The Normal Public Library has received a $25,000 grant from the American Library Association to create a new technology mentorship program for youths in the community.
The Partners in Technology program will provide free mentorship opportunities to kids in areas such as coding, circuitry and robotics, with an emphasis on coding. The grant will allow the library to be equipped with enough technology tools to accommodate their learning.
“As centers of innovation and information, libraries are the ideal place for youth—especially those underrepresented in tech jobs—to get the (computer science) skills they need to succeed,” ALA President Jim Neal said. “(We’re) pleased to provide these resources to NPL to help young people cultivate problem-solving skills, in addition to coding, that are at the heart of libraries’ mission to foster critical thinking.”
The money comes from Libraries Ready to Code, an initiative of the ALA sponsored by Google. Its goal is to promote computer science and computation thinking among youth.
“Libraries are the cornerstones of our communities,” Google program manager Nicky Rigg said. “We’re proud to include NPL 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.”
NPL’s chosen program will pair no more than 25 children aged 10 to 14 with professional mentors. Although the library is looking for professionals, NPL Technology and Programming Librarian Julia Martin said that doesn’t mean they have to be experts.
“It’s kind of an interesting balance we’re looking for. I’m specifically looking towards the technology field, but it could really be anything. You could be a technical writer that maybe doesn’t do the hands-on circuitry, hardware, coding, but you’re in the field and have some sort of knowledge on how those things work and are just interested in helping kids grow. That would be something we’d definitely be looking for,” Martin said.
Martin said the hope of the initiative is to show youth that jobs in technology are a real possibility for them, in a way that hasn’t locally been available before.
"I think back to when I was that age, if somebody had said, hey, you have this opportunity to work with somebody who does this thing you didn’t even know you could do and work with robotics, coding or circuitry—how much more I would know about it,” Martin said. “I’m hoping the kids who get involved with this program, whether they’re dipping their toes in or already have something they want to work in, that it really just grows into whatever they’re interested in but also broadens their horizons.”
The pilot version of Partners in Technology will run from Jan. 8 to March 1.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.