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 ( https://dropdav.com/ ) and Send to Dropbox ( http://sendtodropbox.com/ ). 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: https://www.dropbox.com/apps .

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 ( http://orweblog.oclc.org/archives/002151.html ), the Educause Learning Spaces book ( http://www.educause.edu/LearningSpaces ), 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: http://www.worldcat.org/libraries/1007 .  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: http://briarcliff.worldcat.org/tags/new.

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.

Handwriting on the iPad

I have written before about my love affair with paper, and even though a lot of my paper life has already transitioned into a digital counterpart, I still enjoy the paper experience of taking notes — writing things out by hand, scribbling around the ideas, sketching a diagram for illustration.  But at the same time, I want to be able to search these scribblings just like I search my online calendar for my last dentist appointment.  The Catch-22 for me is meetings — it feels rude to be typing during a small meeting, and yet I want to be able to get back to the notes I make.  Handwriting notes on the iPad is silent, unobtrusive, and I can immediately email the notes as a PDF or image during or after the meeting.  Send them to Evernote and – voila – you can search them, too!

For people like me who are in transition between paper notebooks and digital notes, there are wonderful handwriting apps for the iPad, so we get some of the experience of jotting notes on paper with some of the function of digital records.  I’m going to compare two of these apps:  Notes Plus and Noteshelf.  A lot of hype has also been made of the app Penultimate, but I find that one SO limited in functionality I’m not even going to bother with it. I’m primarily considering these two because they at least offer zoomed writing —  giving you a little “zoom” box in which you can write big and sloppy, but your handwriting will appear neat and not-so-big on the page.  Penultimate does not offer this, last I checked.

The perfect app would be a mix of Notes Plus and Noteshelf, but until that happens I find myself going back and forth between the two.  You can see screenshot examples at the Flickr set.  Here are some pros for each one.

Pros for Notes Plus (… or things it can do that Noteshelf cannot):

–  AMAZING –  you draw a circle around something you’ve written and then you can drag that selected chunk to some other part of the page. This is *wonderful* for brainstorming and it was probably the first big feature that really pulled me away from paper notebooks.  Rearrange your own handwritten notes! Love it.

–  AUTO-ADVANCE – when you’re writing in the Zoom Box, Notes Plus will automatically move forward as you write, creating a very smooth experience. Noteshelf has a different way of handling this and maybe I’m just not used to it yet.

–  TYPING – if you get tired of writing by hand, you can also add text by typing, which means you can copy text from a web page or email and paste it into your notebook. It also has many, many fonts to choose from if you do decide to type.

–  SOUND – you can record audio, say for a lecture or a meeting, and that audio will be included with your written notes.  I haven’t tried getting sound out of the app yet, but it looks like it just syncs to iTunes.

–  GOOGLE DOCS – if you live in Google, you’ll be happy to see that Notes Plus can directly export a PDF version of your notes into your Docs account.

Pros for Noteshelf (… or things it can do that Notes Plus cannot):

–  NOTEBOOKS – I really, really like how Noteshelf uses the iBooks-style wooden bookcase motif and lets you make several different notebooks. Notes Plus lets you make different notes, too, but the visual organization is not nearly as nice as it is here.

–  PAPERS –  for simulating the experience of using a paper notebook, Noteshelf wins hands down.  Whereas Notes Plus only has 4 paper templates — blank, lined, grid and small grid — Noteshelf has dozens!  Including day planner, meeting notes, shopping list, music score, and Cornell-style note paper.

– ZOOM CONTROL – although it doesn’t auto-advance the way Notes Plus does, Noteshelf does offer some fine-tuning for the Zoom Box, such as amount of zoom, size, and line spacing.

– SMOOTHING – both apps do a certain amount of “smoothing” to your handwriting so it will look more natural and less jerky; Noteshelf seems to somehow do this a bit better than Notes Plus.

– COLORS – far more colors to choose from for the pen, and a simple slider to set pen radius.  Notes Plus only has 12 colors and 6 sizes.

– ERASER – there is a dedicated eraser tool, whereas Notes Plus just has an option to change the pen to a white color.

– IMAGES –  insert a photo or screenshot from the iPad Photo Album, resize it, spin it around, and then write over it, around it and include it with your PDF export.  Very Snazzy.

– DROPBOX & EVERNOTE – This is big for me, since these are the two places where I store almost everything I use on a regular basis. Export has been very fast so far.

Export options:

… in Notes Plus:  Photo Album, iTunes, Email, Google Docs

… in Noteshelf:  Photo Album, iTunes, Email, Dropbox, Evernote, Print

A Word about a Stylus:

“You get what you pay for” is the rule here.  My library tried out the super cheap path and found that kind of stylus to be completely useless.  For my own use, I invested a little more for the Boxwave stylus and LOVE it — extremely smooth and nice to hold.  If you’re looking for something cheaper than the Boxwave but more functional than the super cheap stuff, you can try Pogo, which is definitely in the middle – for both quality and price.  But I HIGHLY recommend you splurge a bit and get the Boxwave.  You will be much happier going that direction.  If you plan on doing any handwriting or even drawing on the iPad, you will definitely want a stylus.

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.

 

iPad as Social Creature

The iPad is a social device.  In some truly amazing case studies – the Pompeii team, this school in Scotland – the iPad is successful because everyone involved has one.  In a solitary use, it can also help the user do amazing things such as David Hockney’s artwork, but an educational setting calls for more collaboration. This is where the iPad shines.

You might think, “Of course the iPad is social. It has all kinds of apps for Twitter and Facebook and chat and what not.” While that’s true, it is not exactly what I mean by social. I had a different kind of social in mind that I had not been able to see in action up until last night. Two of us from the library were invited to give an iPad demonstration to a group of students in one of the residence halls. There were about twelve students in attendance. According to a quick show-of-hands survey, three had seen our iPad demo before and over half had some other iOS device. I talked for a couple minutes about the iPad lending program at the library, about the difficulty in choosing apps, asking them to give us ideas (immediate response: Angry Birds), and then asking for questions.

One of the students said she had heard there were some schools giving out ereaders to all their students and wanted to hear more about that. (By the way, reader, if you’re interested – I have a collection of links to such examples in my Delicious bookmarks.) I said there were some folks on campus who were throwing around the idea of getting iPads for the next incoming class, and there were other folks on campus who wanted all the students to have a choice of device. The benefit of letting students choose their own ereader is that there would be a healthy mix of experiences for comparison. The benefit of having the same device for everyone is consistency and easier collaboration.

To illustrate, I brought up an app we’ve only had installed on the iPads for a couple days: Share Board. I started the board, and then the students clustered around the other three iPads and joined my board. I started drawing, they saw it on their iPads. They started drawing and within seconds everyone was completely focused on one of the iPads, reaching over to tap on the screen and see the colors flying around. We pre-load the iPads with old library photos, which the students were able to easily insert into the whiteboard and sketch over. As an observer, it was fascinating to me to see how much this simple thing could captivate their attention. I kept expecting them to start getting bored with it since there really is not much you can do with Share Board other than, well, share. But students not holding an iPad were shouting instructions to the 3 students holding a device, which would then make the students in the other groups start laughing. They even asked me to make a blank board for them so they could start over again. Eventually we pulled ourselves free of the white board, and they started exploring other apps. Now that they were in clusters around the iPads, any other app they opened became a social experience, too. One group started using the Anatomy Lite quiz and turned it into a game, pointing and tapping together. This inspired another group to do the same thing and soon there was a competition going to see which group could get to the highest level. Not Angry Birds, mind you. Anatomy. Pointing at bones and muscle groups. And they seemed to enjoy it!

I have high hopes for other interactive screen-sharing apps, such as Fuze Meeting and Meeting Mngr Pro but have yet to try them out in a meeting setting.  I am very surprised that more apps don’t offer this feature. For example, I would LOVE to see interactive screen sharing in my favorite note-taking app Notes Plus, which allows for handwriting, typing, and drawing – handling all this input in beautiful ways.  Or imagine what an academic writing group could do if everyone could share comments in real time on an app like GoodReader?  The more potential I see in the iPad, the more frustrated I am that we aren’t there yet.

 

 

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.

But.

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.

Libraries Loaning iPads

I’ve been doing some searching to see what other libraries are doing with their loanable iPads.  Here are a few helpful examples:

  • Lewis Library @ MIT
    • This page has 2 useful PDFs on it – an “agreement” users have to sign for check out, and the Policies & Procedures that give library rules AND how student employees handle the iPad check-in process.
    • http://libstaff.mit.edu/lewis/circ.html#iPad
  • Wake Forest University
  • Virginia Tech University

This is me brain-dumping:

Here at BCU, we have a very small but very excited population — about 1,200 students and roughly 60 faculty.   People are ready to check these puppies out *now*.  To my mind, a wait list would be a disaster as would first-come-first-serve.  So I’m thinking we should do this as a reservation system — that way our patrons know when they’ll be able to check out the iPad. We’ll set steep late fines up front and reinforce the whole “someone is waiting on this just like YOU waited on this” concept to discourage late returns.

I would like to also make this an opportunity to get people on the shared calendars bandwagon (we all have Outlook but hardly anyone uses the calendar feature to set appointments – instead, sending out a dozen emails and waiting for a dozen responses, then sending out a dozen more with an alternative time… you know the drill).   There might be a problem with folks setting their own appointments —  that would make it hard for the library to keep a 1-hour window between each reservation so we can wipe out the last person’s personal information.

So I guess they’ll still have to come to the desk to make a reservation?  Maybe we could keep the reservations in some sort of online calendar so that faculty and students alike (students are not on Outlook) can see when the iPads are available.   I’m concerned about both the patron experience and the workflow logistics for our student employees who bravely cover the front lines for us.   What are your thoughts on this whole thing?