Local app developer, Andrew Nakas teaches students how to code video games at the Belgrade Community Library. The Belgrade Community Library was selected from more than 400 applicants to participate in the first cohort of Libraries Ready to Code. This initiative is sponsored by Google to promote computer science and computational thinking among youth. It is the first time ALA has dedicated funding for computer science programs in libraries.

The Belgrade Community Library was one of 28 US libraries to receive a $9,500 grant to boost computer science skills for young people, library officials said in a release.

The American Libarary Association grant will allow librarians to design and implement coding programs as part of a push sponsored by Google.

“The library is excited for this opportunity and looks forward to equipping Belgrade youth with the tools to pursue computer science as a career,” said Youth Services Librarian Rebekah Kamp.

Funds from the Libraries Ready to Code grant will be used to purchase new laptops, Raspberry Pi kits and other technology to start a Game On Coding Club. Students in grades 6 through 8 with financial hardships will be invited to participate in this free program before the library opens registration to the general public.

“Libraries are the cornerstones of our communities,” said Google program manager Nicky 

Rigg. “We are proud to include Belgrade Community Library in our cohort of Ready to Code grantees and support them with the knowledge and skills to do what they do best: empowering youth to create, problem solve and develop the confidence and skills to succeed in their future careers.”

Presently, the library has a popular afterschool gaming group. The library will work with this area of interest and allow students to code games using their own creativity and a problem-based instructional technique. At the end of the program, students will have the opportunity to present their work, reflect on any challenges met along the way, and record ideas for refining their projects in the future.

After the first class completes their projects, the library will invite students to act as peer instructors for a second session. This will allow students to build leadership skills while continuing to have a voice in the program’s design and implementation.

Students will have the opportunity to take a field trip to MSU or a local business to see computer science in action. The library will also host a parent information session to discuss pathways to education in computer science. The field trip, information session, and community mentors will expose students to future learning opportunities and encourage them to graduate high school and pursue higher education.

ALA President Jim Neal said, “As centers of innovation and information, libraries are the ideal place for youth – especially those underrepresented in tech jobs – to get the CS skills they need to succeed. ALA is pleased to provide these new resources to Belgrade Community Library and other Libraries Ready to Code grantees to help young people cultivate problem-solving skills, in addition to coding, that are at the heart of libraries’ mission to foster critical thinking.”