Chancey Fleet first visited the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library on a trip from Virginia in the 1990s. “I was blown away by the browsable Braille collection,” she says. “I was ten or 11, and I checked out a bunch of choose-your-own-adventure books.” Upon returning to New York as an adult, she adds, “I already had an affinity for the library.”
Last summer, Bloomberg BusinessWeek devoted an entire issue to “What Is Code?” a single article by Brooklyn-based writer and programmer Paul Ford. Ford’s breakdown of key concepts pulls back the curtain on the fundamentals of computer programming and makes a compelling argument that any smart person can learn the basics—and that the basics are worth learning even for those who aren’t planning to become professional coders. It is, in part, a case for coding as a new frontier in digital literacy. There’s a growing interest in this type of education among kids, teens, businesspeople, career changers, and the generally curious. And a growing number of public libraries are already responding to this need within their communities. Here’s a look at ways in which a few libraries have made their programs a success.
Can I take this home? is a question I would hear every day while in the Hotspot at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s (FLP) Village of Arts and Humanities. The “thing” in question was a MaKey MaKey, and the answer was always, “No, but you can take home what you are plugging it into!” Working with youth aged seven to 18 years old we were creating computer-connected mazes with Play-Doh, homemade Dance Dance Revolution dance-pads using copper tape, and novel game controllers operated by licking ice cream.
Adam Rogers “is always working with an eye toward democratizing access to the latest technologies for our users,” says David Goldsmith, associate director for materials management at North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries. One of the ways Rogers does this is through his leadership of the Hunt Library Maker space, which features 3-D printing, scanning, and laser cutting; electronics prototyping kits; and workshops to acquaint potential users with these tools.