Friday, March 16, 2012

iPads in the Library: From Tech Programming to Staff Productivity

Joel Nichols, soon to be the driver of the new Tech Mobile at the Free Library of Philadelphia, has been using iPads in his children's story time presentations. He believes there are numerous other applications that may also be made throughout his library, which he described in his well-attended PLA presentation "iPads in the Library: From Tech Programming to Staff Productivity."

To start, he briefly identified the differences between current smartphones, e-readers, and tablet computers, pointing out that tablets have the greatest potential for library use. Then he limited his discussion to iPads and iTouchs with which he has experience. He began with use in children's programming. His first point was, of course, that librarians may read from iPads to children, but he cautioned us about this application. An oversized print book is easier to share with a group of more than two or three listeners, but the iPad is still a good device for Kamishibai stories told with pictures that a presenter has assembled using PowerPoint or the Slide Shark ap. With a supply of iPads, all the kids could create their own picture-based stories and then share them.

iPads may better serve in secondary roles in programs. Should the librarian or other presenter need music or sound effects, they can quickly be stored, cued, and played from an iPad or iTouch. A tablet could also be used as a digital display for photos, animations, or web pages that could be passed around to attendees during presentations. iPads could provide reference help during cooking lessons or craft programs, used by presenters or participants. Last, but not least, programs could be recorded easily using a tablet's camera and microphone and then quickly loaded to YouTube.

According to Nichols, there are over half a million aps for iPhone and iPad, which may be purchased through the iTunes store. These might provide content or be productivity aps. He showed stills from his work with Puppet Pals. He recommended checking user ratings at the iTunes store as well as checking Flipboard, a magazine for educators using aps. If libraries have complicated procedures to make credit card purchases, he recommend using iTunes gift cards. Most aps cost under $5.

Beyond programming, reference librarians may use iPads to access the library catalog, web pages, and online databases while roving the library. He recommended strapping an iPad to the hand to become an object of curiosity. He has found librarians in a public setting reluctant to carry iPads that they might drop or lose. A strap might help with the carrying. School librarians might carry iPads instead of laptops when going to help in classrooms.

A librarian at the program reported that the District of Columbia Library has developed an ap to assist weeding collections.

Because they display photos so nicely, Nichols said mounted iPads would be good in public displays. iTouchs with cameras may be used to read QR codes posted around the library for patron self-guided tours.

He said that their use instead of laptops in projected programs has been problematic so far because special connectors have to be used and some equipment seems incompatible. It might be better in some situations to use Apple TV for presentations. Some members of the audience reported having no problems connecting an iPad to a projector.

Finally, he said with an ap to record handwriting, the iPad is a great devise on which to take notes during conference programs. Nichols has put the slides to his presentation on the web at

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