2016 was an awesome year – for libraries that code

Two young boys at a library laptop

Photo credit: New York Public Library

As we start 2017 with a little trepidation of the unknown here in D.C., I am very pleased to be able to say 2016 was an awesome year for OITP’s Libraries Ready to Code project. Only a few things make me happier than talking about opportunities for kids to be excited about learning (and if libraries are involved, even better), so I’d like to share a few highlights of our work over the last year and give you a hint of what’s to come in 2017.

Officially launched in April, Libraries Ready to Code (RtC) began with an investigation into the nature and scope of library youth coding programs. We were particularly interested in better understanding how libraries can contribute to the current national focus on providing youth with opportunity to learn coding and develop essential computational thinking skills. The national focus stems from President Obama’s call for CS For All initiated in his last State of the Union address about a year ago.

Our project was initiated through a partnership with Google, Inc., specifically the team that has been researching access to computer science education for K12 students. Through in-person and virtual focus groups, interviews, surveys, and site visits as well as an environmental scan of existing library coding programs, the RtC project team learned that school and public libraries offer an array of coding opportunities for youth. The most inspiring have library staff building programs around youth interests that go beyond coding itself, have lots of opportunity for collaboration between peers, and engage community partners who bring real world applications and expertise into the library. Check out our Ready to Code video to hear from some of these inspirational librarians and see their kids in action.

From a policy and advocacy perspective, the RtC project identified some concepts that we can use to make the case that learning through libraries is a powerful and necessary component of ensuring all kids have access to the opportunities that result through coding and computational thinking skills development. RtC concepts include:

  • libraries are core organizations to expose youth to computational thinking through coding;
  • learning through libraries can positively influence youth and their community’s perceptions of who can code;
  • librarians can connect coding to youth interests opening pathways for youth to pursue CS education; and
  • youth should have access to coding activities that promote computational thinking wherever they have opportunities to learn.

But… you can read all about it yourself! Every project must end, and quite often end in a final report. Ready to Code: Connecting Youth to CS Opportunity through Libraries is hot off the press and ready for download. If you’ll be at Midwinter, make sure to come to our program “Are Libraries Ready to Code?” on Saturday, January 21, 3:00-4:00 (GWCC Room B215). Come ready to learn about coding by doing – just like we found the most successful youth coding programs are designed. We have a hands-on analog activity that will challenge you to try something new when you get back to your library. When you leave you will be two steps closer to being a Ready to Code library.

Most exciting, however, is that the RtC project is not truly ending, and we have more in the works for 2017. We will focus on one of the report recommendations for building library capacity to provide coding activities that foster computational thinking. Look back here next week!

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.

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