Links of Interest for LI835

This weekend I have the good fortune to make a short appearance in a library and information science class for Emporia State University.  It has been at least two years since I had an LIS class, and the chance to peek at the discussion boards reminded me of all the conversation, collaboration, and sharing that one enjoys when in a class.  We haven’t even met yet but I have already learned a lot from the collegial, professional students of LI835. I’m hoping the links below might be interesting or eye-opening or useful as they continue to tackle very important issues in librarianship.

Assessment — Mortenson Center Newsletters

For an entirely different demonstration of assessment, take a look at the semiannual newsletters from the Mortenson Center.  Instead of numbers, charts or graphs, the newsletter reports on the Center’s activities in a narrative, people-focused style.  The collection of newsletters then become something like an accessible, digestible mini annual report.  They also function as a wonderfully convenient and searchable archive of the Center’s history – something I have wished for in every library I have ever worked in.

Info Literacy — UIUC Scholarly Commons / Savvy Researcher Series

Library Workshops –

Scholarly Commons –

A creative approach to the stand-by library workshops – this regular series offers topics directly relevant to faculty, graduate students, and highly motivated undergrads.  These patrons are, after all, the primary audience for such optional extracurricular resources.  The information about authors’ rights also ties in closely with the university’s impressive institutional repository: which is also based out of the library.

Future of Higher Ed — Online Education

Chronicle piece:

Paul LeBlanc’s white paper (mentioned in Chronicle article above):

With both adamant fans and avid critics, the Khan Academy has been mentioned in many conversations about the potential direction of higher education.  Paul LeBlanc imagines a future in which the university is primarily a testing and accrediting institution, with much of the instruction and learning becoming an individual, independent endeavor of the students themselves. If LeBlanc is even partially right, what does that mean for the future academic library?

Myth of the “Digital Native”

Wired: Why Kids Can’t Search –

Open University exploding the myth:

Social Media and the Myth:

I will readily admit that this speaks to a personal pet peeve of mine:  using “generations” as an excuse for stereotypes.  I have done tech training to people of various ages, from various countries and cultures and all stereotypes – no matter what they might be based on – are just that, stereotypes.  Not valid. Not reliable.  Not true.  Some of the most enthusiastic participants in my iPad workshops have been older than me and some of the most hesitant have been younger.  Age does not correlate to any tech skill whatsoever.  Likewise, age also does not correlate to a deficiency of skill.  We do our patrons a severe injustice when we make assumptions about them — the “digital native” myth is just another example of that.

Reaching Students with Social Media:

Green Library, Stanford –

  • some likes and comments

Swem Library, College of William and Mary –

  • lots of individual likes, note the “Watch out for zombies!”

UIUC Undergrad Library –

  • the page itself has over 600 likes, but none of the posts have likes or comments from students

Should we use social media to eavesdrop?  Set up a search in HootSuite, for example, for any mention of your university or library?

Social media has to be personal.  Canned material won’t cut it. Allowing the library’s social media presence to be funny and have a personality will be far more successful.  For example:  when we change the status message on our chat widget, we get more chat questions.

Just For Fun

TitanPad –

create a free collaborative notepad by starting a “pad” and sharing your unique link with your team or audience; see the notes appear before your very eyes!

Connect to KU –

a great demonstration of centralizing information about a university’s social presence online

If This Then That –

web workflows for dummies!  I love that you don’t have to know any code, just put pieces where you want them. I have one set up to send my twitter favorites to an Evernote notebook automatically.

Best Betas from Gary Price at Internet Librarian –

some great stuff to play with, including apps, search engines, videos and more

Google Art Project –

get a close up view of paintings, sketches and tours of the museums that house them

My Diigo Bookmarks –

no promises at all for consistency or usefulness 🙂


Not Your Normal Librarian

It’s been an amazing year at Briar Cliff. I started here in July 2010 as the Reference and Instruction Librarian, and in July 2011 became the Director of Educational Technology. This is due in large part to having a wonderful library director and incredibly good timing. A quick rundown of things that have happened over the past several months:

Fall 2010

  • the library started checking out iPads
  • started the casual discussion series Let’s Talk

Spring 2011

  • launched an iPad Pilot with 30 faculty member volunteers
  • trained Education and Nursing students in using WordPress as an online portfolio
  • created a task force for staff and faculty to start evaluating LMS alternatives to replace Angel

Summer 2011

  • trained 25 more faculty on the iPad

Fall 2011

  • deployed over 400 iPads to students
  • led a Faculty In-Service on technology training topics, with mini-sessions from our early adopter faculty members

A lot has happened in one short year. We have a new Reference and Instruction Librarian now who brings a whole wonderful set of mad skills into the mix. We have a coffee shop in the library’s lobby for the first time. The campus has switched to a semester calendar rather than terms, and we have students from the Writing Center doing their evening hours in the Library – which has been a goal for the library for a long time.

When I think about how much everyone has accomplished in the last 14 months, I am astounded. When I think about how much my own job has changed I’m downright dizzy.

This semester started out a little strange since Mark and I had to be out of the country when classes started. I’m also trying out a very different schedule: I’m working Mondays to Thursdays from about 10 am to 8 pm. “About” means I actually arrive much earlier but the upside to these long days is that I don’t come in at all on Fridays. I wanted to try out a schedule like this in hopes of being available for the widest range of people on campus. I set my “office hours” as 4pm to 8pm – a time when anyone with iPad or classroom tech questions can come find me and get some answers. The 4pm to 8pm window straddles the time from faculty getting out of their last classes to the evening students arriving for their night classes and the on-campus students start pouring into the library for their late night study time. If I had the stamina to stay up later, I would probably get far more questions between 9pm and midnight, but 8pm is already pushing my bedtime.

I have to admit, the evening hours have been more productive than I expected. I often have a regular stream of questions from both students and faculty, and when I don’t have a visitor I can get more catch-up work done because most staff and faculty go home by 6. Most of my daytime hours are spent answering questions on the phone, in email or going to people’s offices to show them how to do something. I love all this. It feels like That Thing I’m good at. But there is always more to do, too, and it’s very easy to feel very behind. I’m also seeing an unexpected benefit in having more morning hours at home. I’m starting to set a routine of waking up, writing for at least half an hour, reading some RSS articles and with the arrival of our brand new treadmill, I’m even able to squeeze in a work out, which I am absolutely ecstatic about. These things never happened after work even when I was leaving at 4:30. Typical work days leave me wiped out by the end of the day so why not make it the true end of the day? So far, being personally productive in the morning is far more successful than it ever was in the evening.

Next up – I want to set up some specific workshops (the persistent challenge – when will people come?) and find a way to reach out to more students. I’m hoping we can have a couple longer faculty workshops during the J-Term. In the spring it would be great if we could start beta testing a couple learning management system options and Google Apps.

The biggest change I want to make is creating a culture of ongoing professional development across the campus. One of the long workshops I would love to do would cover Getting Things Done and the most basic elements of project management wrapped up in a package to help employees with time management, productivity, and communication. That’s a huge goal and I have to keep reminding myself that it won’t happen with one workshop. I have to figure out a way to incorporate these elements a little bit at a time until they seem second nature. If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear about them!

Ebooks: something new, something borrowed

Just as live theatre continued after radio, and radio survived TV, and TV goes on despite the internet, so, too, will paper books coexist with digital books for a long, long time.  At first, ebook creators tried very hard to mimic the older sibling, which had a few centuries to mature into its own style, with page numbers, chapters, tables of content, margins, and nice bindings.

Finally the ebook is starting to experiment with a style of its own, though the wardrobe changes are happening fast, depending on where you look. Below are a couple ebook trends that I find particularly interesting.

Something new

A couple background bits to better understand my interest in ebooks of late — first, I’m a bibliophile and librarian. Second, while I was getting my graduate degree, I took a few classes on user experience design and usability.  At the time, I thought about usability in terms of websites for library catalogs, databases, and so on.  I was fascinated to see how storytelling became an element of user experience, and now I see user experience entering the realm of book design.

In the paper form, books did not seem to stray far from the traditional codex format.  Now that ebooks are morphing into apps, almost anything is possible.  The table of contents doesn’t have to be a table anymore, chapters don’t have to follow each other, and the whole notion of page numbers can be turned into something else entirely.

Along these lines, I’ve been following a few blogs that are diving into these questions.  My favorites so far:

  • New Kind of Book by Peter Meyers – some of his pieces are repeated at the blogs below, but I still think it’s worthwhile to catch each of his posts
  • Digital Book World – this multi-author blog looks at ebooks from the publishing point of view, more fascinating than I would have thought
  • Publishing Insight on O’Reilly Radar – the more technical side of ebooks and publishing

I’m excited to see the traditional idea of “what is the book” turned upside down.  Perhaps, after a heady phase of experimentation, we’ll end up using the old book trappings after all, even in our ebooks.  Or maybe, as future writers grow up reading ebooks of varying formats, they’ll begin to write in completely different styles that push ebook formats into further changes.

Something Borrowed

Another trend popping up again lately (seems to come and go in waves) is serialization.  When I think of serialized books, I think of old London magazines in the late 1800s selling pieces of Charles Dickens stories and then later, selling Sherlock Holmes cases to such raging popularity that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to bring the character back after killing him off.  I find it somehow strange that there hasn’t been a online serialized story that has gone viral quite like Dickens or Conan Doyle did in their day.  The blog format seems like the perfect tool for such a narrative unfolding over time, but it just hasn’t taken off in that way … as far as I know, at least.  The closest thing I’ve seen to something like this was the @MayorEmanuel twitter feed during the Chicago election.

Another, shorter Twitter story unfolded recently, as described by Peter Meyers.  And there have been reports of serialized ebooks coming out, with various levels of pricing options:

As readers become accustomed to using devices like the Kindle and iPad for subscriptions, I wonder if serialized fiction will make a comeback.  We have some serialized fiction now in the form of TV miniseries and sitcoms, but I’m hoping for something better.  Deep down I see serialized fiction as the format that will usher in a tidal wave of social reading — people talking about the latest piece of the story over dinner with friends or over coffee at work. Maybe it’s just me, but one big thing I think we would gain from a shared experience of literature (over the shared experience of TV, for example) is the space for imagination, the wiggle room for interpretation that is hardly present (or to a much lesser extent) in the visual and aural world of TV.

Would you subscribe to a novel?  Would you read a chapter at a time as it was released, or save them until you had the whole book?

And most of all – what do you see as the biggest difference to emerge so far between ebooks and paper books?

Library Day in the Life: Day 3

Wednesday 1/25/2011

Had just enough time in the morning to send out some belated email responses before the entire library crew (there are 4 of us full-time) packed into a car for a field trip to see the University of South Dakota’s new Academic Commons.  Don’t worry, we had trusty students working the desk while we were away.

USD is only about 45 minutes from Sioux City, and we counted ourselves very lucky when we heard they had just completed a collaboration / renovation of sorts.  We spent about an hour touring the new spaces and a couple hours talking with the Dean of Libraries and other staff members about the changes, the process, and the challenges.  We came away with very valuable information and insights.

We got back to our campus in the middle of the afternoon, with all sorts of email waiting.  Before I had a chance to even touch that, our IT partner came over and we talked about how to present our ideas to the Board of Trustees on Friday (gasp and woo hoo).

While we were gone, we had the pleasant surprise of being included on the campus tour distribution list – which means that whenever a tour of prospective students comes through the Library, a library staff person will give a 3-minute schpiel about what we offer.  This is something we had talked about but didn’t expect to happen quite so soon, but librarians are all about rolling with whatever comes.  I’m hoping to catch up with the tour coordinator next week when she’s back from vacation and explain the magic of using a shared calendar over several emails a day.

At the last minute, we had a flurry of reference questions — one of which was about Rucker Park in Brooklyn.  It’s amazing to me how very broad and very focused the topics we get can be.

Library Day in the Life: Day 2

01/25/2011 – Tuesday

Day in the Life of a Librarian

Flipped throug the “bestsellers” catalog for our leased collection of popular fiction and nonfiction … reminded myself not to do such depressing stuff first thing in the morning. Managed to pick out a couple books in the end. If I think the App Store is full of junk, I should look at the Bestselling Books.

Updated apps on the iPads. Discoverd a popular writing app had drastically dropped in price and snatched that puppy up.

Sent out an email to other iPad users on campus … asked about starting a users group and mentioned the iA Writers app price drop.

Jeepers. Ate my 3 cookies already and it’s only 9:15.

Answered emails about the iPad user group question — conclusion all around seemed to be that our best bet was a website where we could all post any questions or tips, since no one has time for any more meetings.

Did some email troubleshooting with a campus partner who uses iPads for their instructors — they were looking for a way to easily get iWork files into Dropbox from the iPad. We found two potential solutions: DropDAV ( ) and Send to Dropbox ( ). I tried Send to Dropbox first, but it seems the servers are too overloaded. Fortunately, there is also this list, including a few other similar services: .

Once again, Twitter answered a question for me — I asked about estimates for consultant fees and very soon had a direct message from an excellent librarian far away who told me about her library’s experience. My library is hoping to bring in someone to help us evaluate our collection with an eye toward massive deselection, but we needed a ballpark figure for the budget we were scrambling to put together. Fun times!

Later in the day, my director and I decided to go storm the IT office so we could get some feedback from our IT partner before sending out our proposal document to the campus admin. Turns out our dear partner had a really bad morning but pretty soon we had the converstaion rolling and got some really good suggestions.

I quickly made the changes back at the library before running out again to the Let’s Talk session – which, I am delighted to report, had the highest attendance yet! And the funny thing is, it had the theme “Household Gadgets” with the intention that we would all figure out at least one cool thing about our respective gadget … but the only gadgets people brought were the iPads so it became primarily a Q&A about those, which is fine with me. It was a terrific discussion, and I think we all learned something — either about a cool website, or a resource, or even free text messaging. I’m looking forward to more talks like this.

Library Day in the Life: Day 1

01/24/2011 – Day 1 of Library Day in the Life

Working Noon to 8pm today since it’s my turn at evening reference. Spent the morning putting together a short proposal outline with graphics for a big transformation project that the library and campus IT are working on together. Emailed it out to fellow editors… waited impatiently for feedback.

Got to work at 11am since I couldn’t take the waiting anymore. Quickly answered some emails and in so doing, scheduled a Skype call between an iPad-in-education guru in Scotland and the head of our campus IT. Sweet!

Walked around one of the target renovation areas of the library with my director, pointing at shelves and ceilings, and saying “Oh my…” several times.

Reviewed several articles and blog posts read last week relevant to the projects we have coming up — Lorcan Dempsey’s post about collections ( ), the Educause Learning Spaces book ( ), and OCLC’s NextSpace issue on ROI for 2020 (not on their website yet).

Added batch of new books to our WorldCat list and tags; most of them were Critical Insights – discovered that the link to SalemPress doesn’t show up in our Local WorldCat, only in the old catalog … someday we will be able to afford the OPAC we need.

Sent out a friendly reminder about the “Let’s Talk” session for Tuesday — this is a bi-weekly casual conversation series that I set up last semester for folks on campus to talk about any techie topics that might be on their mind. It’s had really good feedback from faculty and staff who *want* to go but also rather low attendance (maybe 3 – 6 people). This semester I’m trying a different time slot in hopes it will be easier for folks to participate.

Answered a question from our sister campus on the other side of the state about resources for their online instructors. I find that whenever I send out an email to all employees, I get at least 2 or 3 emails back on completely unrelated subjects. It’s like just seeing a librarian’s name reminds people of questions they want to ask. I find that fascinating.

Read through the summary report of local survey findings on faculty attitudes toward technology. We are lucky to have a very intelligent person for campus assessment and she’s fun to work with, too. Hoping to pick her brain about measurement tools for the library as we move ahead on big projects that require plenty of supporting data.

Talked with IT head about possible grant sources for our big collaboration venture / library remodel. Did some scheduling / juggling of phone calls and meetings. Finally tracked down a couple printing extensions for Google Chrome after repeatedly “printing” ugly PDFs. Why no print preview? Why?  Thanks to Twitter, found a couple Chrome extensions that partly fill that void.

Checked out a couple of our new books because I can’t help myself.

Worked all evening with the library director on our proposal document, editing meticulously in hopes of getting it right. Both of us really wishing we had other people to bounce it off of. Specifically, people who know what the college president is looking for. Went home and half-watched the first episode of Dollhouse while recreating and tweaking a graphic to explain how staff of the Library and IT Center will overlap with the new collaboration model we’re working on.

Low Tech New Book Lists for your Library

Maybe your ILS doesn’t offer a new books list feature.  Maybe the person who knew how to do it moved far, far away.  Maybe you know how to do it with your ILS, but it seems too complicated.  Or maybe you just don’t like the way your current new books list looks and works. If your library has holdings in OCLC, you have some free options online for giving patrons a New Books List using WorldCat – whether or not your library is a Local WorldCat subscriber.

These are options that we’ve considered at Briar Cliff University’s library – which has a small collection with less than a hundred new additions each month.

Option 1: WorldCat Profile

If monthly updates are frequent enough for you, you can find your library profile in WorldCat, which includes items added last month.  For example, here is Briar Cliff University’s profile where you can also search for your own library: .  The information on your library’s WorldCat profile is taken from the WorldCat Registry.

Briar Cliff's WorldCat Profile

This New Books List will automatically update to show last month’s new items, around the first of each month.  Here is an example of a larger library’s profile page: Sioux City Public Library. This will be limited to 500 items, so if your library wants to feature a lot more than that, the next options might suit you better.

Options 2 & 3: Lists and Tags

You can create an alternative to the WorldCat Profile by setting up a free WorldCat user account for your library. Here is Briar Cliff’s WorldCat user account profile vs. our WorldCat Registry profile.

Having a WorldCat user account gives you a number of features:

  • mark “favorite” libraries
  • save searches
  • add reviews to items
  • add tags to items
  • watch lists created by other users
  • create lists

At Briar Cliff, we are in between two OPACs at the moment.  We still have the simple but clumsy one from our ILS provider, and we are experimenting with Local WorldCat as a free Quick Start user.  The WorldCat interface gives us and our users far more options and enhancements than we can get from our ILS catalog interface, such as Google Books previews, user reviews from other websites, automatic citation formats, and integration with several social networking platforms.

The two features we’ll look at in terms of promoting new books are WorldCat Lists and WorldCat Tags.  Here is a comparison of how these might be used by your library:

Lists Tags
limit of 500 items no limit, see the fiction tag as an example
Lists can be public or private. Tags are only public.
Lists keep a running total of how many times they’ve been viewed by WorldCat users other than the list owner. Tags do not show any statistics or view counts.
Lists can have an overall description and individual notes on each item. Tags cannot add notes to individual items.
Lists have 3 different view options: Details, Covers, and Citations – which also provides export into various formats and style guides. Tags only have 1 view, but can be easily selected and moved into a list in bulk.
Only the user account that created the list can add items to the list, so anyone adding items to the library’s new books list would have to be logged into the library’s WorldCat user account. Any WorldCat user can use any tag on any item, so you might get other people’s items mixed into your tags. However, it is possible to distinguish between items tagged by one user vs. items tagged by everyone. Tags might be a better option for team efforts.
Examples of library’s using lists for their new books It’s harder to search specifically for tags in WorldCat. From what I’ve been able to find, the only way to do it is to manipulate the URL like this:

At my library, we have a library gmail address which we used as our WorldCat login.  For the time being, we’re experimenting with both a WorldCat list and using tags. We’re also toying with the idea of using tags or lists to distinguish new books for specific departments on campus.

Laws of Library Science Redux

I’ve been batting about some ideas lately in the cat-swatting-a-toy way, and just to get some of these things off my mind, I’m dumping them here.  These musings are not perfectly articulated, and I realize that…  so I hope you do, too.

For review, Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science (Wikipedia):

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

On the Wikipedia page linked above, you will also see a few of the many variations that have been created over the years. I know we don’t need another goshdarn version of the Five Laws, but some online readings of late had me turning these over in my mind.  It started with the if:book post about the future of the app, which reminded me of a couple posts from earlier this year — one arguing for books to become apps, and one about Elements, a website that became a book and then an app.  I personally don’t want my books mixed in with my apps just yet, but at the same time I can see how the interface potential of apps can offer a whole new twist on our relationship with text.  In the Elements article, author Theodore Gray was asked about the blurring between the book and the app version, to which he replied:

I think it’s confusing … for there to be both a bookstore and a books category in the App Store. These two places exist for purely technical reasons, and not very good ones at that. Hopefully at some point Apple will fix this. In the mean time, all the interesting ebooks will need to go in the App Store, because the iBookstore is not able to handle them.

When talking about the Future of the App, Bob Stein wrote:

In the past we had books, movies and songs. Now they’re all being bundled into one category — apps — to be further delineated by a descriptive prefix. It’s easy to imagine today that movies will have back stories and fan elaborations available on the web and new fiction forms will explore and make use of a complex amalgam of media types. The categories — books, songs, movies — meant something in the past that loses specific meaning in this fluid digital domain where each can incorporate aspects of the other.

So whether I like the idea or not, I do agree that the nature of our media is changing and morphing into something we can’t necessarily describe right now.  The potential of coming-soon apps like Rethink’s Social Books has me excited to see what kind of community experiences we can have with our rediscovered love of reading.

This leads me to thinking about the Five Laws of Library Science because somewhere deep down I have long been annoyed that these famous library principles restrict us (perhaps not literally, but by connotation) to books.  Rather than restrict us to any format at all, I came up with a revision like this:

  1. Information is for use.
  2. For every question, an answer.
  3. For every answer, a question.
  4. Save the time of the information seeker.
  5. Knowledge is a growing organism.

For my purposes, I am defining information very simply as “the answer to a question” and information seekers as “people with questions”.  These questions might be anything from “What is the sun made of?” to “Who else is on Facebook chat right now?”  A book might answer the first question but cannot possibly answer the second.

Yes, I know “information” is a loaded term with a long history of debated definitions.  Unfortunately, I don’t know of a better term to use.  “Knowledge” is just as fuzzy – in my visual-thinking brain, I imagine Knowledge as the older, more mature sister of giddy, high-strung Information.

What I like about this version is that I can (more easily) apply it to far more scenarios in the library because the medium carrying the information is altogether removed.  This also serves as a reminder to me (and as a geek, I need it) that it’s not about the gadget, silly.  Books are gadgets, iPads are another gadget.  Jason Griffey has elegantly pointed out that the distinction between content and container is becoming more important, but I disagree with him on one key point.  He says “We already know, more or less, how to deal with content.”  I think it’s the opposite — I think we’ve been so focused for so long on curating the containers that we lost sight of just how significant the content is.  With the Open Access movement, content seems to be slowly getting the proper attention again.  But if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the containers – the books and gadgets – then the star-crossed destinies of questions and answers will be reduced to financial transactions.


Update on Library iPad Program

My library has been checking out iPads to students, staff and faculty for about two weeks now.  On the circulation side of things, there isn’t much to report yet — the iPads have checked out about 20 times between the two of them.  Next semester, we will definitely increase the loan period to at least 1 or 2 days.  Right now, the loan period has been just four hours, in anticipation of high demand.  The demand, however, has not been nearly as much as we expected and we think our patrons would get more out of the iPad if they were able to spend more time with it.

We have been getting excellent responses on our little surveys that are included in the iPad bags.  Most people don’t have any apps to suggest, the few suggestions we do get have been for games.  Overall, patrons have enjoyed just having the opportunity to try out this new gadget they’ve heard so much about. It appears that the folks on campus who are *really* interested in the iPads have already ordered one for themselves, which means we actually get a lot of questions about which apps they should download and how to use the apps they have.

Which brings me to the … “curation” side of things — the library has spent almost $100 on apps for the iPads, which is our limit for now.  Since both iPads are syncing to the same iTunes account, we only have to buy apps once for them to appear on both devices.  Would this still be true if we had 20 devices?  That I don’t know.  Of the amount we’ve spent on apps, over half was for productivity / document creation.  These include QuickOffice, the Apple trinity of iWork apps, a to do list app, and a PDF annotating app.

Unfortunately, this means that by the time we started getting feedback from patrons, we did not have app-purchasing funds left for games.  So I have been adding any free games I can find that don’t appear to require in-app purchases in order to play.  We also have the values of the college to consider – being a Franciscan university – apps that promote shooting people are not quite within our purview.  Have you found free games for the iPad that would work for this kind of setting?  Please share in the comments!

And I cannot say enough good things about the content available out on iTunes U.  Sure, some of it is dorky and some might be lower quality, but overall there are some excellent videos and audio recordings to be had for the taking.  Our library iPads have several gigabytes of just iTunes content alone.  We have short videos from the early 1900’s thanks to the Library of Congress, we have lectures on social marketing thanks to MIT, and lessons on creative writing thanks to Open University.  Amazing.

Our next step is finding out how to use these devices in the classroom.  I have a running list of bookmarks about the iPad being used for educational purposes, but the challenge we keep running into is the whole temporary problem I mentioned before.  For example, we had a really big class in the library’s computer lab for an instruction session last week.  Every computer was taken, so the late arriving students were handed the iPads from the Circulation Desk in order to follow along with our database how-to.  They were able to do all the browsing and searching just fine, but when it came time to email their results to themselves, the iPad wanted an email account already set up, which would not have been efficient at all in light of the one hour these students had with the device.  The students on the PCs were able to just copy/paste their results into a Word document and save it to their campus network space.

I am optimistic about the operating system upgrade that should be coming next month (hopefully) for at least the multi-tasking activities.  But getting files on and off the iPad is still a challenge and probably will continue to be.

This weekend I will get to use the iPad in the very setting I’ve wanted it for all along — conferences!  I will be at the Iowa Library Association Conference, taking notes one way or another on the iPad.  In fact, I won’t even bring my laptop with me on the trip.  My challenge to myself is to take notes and write a blog post all from within the iPad’s apps.  Stay tuned.




Is the iPad useful when temporary? A Library Loan Experiment

We’ve started checking out iPads for two days now, and we’ve had volunteers trying them out for over a week.  The question coming to my mind after talking with our tester group and the few people who have already tried the iPads this week is:  what can you do with an iPad when it isn’t yours to personalize?

I’m thinking about the apps that I use a lot, though, and that might be the problem.  I use Evernote, Twitter apps, email, calendar, Todo, Reeder, Read It Later, Pandora, WordPress, the Kindle app, and a whole lot of apps dependent on a Dropbox account, which I use heavily.  All of these apps require a log in – usually a different log in – and a very personal log in.  After each patron returns an iPad, we “Erase All Content and Settings” which completely wipes out the apps, the app history, and any accounts or files that have been added to the iPad.  This, we hope, removes any personal information left behind by the patron.

We also have restrictions turned on (under Settings > General) so that the iTunes Store doesn’t appear as an app.  Yes, it would be wonderful if patrons could add their own apps (and we do hand  them a survey asking for app suggestions) but we don’t want them to log in with their own iTunes account, pay for an app, and then find that it’s not there the next time they check out an iPad.  Also, this prevents the patron’s iTunes account from showing up for the next patron in case we somehow forget or unsuccessfully wipe out the iPad between uses.

That’s the method we’ve come up with, but if anyone can think of a better or easier way, we would LOVE to hear about it.

Back to the whole short-timers problem… these iPads are going out for maybe a day at the longest.  If you had such a device for only a day, would you want to log into all your assorted online presences in order to be productive?  Would it be worth that investment in time for you?  Even if it means doing it all over again the next time you use this same device?

Perhaps I’m projecting too much.  For me personally, I do a lot of tweaking and fixing and logging in when I have to use a new computer – but I do that knowing that I’ll be using the computer for a long while and I want it to feel like “home”.  My work laptop, for example, is all spruced up the way I like it — keyboard shortcuts, clean desktop, a few favorite widgets, and, most importantly, my Dropbox files.  When faculty have purchased their own iPads and come in to the library for help setting them up, one of the first things they want to do is get their campus email and calendar on the device.  The next thing they want to know is how to get to files they need to read and edit.

But other folks might have a workflow that is completely different and does not require having access to so many personal sites or spaces.


Then what are they doing?   That is what I need to know in order to make these iPads useful for the temporary user.

So far, the app suggestions we’ve had include Music Studio – a $15 app that offers 27 different instruments and a multi-track sequencer, a physics app for studying, and a better anatomy app for our nursing students.  Excellent — these are all things that can be used independently, without a personal account.  Another very useful feature for the iPad is all the amazing content available in iTunes U.  We have the iPads loaded with audiobooks, lectures, videos, and demonstrations that were all free out on iTunes U.  Patrons can access all this without logging into anything. Examples like these are helping to convince me that the iPad will be beneficial to students, even with the short time period that they get.

However. … It’s still hard for me to shake this nagging feeling that there could be So Much More.

By the way, as far as ebook readers go:

Apple’s iBooks app uses the iTunes Store account that is used with the iPad overall.  One of the restrictions we set disables in-app purchases, though, so iBooks won’t be all that useful for folks looking to add their own books.  We have included in iBooks a lot of study guides and a few pieces of classic literature as examples.

Amazon’s Kindle app uses an Amazon account and Safari for the purchases, so it doesn’t get blocked by the restriction we set.  This is great!  And yet another reason that we do the complete wipe-out between patrons.

Barnes and Noble’s Nook app functions very similar to the Kindle — users are redirected to Safari in order to make purchases, which requires their B&N account.

Stanza – the original iPhone ebook reader – is still wonderfully easy to use, even without any account at all.  By using the Gutenberg and FeedBooks catalogs, users can download all sorts of free books without logging into a thing.  In my mind, this is the best option for folks who are only using the iPad for a short time.