Carli Tucci, a junior at Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRFHS), came to us in August with a community need and a plan to address it: start a Girls Who Code club at the library.

“I thought a lot of people in Oak Park and River Forest would be interested," she said. “Girls Who Code is excited about opening up the field to more girls.”

Closing the gender gap

“By 2020, there will be 1.4 million open jobs in computing," writes Reshma Saujani, author of the 2017 book Girls Who Code. These jobs are some of the country’s highest-paying and fastest-growing career paths. But girls are on track to fill just 4 percent of them.”

Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit working to close the gender gap in technology. After-school clubs are hosted in places like schools, community centers, and libraries, creating a safe and supportive environment of peers and role models where girls in middle and high school can learn to see themselves as computer scientists.

Starting Wednesday, January 10, girls ages 12–18 can join our new weekly club at the Main Library, facilitated by High School Services Librarian Rachael Bild and Digital Learning Coordinator Deidre Winterhalter. It’s free and open to girls of any skill level.

'So many career options open up'

Tucci was introduced to Girls Who Code at a different public library last year, an experience that she said led her to take an Advanced Placement Computer Science course at OPRFHS and made her realize coding is a useful skill for pursuing her interests in biomedical engineering.

“So many career options open up if you can speak the language of Java or Python,” she said. “Coding is one of the widest kinds of fields, and a good skill to have going into college.”

Join the club, no pressure

Tucci said she went into the Girls Who Code club not knowing much about coding, but she didn’t feel intimidated because of the club’s open environment.

“Everyone is in the same boat, and you don’t feel pressured,” she said. "If you're interested, you can have a chance at leadership roles, or even just meet other girls."

Starting January 10, our Girls Who Code club will meet every Wednesday evening, 5–7 pm, in the Main Library Computer Classroom. If you don't know how to code, we'll teach you. If you do know how to code, we'll teach you to code better. No experience needed! Free and open to girls ages 12–18.

Coding resources for all

Although Girls Who Code is just for girls ages 12–18, the library offers coding resources and events for all. 

Online tutorials

Digital Learning Coordinator Deidre Winterhalter calls Lynda.com "an unparalleled resource, available with your library card, that has hours of in-depth, step-by-step video instructions, from the definition of code to advanced concepts in programming. All major programming languages are covered in this vast resource."

Kits for kids

Discovery Kit backpacks like our Robot kit, Raspberry Pi kit, and Doodle Bot kit are filled with fun coding projects.

Partnerships and events

We partner with Oak Park Elementary School District 97 teacher librarians on digital learning initiatives, supporting schools with resources and collaborating on programs—like past years' Parent Tech Night, an event that has evolved this winter into Oak Park Code Fest.

Laurie Conley, Whittier Elementary Teacher Librarian, recommends Code.org for beginner and intermediate coders. "Check out the Hour of Code portion of their website to try fun lessons with the characters from Minecraft, Star Wars, Angry Birds, and more,” she said.