Monday, October 21, 2013

Early Literacy iPads– Final Details

Interested in our initial planning for the iPads? Check it out here. Looking for apps? I listed some of my favorites here. Once again, I have to thank all of the great librarians who helped me with this process!

Unveiling the iPads

Before we put the iPads in the public space, I wanted to make sure our staff was completely comfortable with them. I left a two week period between the app downloads and our start date for staff to play with the iPad and get comfortable with the different apps.

Change is hard for some people. I decided that the best approach for my coworkers was a one-on-one demonstration. I personally scheduled a time with each staff member to show them how to lock the ipads, pick the app, shut them down, etc. This gave them plenty of opportunities to ask me questions and I could see where people were struggling. I also think this made it easier for people to approach me if they had additional questions about the iPads.  Plus, it gave me a great opportunity to explain why we were introducing iPads to our patrons!

In addition to the one-on-one time, I posted a "cheat sheet" at the reference desk for opening and closing procedures with the iPad. Putting in this extra time training the staff was definitely worth it.

We also made a rules sheet for the iPads. These are just our basic guidelines for what we expect to happen at the stands. Thanks again to Kelsey at Library Bonanza for letting me blatantly copy her design! 

Working out the Issues

After the launch, there was at least 1 issue a week with the iPads. Very minor ones, but issues none the less.

First, the headphones just weren't working for us. The case wouldn't close with the Y-splitter. Then, we had issues with kids ripping the headphones out by accident. In the end, we got rid of them completely. They are now kept at a volume of 2 or 3 bars and it is wonderful. It is loud enough for the parents and children to hear it, but not loud enough for us to hear it at the desk. Plus, I think it has made the parent/child interaction happen more naturally.

We also discovered a couple of apps that have semi-hidden ways to get to the app store. Since our wi-fi is disabled, it makes our screens just freeze up. We have since figured out a way to disable the buttons completely, or we have just taken the app out of rotation.

Next, the iPad stand didn't really cover the home button like advertised. There was a piece of plastic over it, but it would move if pushed too hard. Plus, there was a gap where little fingers could reach the button if they tried hard enough. They did. All of our iPads are locked on an app a day, so if they reached the button it wasn't a security issue, but it was annoying. We would have to go enter the passcode and reset the guided access. To fix this I put duct tape over the plastic home cover to make it move less. Then, I added poster tape to the iPad stand to make the tablet fit a little closer to the edge. This seems to have fixed the issue.

Now What?

Our iPads have officially been out for over a month now. The response has been overwhelming. They are constantly being used by both parents and children. Plus, the interaction that happens at the iPads is amazing. Parents are talking about colors, characters, shapes, etc, with their little ones. It is so fun to listen to the conversations from the desk.

Also, parents are asking for recommendations! We list our apps for the week next to the iPads and I've had a few different parents tell me they've downloaded their library favorites. In January, we will put 15-20 new apps into the rotation schedule and I'm already starting to scour the web for possibilities. This addition of new material will keep things fresh and interesting for both the children and parents that visit us weekly.

Now, for my soapbox moment...

At the end of the day, we are children librarians. We are the professionals that can tell parents great bedtime books, show them wonderful science experiments to do at home, or explain why reading is so essential to child development. Why shouldn't we tell them the great apps that are available too? Whether you personally like tablets or not, parents are still using them with their children. I think we are being presented with a wonderful opportunity to not only suggest great apps for parents, but also to educate parents about using technology with young children. The opportunities are there. It's up to us to take advantage of them.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early Literacy iPads– Which apps are best?

Interested in our initial planning for the iPads? Check it out here. All the final details and improvements can be found here. Once again, I have to thank all of the great librarians who helped me with this process.

Picking Apps

This was definitely the hardest part of the process, but it was also the most fun! Deciding on apps can be extremely overwhelming. There are so many to choose from and you don't want to waste your money on horrible ones.

We decided that we wanted to lock the iPad on one app a day. This made it a bit more staff intensive by having us set it up each day, but it was definitely the right decision for our library. We have a huge issue with children staying on the AWE computers way over our time limit. Then, when parents make them leave they throw huge fits. We wanted to avoid this at all costs with the iPads. We really wanted it to be an item that was interesting for about 10-15 minutes, and then they would move on to something else.

I started by going to the Darien Library website and pouring over all of their resources. I then went back to Kelsey over at Library Bonanza and begged her for her list of apps. A similar begging email went out to about 5 other librarians.

Once I had all of this data compiled, I went through the list and looked up each app on the iTunes store. I didn't want to be stuck with apps I hated, so I tried to do as much research as possible before actually buying them. Sometimes though, it was still hard to tell if it would work for us, and I just took a chance and bought it.

I also looked at various app review websites for some additional purchases. Little eLit is a great place to start. They have great information and a truly ridiculous amount of it.

I also browsed though random "Free Apps of the Day" websites. For me, this proved to be a waste of time. I would usually download 1 or 2 each day, but only 1 of them made it into the final app rotation. There's usually a reason they're free. There are some really good free apps out there. You just have to sift through all the junk to find them. 

We made an initial app download of 48 apps. Some of these were free or discounted when we bought them, but others were full price. Once we did our bulk app purchase, I went through and personally played each game. I wanted to make sure the content was appropriate for our age range, and that the apps didn't have in-app purchases. I also checked each app to make sure it could be played horizontally. Since we wanted the iPads as secure as possible, we decided to permanently mount them horizontally.

The biggest surprise to me was that two apps just completely didn't work! One wasn't compatible with our iPad 4 and the other was simply broken. Luckily, iTunes refunded our money completely on those. After all of the above, about 12 of the apps were not useful to us. Some couldn't be played horizontally, and some were just too hard for our target age range. Two we got refunds for, but the others were just lessons learned.

Next, I made an app schedule for both branches and Main. I wanted our initial app purchase to last us until January, so I made sure apps didn't repeat on the same day of the week. That way a family who always came on Mondays would be getting a different app each week.

Here is a list of the apps I downloaded with a short description on each one. The bold titles are ones that did not make it into the final rotation.

Check back on Monday for what actually happened when we put all of our careful planning in action and unveiled the iPads to the public!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Early Literacy iPads– Planning

We now have iPads in the Children's Room! You can find Part 2- all about pick apps- here. Part 3- all about the final details and improvements- here. 

It was a time-intensive project from start to finish. So, to make it easier for readers and myself, I'm going to divide this into three sections– Planning, Picking Apps, and Final Steps. Hopefully, these posts will make it easier for other libraries to implement iPads!

I have to give many thanks to all of the wonderful people who helped me through this process. Kelsey over at Library Bonanza was a wonderful resource. Her blog post is full of fabulous information and she answered every single question I put in front of her. There were also numerous people I reached out to through list-servs. Thank you to everyone for all of your great answers and support!


Deciding on which tablet to use was the easiest part of this process. I was familiar with iPads and after a little research decided they would give us the most return for our money. Plus, I asked a lot of the fabulous people in the library world what they had and almost everyone answered iPad.

First, we had to decide how many iPads we realistically needed for our 3 libraries. All of our iPad money was raised through various community donors, so we had a very strict budget of what we could spend. After looking at our space and resources, we decided to install 1 iPad at each branch and 2 at the Main location. 

Next, we had to decide on where to actually put the iPads. We wanted them to be within our line of sight, but we also didn't want to get 1,000 questions a day about them. We currently have AWE computers directly behind our desk and people immediately yell for help when they are stuck. I'm a big believer in self-guidance and didn't want to have the same issue with the iPads. We eventually decided to put the iPads directly in our Early Literacy Center. It is far enough away that we can't hear every word that is being said, but we still can see everything they're doing. Plus, one of our security cameras looks directly into the space.

Finally, we had to decide on which display case to purchase. We knew we wanted them to be directly mounted on the wall, but we weren't sure about movement, security, etc. After asking about 15 different people, I chose to go with this one from Maclocks. It seemed to be the most durable, had the best reviews, and was reasonably priced. We also decided to purchase a heavy-duty screen protector. The thing about iPad stands is that they are all kind of awful. Almost every librarian I reached out to said, "We chose this one but it can be difficult/hard/impossible at times." We decided to just bite the bullet and hope for the best with our purchase. 

We were semi-successful. The stand is secure and mounts on the wall beautifully. However, the home button isn't really fully covered– little fingers can definitely still hit it. Plus, there was no cut-out for headphones. Luckily, our brave maintenance man drilled one for us that was just barely big enough to fit a Y-splitter in. We wanted each iPad to have 2 sets of headphones, since one of our main goals is to increase parent and child interaction.

When we got the case set-up it was really difficult to close. With the addition of the Y-splitter it became almost impossible. It felt like you were breaking the iPad when you squeezed to lock it up. We needed the Y-splitter though! No one wanted to listen to annoying iPad noises all day, right? (Hint: We no longer use headphones.) 

Check back on Thursday to see how I chose which apps to put on the iPads in the room!


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