Hacking A Wider Path @ the #TechLA #Immigrationhack

Karen Borchgrevink
Jul 22, 2015 · 4 min read
Central Library’s Zodiac Chandelier created by Lee Lawrie. Apologies for no photo credit.

I spent last Sunday at the LAPL Central Library immersed in my first hackathon! From the crowd of impassioned and smart people to the hands-on real-time collaboration to the magnificent architectural setting — it was an inspiring, impactful day that I won’t soon forget!

Rethinking the library

The Los Angeles Public Library provides a crazy, wide range of varied programs across this city — you’d probably better “Rethink the library,” as Mayor Garcetti said. The LAPL is also the key mover around immigration issues in the City of LA. Citizenship corners and classes, a free summer lunch program and three adult literacy programs are among the offerings that attract our immigrant communities. I was hugely impressed by the library’s programs and encourage you to check out their new Strategic Plan on Creating Opportunity, Building Community, Inspiring Innovation here.

There’s room for non-developers in a hackathon

An LAPL Immigrant Web Portal was what our team designed in order to strengthen and magnify the innovative programs of our public library. Our team of four included a full stack web developer who coded a rough site in Twitter Bootstrap, a software engineer who pulled together our presentation, a graphic designer and myself, a strategist. We brainstormed, developing both content and site design that embraced the strengths of each team member. Lesson: there’s room for non-developers like me to play a role in a hackathon.

El camino hacia la ciudadanía

We defined three key messages and as we kicked them around realized they align pretty well with the library’s existing branding. The citizenship program is called “Path to Citizenship” and Su camino hacia la ciudadanía comienza en la biblioteca en español.
• An open door, welcoming, no risk: approachable & trusted is how City Librarian John Szabo introduced the library.
• The essence of citizenship is bigger than the individual parts of work, health and education.
• You don’t need to give up your heritage to become a US citizen.

Place as design inspiration

We wandered through the library and snapped photos inside and out to use as design elements. Open doors? Yes, plenty of them, though maybe some of the lintel inscriptions are less imposing. The torch of knowledge? Lovely, resembles the Statue of Liberty a bit without being overly patriotic. The Zodiac Chandelier in the rotunda? How have I never noticed this most beautiful and symbolic illumination?! The light, the globe — Perfect! (The Central Library is an amazing space and more on its architecture here.)

Our work

Wearing our UX hats, we decided that language was the first category for the site architecture. Then once entering the individual language pages, we’ll use icons for each program across all languages.

Developer Nina Kin was multi-tasking and coding our portal to pull together and showcase the range of services available to immigrant constituents. Creating entryways into multiple services that are currently really scattered was a big theme throughout the day and multiple teams offered solutions.

And meanwhile our designer got busy with icons to fill the placeholders:

[The globe could be stylized into a lineart icon, the text in four languages used as a block, and of course a style guide plus Word templates would be useful for the talented library staff who are hands-on in these programs and communities across the city.]

Shoutouts to a great day and great work!

My personal hope is that this hackathon made a contribution toward empowering immigrants to share your stories and profound experience, making your lives less volatile because of immigration status, and creating community across cultures and lands of origin.

Mayor Eric Garcetti & The Mayor’s Office of Immigration
City Librarian John Szabo and the LAPL
Civic Innovation Lab and #techLA
Plus all the developers, designers, data analysts, map makers, volunteers, community activists and sponsors who poured their heart & soul into the day and our work.

Thanks to Nina Kin

Karen Borchgrevink

Written by

Social impact activist. Executive Director, LA Tech4Good https://www.latech4good.org

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