A very good idea.

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I so want to do this! (from the Libraries Taskforce blog)

Beware it is a long post 🙂

Coding with Over 60s

Digital icon[Editor’s note: this post was written by Rachel Benn, communities librarian working in Leeds libraries.]

In November 2017, Leeds Library and Information Service trialled a series of Hour of Code workshops with Over 60s in partnership with South Leeds Live at Home.

The main objective of the sessions was to use digital technology to promote the health benefits that mind-stimulating activities have on older people. Our coding activities for children and families are extremely successful, and we thought similar activities would be popular with this new audience.

When we approached the groups of Over 60s, the first question we were asked was: Why would Over 60s want to learn how to code? The groups were adamant they were not looking for a career break into software developing any time soon! To answer the question, we talked about the benefits of coding rather than the activity itself.



What are the benefits of Coding?

  • Coding can keep your brain sharp: According to a recent study, engaging in problem solving activities can help to protect an ageing brain. Coding challenges the brain and the act of learning to code will strengthen your mental faculties.
  • Coding can help to relieve stress: We need to find ways to turn off the noises in our heads and relax; when you’re coding, you shut the world out and concentrate on the task in front of you.
  • Coding can keep you social: Coding is more fun when you’re doing it with someone else; helping each other and problem solving together can be a lot more fun. It’s interesting to see which challenges you face and which ones others face – teamwork makes the dream work!
  • Similar to crosswords and puzzles, a code a day can keep your brain 10 years younger!

After hearing more about the benefits of coding, there was interest and curiosity from the group and we all decided to have a go!

Hour of Code workshops

Our workshops covered an introduction to coding, avoided any unnecessary jargon, and provided examples of coding the audience could relate to.

The Hour of Code activity that we chose for the workshops was to Write a Computer Program: https://hourofcode.com/code

Screenshot from the Hour of Code site
Screenshot from the Hour of Code site

The activity provided lots of laughs along with the learning; the sound effects and Angry Bird characters really amused the group! We provided handouts throughout the workshops to support with new commands and explained each level in more detail. We ran the sessions very collaboratively, giving the group opportunities to support each other to complete the levels, developing teamwork and communication skills. Refreshments were provided with tea, coffee and biscuits which all of the group members said helped their minds work!

A number of participants: coding, and displaying their certificates. Photo credit: Rachel Benn/Leeds libraries
A number of participants: coding, and displaying their certificates. Photo credit: Rachel Benn/Leeds libraries

The feedback we received was really positive:

  • Rachel: “I never would have thought this was something I would have tried. I had heard about this coding from my grandson and I didn’t know what it was. I can’t wait to show him my certificate and tell him that I have coded!”
  • Betty: “I really enjoyed the challenge. It reminded me of coordinating my shopping trolley around the supermarket.”
  • Nellie: “I would like to do more of these activities. I found it kept me focused and I like to be challenged!”
  • Audrey: “It beats Sudoku!”

The Hour of Code certificates were VERY popular with the groups, and their sense of achievement was enhanced because they had a certificate to show to friends and family members.

Betty, age 85 - with her certificate. Photo credit: Rachel Benn/Leeds libraries
Betty, age 85 – with her certificate. Photo credit: Rachel Benn/Leeds libraries

Next steps

After the fantastic feedback from the group members on the initial workshops, we’re going to be setting up further coding sessions for over 60s. Where group members faced accessibility issues in visiting their local libraries, we have delivered sessions in community venues so that more people can take part.

All of the ladies who completed the Hour of Code have either framed their certificates or put them in positions of pride on their walls. They have felt a real sense of achievement in telling others about their coding experience. It has been a brilliant success story and this is just the start. We are exploring new activities to develop coding skills and confidence for the over 60s – watch this space!

Leeds Libraries have always helped people to be creative, discover new ideas and learn new skills. These workshops have enabled us to attract new audiences to our digital offer and have encouraged us to expand our research into coding and the benefits it has for people of all ages.

Coding. Photo credit: Rachel Benn/Leeds libraries
Coding. Photo credit: Rachel Benn/Leeds libraries



Convincing staff to learn a new thing

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Convincing Staff to Learn a New Thing

Yup, gotta agree. Otherwise there will always be someone who won’t try to learn.

I have a dream

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and it goes something like this.

I would love to develop (for library staff  at MPOW) a structured technology competencies course that would be relevant for all staff.

Some levels/modules would be mandatory for all staff. Some modules would be mandatory, depending on role, or optional for everyone else.

I’ve started mapping it out on wordpress.

Areas to be  contemplated include:

  • Library Management System
  • Basic troubleshooting
  • intro. to digital resources
  • downloading ebook & eaudio (overdrive & borrowbox)
  • printing, scanning, photocopying

Obviously existing procedures cover a lot of the training requirements but the training would be like a living, breathing set of FAQs.

The article below  (from libgig)  looks at emerging technologies in 2017.

How many are you comfortable with?

Technologies librarians need to know

Current and emerging library technology trends in 2017



Takin it to the streets

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Takin’ it to the streets.

I’ve blogged before about taking the library to where the people are – ‘ask a librarian’ at coffee shops etc, but I like this idea of taking our technology out and about.

Learn how to download ebooks at Glenferrie or Ashburton train stations.

And let’s face it I still want a library tram and this would be an excellent outreach idea for said library tram.

Or if no tram then maybe at the neighbourhood houses?


BlogJune. Day 15 of 21.

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Library as location. BYOD.

My main library (currently being renovated) is next to a McDonalds – we have had problems with mcflurries and icecreams being used to in the library (a keyboard after an icecream swilling youngster has been using it – ewwww!)

Our temporary location is fairly removed from such sticky delights but the last Saturday I worked  a family set themselves up in one of the study areas and had pizza delivered.

We have no rules about eating and drinking (or not eating and drinking) in the library – most users are careful about eating and drinking in the library –  but the smell of freshly baked pizza is difficult to work with.

Our main problem in the temporary location (for people who bring their own device) is the lack of powerpoints. We have set out powerboards but a library repurposed temporarily from a basketball court and a gymnasium,  does not have enough powerpoints at  floor level. Still we manage and out patrons by and large appreciate the effort. Even when we ask them not to run power cords across walkways.


BlogJune. Day 14 of 21.

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Service Design.

The ‘reference interview’, beloved of library courses everywhere, has changed a lot over the years.

Interactions between staff and public are changing (self issue machines mean that most borrowers come in, choose their items, borrow their items and leave – all without engaging with library staff.

I have noticed this a lot lately -MPoW is currently in a temporary location and the set up is such that the adult collections are in a separate room from the staffed areas. So unless someone wants help (and approaches a staff member) they can achieve a lot without having to see, or talk to, a staff member.

Obviously there are some members of the public I don’t want to interact with 🙂 but how do we know we are meeting the needs of our borrowers if we don’t see them or talk to them?



BlogJune. Day 13 of 21

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Fail = First Attempt In Learning.

If there is one thing I excel at it is not getting jobs that I want at MPoW!  In my more pessimistic  & downright cynical moments I wonder if I am applying for other jobs within the organisation to give TPTB some practice at (creative) thinking – weird and wonderful reasons to reject me.

And there have been some doozies.

“Why on earth would you think you would get the job over the person who has been acting in it for the last few months?” Then a bit later when I had been acting in the job… “Just because you’ve been acting in the job doesn’t give you an advantage over the other applicants”

Or “you are over qualified for this position” then 2 years later – same job –  “we had a lot of applicants who are better qualified than you”.

So basically there is often no rhyme or reason (or logic) to management decisions when it comes to your career path. Accept the rejection; eat lots of chocolate; drink lots of pepsi; take part in nanowrimo and get your revenge on paper but most of all




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