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“It’s a lab full of art machinery”: implications of women’s experiences, values and visions of success for makerspace evaluation

Rebecca M. Teasdale (Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 15 May 2021

Issue publication date: 16 July 2021

238

Abstract

Purpose

Evaluation of public library makerspaces traditionally examines achievement of library goals, which reflect leaders’ and funders’ values. Understanding makers’ experiences and perspectives may help evaluators frame their inquiry to reflect community values, test assumptions about makers and support democratic and equity-focused aims. This paper aims to inform how evaluations of public library makerspaces are framed to address the experiences, values and visions for success of adult women, a group that is often marginalized in making and makerspaces.

Design/methodology/approach

Informed by democratic approaches to evaluation and activity theory, this paper draws on semi-structured interviews with women makers engaged with digital fabrication in public library makerspaces.

Findings

The women in the sample leveraged digital fabrication to deepen existing creative practices, challenging gendered distinctions between crafting and technology. They directed making toward economic survival and thriving, including creative-sector entrepreneurship. Making was also directed toward strengthening families and communities, centering relationships beyond the makerspace. Learning emerged as a byproduct of engagement, organized to produce specific artifacts. Library resources, arrangements and rules supported women with varying technology skills and also constrained some making activities.

Practical implications

Findings suggest evaluators should resist deficit framing of women and making; broaden science, technology, engineering and mathematics-focused definitions of making; focus on the personally meaningful ends to which making is directed; expand conceptualizations of community; examine arrangements and resources that mediate making and learning; and center the perspectives of local women makers.

Originality/value

This paper presents an empirical account of makers who are often marginalized and identifies six implications for evaluations of public library makerspaces.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a Hardie Dissertation Completion Award from the College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Citation

Teasdale, R.M. (2021), "“It’s a lab full of art machinery”: implications of women’s experiences, values and visions of success for makerspace evaluation", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 122 No. 3/4, pp. 223-245. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-08-2020-0177

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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