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.

DIY Little Bits

So I started working,  after a long hiatus,  to resume my education
in very basic circuitry. I decided to work on making my own Little Bits. (If you don’t know what these are,  imagine reconfigurable parts of a Lego – like machine. For example, you might use a light-sensing bit connected to a buzzer bit,  which would make a noise whenever it detected light. More complex connections of bits can do more complex things.)

I have no idea what I’m doing, but through extensive trial and error I’ve managed to make a power module bit, a lever switch bit, and a long LED bit.

I have a feeling I have way too many wires, because I’m just using a wire for all the paths shown in the schematics.

Not entirely clear whether one can just connect things that are connected to the same thing, as in math. Like, if A is connected to B and B is connected to C, can one simply connect A and C, as long as either of them are connected B? It seems like that should work, but what about when a capacitor or resistor is B? Does there need to be some sort of buffer with two wires? I have a feeling that anyone who knows anything about electricity would be howling at this stupid question, but I’m honestly just trying to figure out the path of the elections zipping around in my little circuits. That’s how I learned to knit: What connects to what? What is the path? I can correct any mistake in knitting (except a split stitch or knitting with the tail yarn, which I consider the only two real mistakes in knitting) because I understand the path, and how the stitches relate to one another. It took a bit of unraveling and careful watching to learn that.

I’m feeling pretty stupid about the circuitry, which is a really good place for me as I do my field work. I’m doing multi-site ethnographic methods, so I have to walk around stupid all day, to ensure I don’t make the assumption that I know what’s actually happening in each community. I’m following the path, seeing what unravels or knots tight. It’s rather humbling to ask dumb questions all day, but I really like it.

It’s exhausting thinking you know or understand things all the time. And refreshing to be forced to admit you have only the scarcest idea most of the time and you’re just fumbling along.

There’s this e.e. cummings poem that is one of my favorites–it had been on my consulting business cards for years. Coincidentally, I went to a sculpture garden in Rochester, NY a few days back, and there was the poem carved into this awesome poetry sidewalk:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
for even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

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

Use PLA in your printer

A new study just came out regarding air quality safety and 3D printing. To my mind, it just reinforced my choice to only use PLA instead of ABS, because of the KNOWN hazards of ABS. PLA may also be hazardous, but:

the primary individual VOC emitted from PLA filaments was lactide … albeit in relatively low quantities (p. F)


We are not aware of any relevant information regarding the inhalation toxicity of lactide, the primary individual VOC emitted from PLA filaments. (p. G)

I spoke about this issue here 2 years ago, and I still feel like a large, well-ventilated room with a PLA printer is unlikely to harm anyone–unless someone sits next to it all day everyday. Then an air filter is a good idea. But I am not a plastics scientist or health expert, so be cautious!



Azimi, P., Zhao, D., Pouzet, C., Crain, N., & Stephens, B. (2016, preprint). Emissions of ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds from commercially available desktop 3D printers with multiple filaments. Environmental science & technology.

ALISE 2016 Conference Poster

I extracted a short piece from my dissertation on power and public library creative spaces to look at the “library faith.” This faith grounds library funding and missions, and is really a set of social goals and values that shift over time. For example, the library faith was initially a faith in books and reading, as instrumental toward a better democracy and well-behaved and acculturated public. Makerspaces evidence a change in this faith–it’s grounded in technology, with largely economic aims. Quite a difference from the civic engagement and democracy aims of earlier faiths!

Here’s a draft of the poster.

Imaginaire poster_crawford barniskis.jpg

Imaginaire poster_crawford barniskis pdf

An Imaginaire text only–with some more information on how this aligns with my dissertation research.

For more on this topic, my dissertation is forthcoming within the year, and I have a couple of papers currently in review. I’ll update here when they are published.


FAQ: Policy & Procedures

Recently I was told by a librarian that they have never heard a compelling reason to work on policy. And we’ve all heard some librarian say (or said ourselves) we want practical solutions, not more theory. Some libraries don’t even have a procedures manual, because they think they can just figure things out as they go along–and of course, all the library’s personnel are on the same page, and implement policy equitably, right?

But policy, procedures, & theory are interconnected and all utterly necessary to public library practice.

Policy is not only cover-your-ass legalese considering the worst possible outcomes, but is also a statement of what you are doing and why. It is your first (and 2nd and 3rd…) line of defense against challenges, an outline of your goals and visions, and a map to the services you provide.  It should reveal your hopes and dreams for your community and your library’s place in it.

All of this rests on theory.

You want to make your community better and stronger, right? (I’m going to assume you do, because NO ONE goes into public libraries for the money!) Well, you have some theories on how you can accommodate this desire, which may involve literacies, or making things, or balanced collections, or storytimes, or a caring staff engaged in community affairs. These theories evolve into services and collections through practice and policy.

  • First, you decide x is the thing to do to make the world a better place (this is the theory).
  • Second, you write the roadmap for getting you there (this is the policy).
  • Finally, you follow the map, hopefully in an equitable and helpful way (these are the procedures).

Without a coherent set of policies, grounded in a strong mission statement, and elaborated in a comprehensive set of procedures, it is all too easy for public libraries to get their reputation for fussy, arbitrary, power-grabs. All too often a lack of coherent and visionary policies and procedures reads as “because I said so” bureaucratic bullshit. One staffer will require one set of behaviors, while another staffer allows another. And the rules don’t seem connected to the sense of welcoming, even revolutionary free open-access and social engagement that public libraries are actually about (in my opinion).

In light of public library makerspaces, many people are fumbling around with creating policies and procedures. I have been asked about policies and procedures a lot. I have spoken about the excellent East Troy Library’s makerspace policy, in a previous post.

Now, I’ve revised that policy to something that would have worked well in the library where I was a director, included some of the policies and procedures I created there, and offer you this sample Policy & Procedure Manual.

My goal is to ensure that creative spaces in libraries are socially just. This means that all people should have access to tools and information that they can use to pursue whichever dreams, visions, or ideas they deem fit. This should happen in an environment that is collaborative and supportive, so not only the education, job-skills, or even creative needs of the community are met, but also social and emotional needs, such as confidence, resilience, friendship, wonder, and plain old happiness.

I engineer these goals (my theories!) into the policies and procedures by trying to balance the needs of the many and the needs of the few, ensuring as many uses as possible are enabled, and that all sorts of social-emotional-creative needs are able to be met, instead o simply focusing on “don’t burn yourself on the extruder” types of policy/procedures.


Metaphors of Privilege

Latest discourse analysis of makerspace rhetoric–this one examining the metaphors and metanyms that librarians who offer makerspace services use, versus those used in the professional literature and blogs. The image of the poster looks VERY pink on my screen, apologies if this is true for you as well. You can download the pdf here.

EDIT: I’m proud (and surprised!) to say this poster won the Best Poster Award at iConference.

metaphors of privilege

ABSTRACT and references–at least the prepublication version. Please see iConference proceedings for 2015 for the citable abstract.



Policy for library makerspaces

owl oopsI am regularly asked for a policy for a library’s makerspace offerings. I’ve seen many of these, and provided a brief one elsewhere on this blog. But I was thrilled to recently be offered a shot at looking over East Troy Public Library’s policy. East Troy is a small town in Wisconsin, and is part of a group of libraries offering a mobile makerspace. I’ve been consulting with them for the past couple of years.

This file is the DRAFT policy penned by the wonderful director Alison Senkevich, along with my comments and suggestions. While it is not the final, approved policy, I love the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the policy.

My main recommendation: Ensure that a comprehensive procedures book is created alongside the policy to guide specific, quantitative guidelines for staff to follow when training, and ensuring use of the materials is up to the policy’s standards. If they do that, I hope to be able to share that as well!

Let me know if you have ideas, recommendations, or amendments you’d like to propose. The makerspace model in libraries is full of promise, but without strong policy, any makerspace will probably look like the 3D printed owl on the left of the photo above–starting out well, but devolving into chaos. (Note: the cat you see in the background was responsible for this mess. We call her Pandora for a reason–she is the original curious, and destructive, cat.)

East Troy Library General Makerspace Policy_comments