ALA, Google Seek Libraries to Apply for Coding Pilot this Summer

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(From School Library Journal)

“Is your library ready to code? The American Library Association (ALA) and Google want you. As part of Phase III of the Libraries Ready to Code initiative, ALA and Google are forming a cohort of 25-50 school and public libraries, which will receive resources and support to create youth coding programs to serve their communities. In turn, participating libraries will help inform the creation of a toolkit to be used to inform coding programs at libraries nationwide.

The $500,000 initiative—announced at Google Chicago June 22, during ALA’s annual conference—will involve a competitive application process set to open in mid-July and run until the end of August 2017. Both school and public libraries are encouraged to apply, according to Marijke Visser, associate director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).

Phase 3 extends a partnership between the search giant and the nonprofit library organization, which began in 2015. Through Libraries Ready to Code, “we were asked to explore how libraries could make a difference with kids who may not be predisposed to think about coding as an alternative,” says Visser. Indeed, organizers seek to benefit underserved populations in the Phase 3 effort, primarily African American and Hispanic users, low-socioeconomic communities, and “girls across the board,” she says.

No Coding Knowledge? No Problem

The pilot also emphasizes computational thinking. “You don’t need need to write code,” Google engineer, Jessie Chavez explained at the Chicago event. “It means that you need to think like a programmer.” This extends to libraries and librarians. “We don’t need everyone to be an expert programmer to teach and motivate kids to seek programming as a career,” he says.

Chavez adds “we see too often kids reach middle school age and they’ve self selected out of [computer programming], if they’ve never been exposed to it.” In addition to providing more equitable access to technology, “libraries can change perceptions of who can code,” says Visser.

Libraries of all types can submit for Phase III, from the smallest to those who have a lot of resources, says Visser. The program also seeks to represent all ages, including the littlest future engineers, preschoolers.

Kids are poised to solve the world’s biggest problems, adds Chavez. “Technology will enable them to get there faster.”

Tips for Applying

Potential applicants should familiarize themselves with the Libraries Ready to Code mission. That includes the CS+X concept, in which libraries can help forge connections between coding and what kids are interested in, cars, for example, or conservation. Long term, the coding kit is intended to make these skills accessible to students through 120,000 libraries in the U.S., wrote Alan Inouye, OITP director, in a Google blog post announcing the program.

The selection committee will consist of librarians from ALA’s youth divisions: the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC); the American Association of School Librarians (AASL); and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Phase III at a glance:

  • Request for proposal (RFP) process opens mid-July, closes end of August 2017
  • Criteria aligns with Ready to Code mission, which emphasizes those underrepresented in computer science
  • Cohort announced October 2017
  • Beta of toolkit revealed at ALA Midwinter 2018 (February 9-13)
  • Final toolkit released during National Library Week (April 8-14)
  • Sign up for updates

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