Computer Science

ALA, Google to Train Future Librarians to Code

Libraries often act as tech-enabled hubs that play a central role in making sure students have access to tools and resources that support learning. And soon, librarians will be assisting schools in implementing programs that teach computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT). The American Library Association (ALA), the largest association of libraries in the world, and Google K–12 Education Outreach have launched the next phase of a program that trains university faculty members to teach future librarians on how to implement high-quality CS programs at public and school libraries.

The Ready to Code 2 (RtC2) program will select seven individuals from Library and Information Services (LIS) faculty that will redesign their technology and media courses based on RtC2 concepts and priority areas. “The resulting curricula will challenge future librarians working with children and teens to develop requisite teaching skills and pedagogical expertise to engage with children and teens through programs and experiences that foster computational thinking,” according to a call for applicants.

“More and more librarians are offering coding activities that cultivate computational thinking skills,” said Julie Todaro, ALA president, in a prepared statement, “and we have a critical need for more graduate-level curriculum dedicated to teaching LIS students how to design and implement these innovative programs.”

Applicants must be full-time faculty members who teach technology or media at ALA-accredited graduate schools for LIS, or institutions that offer school library certification programs. RtC2 participants will each receive a stipend of $1,500. Faculty fellows will provide feedback throughout the program, assessing course outcomes and offering advice.

The university pilot program builds on findings from the first phase of Ready to Code. For Phase One, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) conducted a year-long research project that analyzed 115,000 school and public libraries to uncover how libraries support students learning CS, coding and computational thinking (CT) skills. The project found “gaps in the depth and scope of coding activities offered at libraries,” according to an accompanying report that identifies priorities and offers recommendations.

The “Increasing CS Opportunities for Young People” report emphasizes the need for skilled workers in the computer science field, counting more than 500,000 unfilled computing jobs at the moment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, about 71 percent of all new STEM jobs are in computing. There are also opportunities for those with CS skills outside of traditional computing roles, with 67 percent of computing jobs landing outside the tech sector.

According to the report, libraries need to prioritize:

  • High-level funding and support for building out the tech made available in libraries;
  • Professional development opportunities for library staff; and
  • Broader strategic partnerships.

The ALA-Google program aims to “increase library capacity to incorporate computer science related activities” and “identify best practices” that will form the basis of course models that will be disseminated nationally.

“LIS faculty need to re-envision our approach to teaching technology and media courses because we bear the responsibility of educating the next generation of children, teen and youth librarians,” said Mega Subramaniam, a principal investigator for RtC2 and associate director of the Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies, in a statement. “Ready to Code 2 will transform current MLIS youth course offerings and produce course models that will prepare librarians to foster the development of computational thinking among youth, and to integrate coding programs seamlessly – bringing us all closer to the goal of having all libraries ready to code.”

Subramaniam will serve on the project team along with Marijke Visser, co-principal investigator and associate director of OITP; Alan Inouye, director of OITP; Christopher Harris, a youth and technology fellow for OITP; and Linda Braun, a learning consultant for Librarians and Educators Online.

To apply, fill out the form here by Feb. 28. Faculty will be notified by March 20.

Further information is available on the ALA site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at sravipati@1105media.com.

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