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Congratulations to the 2017 Libraries Ready to Code Cohort

This morning ALA and Google announced the new cohort of libraries that will participate in the Phase III of the Libraries Ready to Code initiative. These libraries will work together to design and implement coding programs for young people to promote computer science (CS) and computational thinking among youth.

Four young girls viewing a computer monitor amid the stacks in a library
Libraries in the new Ready to Code cohort will work together to develop a toolkit of coding resources that will be released in April 2018.

This is the first time ALA has dedicated funding for CS programs in libraries. As ALA President Jim Neal put it, this really is a landmark for libraries:

“The Libraries Ready to Code grants are a landmark investment in America’s young people and in our future,” said ALA President Jim Neal. “As centers of innovation in every corner of the country, libraries are the place for youth – especially those underrepresented in tech jobs – to get the CS skills they need to succeed in the information age. These new resources will help cultivate problem-solving skills, in addition to coding, that are at the heart of libraries’ mission to foster critical thinking.”

As noted throughout the Ready to Code project, libraries are filling a crucial opportunity gap for millions of kids, especially those from backgrounds that are underrepresented in CS careers – girls, rural residents, those from low-income communities, young people of color or with disabilities. Fewer than half of U.S. K-12 schools offer computer science classes. Yet even students who are fortunate enough to have such programs at their schools need places outside the classroom to practice coding skills. Libraries are ideal places to provide equitable access to technology and training.

Just as important as the seed money to build CS programs is the guidance the cohort members will receive from each other as a community of practice, along with support from Google and ALA. The community will work together to create a national CS educational toolkit made up of resources and activities that they find most useful for youth CS programming. It will also include an implementation guide to help libraries learn how to use and customize the resources for their unique library/community. Developed by U.S. libraries, for libraries, the toolkit will be released in conjunction with National Library Week in April 2018.

As Google program manager Nicky Rigg put it, this program is “not meant to transform librarians into expert programmers but to support them with the knowledge and skills to do what they do best: empower youth to create, problem solve and develop the confidence and skills to succeed in their future careers.”

The cohort will meet during ALA’s 2018 Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits for a hands-on workshop, where they will share best practices and refine the toolkit.

The Libraries Ready to Code grants are just one part of an ongoing collaboration between OITP and Google. While this cohort of libraries is building their coding programs, a cohort of Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) faculty is building a curriculum to prepare LIS students to facilitate coding programs for young people in their future careers.

More and more libraries are getting Ready to Code, and the future looks promising!

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Marijke Visser

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