ALA Announces $500,000 in First-time Grants to Develop Coding Programs in Libraries

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

Shawnda Hines

Press Officer

Washington Office

The American Library Association (ALA) today announced more than $500,000 in grants for 28 libraries in 21 states plus the District of Columbia (full list below) to design and implement coding programs for young people. The grants are part of ALA’s ongoing Libraries Ready to Code initiative sponsored by Google to promote computer science (CS) and computational thinking among youth. It is the first time ALA has dedicated funding for CS programs in libraries.

“The Libraries Ready to Code grants are a landmark investment in America’s young people and in our future,” said ALA President Jim Neal. “As centers of innovation in every corner of the country, libraries are the place for youth – especially those underrepresented in tech jobs – to get the CS skills they need to succeed in the information age. These new resources will help cultivate problem-solving skills, in addition to coding, that are at the heart of libraries’ mission to foster critical thinking.”

Libraries are filling a crucial gap in K-12 education, with fewer than half of U.S. K-12 schools offering computer science classes. Specific groups underrepresented in CS careers - girls, rural residents, those from low-income communities, young people of color or with disabilities - are disproportionately disenfranchised by digital opportunity gaps, according to a Pew Research Center study. Libraries, proximate to diverse communities, are ideal places to provide equitable access to technology and training all young people need to develop the CS skills that will be indispensable in the workforce.

Libraries Ready to Code grant recipients span every region of the United States and range in size from rural libraries serving as few as 50 youth to urban library systems with branches serving populations of up to a million young people. Selected from a pool of more than 400 public and school libraries, grantees will develop programs that instill coding and computational thinking skills through dozens of innovative projects, including:

  • designing educational escape rooms,
  • making mechanical computers powered by marbles to solve logic puzzles,
  • coding music with the use of assistive technology in special education classes, and
  • building a residential-sized FarmBot machine to install a community garden.

As the cohort of grantees pilots their individual projects, they will receive guidance from each other, Google and ALA’s youth divisions: the American Association of School Librarians, the Association of Library Service to Children and the Young Adult Library Services Association. Their collective results will contribute to a national CS educational toolkit that will include implementation guidance to supplement the resources and activities that libraries find most useful for youth CS programming. Developed by U.S. libraries, for libraries, the toolkit will be released in conjunction with National Library Week in April 2018.

The Google program manager, Nicky Rigg, focused on Computer Science education, said, “The resources aren’t meant to transform librarians into expert programmers but to support them with the knowledge and skills to do what they do best: empower youth to create, problem solve and develop the confidence and skills to succeed in their future careers.”

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Awards, American Library Association, American Association of School Librarians, Association for Library Service to Children, Public Library Association, Young Adult Library Services Association, Office for Information Technology Policy, Washington Office

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