Skilled Volunteers Can Help Support Digital Literacy Initiatives

I recently wrote an article for Public Libraries Online on how the Berkeley Public Library (BPL) in California is making coding more accessible to its community through free workshops. The volunteer who is leading these classes is Sameer Siruguri. He is actually a former TechSouper and had reached out to the TechSoup for Libraries team to see if other libraries have done similar programming. 

Tech + Volunteers = Library Success!

Hour of Code at Chattanooga Library

The focus of my story was the coding programs for adults (inspired by the excellent Library Journal piece, How to Talk Code: Digital Literacy). But I thought this was also a wonderful example of how volunteers can help support technology and digital literacy initiatives.

I interviewed Siruguri along with Dan Beringhele, an adult services librarian at the Berkeley Public Library's Central Library, and Anwan Baker, the supervising librarian for adult services. Siruguri had approached the BPL because he was searching for a venue to host a RailsBridge workshop, a weekend event that teaches coding to underserved people. Previously, the Central Library had only offered basic computer classes, and both Beringhele and Baker wanted to see if there was any interest in more advanced programs, like coding.

The three planned an introductory class for adults that covered the basics of HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. The class was so well received that they're planning a follow-up class that is focused specifically on JavaScript.

How Skilled Volunteers Can Find Libraries (and Vice Versa)

After speaking with Siruguri, I started pondering how tech-savvy volunteers and libraries can find each other. Here are a few ideas.

  • Use VolunteerMatch to seek out tech-savvy volunteers — this is how I've found two of my previous library volunteer positions.
  • Host local technology-focused clubs or groups, like RailsBridge or NetSquared.
  • Contact computer science departments at local colleges and ask if you can advertise for volunteers.
  • Reach out to your local high school tech clubs and ask if they'd like to teach a class.
  • Link up with a local organization that teaches coding.
  • Host a hackathon at your library and end with a plug for volunteer opportunities.

For tips on engaging and retaining library volunteers, I highly recommend reading a recap of a webinar we did last year with the Denver Public Library and the Rutland Free Library. Got tips on finding technology volunteers? Or have you started a coding class or club at your library? Share with us in the comments.

More Coding Resources from TechSoup

More Volunteer Management Resources from TechSoup

Image: Chattanooga Public Library / CC BY-NC-ND