I’m lucky enough to be working in a great library. Last June the library director, Marit Gro Berge, approved a project to give an iPad to all librarians working the reference desk. I was given the task of setting up and instructing the staff in how to use the iPads.
Here is an edited google-translation of a norwegian language blogpost I did on this project:
We decided to give everyone who worked at the public library, librarians and others, an iPad. Our main goal was that the employees should be online and available anywhere in the library space.
- Free range librarians
The main idea to give everyone who works out of the library iPad was that we wanted to be more “free range” and avoid being locked to the desk and to have access to our most important tools, search the catalog and online in general. Unlike laptops a tabletPC, e.g. iPad, allows the user to hold and use without being bulky and difficult. Thanks to the wireless network throughout the library space, we always have access no matter where we are. We also wanted to prepare the ground for the reading of ebooks among staff in the library. (note: Norwegian language ebooks published in Norway are still not available through public libraries due to restrictions from publishers) We wanted experience both with reading and the technical installation and downloading. iPad is the most widely used platform for e-books among the multi-function tablet machines.
- Choice of technical solution – iPad2
We chose iPad2 after a series of considerations. The first was simply the type of hardware that is best suited to carry around in the library. Laptop PCs with keyboards, including netbooks, was dropped due to the limited extent it is possible to use without having to sit down and have a surface to put it on. When we had first arrived at desicion that tabletPCs was the solution we had the choice between iPad, Android based Tablet PCs like the GalaxyTab, and windows based machines. As I have tried all three types in my previous job I could advise on the pros and cons of all three. We eliminated the Windows machines first. Windows is too complex in relation to our needs and they are less suitable as ebook reader platforms. So the choise were between iPad2 and GalaxyTab. We wanted an operating system that was safe and provided staff with less experience with technology the opportunity to try out for themselves without any demands for technical knowledge. I believe that Apple’s iOS deliver this. For people with a desire for higher technical control Android may be a better choice. The highest threshold was that each employee had to install iTunes on their personal computer, and create the account and enter personal and credit card information. We discussed this in advance and there was no opposition to this. In other institutions, you can either find other solutions, or choose Android. We also have chosen to keep the iPads completely outside the local municipal network. These machines are logged in to the open wireless network at the library.
- Installation and training
We got the machines first week in August and have spent time in training the staff in the use and selection of applications (apps) that we believe is best for our use. Initially, we concentrated on finding web sites we need to have quick access to and add them as icons on the home screen. We have also begun to look at ebook apps and have added free PDF-based ebooks in the iBooks app to gain experience with it. We started with “the reader-friendly library service ” that has been translated and published by the Norwegian national library.
- Practical experience so far
I have used my iPad on three reference shifts now. It has worked beyond all expectations. Surprisingly for some of library users who come into the library, it goes without saying that the librarian has information ready on his arm wherever he is in the library, while others (especially young adults) think it’s interesting and commented positively that this was cool. It has been liberating to wander around to find literature and always have the OPAC available, and be able to follow leads and adjust the course along the way, and not at least find information on topics not covered in our own collection. Many of the staff are still on the trial stage when it comes to using the iPad while they are out in the library room, but all are positive and work with training and testing. I have been surprised by how well suited the iPad has been in relation to the needs I see in reference work.
- The way forward
Next step is to find useful applications. Already we have discovered that Google Maps is great to show the way when tourists and others come in to ask about directions to sights adresses in the vicinity.
I see too that we can use iPads actively when we promote ebooks. Then we can at least show off the books to the curious.
We will replace our integrated library system in October, from Aleph to Mikromarc 3. We see this as an opportunity to customize the system to a tablet-friendly format. Hope we get a good dialogue with our vendor about this.
The conclusion after two weeks is entirely positive. The only objections we may well have to iPad is that each machine is linked to an employee if you cannot establish institutional accounts on iTunes. I think this may be a good thing because it promotes a stronger ownership of the machines.