A newly formed Women In Tech group, composed of women working at Paducah's Computer Services (CSI), Inc., will begin leading the McCracken County Public Library's NextLevel! Coder's Club on Saturday.
The coding program, set to run from 2 to 3:30 p.m., is free and open to all youth 8 and up with no registration needed.
Youth Services Librarian Lea Wentworth started the coding program in 2017 after the library secured a grant from the Google-sponsored "Libraries Ready To Code" initiative. With the acquisition of 30 Chromebooks, 12 for designated for public use and 18 specifically dedicated to coding programs, the library launched coding programs on-site, at Sprocket in Midtown and at the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club.
Wentworth has regularly held NextLevel! events during school breaks when more youth were present in the library during the day, but she hopes that the Women In Tech's involvement will result in the club being held on more regular basis.
"We were thinking that we could come in and run one of the sessions and, if it goes well, maybe make it more of a regular thing while at the same time," said Kristen Anderson, a software engineer at CSI and a member of Women In Tech who works as a clerk at the library. "It would lessen the burden on the library and their staff and still give some value to the community."
With 12 members from the ranks of CSI, the Women In Tech group hopes to provide a platform for addressing issues facing women in the tech industry on a local level.
"I kind of felt like it was my responsibility to share what I learned with others, particularly women because there's not a lot of us in the tech industry or at CSI," explained Kim Skipworth, CSI's director of software engineering, who formed the group after taking part in a leadership course. "I have a real passion for helping the other women to build them up and help them be good leaders, as well."
Skipworth also hopes to foster more interest in tech jobs in young women.
"One of our goals as a group this year is to reach the community and promote more interest in coding in general," she said. "While we'd like to focus on girls, the club will not be limited."
Anderson feels that this collaboration will be fruitful for all involved since the only aspect of the program that would fundamentally change is the leadership of the Women In Tech volunteers in facilitating the club.
"The overall goal of the program is still to get code into kids' lives and increase computer literacy," Anderson said. "The schools, right now, don't always offer something regularly and some not at all. The coding club can fill that gap. Having it at the library gives it more of an 'I can do to it, too' feeling." Wentworth said the library aims to further education in all its forms.
"A lot of kids come here to use our public Internet and computers and we really just want to help them take what they're doing for fun and turn it into a learning opportunity--skills that they can build upon for their education," Wentworth said. "We especially want to spread the knowledge that these careers and opportunities in the tech industry are out there for them, even in Paducah."
To learn more about programs offered by the McCracken County Public Library, visit www.mclib.net.