Lockdown can’t beat library’s code club launch

Children are the future of any library, so the trustees and volunteers of Norton HIVE and Community Library were keen to find new ways of attracting more young people into the building.

Code club

One idea was to launch a code club, teaching the basics of computer coding, and trustee David Hurley put plans in place. Children from about 15 local families were interested, an external teacher was booked and the club was all set to go after Easter.

Then the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect. But Norton HIVE, which is one of 31 community libraries in North Yorkshire managed by volunteers with support from the County Council, was not to be beaten.

David, who previously ran a holiday business and then a horticultural nursery with his wife, decided he could run the club himself, remotely, despite having to learn about coding himself first. He turned it around in just three weeks.

“I didn’t know anything about coding, so I did two online six-week Open University courses and am now doing a third,” said David. “I now run two one-hour sessions, each with five children.”

He also had to become proficient in video conferencing and sharing screens, making short videos, uploading these onto YouTube, as extra tutorials.

“I knew nothing, but you can just learn,” he said. “There is loads of information out there.”

His two teenage grandchildren helped to test the technology before he started the courses.

“The feedback has been very positive. I can’t fault the support the other trustees and parents have given me in getting their children online. It is a lot of work, but it has worked very well. I think more code clubs within libraries could go online.”

David is also grateful to Raspberry Pi International, which is the foundation that supports code clubs, and the Malton and Norton Rotary Club, which has provided funding that will go towards software when the club can move into the library. Code club members will have to be members of the library to use the library computers.

“I am all about getting children into the library where, hopefully, we can introduce them to the joy of reading,” said David.

David was particularly keen to bring home-schooled children into the club.

“I wanted to focus on home-schooled children, because at school generally children often join code clubs in their school environment,” he said.

Parents are always online, too, with their children. One of those parents is Helen Priestley, who helped David to spread the word about the club. She has two sons, Sam, 13, who is home-schooled, and Joe, 11, who has been at home during lockdown. Both joined the code club as soon as it began.

“It has been really good,” said Helen. “It allows the children to be creative and learn useful technical skills. Many children enjoy computer games, and one of the reasons code club is immediately engaging is because it shows them how the elements of these games are created. There is also a logical, step-by-step approach to their learning which is useful in so many areas.

“They are learning in a very enjoyable way. I think online learning has got its place now. A lot of parents have had to do home-schooling over the last few months and are finding new ways for their children to learn alongside the more traditional methods.

“I am extremely grateful to David, because he has started code club and made it available for the Home Educating Community. He also did not let lockdown stop him!”

County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “Congratulations to David and the trustees and volunteers of Norton HIVE for seizing the initiative and making their plans a success despite the lockdown. This is an example of the innovation and ingenuity that is making the county’s community libraries such a success.”

Norton HIVE is keen to expand its code club, so anyone who is interested can contact the library.

This story was published 9 June 2020