Libraries Ready to Code grantee Waseca Public Library is setting plans in place to help other libraries in their regional system create customized computer science and computational thinking programs. Matthew White, a librarian at Waseca Public Library, shares his takeaways from Libraries Ready to Code (RtC) cohort meetings at the ALA Midwinter Conference, and the librarian’s RtC project goals.
I attended the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Denver on scholarship from ALA as part of the Libraries Ready to Code cohort, sponsored by Google. This was an amazing opportunity for me. I had the opportunity to meet my RtC colleagues and engage in several sessions of meaningful dialogue and collaboration with them. Working with these talented librarians, as well as members of the project team, helped me shape my own practices with coding and computational thinking. I also found the conversations surrounding the RtC framework to be helpful in terms of understanding where this project is headed in the future.
One big takeaway from time with the cohort was the concept of HOMAGO – Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out – and how that applied to my work on coding and computational thinking events at the Waseca (MN) Public Library. This concept relieves some of the pressure to make every event objective-driven. I am encouraged as a librarian to let children and teens engage with technology on their own terms, even (or especially) as part of a social event that doesn’t have a focused lesson objective. This frees me as an educator to allow children and teens in my library to learn in the way that works best for them.
Another takeaway from ALA Midwinter came from conversations centering around staff buy-in and professional development for staff. One of the goals of the Waseca Public Library’s RtC project is to create kits that will travel to other libraries in the Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library System. These kits will allow other libraries to customize computer science and computational thinking programs that were successful at Waseca. Many of our library staff have a lower level of technology literacy than the librarians creating these kits, so it is important that we create lessons and instruction materials that give those staff confidence with this technology and help them guide students in these events. Conversations with other members of the cohort helped me think about the best ways to implement this strategy.
My experience at ALA Midwinter was not limited only to RtC work; I went to several other exciting and informative sessions, including Advocacy and Intellectual Freedom Bootcamp, the Youth Media Awards presentation, and several author talks. These sessions helped me broaden my reading horizons by introducing me to new books by debut authors, gave me insight into programs and events being hosted by other libraries across the country, and connected me to new tips and strategies for how to make my library successful. I also spent time in the exhibit hall, selecting many galleys that will help me prepare for future readers’ advisory.
I feel that my time at ALA Midwinter helped me grow professionally, and gave me a chance to meet the amazing librarians in the RtC cohort face-to face. I am grateful to ALA for the opportunity to attend this conference.