Libraries Ready to Code: Charting the course

In D.C. in OITP, we dread hearing the words, “While walking up Connecticut Avenue…” as this often results in the development of a concept paper on a new policy topic, a half-day planning meeting, a flurry of emails changing a course of action, or a mandatory glass of wine on the way to the metro because it’s actually all three (well, this last is not so bad). logo for European Conference on Information Literacy in Prague, Czech Republic, 10-13 October, 2016

In Prague, Czech Republic, at the 2016 European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL), presenting with our partner from Google, Hai Hong, on our Libraries Ready to Code project, my hotel was situated at the bottom of an equivalent walk to and from the conference. I had eight opportunities to develop concepts through which to build on the Ready to Code work underway. First things first, however.

During our presentation, “Computer Science for the Community: Increasing Equitable Opportunity for Youth through Libraries” (Abstract p. 44), of the paper we submitted back in May, we focused on three assumptions that have emerged over the course of the Ready to Code project about the potential of libraries to make significant contributions to computer science education. We are exploring how libraries:

• Contribute to changing perceptions of who can code
• Increase exposure to coding
• Generate interest in coding
• Help youth connect coding to interests beyond computer science

Ready to Code scans what is currently underway in libraries and seeks to identify strategies to turn the assumptions into practice by increasing library engagement in coding activities.

Skyline of Prague, Czech Republic

At the ECIL Conference in Prague, OITP’s Marijke Visser and Google’s Hai Hong presented on the potential of libraries to contribute to computer science education.

These themes address questions raised from Google-Gallup research on access and barriers to computer science (CS) education as well as perceptions of CS. The Ready to Code project links these issues to three things: the changing nature of information literacy which we argue is inherent in computational thinking; the opportunities afforded by informal learning exemplified by coding; and how librarians could incorporate both into services for youth. Findings from the project challenge us to not only increase coding opportunities for youth but to also use coding to influence the nature of youth learning facilitated by librarians through libraries.

We were only able to touch on the surface of our findings and areas for further investigation during the conference so the 4.6km daily walk was more useful than just for working off Czech carbohydrates or taking in the colors and shapes that are the Prague skyline. “Information Literacy in the Inclusive Society,” the theme of ECIL 2016, challenges us to consider framing library coding activities in a larger context; coding as a mechanism for librarians to develop computational thinking skills among youth which, in turn, empower and inspire youth to plan and succeed in their futures. Is this a framework through which to inspire librarians to expand their view of services to youth and embrace coding as a core service for youth?

What’s next? As the Ready to Code project winds down at the end of the year, we will focus on prioritizing further work that could be done to address the gaps in the project findings and the emerging best practice models. The Connecticut Avenue problem really did transfer to Prague. With the combination of a thoughtful academic conference, rich conversations outside of the presentations, and reflection time before and after each full day built in there was no way that I would not come up with about 40km worth of concepts to explore with the Ready to Code project team. So being thoughtful and strategic in how we frame the findings and recommendations in the final project report will be very important.

We will be sharing both at ALA’s Midwinter conference in January 2017.

About Marijke Visser

As associate director of OITP, Marijke leads and coordinates all of ALA’s work on E-rate. In addition to E-rate, Marijke supports the Program on Networks focusing on broadband adoption issues for diverse populations. Marijke also serves as Program Director for OITP’s emerging portfolio on children, youth, and technology.

Share your thoughts