Research News

UW's Halverson helps secure grant to study ‘makerspaces’ in Madison libraries

October 03, 2014

UW-Madison’s Erica Halverson and Rebekah Willett teamed with the Madison Public Library to land a two-year, $456,627 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The grant will focus on “makerspaces,” which are workshop environments where groups of people come together to produce new arts and engineering-based artifacts. Typically, “making” in this context involves some form of digital, computing or electronic technology. The learning will then take place across the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler program, which is a maker-focused curriculum for all ages that stretches across nine Madison libraries and various outreach locations.

Erica Halverson
Halverson, an associate professor with the top-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is co-principal investigator on the grant with Willett, an assistant professor with the School of Library and Information Studies. They will be collaborating with Trent Miller, the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler manager, and Jesse Vieau, a teen librarian with the Madison Public Library. Together they will study a variety of existing Bubbler programs and then collaboratively re-design programs to support learning.

“I’m really excited to begin this partnership with Madison Libraries,” says Halverson. “This will be my first opportunity to work locally on makerspace research and I am thrilled to work with Professor Willett and the great people at the Bubbler.”

Halverson adds: “Specifically, we are interested in understanding how to build a system-wide approach to making that stretches across all of Madison’s libraries, and to bring making to populations that are not currently engaged in this powerful form of learning and play.”

These findings will be valuable to new and developing maker programs in libraries around the country. The research project also involves funding from Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment ($115,000 over two years) and the Morgridge Center for Public Service ($80,519). These grants will allow the Bubbler team to develop youth media projects for teens in the justice system and to connect these teens with UW-Madison students through service learning projects.

The Bubbler includes activities, demonstrations, and make-and-take workshops. Programs feature area experts in art, design and technology. Unlike many makerspaces in libraries that are housed exclusively within a single library, the Bubbler is unique in its system-wide approach to learning through making. This grant project will support existing Bubbler programs, including the successful “Meet your Maker” and “Artist in Residence” events, as well as innovative new partnerships to use the maker-based learning model to engage underserved populations, including justice-involved youth at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Shelter Home and Neighborhood Intervention Program.

The largest museum and library joint grant program administered by IMLS, National Leadership Grants support projects that will advance the ability of museums and libraries to preserve culture, heritage, and knowledge while enhancing learning. This grant was one of 51 grants to library projects totaling more than $9.2 million announced in September.