BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Public Library is introducing its first Girls Who Code series, starting Wednesday.
Middle and high school girls will have the opportunity to work with the library’s information technology department with tutorials and materials provided by Girls Who Code, a nationwide nonprofit organization with a goal of starting K-12 education early to bring more women into computer science and related fields.
When Lauryn Manoni was an information systems major at Illinois State University, she noticed a distinct lack of female classmates. Working with Girls Who Code in the library IT department gives her the potential to change that.
“Girls Who Code is just a space to encourage girls to try it out if they have any kind of interest in computer science or a related field — just to try it out,” she said. “It’s a space where they can make mistakes and have fun and really see how they feel about it. The main aim to why Girls Who Code was created was to hopefully shorten that gender gap a bit.”
During the 13-week series, the girls will learn the basics of coding that are used across most programming languages, including loops, variables, conditionals and functions, as well as leadership skills and group collaboration, Manoni said.
By the end of April, they will have completed projects that might include design techniques, animation and chat boxes.
Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, estimated the computer science field is on track to achieve gender parity by 2027. Girls Who Code has reached all 50 states and more than 90,000 girls have participated.
“I noticed that there were chapters offered in Normal, like at the different high schools, but nothing that served Bloomington’s community. So that’s why I wanted to take on bringing a chapter to the library,” she said.
The girls who quickly filled all the open slots will need to attend every session of the program as they would if they were enrolled in a class, but Manoni said she’s not worried that attendance will be an issue.
“They pretty much know from the get-go they’re going to want to commit to every week,” she said. “We’re also providing snacks for them and that’s a pretty good incentive.”
Tech-related programs have been introduced at the library in the past, but this is the first ongoing, multi-week course of this scale, said Manoni, adding this is a trial run to gauge the community interest. Only 15 girls will be able to participate this time, but in the future, the library may be able to run several sessions at once.
“I’m really excited that the community has taken such an interest in this and I’m hoping that whoever signs up will get something really great out of it,” Manoni said.