Hacking at the library

23 June 2021

What do libraries and hackathons have in common? For starters, public libraries are key actors in bringing digital making and helping their community learn the digital skills they need to navigate the digital world we are entrenched in. They offer this in an informal environment where library users can experiment and fail safely. In more recent years, some libraries have acquired makerspaces where their users can access technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, virtual reality and much more. By bringing this into the library space, digital creation and digital making is brought into the community and made accessible to all.

As libraries have started to develop this digital offering, a next step that some are taking is hosting hackathons! But what is a hackathon? R.C. Davis defines it as “a time-limited event in which people form teams and work on a project together. At the end of the event, teams present their projects to everyone. Hackathons usually last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours (sleep optional). Projects tend to be technological, like building an app or a new feature for a website, but not all participants have to know how to code. Leadership, planning, research, design, and testing are also important skills here. Often, projects revolve around a theme, such as using civic data. While the goal is to have a working product by the end of the hackathon, good ideas with significant progress are acceptable, considering the short timespan.”

One particular project to draw inspiration from is the Social Hackademy #HackAD. This project is co-financed by the European Union through the Erasmus+ programme. It aims to foster social inclusion by training and upskilling vulnerable youths through courses on mobile app development, visual and graphic design, and web design. At the end of the courses, hackathons were organised in the pilot countries (Croatia, France, Greece, and Italy) where participants were challenged to develop solutions linked to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The methodology for Social Hackademy Hackathons is available here to help you get started with your own hackathons!