Libraries - how they can improve our digital literacy

National Coding Week 2015

Many libraries are now providing Wi-Fi and computer classes but there is an additional role for libraries that is both exciting, life changing and could help secure their future. Let me explain…

As a 5 year old child, I remember being taken by my father to enrol at the local library; I would take out a book every week and would read it to my parents. It was an exciting highlight of the week and I remember it vividly. In this vein, public libraries have played a central part in helping promote literacy and stimulate creativity for generations but, unfortunately, libraries  have struggled in recent times. However, I predict a library renaissance with a spirit as great as the one that inspired the Public Libraries act of 1850.

Libraries could create digital start-up hubs in their own communities

Why? Well, quite simply, because libraries can provide a facility that is truly in demand at the moment. When the 2007 global financial crisis happened, industry and small businesses were hit hard, and eight long years of soul searching followed as a result. Lots of people were forced to find a different career with many ultimately deciding to carve a new line of work by creating a job for themselves. As a result, the UK’s start-up community has boomed.

The tech industry is a prime example of this. Let’s take apps; in 2007, apps didn’t exist at all. Now, 8 years later, London is the app capital of Europe. In fact, the UK has become the biggest digital economy per capita than any other country. There are now more people in tech jobs in the south east of England than the whole of California and digital clusters have sprung up all over the country.

Naturally, all of these young start-ups need a place to work and grow their businesses. Libraries have subsequently been identified as a possible location where future tech professionals can go – creating digital start-up hubs in their own communities. 

These spaces are used by people to learn, network and share ideas with their industry peers as many people don’t want to stay at home and learn online by themselves – working in a shared space can be far more productive! 

Digital skills shortage

Despite so many budding entrepreneurs building exciting new organisations, there is a significant and growing skills shortage which is inhibiting their growth. Coding and Digital Literacy is now part of the school curriculum but this doesn’t fill the void right here right now. 

Many adults have missed out on the Digital Revolution yet they have a huge part to play in the digital economy. For this reason, it’s essential that we can encourage adults to learn these new skills and provide them with the support they need. 

You might be surprised to hear that most people currently working in the tech industry don’t have any formal qualifications at all – 87% of app developers are actually self-taught. So the important thing is to give keen individuals structured support in the first instance which will spark an interest to develop their digital literacy further.

This is why National Coding Week was established. The week-long event aims to support and inspire adults to improve their digital literacy and learn core coding skills. Many people will learn during a face to face course, while others may learn online using a free resource. This year, National Coding Week runs from 21st September - 28th September.

So what can libraries do?

We’re asking libraries up and down the country to organise a 1-2 hour coding workshop in the library during the week. Possible speakers might include a cooperative digital business based locally, or alternatively it would be possible to host an event which gives people access to one of the free online coding courses. Courses will be hosted throughout the week on codecademy.com and teamtreehouse.com

Once you have devised your event, you can then go to nationalcodingweek.com to register and pin your event on the national map. We will then help publicise your event to local people. 

So come on, get involved in the digital revolution! The National Coding Week team would love you to get in touch if you’re interested in running an event or would like a bit more guidance and help with the  logistics of setting one up, so please do get in touch with us through our website. If you still need some convincing, take a look our latest case study of someone who has learnt how to code and changed his life as a result.  

References

Image credit: National Coding Week

 

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