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The PLA Blog | Official Blog of the Public Library Association

iPad Uses for Libraries

Thursday morning we went to a heavily attended session “iPads in the library: from Tech Programming to Staff Productivity” presented by Joel Nichols. The challenge was to integrate mobile devices (smartphones, ereaders, tablets) into the libraries work. Research shows that mobile phones have become the most popular way to access the internet. (At our own library system in the last 2 years we have seen a slow decline in public PC use and a sharp increase in use of our free public wireless.) What distinguishes the mobile devices as compared to traditional PCs and laptops is the touch interface and few buttons. Another point is all tablets can be used as ereaders. The speaker included a chart listing various mobile devices, their O/S, where to get Apps, and connection information. Below are some of the iPad uses.

Programming Support At his library they used the iPads to support youth services programming. For example, songs and noises on demand to enhance storytelling, easily creating visual stories because the iPad includes camera, microphone, video capabilities on one device. There are hundreds of thousands of educational mobile Apps available, mostly at low cost. Libraries are using gift cards or preloaded credit cards to purchase Apps. The audience was advised to read the mobile App reviews and sort by most critical. The reviews also show how many people have downloaded the App; the more people who have downloaded the App the better.

Presentation Tool The presenter did not use the iPad for this presentation because there was no way to connect the iPad to the projector in the room. If there had been it would most likely have been an HDMI (HDMI carries video and sound on one connection) cable either directly from the iPad to the projector or from the iPad to a built in control. (At our library we have built in control panels on the wall.) A presenter can then access the internet on the iPad, play downloaded videos, songs, and, with the right app, present a slide show. No more hauling around a laptop for remote presentations.
Other presentation uses are mirroring the iPad content on other devices. For example, Apple TV mirrors what is on your iPad. “With AirPlay, you can wirelessly stream what’s on your iPad (or iPhone or iPod touch) to your HDTV and speakers via Apple TV. Or mirror your iPad or iPhone 4S screen.”
Also discussed was Doceri, an iPad software suite that can be used to as a whiteboard instead of an expensive SmartBoard. It is described on their website as “the ultimate tool for presentations and lessons.”

Exhibition Tool iPads can be used to create a walking tour of the building using QR codes. For example, a patron could check out an iPad at the desk and scan QR codes at points of interest (an art work or location) that would share more information. Or an iPad could be mounted facing out with direct link to the digital library collection for convenient browsing of that collection. iPads can be used to create home grown webinars and to document event using the built in cameras, microphone and video capabilities.

Catalog Interface & Roving Reference Trying to interface with the libraries ILS staff software was problematic with a shaky screen display and slow loading over the wireless. However, the library catalog and online resources could be accessed. Using the library catalog roving reference was possible but the size of the iPad makes it awkward to carry around – too big for pockets, too large to wear around your neck. Staff was terrified to drop it and afraid to leave it on the desk. Another caveat for this library system was that the barcode reader app did not work with their barcodes because of their encoding. It was mentioned that DC Public Library had successfully developed an App for the iPad to interface with their SirsiDynix ILS.
To a certain extent the device doesn’t matter when accessing cloud based online resources, but not always. For example, iPads don’t use Flash and some online products like Tutor.com require Flash. Libraries need products created with HTML5 which does not require Flash and works well on mobile devices. (Older versions of web browsers may not work with HTML5). Libraries need online resources that work with all browsers and devices. The challenge for vendors is to develop their products to work with the wide variety of browsers and mobile devices.

The bottom line is that iPads enhance the library’s ability to provide library services and as more Apps are developed will become even more useful for those libraries that are willing to experiment with the technologies used by more and more of our library users.

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