Library Focus: Experiences from Blanchardstown Dojo

Libraries have proven to be great spaces to host Dojos, as highlighted in our CoderDojo in the Library handbook. Conor Hennessy, who works in Blanchardstown Library, decided to start a Dojo this year. Here he shares his experience of running the club and his advice for others thinking of starting a Dojo themselves:

As libraries provide access to new and emerging technologies, we decided to set up a CoderDojo to introduce the public in our local area to coding. We have been running sessions once a week for the past three to four months. The Dojo doesn’t have a set number of children who attend: we want to welcome anyone and everyone, so it’s all drop-in, with no booking required, to make learning as accessible as possible to people.

We believe that, as computers and technology are becoming increasingly popular and advanced, and as libraries have always been at the forefront of public access, we need to provide access and learning for coding too. Another Library Assistant, Meadhbh, and I are very involved in running the Dojo, with the support of our Branch Librarian, Lilian.

I would describe our Dojo as a place where anyone can drop in for a session to have fun and learn about programming. My favourite thing about our club is seeing young people’s interest and enthusiasm grow the more comfortable and confident they become with coding. Our Dojo attendees always say that the club is a really fun, interesting, and cool place to learn and meet new people.

My most memorable experience so far is the first Dojo, when everyone came in and set up their computers for the very first time. It made us feel great that we were really adding to the community by providing this learning space.

Since we’ve started, we can see the popularity of the Dojo rise, with students recommending it to their friends and bringing them along, and we’ve seen parents coming in and borrowing books on coding so that they can learn too!

To someone else thinking of starting a CoderDojo, I’d suggest that you plan everything out carefully. From the location you’ll host it and how much help you will need to run it, down to how long you can run a session for and how many people you’d be comfortable taking on at any one time. This way you ensure that everything runs smoothly, and you won’t find things out later that would have made everything much easier earlier on.

This planning is easy with the help of the step-by-step Start a Dojo process on our website. You can also take part in our free online course, where you will build the confidence and knowledge you need to start a Dojo: we will guide you through making a plan, and show you the useful resources and personal support we have available for you.

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