Coding In Libraries Offers New Skills In the Digital Age

Child sitting at a table filling out a worksheet. A tablet, pipe cleaners, and beads sit on the table next to him. A woman watches him.

Library Coding Programs Teach Kids Valuable Life Skills

A few kids lean over a large whiteboard on the floor, watching a small robot follow a maze they’ve drawn using Blockly codes. Others are on a computer using Scratch coding to create an interactive holiday card. No, this isn’t Google headquarters. The kids are at the Pauline Haass Public Library in Sussex, participating in the library’s Hour of Code activities for Computer Science Education Week. The library is one of many public libraries in Waukesha and Jefferson counties now offering coding programs for children and teens.

“When kids learn to code, they are learning a growth mindset, computational thinking, and how to collaborate with others,” Nancy Aycock says. Aycock, Children’s Library Associate at the library, coordinated the Hour of Code programs this year.

“As a community partner, libraries can offer access to technology and resources that their community members may not have access to otherwise,” she says.

Two children watch a small robot move along a path drawn on a whiteboard.

Learning To Reach A Goal

Mukwonago Community Library offers a Girls Who Code club for girls in 5th-12th grades. The program is run by Callie Fuchs, a Mukwonago High School student who works as the library’s Innovator in Residence. She says, “I teach the girls how to code and program in a variety of basic languages, such as Scratch and Python. We make small programs that involve using the things I have taught them in order to help the skills stick and make them easier to remember.”

When asked why coding is important, she explains, “Coding isn’t just typing a bunch of numbers into a machine and calling it a day. It’s much more than that. It’s trying to reach a goal to make something better and solve a problem.”

The Waukesha Public Library also offers coding programs, with activities using micro:bits, the ScratchJr app, and Ozobots. Library Associate Jason Penckofer says coding is important for kids to learn because it improves sequential thinking and problem-solving skills. It also “helps teach the importance of persistence, as your first solution may not be the best one- it might not even work!”

Should Libraries Teach Coding? (Yes!)

But are libraries the right place to teach coding? Aren’t they just quiet rooms full of bookshelves? Not at all, says Caitlin Schaffer, Youth Services Librarian at Oconomowoc Public Library. “Libraries do everything they can to move patrons and communities forward, helping them achieve their goals and become lifelong learners. Coding fits right into that mission, for all ages,” she asserts.

For the past three summers, the Oconomowoc library has offered a Coding Club for ages 8-12, with teen volunteers helping to run each session. Projects are geared around participants’ interests, such as engineering, robotics, video game creation, and more. Parents have reported back to Schaffer about how excited their kids are to attend the club. This, Schaffer believes, is why public libraries are the place for this type of learning.

“Libraries excel in providing opportunities for kids to not only learn, but to grow as people with skills that will help them successfully tackle the other challenges life throws at them,” she says.

Two children using a coding program on a laptop.

Want to know more? Visit or contact the libraries mentioned in this article for more information about their coding programs. Talk to your librarian for more information on coding opportunities at your library.

Written by Jill Fuller. A version of this article appeared in the Waukesha Freeman, the Oconomowoc Enterprise, the Daily Jefferson County Union, the Waterloo Courier, and the Watertown Times. We will be sharing those pieces here on our website a few weeks after each piece has been printed.