November 19, 2017

ALA, Google Launch “Libraries Ready to Code”

ALA logoOn April 13, the American Library Association (ALA) and Google announced the “Libraries Ready to Code” project, which will investigate the current status of computer programming activities in U.S. public and K–12 libraries with the goal of ultimately broadening the reach and scope of these coding programs. The project will include an environmental scan, practitioner interviews, focus groups, and site visits, and particular attention will be focused on opportunities that libraries are providing to minorities, girls, and other groups that are currently underrepresented in computer science and related fields, according to an announcement. The results of the project will be used to further engagement by ALA, and to inform a computer science policy agenda as part of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy’s (OITP) Youth and Technology program.

The growth of coding programs in U.S. libraries is “a great example of how [libraries] are transforming and recognizing our role in impacting not only education, but also entrepreneurship,” ALA President Sari Feldman told LJ. “We can help build a 21st century workforce, and we can also inspire innovation and new business ideas within our communities.”

Feldman cited examples such as the Denver Public Library’s weeklong web development summer camp and the Skokie Public Library’s recent “Appathon.” (In addition, LJ and School Library Journal have reported on a range of new and growing coding programs, such as the comprehensive, well-established course offering at the Orange County Library System in Florida, teen-taught coding courses at the Santa Clara County Library in California, the Code Louisville program facilitated by the Louisville Free Public Library, and even robotics courses at Connecticut’s Westport Library.)

In many communities, these library programs present the best option for hands-on training in computer programming. Intensive, for-profit coding “boot camps” are now offered in cities throughout the U.S., but these programs typically charge thousands of dollars per student. And although President Barack Obama in January announced the Computer Science For All initiative, which proposes $4 billion in funding to expand K–12 computer science training, the current state of established coding curricula in U.S. schools is spotty. In many communities, libraries have stepped in to fill a growing need for computer programming instruction.

“I think for quite some time libraries have recognized that to create equity in our communities…we have needed to step up and provide more hands-on learning opportunities, particularly around digital tools,” Feldman said. “And libraries have really led in STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math—activities. [Coding classes] are an extension” of that, providing knowledge that could help lead some patrons to new careers and job opportunities, while helping others gain a better grasp of logic concepts and a better understanding of how computers and digital tools work.

“Both Google and the American Library Association have missions that include equitable access to information, so our joint effort to expand computer science learning opportunities is a natural partnership,” Hai Hong, program manager of Google K–12 Education, said in the announcement. “While efforts are underway at the national and state levels to expand CS [computer science] opportunities in formal education, our nation’s libraries are uniquely positioned to bridge gaps now through informal learning. Google is excited to partner with the ALA to expand access to CS for all students.”

Project team leader Marijke Visser, associate director of OITP, added, “libraries represent a powerful informal learning space and can be a community hub for facilitated exposure to computer science and coding activities. Ready to Code will give us a richer understanding of how libraries contribute to more opportunities for kids to develop computational thinking skills. We know libraries have increased their focus on STEAM programming for kids and through Ready to Code we’ll build our knowledge base on CS-specific learning happening in libraries.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

Share