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

Press release from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh…

PITTSBURGH (June 12, 2017) — Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is pleased to announce the availability of  “Making + Learning in Museums & Libraries: A Practitioner’s Guide & Framework,” one of several new resources designed to guide and grow the capability of museum and library professionals and create the conditions to support learning within their uniquely formed maker programs. The downloadable publication was developed as part of the Making + Learning project, a collaboration between the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

It will serve as a foundation for the Making + Learning website and a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which provides  free tutorials that museum and library professionals can use at any time to facilitate use of project’s suite of tools. The MOOC is presented by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Peer 2 Peer University*.

Many libraries and museums have recently established and/or invested resources into implementing maker programs or makerspaces. These programs and spaces serve a variety of goals, but generally serve as sites of learning. The Making + Learning project introduces an innovative and easily adaptable framework and related resources designed to enable museum and library practitioners to better support learning in and through their makerspaces and maker programming.

After conducting more than 50 interviews and site visits to library and museum makerspaces across the country, as well as convening a national group of library and museum professionals, the project leaders identified three key elements that contribute to the conditions to support deeper learning in makerspaces: the purpose of the makerspace, the role of people in the makerspace, and the pieces and parts that are constitutive of the experience.  The elements of the framework are intended to guide practitioners’ planning and implementation of maker-based learning experiences.  Each of the elements raise a host of questions, whose answers can serve to enable museums and libraries to implement programs and makerspaces designed for their space and their needs.

“There is a great deal of diversity as to what productive makerspaces look like across the country,” stated Dr. Lisa Brahms, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Director of Research and Learning, “and as such, the framework is not meant to prescribe how learning experiences are designed in makerspaces. Instead, it’s meant to offer guidance to practitioners to create the conditions for learning.”

“The framework is created for both new library and museum practitioners planning to develop a makerspace as well as those wishing to refine the maker-based learning experiences they are already implementing,” stated Dr. Peter Wardrip, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Learning Scientist.

“From our visits and interviews,“ Dr. Wardrip, said, “our research team found that the framework needed to serve several goals.” These goals include:

  • Design:  The Framework provides design considerations for practitioners who seek to develop a new maker program or makerspace.
  • Reflection & Professional Development:  The Framework’s three elements serve as reflective points for practitioners currently engaged in this work. In this way, the Framework serves as resource to elicit formative feedback, and to create points for conversation amongst stakeholders.
  • Evaluation:  The Framework offers a structure for considering the evaluation of maker programs and makerspaces. The Framework’s three categories may steer the development of summative measures to evaluate a program or space’s impact.

To further these goals, the project has developed a suite of tools intended to facilitate discussions amongst practitioners about the key considerations when creating makerspaces to support learning in museums or libraries. When used with organizational teams, these tools can help surface differing perspectives on making, develop a common vision and language around making and help move practitioners towards developing a plan of work that reflects the many factors that influence a highly productive makerspace or maker program.  

* The MOOC is hosted by P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University), a non-profit organization that facilitates learning outside of institutional walls. Designing and leveraging open education tools and resources, P2PU strives to cultivate a high-quality, low-cost model for lifelong learning

For more information, visit