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Framework and Other Making Resources for Museums and Libraries

June 26, 2017

By Christopher Reich and Tim Carrigan

The National Week of Making, June 16-27, celebrates the innovation, ingenuity, and creativity of makers throughout the world. As the Maker Movement continues to grow, we congratulate the many libraries and museums across the nation that are providing opportunities for patrons of all ages to tinker, invent, collaborate, experiment, create, and learn.

Since 2011, IMLS has invested more than $10 million in grants to support making and participatory learning programs in museums and libraries. Many of the projects IMLS funds result in a number of content-rich resources that are beneficial for the museum and library sectors at large. We’re especially excited to announce the release of a new publication this month — Making + Learning in Museums and Libraries: A Practitioner’s Guide and Framework (PDF, 19MB). Developed over the past three years through a cooperative agreement with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP), the new publication combines the voices of many library and museum adopters with a practical guide to reflect on creating the conditions for ambitious learning experiences to unfold within the making experience.

Following an extensive literature review, the CMP project team–Peter Wardrip and Lisa Brahms–traveled the nation to visit more than fifty makerspaces in museums and libraries. Based on their observations, the framework began to take preliminary shape, and was vetted by more than seventy early adopters along with IMLS program staff who attended a convening in Pittsburgh in January 2015.

The resulting publication identifies three elements that create the conditions to support learning in maker programs and spaces. They are:

Making + Learning in Museums and Libraries: A Practitioner’s Guide and Framework.

Purpose – Libraries and museums implement making programs for myriad reasons. Why and how do making experiences, activities, and/or spaces align with and further the goals of the making program and connect to an organization’s overall mission?

People – Museum educators, librarians, volunteers, and guest makers may participate in a variety of ways based on a program’s goals. What roles do people play in managing, monitoring, and facilitating learning in makerspaces and programs?

Pieces and Parts – Making is a hands-on approach to learning. The tools and materials selected should support the program’s intended goals and the capacity of the staff. What tools, materials, and architecture are central to supporting successful learning through making?

The framework includes several case studies to further illuminate these elements in action, and is accompanied by useful tools to guide discussions for museum and library staff engaged in maker-based learning experiences. Reflections by the project’s thought partners – Chicago Public Library, Exploratorium, North Carolina State University, and the Maker Education Initiative — offer further insights of value to practitioners in existing makerspaces as well as those in museums and libraries that are considering developing these programs.

Later this month, as part of the project’s capstone activity, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will launch a MOOC (massive open online course) focused on the framework, to help museums and libraries better understand how to they might apply the framework in their own institutions. We invite you to join the MOOC and network with other museum and library maker educators around the country to continue to learn from this community.

Please visit the Making and Learning project website to download the framework and learn more about the project. And feel free to leave us a comment and tell us about the making experiences happening in your museum or library, and how you’re using the framework to further your work!

About the Authors
Chris Reich has worked at IMLS since 2006 and is the Chief Administrator in the Office of Museum Services. He coordinates a broad range of organizational, managerial and technical activities related to grants management, in addition to managing several cooperative agreements to advance the agency mission. He can be reached at

Tim Carrigan is a senior program officer in the Office of Library Services. His portfolio focuses on learning in libraries, including informal STEM education, early learning, making, and summer learning. He can be reached at

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