The American Library Association (ALA) and Google, Inc. are launching the “Libraries Ready to Code” project to investigate the current nature of coding activities in public and school libraries for youth and broaden the reach and scope of this work.
“Libraries today are less about what we have on our shelves and more about what we do for and with people in our schools, campuses and communities,” said ALA President Sari Feldman. “Learning for children and youth today is more flexible, more self-directed, and with greater opportunities to not just use content, but to create and collaborate digitally. Library professionals are committed to facilitating both individual opportunity for all and advancing community progress. This new project with Google sits squarely in our modern public mission.”
There is growing recognition of the need to provide young people with the requisite literacy skills of the 21st century. In the U.S., this is evidenced in both grassroots efforts like Hour of Code and at the federal level. On January 20, the White House announced its CS for All initiative, a plan to provide all U.S. students the chance to learn CS skills needed to be creators in the digital economy. This extends beyond formal education into informal environments such as libraries.
The project will explore coding activities starting at the earliest ages through high school, with particular attention paid to understanding the opportunities through libraries for underrepresented groups in Computer Science (CS) and related fields. The work consists of an environmental scan, practitioner interviews, focus groups, and site visits. Findings will be used to further intervention and engagement, as well as to inform a policy agenda related to CS as part of ALA Office for Information Technology Policy’s Youth & Technology program.
Coding programs and activities abound in libraries today. The Denver Public Library, for instance, offers a week-long web development summer camp; the Skokie (IL) Public Library recently hosted an “Appathon,” during which high school students worked on designing apps for a full day; and the library at the Bowie Elementary School in Texas recently hosted an “Angry Birds”-themed coding lesson with the school’s STEM teacher. “Ready to Code” will distill and share best practices—empowering more libraries to better prepare young people of all backgrounds with the computational thinking skills necessary for participation in the 21st century economy.
“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,” said Hai Hong, program manager of Google K-12 Education. “While efforts are underway at the national and state levels to expand CS 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.”
The project is guided and supported by an advisory committee that includes: Mara Cabrera, Teen Librarian, Santa Monica (CA) Public Library; Joanna Fabicon, Children’s Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library; Claudia Haines, Youth Services Librarian, Homer (AK) Public Library; Janice Kowemy, Director, Laguna (NM) Public Library; Crystle Martin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of California-Irvine; Janet McKenney, Director of Library Development, Maine State Library; Jesse Sanders, Branch Manager, Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library; Brooke Sheets, Children’s Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library; Mega Subramaniam, Associate Professor and Associate Director, iPAC College of Information Studies, University of Maryland-College Park.
Linda Braun, learning consultant for LEO: Librarians & Educators Online and past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of ALA), is the project researcher. Special advisors include Kelly Donohue, partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP; and Roger Rosen, CEO and president, Rosen Publishing. The project team is led by OITP Associate Director Marijke Visser and includes Chris Harris, OITP Fellow and director of the School Library System for the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership; OITP Director Alan Inouye, and Charlie Wapner, OITP senior information policy analyst.
“Libraries represent a powerful informal learning space and can be a community hub for facilitated exposure to computer science and coding activities,” Visser said. “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.”
American Library Association