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Hackathons @ the Library

by on May 10, 2015

“Hackathons” are popular events amongst students, professionals, and techies alike. Indeed, hacker culture is far from new. By definition from Technopedia, a hackathon is “a gathering where programmers collaboratively code in an extreme manner over a short period of time. Hackathons are at least a few days—or over a weekend—and generally no longer than a week.”[1]

IGNITE International Girl’s Hackathon, a project supported by Global Fund for Women, is an exciting new addition to hacker culture. The event was held this past February and consisted of more than 70 girls from 5 cities throughout the world. They worked collaboratively to create digital websites, apps, or other forms of technology that would lead to safe physical and virtual space for women worldwide. The Global Fund for Women reported that teams were from Taipei, Taiwan, Trivandrum, India, Porto Alegre, Brazil, and New York and Oakland, United States. For 24 hours the groups of girls built innovative digital tools that would help women locally and internationally.

Last June, I wrote about the Hour of Code, an effort by code.org to have students and educators learn coding.[2] To increase awareness for the event, code.org published some staggering statistics about the groups of people who are marginalized from coding and computer science. Amongst these statistics were women, who account for only 12% of computer science degrees in the United States.[3]

So it should go without saying that I really admire the IGNITE International Girl’s Hackathon initiative. Not only does it bring young women into the conversation and provide solutions for decreasing gender violence and discrimination, but also it is being accomplished through one of the fields where women are dramatically underrepresented. Some of the projects that these teams designed were online support forums, apps that connect users with emergency resources in any given location, self-defense training tutorials, and a job-skills exchange platform. You can learn more about IGNITE International Girl’s Hackathon at http://bit.ly/1boT0qt.

How does this fit into the sphere of libraries? Well, promoting hackathons or hacking culture at the library is still a new concept, but not unheard of. In 2011, NPR wrote an article about libraries that are providing hackerspaces.[4] Additionally, Georgia Public Library Services and Denver Public Library have sponsored events and opportunities for hacking and coding. [5][6]On a smaller scale, libraries are teaching patrons how to code or directing them to useful tutorials.[7] Since libraries are organizations that promote information access and cultural discourse, I find #hackgirlsrights an inspiration for libraries that want to incorporate relevant social issues by hosting a hacker night with an aim toward an achievable goal. As a Business Liaison Librarian, I’m particularly interested in the possibly of working with social entrepreneurs that want to design and deliver websites and applications that fit their cause.

What do you think of IGNITE International Girl’s Hackathon? Do you think that you will incorporate something similar at your library? Share your comments below.

[1]“What Is a Hackathon? – Definition from Techopedia.” Techopedias. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://www.techopedia.com/definition/23193/hackathon)>.

[2] Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <https://publiclibrariesonline.org/2014/06/code-at-your-library/).>

[3] “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” Code.org. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://code.org/stats>

[4] “Libraries Make Room For High-Tech ‘Hackerspaces'” NPR. NPR. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2011/12/10/143401182/libraries-make-room-for-high-tech-hackerspaces>.

[5] “Hacking the Library: 48 Hours To Better Libraries Through Collaborative Technology.”Hacking the Library: 48 Hours To Better Libraries Through Collaborative Technology. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. http://glean.georgialibraries.org/hacking-the-library-48-hours-to-better-libraries-through-collaborative-technology/.

[6] “Hacking, Making, and Coding at the Library.” Hacking, Making, and Coding at the Library. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <https://www.denverlibrary.org/blog/hacking-making-and-coding-library>.

[7] “Effectively Learning How To Code: Tips and Resources.” ACRL TechConnect Blog. 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. http://acrl.ala.org/techconnect/?p=2460.

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