Coding in libraries – a new service?

There are so many things happening around in libraries these days. I love how some libraries are becoming makerspaces, and other libraries are connecting to their communities in new and creative ways. 

At the same time there is a drive for more coding in education. The world needs more computer coders and everybody needs to understand a little more about code. It is rapidly becoming a skill on the same level as literacy and the ability to do simple math. 

This impacts libraries on several levels. First, how can libraries support the spread of coding knowledge in the community? I can think of a few things that even a small library like my own can do without too much effort:

1. Give access to coding literature – buy books, DVDs and other relevant material that people can use in the library or borrow.

2. Have a computer set aside for coding. Install coding software and maybe some equipment that makes coding fun. LEGO Mindstorms comes to mind 🙂

3. Learn to code! For librarians to offer a quality service they must have knowledge of the service. It does not have to be deep knowledge, but at least an understanding of the core concepts and skills that is required for coding.

I attended library school in Oslo in 1987 and 1988 when the school offered computer program as an option. I scoffed the thought of needing to understand code. I remember saying in several discussions: “Librarians don’t need to understand code. We need to use software, not write it ourselves.” And, yes, the assumption that librarians should write their own software was probably wrong, but I was wrong too. Librarians need to understand coding to be able to offer the service and support of people interested in learning to code. I admit my mistake (I was young!!) and will now enroll in Code Academy to try to correct this mistake. I will also try to upgrade the collection in my library with coding literature and support. 

What do you think libraries should do to support coding knowledge in your community?

I'm a norwegian librarian.

Posted in Library 2.0
3 comments on “Coding in libraries – a new service?
  1. magnusenger says:

    I would also add that a little bit of coding knowledge can be an extremely useful tool. If you need to manipulate some data (like logs from the ILS or other electronic resources or MARC-records), you will sometimes run into limitations on what you can achieve with off-the-shelf tools like spreadsheets or MarcEdit, but there are no limits to what you can do with a little custom scripting. Coding does not have to mean creating patron-facing web applications! There are some good thoughts about this here:

  2. Peter Murray says:

    Thanks for linking to my post, Magnus; that drew me here to read Thomas’ post. I think that helping our community members and ourselves learn some form of coding is key to removing the mystery in the machine. In the United States in the 1980s it was common for public libraries to offer VCR machines for check-out along with the tapes themselves so that our community could get familiar with them. Libraries can play a similar role for technologies now emerging.

  3. […] There are so many things happening around in libraries these days. I love how some libraries are becoming makerspaces, and other libraries are connecting to their communities in new and creative wa…  […]

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March 2013
The Librarian

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