Talking about Tablets: Lawrence Public Library (KS)

Thinking about making tablets available in your library? Wondering how other libraries are handling the logistics? In this series, we will be featuring stories shared with us by libraries around the continent. In this first article, Kim Fletcher, Karen Allen, and Aaron Brumley discuss the implementation of tablets at the Lawrence Public Library (KS).

Tablets at Lawrence Public Library

Lawrence Public Library (LPL) is experimenting with tablets in a variety of ways. 

Children's Area

There are iPads in the children's area and in the teen zone. The iPads are tethered to tables using Flexguard locks. In the children's area, the iPads are available all day and are protected with Big Grips frames. There is not a power source near the table, so the tablets are moved to a desk to be charged each night. The iPads are really popular with kids, but the PCs remain popular, too. Internet access is turned off on the children's area iPads. Apps for the children's area iPads were selected by library staff using various "best of" lists and information in the Apple store. Librarian Karen Allen's 6 year old son was an unofficial app tester for the devices, "When we started with this, I took one of the iPads home and let him try the various apps." Apps are categorized on the devices, with categories ranging from Science to Princesses. Kim adds, "They love Toca Hair Salon!"

The public access iPads are a recent implementation at the library and so far data tracking includes children's area staff manually tracking the number of uses of the machines. Built-in device technology tracks usage of various apps and staff plans to use this information to plan future app selections. Aaron and Kim noted that children's apps tend to be media rich so suggest a 32GB device as opposed to a 16GB device for children's areas. Although parents and children sometimes work together on the devices, staff has observed that most often children use the devices on their own.

Teen Zone

iPads in the Teen Zone are available after school. They are also tethered to tables, but Big Grips Frames are not used. In addition to using reviews to select apps for the Teen Zone iPads, teens were also encouraged to make suggestions. Popular suggestions included Minecraft, Angry Birds, Subway Surfers, Infinity Blade, and Plague Inc. Teens regularly suggest apps to add and since the cost of most apps is quite low, staff is often able to accommodate the requests. Internet access is available on the Teen Zone iPads (the library's network uses OpenDNS for customizable filtering).

Other Tablets at LPL

In addition to the children's area and Teen Zone iPads, the library also has a Nook HD available for magazine reading. It is locked down so that it only provides access to Zinio. Staff uses an iPad as a cash register using Square. Another staff iPad is used at library programs. Aaron says the library is experimenting with a couple of Android devices for various staff uses, too, including a paperless approach to the paging (pick) list.

Advice for Other Libraries

The devices are so intuitive that staff have not felt intimidated by using or troubleshooting the tablets. Kim assures, "Troubleshooting them is easy!" Kim also mentioned that the library has not really marketed the devices, but they are already quite popular, "People just migrated to them." LPL is currently in a temporary location as their building undergoes a major renovation. The return to the new library will mean more tablets. Karen says she has not yet made plans for next year's app purchases, but enthusiastically shared that Disney Infinity: Action! is on her wish list.

Making tablets available is a relatively new thing for many libraries, with numerous practicalities to consider. As the LPL staff demonstrates, however, a willingness to experiment and enthusiasm for the potential are the things that matter most.

Library Edge Benchmark 9 assesses a library's accommodation of user demand for devices. LPL's work with tablets makes it clear that devices no longer just means PCs. Thanks to Kim, Karen, and Aaron for taking the time to share the nitty-gritty and the nifty details with us today!