I’d best start this post with a confession: I love gadgets. If it’s new and shiny and does clever things at the swish of a finger – I’m sold! In fact the (sometimes slow) building friendship between libraries and new technology is one of the reasons I love this field of work.
However, when I first got into librarianship as a volunteer for Sunderland University, the last thing I expected to see was a set of iPad2s! Turns out that a number of libraries are now experimenting with the latest tablets and finding effective uses for them in the everyday running of the library…
iPads are a particularly useful resource for roving staff who can use the technology to support readers instantly with queries about library services. The iPad’s camera feature can be used to record a virtual library guide and design guides to learning spaces (or just take photographs and quickly upload them to the library’s social media sites!). The Radcliffe Science Library used them in a range of projects including de-duplicating old material and found they increased efficiency. At Oxford Brookes University Library they’re also used in staff meetings and in giving demonstrations.
iPads can also be loaned out to readers as a powerful device which enables access to library resources on the move, the option to read e-book and e-journal PDFs on the go or even to design and give presentations by connecting the device to computers and projection screens! iPad is also great for apps – the Radcliffe Science Library, for example, found a number of useful science related apps for readers to explore!
Learn more: Apple Eyes Interactive Textbook Revolution – The Independent
Although a couple of years old, this paper on the ‘New Generation e-Book’ by Koychev, Nikolov and Dicheva gives an interesting insight into the possible future of ‘Smartbooks’, which are intended to not only be multimedia, personalised and accessible on the go but like much of web 2.0, are also designed for interaction! The founders of ‘Inkling’ have already taken some of these ideas on-board, maximising the potential of the iPad in publishing.
RSL – Pros and Cons of iPad Use
This all sounds promising and during their trial period integrating the iPad into the library, the Radcliffe Science Library found a number of positive results. iPad is popular with readers and having them available in the library allows readers who wouldn’t normally have access to such technology, experience and benefit from it first-hand. It provides a great way to access library resources on the move and is a very flexible and powerful tool.
There were however, also some issues with the practical aspects of having an iPad available for reader use, iPads after all weren’t designed specifically for use in the library. Staff aren’t always comfortable managing new technology and need training to use the technology confidently, readers also require guidance when using the technology so library guides and help materials had to be created. New procedures had to be put in place not only to check the device was charged and updated regularly but also to monitor and remove any reader added materials in order to ensure data protection and confidentiality didn’t become major issues. Readers also had to sign a loan promise to pay for a replacement if the technology is damaged – considering the cost of an iPad this might put off many readers who couldn’t afford taking the risk.
There is also the fact that in the not too distant future the iPad may well be old technology and the expense of constantly updating to the next gadget – not only money, but time to re-train staff, remake guides etc – is also an issue.
However, in my opinion, the benefits out way the issues in this case. New technology such as the iPad provides a modern image for the library which boosts reader confidence in our ability to give them the best service possible, it provides readers with another way to access information and gives the library new ideas for service delivery. At the very least, if you don’t give it a try, you might miss out on something really useful and keeping up to date ensures you’re developing professionally in a positive direction.