As the children’s game computers at the North Shore Public Library (NSPL) get older and begin to expire, Lori, the Children’s Department Manager, is turning to mobile technology to replace them. The children she sees as young as three years old are gravitating towards their parent’s smart phones, not desktop machines they may not have even seen before. When Lori encountered a young boy using an iPad to communicate with his parent due to his disability, the wheels began turning in her mind. The money she budgeted for game computers could be used to purchase iPads and apps.
“The apps I’ve selected for the iPads range from as little as $.99 to $7.99 each,” Lori says. This is cheaper than buying computer software, and much easier to install and update. The reviews in Children’s Technology Review are “spot on,” Lori says, and she almost exclusively buys the apps they recommend. She steers clear of free apps, which often start out as “free” but then ask for payment for enticing features.
The iPads are checked out to patrons on their library cards at the main circulation desk, and then the iPads can be used anywhere in the library. A policy is written that parents read the first time they check out an iPad. Tom Donlon, the Technology Librarian at NSPL, has embraced the project and set up a number of helpful features. The iPads are synced to one another. If Lori purchases an app on one iPad, the others are updated with the same app within seconds. The iPads have an electronic tether on them, and at any time staff can see where an iPad is in the building. If the device is taken out of the library, a screen appears that says: Please return to the North Shore Public Library.
The iPads are ready to launch this week. Last Friday, Lori was testing them with kids and teens in the library. Immediately the children’s game computer stations emptied out – the kids clearly preferred the iPads. Eventually the stations for desktop computers can be removed and the space can be utilized in fresh ways.
In case there is a queue for the 8 iPads – perhaps after storytime - NSPL has purchased Playaway Views that kids can use in the library while they are waiting. Florence, a children’s librarian at NSPL, has specifically purchased the high quality “book-movies” produced by Weston Woods which are available from Playaway.
The Adult Department at NSPL will also be circulating iPads to adults. Those iPads will have internet capability (the ones in the children’s room do not.) This project is truly a collaborative effort between all the departments of the library.