Research Results: What Undergraduate Students Want from a Library Makerspace in Clemons

User Experience Project ID: UX-1905, Focus group of undergraduate students to get feedback on the future Library Makerspace

Purpose: Assess general themes and issues relating to creating a creative space in the Library

Stakeholders: Library Services and Spaces

Test dates: 4/7/17; 4/14/17; 4/18/17

Motion capture suit

Motion capture suit

Participants without Makerspace experience

  • 4th year, History and Religious Studies
  • 4th year, Nursing
  • 3rd year, Urban & Environmental Planning
  • 4th year, Economics

Participants with Makerspace experience

  • 3rd year, Computer Science
  • 3rd year, Drama
  • 4th year, Neuroscience & Biology
  • 2nd year, Philosophy & Middle East Studies and History
  • 3rd year, Computer Science & Studio Art
  • 1st year, Computing Engineering
  • 4th year, Computer Science


Lulzbot 3D printer

Lulzbot 3D printer

Three focus groups were held. One focus group had four undergraduates with no Makerspace experience. Two focus groups had seven undergraduates with Makerspace experience. Inexperienced participants were asked to give impressions of the terms “build,” “make,” and “create,” while experienced Makers were asked to give impressions of the term “Makerspace” and asked about past Makerspace experiences. All participants were asked what a Library creative space should help students do or accomplish; what makes for a good experience in a creative space; and the importance of whether or not such a space is student-run. All students also gave input on equipment, training, and design of the Clemons space.

Summary of findings

  • All groups express the need for a space that is welcoming to all students and the Library is uniquely positioned in students’ minds as a neutral space for exploration.
  • All student groups felt that first impressions of the space are important, and that a modern look and an open floorplan are important elements for the design of a Library creative space.
  • Perceptions of Makerspaces and of highly-technical equipment is informed more by students’ field of study than by their year of study. Those students familiar with Makerspaces tend to be in STEM fields but span all class years, suggesting Maker culture is well-integrated into those curriculums.
  • Students who have not used a Makerspace find them intimidating and unwelcoming, and they perceive that they lack the necessary skills to use Makerspaces. They are more likely to be from the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Too much high-end technology is “a turn-off” to inexperienced students and they
    Sewing machine

    Sewing machine

    want a creative space with “simple stuff.”

  • There was no strongly expressed opinion by major or class year that the Clemons space should be student-run.
  • Recommendations include:
    • Plan a range of outreach strategies for all UVA students
    • Design a well-lit space with comfortable, modern furniture with a variety in seating, tables, and desks to support group and individual work
    • Host inclusive design sessions with students to give them planning input
    • Consider having an ongoing steering committee that includes students to create policy and address operational questions
    • Consider means to monitor service quality and respond to issues as they arise
    • Plan a range of outreach strategies for students who may be interested in creating and making with non-technology items
    • Ensure that signage and supplemental information clearly demonstrates the equipment available, how to use it, and potential uses to reduce psychological barriers to using the tools
    • Arrange space so that both quiet exploration and collaborative ideation sessions can be supported
    • Design service points to be integrated into the space and easy to approach
    • Implement a variety of instruction programs to serve multiple learning styles
    • Specify (in print and on web) what equipment is available for use and for check-out
    • Partner with existing student clubs and organizations (technology, gaming, media…) to promote Makerspace services and instruction

Project status: Clemons Makerspace is expected to open in advance of the Fall 2017 semester.

Project Files (UVA only):

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