Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium (CLAPS)

Centering voices from the margins: Unsettling the exceptionalist lore of makerspaces

Jennifer Nichols, University of Arizona & Maggie Melo, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Tuesday, September 15, 2020: 1-2 pm PDT (Zoom/Online)

This talk centers on the limitations and challenges emerging from this particular brand of “maker culture,” and emphasizes the critical work that is being done to cultivate anti-oppressive, inclusive and equitable making environments. The Maker Movement has inspired hundreds of public, school, and academic libraries to integrate makerspaces into their own ecosystems. This social phenomenon purports an enthusiasm and techno-optimistic approach to engaging with the world with STEM-rich technologies, and consistently overshadows the material limitations and drawbacks that this movement simultaneously purports. The Maker Movement has popularized a narrow, classist, predominantly white, and heteronormative conceptualization of maker culture. Makerspaces, like libraries, are not neutral, but rather are imbued with ideologies stemming from Silicon Valley that consequently dictate who makes, why making occurs, and what is considered making. Specifically, this talk will highlight the voices within the edited collection, Re-making the Library Makerspace Critical Theories, Reflections, and Practices. The book captures how librarians and educators have disrupted and re-made their makerspaces in response to the constraints of the Maker Movement’s “makerspace.” This collection extends a critical examination of library makerspaces at the site of praxis with critical considerations around race, age, class, gender, sexuality, power, and ability will be centered in this volume. 

View more and register online!

Maker Ed: Remaking the Library Makerspace

The Sixth Annual Maker Educator Convening

Remaking the Library Makerspace: New Moves toward Equity and Joy

Co-presenters: Jennifer Nichols and Brianna Marshall)

October 2-3, 2020

  • This panel is a discussion between contributing authors to Re-making the Library Makerspace Critical Theories, Reflections, and Practices, a forthcoming book from Library Juice Press (October 2020), edited by facilitators Jennifer Nichols and Maggie Melo. The volume contains the following four sections, and will be used as a framework to guide this discussion. 
    • Who Belongs in the Makerspace? Power and Critical Theories
    • Movement, Empathy, and Inclusion in Youth Makerspaces
    • Counternarratives
    • Re-imagined Makerspaces: Policies, Procedures, and Culture 
  • Chapters celebrate successes and progress, acknowledge power and structural issues and offer reflections on moving forward toward social justice and equity. By highlighting authors who offer new ideas and perspectives for cultivating both equity and joy, we propose the use of liberatory design practices to both encourage self reflection and facilitate meaningful connection between participants.

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EITM Lab Welcomes Kimberly & Laura!

Kimberly Hirsh (MS, MAT) and Laura March (MS, MEd) joined the Equity in the Making Lab for its inaugural 2020 year. Hirsh is currently a sixth-year doctoral candidate and March is a third-year doctoral student in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

More information, including short biographies, links to websites, and contact information, can be found on the EITM Team page.

Maggie Melo Awarded $715K NSF Grant

From UNC-Chapel Hill SILS Website: 

Maggie Melo, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how the physical and affective characteristics of makerspaces encourage or inhibit participation by students from marginalized communities.

The NSF CAREER award will provide more than $715,000 in funding over five years to support the project, titled “Equity in the Making: Investigating Spatial Arrangements of Makerspaces and Their Impact on Diverse User Populations.”

According to Melo’s grant proposal, as makerspaces have grown in popularity and importance at universities across the U.S., educators have struggled to attract users from marginalized undergraduate communities, particularly Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

Melo believes a student’s first impressions of a makerspace can significantly affect their attitude and future behavior.

“When you’re visiting a university makerspace, it isn’t uncommon to see students stop at the door, peer inside the room, and within a matter of moments, walk away,” Melo said. “This interaction may seem banal, but it has profound implications for makerspace educators as they strive to engage with students from diverse backgrounds.”

Through interviews, surveys, and naturalistic experiments conducted in both physical and virtual reality (VR) environments, Melo and her team will seek to develop a better understanding of the everyday life information seeking (ELIS) practices that students perform when deciding whether to use a STEM-rich learning environment like a makerspace.

The research will evaluate both macro features, such as the paint color of the walls, the arrangement of furniture, and the organization of various tools and technologies, as well as micro details, such as the background music, lighting, projects on display, signage, and decorations (e.g. laser-cut Star Wars fighter jets hanging from the ceiling).

Melo will be working closely with Carolina’s BeAM, a network of makerspaces that serves approximately 4,000 students during the academic year. Through this partnership, Melo will re-design the training curricula for staff members with attention to equity and inclusion. She and the BeAM team will also pilot a re-designed makerspace that embodies key findings from the research program.

In edition to publishing through open access venues, Melo plans to circulate an open-source VR makerspace simulator for communities, STEM educators, and administrators to leverage for their own design and re-design efforts. She also intends to work with BIPOCand women-owned businesses to develop the necessary tools for the project.

Melo joined the SILS faculty in 2018 after completing her PhD at the University of Arizona, where she co-founded and operated an R1 makerspace for over four years. Her NSF-funded project will support two doctoral student research assistants.