Leeds Central Library has hosted a Code Club since June 2015. Children’s Librarian and club organiser Rachel Ingle-Teare tells us about what makes her library unique as a venue, how the club has grown and changed since it started, and what her plans for the future are.
Rachel took over coordinating the Leeds Central Library Code Club with her colleague Andy in 2016. Her long-standing fascination with coding had previously led her to volunteer at family-oriented digital and coding events, and to create STEAM-based tinkering sessions linked to library themes.
Her ambition for the library Code Club was to create an informal, open space, away from educational settings, where volunteers could help club members develop a love of lifelong learning. It was therefore essential that the children attending the club found coding fun.
To achieve this, Rachel drew inspiration from children’s literature:
“Being able to offer library-themed projects is what makes us unique. We had a Harry Potter exhibition that included artefacts, ancient books, and interactive exhibits. The Code Club coded a micro:bit to act as a Sorting Hat that flashed the colour of the Hogwarts houses when the person pushed a button. Visitors loved this element, and we received lots of great feedback.”
This emphasis on connecting the children’s projects to the library has paid off. Since taking over the club, Rachel has seen regular attendance increase tenfold!
“We have gone from 1 or 2 children attending regularly to 15 to 20, with a ratio of about 1:4 girls to boys. The ages vary; the youngest member is around 5 and the oldest is 14. I sometimes get our Cubetto out for the very young ones. It’s a real family-friendly club, and it is always wonderful having the parents engaged in their child’s projects and seeing them work together.”
Building technical and soft skills
Club members also have the option of loaning micro:bits from the library, which allows families to take projects home with them to explore coding in more detail. The micro:bits have proven immensely popular with children and volunteers alike:
“I really enjoy the micro:bits. It’s great for the children to see something working in a tangible way once they have coded it. We’ve enjoyed doing lots of different electronics projects with them. One of our volunteers, Viktor, specialised in electronics at Leeds University, and he brings a wealth of knowledge with him.”
As attendance numbers have increased, club members have become able to collaborate more. This has not only helps young people of different abilities to progress through their projects, but it also lets them develop vital life skills that will benefit them:
“What I’ve been really impressed by is not just the coding skills the young people are building, but also social and team working skills, as well as creative problem-solving approaches. Peer-to-peer learning increases their confidence, and the clubs provide a space to try out ideas, make mistakes, and learn from one another, outside of school.”
The future for Leeds Central Library
As for the future of the Code Club at Leeds Central Library, Rachel has big plans:
“In the future we hope to see the clubs develop with our Librarians, attendees, and mentors, so that we can apply for Coolest Projects and host show-and-tells city-wide.”
Find out more about starting a Code Club or volunteering at a club in your local community at codeclub.org.