Getting Libraries Ready to Code During CS Education Week

ALA and Google team up to promote coding skills

December 1, 2017

Screenshot from the American Library Association's Libraries Ready to Code video.
Screenshot from the American Library Association's Libraries Ready to Code video.

December 2–10 marks CS Education Week, when computer science (CS) activities will be happening in public and school libraries throughout the country. Kids may set aside routine activities to learn basic concepts by coding Lego ornaments, creating light-up LED cards with paper circuits, designing their own version of a Star Wars game, or learning a  language like Python.

CS Education Week is an annual program that brings together educators, tech companies, youth-serving organizations, and, of course, libraries to focus on inspiring young people to explore CS. Skills learned through CS and coding are the skills employers are looking for, and not just in the tech industry. From medicine to sales to music, sports, agriculture, and more, the creative problem-solving skills learned through CS are in demand.

While K–12 classroom-based programs have increased, gaps in access persist. For example, Google-Gallup research on diversity gaps in CS reveals that black students are less likely than white students to have classes dedicated to computer science at the school they attend, and black and Hispanic students are more likely to have learned coding outside of the classroom. Girls and youth from underrepresented groups also remain less likely to think that CS is a path for them. Another hurdle for formal K–12 CS programs is not enough educators are prepared to teach them.

Libraries Ready to Code

America’s libraries may be in the best position to make sure young people underrepresented in CS careers have a chance to learn and succeed. Through Libraries Ready to Code (RtC), the American Library Association and Google are working with librarians, library staff, and professors in graduate LIS programs to address the gaps by increasing opportunities for access and exposure to CS, helping to change perceptions of who codes, and facilitating the connection of youth interests with CS.

ALA is using CS Education Week again this year to reflect on what we’ve learned since our initial look at coding in libraries, what makes programs successful, and what support is needed to build them out. From there we identified ways libraries can get started with coding and develop programs that focus on fostering computational thinking skills. To ensure librarians are prepared for this next iteration of youth services, RtC focused on preservice librarians through our work with six LIS faculty to embed RtC into their youth courses. While this work wraps up, our focus turns to in-service librarians to build a community of practice while iterating a toolkit of RtC resources and support materials that will be available nationwide during National Library Week 2018.

Here are a few quick ways to get involved during CS Education Week and stay involved throughout the year.

  • Follow ALA Washington Office blog districtdispatch.org all week for snapshots of CS ideas for libraries.
  • Try one of the many Hour of Code activities, including one from Google’s CS First program.
  • Check out the Careers with Code magazine for inspiration on connecting CS with youth interests and read about a few specific libraries that are featured.
  • Browse Pinterest for coding ideas.

Libraries Ready to Code is growing, and we’re building a peer network of inspired librarians and library staff. Use #readytocode @alalibrary during CS Education Week to share your story.

Visit Libraries Ready to Code for more information about our work and to sign up for project updates.