by Dan Powell, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for the South East
About 18 months ago, Code Club started a project with Hampshire Library Service to start five Code Clubs in key libraries across the county. This was around the time the Society of Chief Librarians announced its Code Green initiative, which foregrounded digital engagement in libraries, and Jade Bower at Hampshire Libraries and I were excited about the opportunity to get young people coding in their libraries.
The first five clubs proved to be a success and so the project rolled out to a second group of libraries: there are now 17 active Library Code Clubs across Hampshire! There is also a great community of Code Club leaders and Librarians who share ideas about what works for them, and who actively support new clubs as they start up.
I spoke to a group of Code Club volunteers and librarians to see what they think of the project and what the benefits of running a club are.
Radka Ford, who is Library Team Manager for Winchester Discovery Centre and Chandler’s Ford Library, started off by telling me a bit about her club: “We have been running a Code Club at Chandler’s Ford Library for about 18 months. We have two great volunteers who are supported by two library staff. Children code on laptops and work through ready-made projects available on the Code Club website, and some of them code on micro:bits and also in HTML. Kids really love coding, we seem to have a never-ending waiting list of children wanting to learn to code!” Radka also had this to say about the Code Club volunteers at the library: “We couldn’t do this without Code Club volunteers! One Code Club volunteer landed a paid job in programming rather than working for a supermarket. How inspiring!”
One of the volunteers at Eastleigh Library, Andrew Daniels, got involved because he wants to pass on the skills and experience he’s developed during his career as a programmer. Andrew finds it rewarding working with the children who attend the club, and he says Code Club “brings a new change to my routine. I get to help shape lives. It’s amazing when parents of children tell me how important Code Club is to their lives.”
Librarian Lucy Geary, who is based at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre, talked about her experience of coding and Code Club. “As a member of library staff, I was pleased to get involved as I enjoyed the little bits of coding I did at University and this was an opportunity to get something mentally stimulating involved in my job at the library. I have very much enjoyed learning the different languages.” Lucy’s club is supported by volunteers from New Voice Media, a local company, and she describes the volunteers as “amazing – their staff are professional programmers and bring amazing knowledge and enthusiasm to the club”. But the best thing to her is seeing how the children who attend the club grow and learn: “It has been very satisfying and a pleasure to see the different groups of children grow in their ability and in their level of interest and commitment as the weeks progress. Sometimes the difference from week one to the end is unbelievable!”
David Hughes has been volunteering at the Farnham Library Code Club since the end of last year. Like many Code Club volunteers, he is not a coder by trade but is enthusiastic about digital making and a member of the Raspberry Pi Community. For him ,“it is important to give back in line with the values of the Raspberry Pi community. Code Club allows me to help the next generation of coders and budding techies.”
All in all, the Hampshire Library Service project has been a great success, and there are libraries starting Code Clubs in Hampshire almost every month now! A huge thank-you to all of the Code Club volunteers and Hampshire Libraries staff who have shared their skills and enthusiasm for coding with so many children across the county.
Interested to run a Code Club in your local library? Head over to our website to learn more and sign up! You can also watch our video below, featuring Tile Hill library in Coventry.