Since its 2010 release, attitudes about the iPad have undergone a radical change. Once mocked by techies for being both frivolous and having a silly name, the device has since become nearly ubiquitous in coffee shops, schools, airports and businesses across the nation. Why? Because in many ways, the iPad actually did live up to the hype. It’s easy to use (even for little kids), intuitive, lightweight and generally a highly versatile tool adaptable everywhere, from the board room to home room.
With iPads all the rage in schools and colleges across the nation, it was only a matter of time before libraries started getting in on the craze as well. Many public and university institutions lead the way with iPad adoption by developing some pretty cool uses for their patrons. Librarians, MLS majors and avowed bibliophiles alike should take note, as there are plenty of great ideas about using the iPad worth emulating– or at least taking the time to explore. We’ve listed just a few ways we think these wondrous gadgets are best being used in libraries, hopefully providing some inspiration on how to get started making your workspace a more tech-savvy, iPad-friendly environment.
EBOOK LENDING APPLICATIONS
With most large libraries now offering digital content to patrons, having an application that makes it easy to download an ebook or audiobook directly to a smartphone or iPad just makes sense.OverDrive Media Console is one such tool letting libraries and borrowers do just that, hooking them up with over 13,000 institutions around the world, from which they can download a wealth of material totally gratis — so long as they have a library card, of course. Reviews of the app have been glowing, and if your library isn’t already in on the game, you probably should.
LIBRARY-OWNED IPADS THAT PATRONS CAN CHECK OUT
Many patrons might not be able to afford an iPad of their own, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get access to one. A number of libraries are offering the devices for loan, some of which can only be used within the library and some that can actually be taken home. While there are always concerns about theft with such a big-ticket item, libraries trying out the lending system have reported good results so far. With high late fees and replacement fines, most patrons are more than willing to bring back the tablets on time.
ROAMING REFERENCE TOOL FOR LIBRARIANS
Need to look up a book on the fly? With an iPad, librarians can access their institution’s database from anywhere in the building, making it easier than ever to help patrons with any questions they might have. With email, web access and a variety of apps, there’s little that a savvy librarian can’t do on the iPad, and that just might make it their preferred tool in the future.
DEDICATED LIBRARY IPAD APP FOR RESEARCH
Libraries with impressive research collections can make those materials even easier to access with the iPad’s help. One pioneer in the field has been the New York Public Library, whose Biblion app lets users explore research materials (including those most commonly consulted) from anywhere with an Internet connection. This could not only save researchers time hunting through stacks of materials, but might make it easier for libraries to share their resources with a much wider audience.
A DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE FOR PATRONS
Does your library have a great collection of rare and historical books? Loads of digital content? Why not share those materials with patrons without even making them leave the house? The British Library is one such public institution doing just that, with an app and subscription service that lets users access 60,000 texts in its 19th Century Historical Collection for just a few dollars a month. While the initial costs of a project like this might be high, monthly revenue is something any library can use more of — whether it’s for access to historical tomes or just the latest bestseller
ACCESS TO RARE MATERIALS
Rare book rooms are hallowed places, but they can take a lot of security and effort to maintain. While there will always be a certain cachet to seeing books in person, many people don’t have the time or money to see the collections in every library. While many already share their rare materials online, a dedicated app for the iPad could make it even easier to expose audiences to these amazing artifacts. Whether your library is home to rare manuscripts, ancient books or just an impressive art collection, the iPad can be a great tool for letting the larger public know just what they can access at the facility.
IPAD AS TOOLS FOR LIBRARY CLASSES
Teaching a literacy course? There are loads of apps on the iPad that can help adults and children learn to read. Helping people retool their resumes? The iPad has apps that can help with that too. No matter what kind of classes your library offers, there are a myriad of different ways the tool can be integrated to help patrons get more out of the information you’re sharing. With tablets enjoying popularity in schools and colleges, the range of educational applications to choose from is bound to increase over the next few years.
PRE-LOAD IPADS WITH BOOKS FOR PATRONS TO READ
Whether you use your own library’s collection or the tens of thousands of free books offered through the iBooks store, pre-loading an iPad with ebooks and loaning it out can be a great strategy encouraging patrons to embrace the phenomenon. That way, they can enjoy reading a wide range of books, but won’t have to make any changes to the apps, which most libraries have to block for security reasons when the tablets are loaned.
LIBRARY IPAD WORKSTATIONS
If you’ve already got desktop stations for patrons to use, why not switch it up and create iPad equivalents instead? Some libraries are already giving it a whirl, like the North Shore Library in Shoreham, NY. Rather than replacing the gaming computers it had with new ones, the library opted instead for iPads, which they felt were easier for and more familiar to kids. As the digital generation grows older, this may be increasingly true for the majority of library patrons. Many institutions may want to consider the tablets as an alternative to desktop computers for at least some workstations.
READ INTERACTIVE BOOKS OUT LOUD TO KIDS
There are hundreds of interactive books for kids available online, and these new digital reads can be a great way to mix up library story time with something new. Librarians can still read the content, but allowing kids to interact with the book may make reading more engaging and exciting for them — and get them hooked at an earlier age.