Skip to Main Content

Programming: Coding


Coding, also called programming, is the practice of creating sets of machine-interpretable instructions that a computer will follow. The applications of coding range from creating games and apps, automating routine processes like sorting, making robots dance, performing complex math, modeling weather patterns, even creating art and music—anything a coder can dream of.

There is an entire world of resources online to help educate your patrons, young and old, about coding. More often than not, you don't even need to know how to code in order to run the program. Learn along-side your patrons as you start on this journey. To get you started, here are a few simple definitions:

  • Programming Language: Just as people use a wide variety of languages to communicate with each other, there are many different languages for communicating with computers. Common ones taught in coding clubs include HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Scratch, and Ruby on Rails.
  • Block Coding: A visual style of coding where instructions are represented as geometric shapes that can be snapped together on screen. This style of coding is much easier to learn, as you can clearly see the elements of a given computer program and you don’t have to worry about typing something wrong, messing up the syntax, or forgetting a closing parenthesis.
  • Debugging: As with all human endeavors, mistakes are made in code. This often leads to unexpected and undesirable buggy behavior when the code is executed. Debugging is the process of systematically examining a piece of code to find out where it all went wrong and fix it.
  • Digital Divide: The digital divide doesn’t just refer to the schism between those who do and do not have access to the internet, but to the difference in the quality of access, bandwidth, and skills. Libraries are perfectly positioned to bridge that divide by providing access to computers; high-speed internet; and the opportunity, encouragement, and framework in which to develop computer and coding skills. We can make a profound difference in children’s lives. We have the technology.

Coding Clubs

If you’re offering weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily coding programs, things will run smoother with some field-tested plans to work from. Even if you have no advance knowledge of this whole “computer science” thing, you can turn to these to guide you through.

Hour of Code

Learn |

The Hour of Code was started by in 2013 as an initiative to introduce students to coding, or computer programming. believes that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.” To this end, a variety of engaging hour-long activities have been designed to introduce the concepts of computer science, in fun and engaging programming tutorials. 

It is anticipated that the United States will not produce anywhere near the number of computer science graduates required to meet future demand. While the Hour of Code will create interest in computer science to help meet that need, the goal of the Hour of Code is not to turn all students into computer science majors. Rather, the overarching goal of the Hour of Code is to introduce the basics of computer science to a large audience and show that anyone can learn to use computer problem-solving tools. Computing has become a vital component in literally all career fields. So it is important that all students have the opportunity to learn to use computers to solve problems.

While the Hour of Code was initially promoted for use in elementary and middle schools, today anyone can offer an Hour of Code. Libraries are an ideal setting for the Hour of Code. Libraries are developing new ways to engage their patrons in STEM learning, especially by focusing upon 21st Century-related competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The Hour of Code fits the American Library Association STEM in Public Libraries Initiative.

The Hour of Code is traditionally held during Computer Science Education Week (December), although it can be held at any time during the year. 

  • Organize your promotional materials.
  • Reserve the library computers for the event.
  • Register your event at
  • Make an Hour of Code account for your library (use account type Teacher). If your library does not have many computers but does have WiFi, include in your advertising that patrons should bring their own devices (laptop, tablet, or smartphone).
  • Recruit volunteers that will be able to assist Hour of Code participants. Make sure everyone has worked through at least a couple of the tutorials. Use the tutorials in the library to determine if they work with all browsers in your library, some work best with a particular browser.
  • Identify tutorials for different levels of experience. Not everyone likes Minecraft or Frozen, so be prepared to make suggestions.
  • How will you share the tutorials? You might consider bookmarking the starting webpages to eliminate worries about mistyped URL’s.
  • Decide if you are comfortable with a noisy library or if you will request that computer speakers by muted.
  • With your Hour of Code teacher account, you can print participation certificates and stickers (mailing label style) beforehand or you can log in to your account, type in names and print individual certificates.
  • Have a plan on how to work with patrons when they experience problems. One of the skills learned from working with computers is perseverance. That is great, but only to a point. Pair programming is a great tool for helping patrons work together, and it doubles the number of people working on each computer.

IMLS logo

Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.