Knox and Koh receive grant to study public library makerspaces

Emily Knox
Emily Knox, Associate Professor
Kyungwon Koh
Kyungwon Koh, Associate Professor and Director of the Champaign-Urbana (CU) Community Fab Lab

Associate Professor and Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Emily Knox and Associate Professor Kyungwon Koh have received a $100,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (LG-246251-OLS-20) for their project, "Measuring the Impact and Value of Makerspaces in Public Libraries." Knox will serve as principal investigator for the one-year exploratory project, which is a partnership with Indian Trails Public Library District in Wheeling, Illinois, that was initially proposed by iSchool alumna Ryann Uden (MS ’06), the library's deputy director.

The Indian Trails Public Library District, led by Executive Director Brian Shepard (MS '05), has had a makerspace since 2017. While makerspaces can be found in public libraries across the country, library administrators have found that little information is available on how to demonstrate their makerspaces' impact and value. This project will provide the tools needed to develop an initial framework and future toolkit for measuring the impact and value of public library makerspaces in the lives of users and the communities that libraries serve.

"Library makerspaces represent a shifting role of libraries as an institution for knowledge creation," said Koh, co-principal investigator on the project. "Makerspaces increase access that libraries offer to community members, including a range of resources, technologies, programs, experts, and peers. While access has been one of the core values of librarianship, a traditional view of access was limited to providing existing resources, predominantly in print formats."

According to the researchers, the toolkit will help public libraries increase access by creating an evaluative instrument for determining if makerspaces and associated resources are accessible to people of all backgrounds and abilities.

Knox's research interests include information access, intellectual freedom and censorship, the intersection of print culture and reading practices, and information ethics and policy. She holds a PhD from the doctoral program at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information.

Koh's areas of expertise include digital youth, the maker movement, learning and community engagement through libraries, human information behavior, and competencies for information professionals. Koh holds an MS and PhD in library and information studies from Florida State University and a BS in library and information science from Yonsei University in South Korea.

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