Latest papers

Here are the preprints (please excuse any errors!) for two of my latest articles:

Access and Express: Professional Perspectives on Public Library Makerspaces and Intellectual Freedom

in Public Library Quarterly (forthcoming vol. 35, issue 2; preprint version here)

This study examines the roles of makerspaces and librarians in public libraries, as defined by nine librarians instituting makerspace services. It explores their understanding of creative spaces and library policy, specifically the foundational principles of intellectual freedom and access. Using constructivist discourse analysis tools, this study analyzes interview data to illuminate a concept of access grounded in expression, incorporating hands-on activities, tools, and social connections. This study has implications for practitioners and policymakers in reconsidering access as a positive liberty enabled by social contexts, and librarians’ enzymatic roles in facilitating those contexts.

Creating Space: The Impacts of Spatial Arrangements in Public Library Makerspaces

IFLA Journal (preprint version here)

This multi-site ethnographic case study examines the spatial arrangements of two public library makerspaces. These spaces are participatory social and spatial arrangements aimed at least in part at creating physical or digital objects, which are open for the free use of all library patrons, irrespective of the types of workshops, tools, staffing, materials created, or location. Library creative places shape the possible actions and experiences of those using them through policy and practice, including the planning and implementation of spatial arrangements. Power relations are often invisibly embedded in the affordances intentionally or unintentionally designed into the spaces. This study examines these spatial arrangements and inquires how users and library personnel describe the impacts of the space. It details how two makerspaces in public libraries serve their communities in novel ways, and offers transferable, praxis-based recommendations for spatial arrangements which reflect equitably-shared power relations among the library-as-institution, the library personnel, and the users. Furthermore, it describes how users co-construct their libraries through their hands-on making activities, helping to redefine what libraries are and librarians do.


Mission Statement Analysis article

My research looking at 32 public library mission statements has just been published by The Library Quarterly. Check it out if you’re interested in how these libraries position themselves in relation to their users, what roles they highlight, and the implications of these missions for real user-centered service.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s not looking so good for user-centered service.

Deconstructing the Mission: A Critical Content Analysis of Public Library Mission Statements

a brief definition of library makerspaces

that has emerged from my research so far:

A public library makerspace is any participatory creative space that is open for the free use of all library patrons to interact with at will, irrespective of the types of workshops, tools, staffing, materials created, or location.

The users participate in these collaborative spaces to create anything they like, within the affordances of the space. The spaces may be “pop-up” makerspaces such as Madison’s Bubbler, contained within carts or shelves and spread on empty tables as needed; discrete, dedicated spaces such as Fayetteville’s Fab Lab; or even separate locations, such the Allen County library makerspace trailer in the library parking lot. The key points of this definition are: free, participatory, and creative. Everything else is a detail to be negotiated according to the needs of the community.

Library Creativity Study

I’m seeking people who have used libraries to do something creative–as part of a program, in a makerspace or other creative space, or whatever. If you are interested, here are the details:

Have you ever:

  • Used a library makerspace or media lab equipment (like a 3D printer or video equipment)?
  • Participated in creative programs at any library (such as cooking or crafting)?
  • And are you 12 or older?
  • And willing to spend 1 or more hours furthering research?

This study involves participants audiorecording or writing a short history of their creative lives and how they have/have not intersected with libraries. All information is anonymized and participant identity kept entirely confidential.

This study looks at makerspaces and media labs in public libraries and how they might impact users.
Study by Principal Investigator Joyce Latham, PhD & Shannon Crawford Barniskis, doctoral student, UW Milwaukee School of Information Studies.
IRB# 13.332

Research PARTICIPANTs wanted creative spaces_revised

Contact me, Shannon, at crawfo55 at uwm dot edu if you’d like to be involved. I appreciate you even considering it!

library makerspace studies

Are you implementing, considering, or have considered adding a makerspace to your library? If so, and you are the type of person willing to give a half hour of your time (so far it’s taken 35 minutes on average for the interview) to the glories of science, I am seeking participants in a study.

NOTE: if you are in a larger community or not in Wisconsin, I’d still love to talk to you–I’m working on adjusting my IRB (Institutional Review Board) protocol slightly to add larger communities and non-Wisconsin ones, but that should be in place shortly.

ALSO NOTE: I’m be looking for case study libraries with makerspaces as well. If you think you’d be willing to host an ethnographic study for a week or two, please contact me. The ethnography study wouldn’t likely happen until next year, however.

Details are here:

STEAM handout


You are invited to participate in a study looking at makerspaces (actual, planned, or considered) in libraries.

The purpose of this research study is to query librarians who are either adding, have added, or have considered adding, a makerspace or other creative laboratory space to their public library. This study seeks to understand how librarians position makerspaces relative to the library’s mission, goals, and ethical guidelines. The objective of the study is support both scholarly understanding and library practice, especially in an environment with swiftly-changing technology and a call for libraries to innovate using that technology.

Approximately 40 subjects will participate in this study.  If you agree to participate, you will be asked to participate in an interview asking questions about makerspaces in libraries, intellectual freedom, and your library’s services.  This will take approximately 60 minutes of your time.

If you are:

  • A public librarian who has added or considered adding a makerspace to your library
  • Are willing to spend up to 1 hour in an interview
  •  Are in a WI community with fewer than 25,000 residents

Then you can participate in this research study.

The “STEAM: Science and Art Meet in Rural Library Makerspaces” study is by Principal Investigator Joyce Latham, PhD & Shannon Crawford Barniskis, doctoral student, UW Milwaukee School of Information Studies, IRB# 14.061.

For more information please contact Shannon Crawford Barniskis at crawfo55 at uwm dot edu. And feel forward to forward this information to whomever you think might be interested in participating.

I look forward to talking with you!


p.s. while I cannot offer you $ or anything for this study, please know that I’m a strong believer in networking and knowledge sharing–so I may be able to offer you a favor of a program, consultation, etc. in the spirit of such sharing–whether or not you participate.

library mission statements

After an exhaustive (or more properly, exhausting) study of 33 library mission statements, and intense case study of the creation, implementation, and understanding of one library’s mission, as well as a lengthy critical discourse analysis of 8 types of library mission statements, I can, with some degree of authoritativeness, say most library mission statements blow.

Including the two I wrote myself. *hanging head in shame*

In the off-off-chance that someone finds this post whilst seeking ideas for a new statement, I have two to put forward. I think they dodge some of the worst faux pas of elitism, overstatement, power-hoarding, self-centeredness, neoliberalism, and lack of responsibility that many statements seem to fall prey to (as well as–and this is my bias–an over-reliance on books as the way we do our jobs).

A 23-word mission statement for libraries for when succinctness is good (i.e. always):

The library facilitates equitable, happy, and resilient communities through the open access to ideas discovered through shared space, materials, tools, and social interactions.

A 60-word “promise” mission statement for when thoroughness is preferred (though kind of ponderous):

We meet you at your point of need, and promise to support your informational, recreational and educational needs with the tools you choose. We bridge the digital divide with open access to programs, services and materials, so everyone can prosper.  We craft community, and facilitate social, economic, and ecological resilience as a forum actively engaged with issues of the day.

Please: Critique here. I’d love to see what others think. I realize these aren’t “snazzy” in a marketing sense, but I think that’s ok–marketing with a mission statement is a bit of a mistake I think. Go ahead and have a “tag line” or some other marketing statement, but back it up with a real commitment talking about why you exist and what you offer.

Also, for goodness sakes, don’t cut and paste your mission statement. Each library is unique and serves a unique community. Adapt any statement you like (whether the ones above are or are not what you like) to your actual library. Libraries should not be represented as cookie cutter, replaceable, anonymous institutions, but as the living beings they are.

p.s. If you want to know my shame, here is the first statement I wrote: “Our Mission: To enrich the lives of all our community members with free access to programs, materials and services that empower, educate and inspire.” I used the word ’empower.’ I feel awful. What a horrible, sneaky word that is, and enrich isn’t much better.

always time for bragging

I actually remember thinking, when looking at the never-updated blogs of a couple of phd student friends, that it couldn’t be THAT hard to update one’s blog every month or two.

I was wrong.

Despite having no time to supply this blog with cogent information about libraries, information policy, even makerspaces (though these issues consume my life every single second) I do somehow find time to brag:

I won a writing award! Thanks so much to YALSA for this honor. It’s funny, I feel like I struggle to capture just what I mean in writing academically, and write too freaking much (I think my profs would agree with at least the “too much” assessment). So I was thrilled to be chosen.

And thanks to Becca Barniskis, who helped me with the editing for the second article. She is magic. She somehow invisibly edits so that my words were never changed or augmented. In fact, I couldn’t tell what she changed, but the piece was shorter!  I have no idea how she does this.

So quickly (because I really do have no time) here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I will be presenting at WAPL on makerspaces in libraries in May, looking at the makerfair I’m developing at my library
  • I am in the midst of 5 different research projects on library mission statements, makerspaces, and social impacts of public libraries. 
  • I will be presenting at CAIS on the participatory research technique that includes teens in the research team, which I first developed in the article that won this award, and which will be expounded upon in an article in Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, coming soon.
  • I also have an article coming up in Teaching Artist Journal on teaching artist in public libraries.
  • I’m just starting to develop a survey to ask teen librarians to respond to the grounded theory on teens/art/public libraries/civic engagement, and will then try to do a large-scale survey of teens. That’s the next project when the other 5 are done.
  • And I’m doing strategic planning, community-building and, you know, my job at LQCL.