings have been closed and people have been distanced. So libraries are doing what they always do: innovate. From student-led remote projects to take-home kits to lists of resources that can be found around the house (sticky rice adhesive!), makerspaces have gone virtual.

Please join Leslie Preddy, Stacy Brown, and Maggie Melo as they discuss big-picture questions about how makerspaces can work at a distance. Moderated by Heather Moorefield-Lang, it’s sure to be a lively and informative conversation, and there will be plenty of time for comments and questions. Bring a friend!

  • Of interest to school librarians, library students, and other librarians working with makerspaces
  • Discuss how makerspaces can work well virtually
  • Get and share ideas for innovative maker programs

To get the ideas flowing, check out these short video lessons made by our webinar presenters on creative ways to conduct maker activities with your students—even from a distance!

Sponsored by ABC-CLIO

Can’t make it on October 28? Register to be updated when the recording is available for viewing!


  • Stacy Brown is the 21st-century learning coordinator at The Davis Academy in Atlanta, GA. Brown is a national presenter and contributor to professional books and journals on topics relating to libraries, technology, innovation, and education. She is the author of The School Librarian’s Technology Playbook: Innovative Strategies to Inspire Teachers and Learners. She is a regional director of the Georgia Technology Competition and a board member of Savvy Cyber Kids, Inc. and Atlanta Area Technology Educators. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @21stStacy.
  • Maggie Melo is an assistant professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She co-founded the University of Arizona’s first makerspace, the iSpace, in the university’s Science-Engineering Library. Her research resides at the intersection of innovation, critical maker culture, and the development of equitable and inclusive learning spaces (e.g. makerspaces) in academic libraries.
  • Leslie Preddy is the school librarian at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and instructional leadership editor for School Library Connection magazine. Her book SSR with Intervention: A School Library Action Research Project was named one of the best professional books of 2007 by Teacher Librarian and her book Social Readers: Promoting Reading in the 21st Century, was highly recommended by Library Media Connection. Her latest book is School Library Makerspaces.


  • Heather Moorefield-Lang serves as associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the department of library and information science. Her research is focused on emerging technologies and their use in education and libraries. She has had the honor of being nominated for the White House Champion of Change for Making in 2016. Heather is also the editor of School Library Makerspaces in Action. To learn more visit her YouTube channel “Tech 15” or follow her on Twitter @actinginthelib.

Webinar graphic with headshots of speakers and covers of books that will be door prizes

Lightning Talks – Dr. Maggie Melo on YouTube

Dr. Melo presented her SILS Lightning talk on Friday, September 18, 2020.

Lightning talks by faculty members include individual brief (10 minutes or less) presentations on their research interests and projects.

View the full SILS Lightning Talks playlist on YouTube.

Position Opening: Ph.D. Student (Fully Funded)

The EITM Lab has an opening for a fully funded Ph.D. student at SILS beginning Fall 2021. Funding is secured through a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award that will support a graduate student. The project is entitled,Equity in the Making: Investigating Spatial Arrangements of Makerspaces and Their Impact on Diverse User Populations. 

I am currently recruiting a doctoral student with research interests in makerspaces, critical making, inclusive and equitable making, and/or virtual reality. This Ph.D. student will join a research team exploring topics connected to the spatial design of makerspaces in academic libraries. I invite applicants with interests across any or all of these areas to apply. 

SILS Ph.D. applications are due December 15th, 2020.

View full PhD Recruiting Document