Library Bonanza

Ready, Set, Program!

Patrons’ Favorite Apps

Tallying use on iPads is a little tricky. While you can see what apps have been used by double tapping the home button, each app only shows up once. Let’s say a child opens Rocket Reads. It puts itself in the “opened apps” cue. If that child opens up other apps and then returns back to Rocket Reads, then Rocket Reads jumps to the front of the cue–it does not duplicate itself. You probably just skimmed that last sentence, so let’s not get bogged down in technical detail.

With this in mind, I chose to tally use as often as I could (about 3 times per day for one week), while closing the apps every time I took a tally. Sure, it’s not the most scientific way but I did see certain apps being used more than others.

Variables included:

  • Storytimes were in session (guaranteeing more young children in the library)
  • The iPads are geared to ages 2-8
  • These results don’t show how long the apps were used, just if the child was intrigued enough to open the app.

Without further delay, here are the results!

Used 12 times in 1 week

Press Here
Bugs & Buttons


Used 10 times in 1 week

Cinderella (by Nosy Crow)
Dr. Panda’s Hospital
Peekaboo Barn


Used 9 times in 1 week

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App!
Animal Snapp Farm
Dr. Seuss’ Band
Pigeon Presents: Mo on the Go

It's a Library Bonanza - Most popular apps

Runner’s up included:

  • The Monster at the End of this Book…Starring Grover
  • Photo Booth
  • The Cat & The Hat Color and Create
  • Shapes and Puzzles by Pirate Trio
  • Miss Spider’s Tea Party

Finally, if you’re curious, I used Fotor to create these free photo collages. What are your most popular apps either with your kids or at your workplace?

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Bring Appiness Home – One Library’s Bibliography

I wish I could join and engage with every family that sat down at the iPads. I could encourage co-play and talking and–wait. Every family? Mmm…I take that back. But as a dutiful librarian, I know that there is a passive way to provide reference to the families I miss: bibliography time! *Cue C+C Music Factory“*


My bib included:

  1. Division between interactive book apps & educational apps. I did this because I included:
  2. Specific skills developed via educational apps. I feel like most adults will inherently see value in book apps (as they see value in print books) and I wanted to show caregivers & teachers that other game-centric apps still build certain skills
  3. The app picture–so adults will be able to identify the correct app when they’re searching the app stores
  4. If it is available in the Android Play Store. This I made sure to add after reading commentary out there about the lag in providing appvisory for Android users.

And here is da bib. Do you have an app bibliography at your library? Wanna share, friend?


Early Literacy iPads–Implementation, Public Response, & Upkeep

And she looked upon her creature, all the potential good and all the bad it might bring, and she screamed, “IT’S ALIVE!”


and then she went to the settings and couldn’t find the restrictions and when she finally had she forgot the password and then found some wrinkled, discarded post-it note with the password then she set the iPad to download apps automatically but it went into idle mode as she purchased them through the computer and all hope was lost so she decided to take a rage nap.

In all honesty, setting up iPads to be used in your library won’t make you lose hope in humanity, but it will take time–and time that pays off in a huge way. My last post was about the preliminary steps taken to bring iPads to your library including the research, proposal to the people that keeps all the money, and staff training. Now I’ll present part II about the implementation, the public response, and how to upkeep your iPads.


Once our proposal was approved, we got the ball rolling with (1) publicity, (2) setting up security restrictions, and (3) downloading apps onto the iPad.


We approached publicity in a variety of ways. First, we set up Teaser signs at the Apple Stand to promote the up-and-coming devices. We then printed out or Apple Stand rules just to give people an idea about how to interact with the iPads (these would then stay up when the iPads were available). We sent a press release out to the newspapers (even garnering an interview with a local newspaper!), and we put an alert in our newsletter:

Come try out our 5 new Apple iPads now available for parents to use with children ages 2-8 in the Youth department!  Check one out to use in the department or visit the Apple Stand in the preschool room. The tablets include librarian-approved educational apps that support the early literacy skills of writing, talking, singing, playing and reading.  Already have an iPad? Come test out our apps before you buy them. Don’t have an iPad? Come see what all the fuss is about and provide your child with another way to learn.

The iPads are an obvious draw for those without the devices at home, but they are also beneficial for parents when they want to test out educational, librarian-approved apps suitable for young ages–before they have to buy them.

Before Release Picture

Preparing the iPads for Public Use–Security & General Settings

I present a remarkably short list of the steps you’ll follow to get your iPads to be public ready:

  1. Set Up Your Apple ID–Then sign in each iPad to your new apple ID.
  2. Set restrictions (Settings–>General–>Restrictions) to secure iPads from wandering fingers (See picture below for restrictions settings). Although patrons can still access your settings menu, there can be no permanent damage done, such as accessing your account, purchasing apps, or setting up an email.
  3. Gather admin apps into one folder and put on second page. Unfortunately, you cannot delete these apps from the iPads, but, once your restrictions are set, even roving fingers won’t be able to do any damage to them.
    *Creating a folder: Press and hold any app until they start to do a lil jiggly dance. Press, hold, and drag an app over another app that you would like to group together. Once a black background appears with a title, release the app and rename the folder.

Preparing the iPads for Public Use–Getting Apps on the iPads

So we had chosen our list of apps and now I needed to get them onto all 5 devices. I also needed to record the steps I took because I would be sharing this responsibility with 2 other team members, alternating months when we would purchase apps. Because of this shared responsibility, I created a folder called “What to do when it’s your month.” Sure, it sounds like the title of a menstruation pamphlet but it was easy to understand. In this folder I have five documents. Click on the links to view the detailed steps/lists:

  1. Monthly Check-Up & New Apps Steps
  2. Weekly Check-Up
  3. Apple ID (and password)
  4. APPS-abbreviated names & location (to understand how to arrange the apps on the iPad)
  5. APPS-official name (to be used in cataloging, and to be sorted alphabetically)

As you can see, downloading apps can be detail-oriented, so make sure you don’t miss a step. Because apps are purchased only once per month, a step-by-step process is important for remembering all the details.

Public Response

So we finally made it! All our apps were bought! All our settings were set to maximal! The mounts were newly gleaming and ready to be felt up! But would people actually like them as much as we hoped? Would parents sit with their children and be engaging with their children and the iPads? Would people yell at us for bringing more technology into the library?


Well, guess what, haters–it worked! Not without hitches in the plan, but it worked! Cue one of the most beautifully looped, super happy gifs out there:


Yes, patrons were quite appreciative of the new activity to do in the library. We have three mounted in the Early Ed room and two behind the desk for in-house use only. The mounted ones are definitely the way to go. Our iPads behind the desk have only checked out 6 and 7 times since August 1, but the mounted tablets are used all the time, oftentimes having all three in use. Here’s some picture from the week of our grand release before Preschool Stories (ages 3-5):

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There were a few unexpected trials to test our diligence and our patience but we succeeded in the end. These included:

  • Quick Troubleshooting the iPad guidelines for the desk (very easy, simple solutions; anything more challenging will be sent to the iPad committee)
  • Unattended children at the iPads: This is a tricky situation. There are usually three situations with three responses:
    1. Sometimes the child might be completely unattended in the library and she finds a fun toy to play with while her caregiver is off in never never land. It is explained to the caregiver that they need to be with their 7 and under child at all times while in the library. They must also sit with their child while at the iPads because the devices are expensive and they can unintentionally alter the settings.
    2. Other times, the child may be old and responsible enough to be by themselves while his caregiver is looking for books in the same room or doing a puzzle with the younger sibling. We have had no problems with children mishandling the iPads. They are typically entranced and respectful of the technology. Also, the way the devices are mounted discourages shaking (because you have to reach to touch it and it is not in your lap and you don’t have to hold it up) and dropping (obviously).
    3. If the child is toddler/preschool size (size works, quizzing everyone’s age all the time does not) then we identify the parent and explain to them that the devices are expensive. They can also unintentionally alter the settings so they need to sit within touching distance of the child. And look! There are headphones for you, too!
  • Speaking of headphones, we’ve found that the BeBop Kids Safe Headphones are much too small for adults so we’ll soon have 1 kids headphone and 1 one-size-fits all headphone at each station.
  • Revising the document about the steps for purchasing apps because I missed a few things the first time.
  • The mounts did not quite live up to our expectations. We purchased ours from the Human Solution and its security features weren’t quite what we were expecting. The pole mount is very nice and I love that it flips from portrait to landscape; however, the pole mount is only tightened to our table, not screwed in and the casing around the iPad is plastic and not very durable. Also, the case can be slipped off with the press of a button so we had our facilities team drill a hole through the case and secure it with a wire cable. Finally, the lock on one iPad broke within the first 2 weeks. Thankfully, the Human Solution sent a whole new case to replace it and it has been fine since. So, they are one of the only options out there that provide the ability to turn the screen and they are nicely mounted to a table, but I’m not sure how long they will last. In a survey of area libraries, here are some other options for securing your iPads: MacLocks (used at 4 other libraries–seems to get a great response) and Kensington

How to Upkeep Your iPad

Once again, you can find the more detailed description of upkeep in these two documents: Monthly Check-Up & New Apps Steps, and Weekly Check-Up. But a brief over view of your monthly duties include:

  1. Buy your apps
  2. Update iPads with current iOs software (about quarterly)

And an overview of your weekly duties:

  1. Clean screens with alcohol/water mix
  2. Manually close all apps
  3. Delete all pictures and reset background & lock screens to default, pre-loaded pictures
  4. Ensure that all apps are in their folders

It’s honestly not too bad once you set it up. Keep at it, I belieeeeeve in you! Please ask me about any of the particulars and I will try to create some type of answer that includes words. Next step for our library? Grade school iPads for all kids and teens.

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Early Literacy iPads–Research, Proposal, & Training

Are you telling me that iPads serve as an information gateway for patrons?



librarians assemble batgirl

It all started one dark and dreary day when our third boombox broke, leaving us with only one for kids to use. Inevitably, this one device would now be receiving the brunt of the damage. It was only a matter of time until it too would fall prey to impatient, sticky fingers. Retailers were no longer selling boomboxes with audio outputs so we were out of luck. Located next to the “read-to-me” book kits (includes one book, one CD), my department liked the additional service that the boomboxes provided, giving children another activity to do while in the library.

Eventually, these CD kits will be obsolete. Most laptops are now excluding CDR drives to make them lighter. Tablets run solely on downloadable materials. Cars are replacing CD players with USB connections. Information is shifting to downloadable materials. We shouldn’t be afraid because it’s just another format, like cassette tapes, records, and cave walls (except now these materials can be controlled a lot more by the distributors. *cough cough an $80 copy of one e-book cough*).

So what new format should we invest in that still provides the features of the CD kits? Enter tablets. Tablets are portable, hand-held computers that use software called apps, allowing interactive access to information for various needs and wants. This post is gonna be a long one but gal dab it it’s going to be useful for other libraries doing research.

Here’s the basic timeline I followed:

  1. Develop basic idea for how tablets will be used in library–in-house circulating only
  2. Identify and interview other libraries using tablets (about 1 month)
  3. Form committee
  4. Present findings to committee and formulate parameters around use (1 meeting)
  5. Prepare proposal to Director and Assistant Director by dividing responsibilities (about 3 months)
  6. Propose dat shiz & get approved!
  7. Create timeline for release of tablets with list of all necessary materials that need to be created (about 2 months)
  8. Publicity Storm (1 month before release)
  9. Release the iPads!

First and foremost, our library is not a trailblazer. We’re not big enough to take big monetary risks and we don’t have the staff power to drive radical initiatives. But not being a trailblazer does not mean that we ignore coming changes to libraries. So, our library director was hesitant about a tech petting zoo (where a library offers one of each device for patrons to experiment with in the library) or in-house circulation because he heard from other libraries that their use was dwindling. Circulating expensive tablets (such as the iPad) would be a big risk that he was not inclined to take. I had to identify a middle ground. Because we wanted to replace the listening station boomboxes and we had the space to add something new, I (along with an agreement from the department) wanted to have at least one mounted tablet always available for use. We also wanted to take a baby step towards circulating e-devices out of the library, so we decided that in-house circulation provides a nice safety net to test out the waters of our patron’s interest in this technology. Finally, we chose the Early Literacy age limit 2-8 because (1) this gives us a more constrained set of rules (already in place) to apply to users, such as needing to be accompanied with an adult at all times in the library, and (2) we have been pushing Early Literacy initiatives recently and Early Literacy tablets will be a nice complimentary feature.

In order to show my library director that tablets are still valued by patrons, I had to do my research. I wanted to interview libraries in our area, hopefully with our same demographics. I used a local library organization’s listserv to search for posts about library’s best apps, knowing that these libraries obviously had tablets circulating.

I used this set of questions during each interview:

General Questions

  1. What is your library population?
  2. What type and how many tablets are circulating? In-house or out-of-house circulation?
  3. How many circulations in a month

Preliminary steps taken leading up to public access

  1. Why did you choose your brand(s) of tablets?
  2. Are there any cataloging concerns when adding the tablets to the system?
  3. For books, are you only using apps or are you also purchasing books for the tablets?

Current Use

  1. What was the initial public response? How is it now?
  2. If they’re not circulating, what are your next steps?
  3. How do you publicize this service?Stolen devices?
  4. What are your security measures?
  5. What is your weekly or monthly upkeep? Who is responsible?


  1. Who may use the tablets?
  2. What is your check-out procedure?
  3. Have you needed to revise your policy since it was first instated?

Here are the results of the interviews, if you would like to see them: Libraries-tablets

The questions above helped me to identify how other libraries are approaching tablets and I would soon use their successes as an impetus to start using tablets at my library. With this information, I assembled a committee to tackle all the details and formulate our own plan of action. We then transferred all our research into a proposal to the Director and Assistant Director. This included:

  • Overview with importance of tablets in the library
  • Area library research
  • Tablet Research
  • What, when, where of iPads in YS department
  • How, cost, future plans, budget commitment of library

We used this Prezi and our research (Proposal for Public Use Tablets) to present to our Director. For the skimmers, I’ll sum it up with some more of those bullet point thingers and more condensed language.

too-muchI know but just hang in there.

Why tablets in the library?

The importance of tablets in public libraries is three fold: Why are tablets important in public libraries? Why are they important in your library? Of the many devices out there, why did you choose your device?

Why a public library?

  • Provide patrons with the technology they crave
  • Librarians help filter through enormous wealth of apps and choose the best for kids
  • iPad owners may test apps before they buy them
  • Educational assistance for all children regardless of income or developmental ability
  • Cost effective (apps range from $free.99 to $15)—Playaway Views are $100 each, AWE stations (Early Literacy computers) are infinitely more expensive

Why Fremont?

  • Replaces boom boxes
  • Supports Strategic Plan
  • High School use:
    • Carmel has 1:1 tablet program with an Android-based Samsung tablet
    • Lake Zurich HS has 1:1 program
    • By 2015, Mundelein HS will allocate funds to a 1:1 tablet program. Currently, they are implementing a Google Apps pilot program, using Android-based tablets in the classroom

Why iPads?

  • Patron preference is 3x more than other devices (via area library research)
  • Better quality and abundance of educational apps
  • More “solid” design

Tablet Research

I suppose starting off that we had an affinity towards the iPad. Most of the libraries I interviewed used them and patron preference was much higher for the iPad. However, we wanted a solid reasoning behind Apple because the costs were much higher. This research was given to one team member who looked at the following devices:

  • VTech InnoTab
  • L eap Pad
  • Fuhu Nabi Tablet
  • KD Kurio 7
  • Nook Tablet
  • Kindle Fire
  • Android Based Tablets
  • Apple iPad

After reading professional reviews in PC World and Consumers Reports; as well as consumer reviews, we did not feel the first 6 devices listed were acceptable for the following reasons:

  • All the devices designed for children were subject to substantial software issues.
  • Price:  The Kurio and Nabi priced in at around $200 which is the same as a mini tablets of far-superior quality and adaptability.  The cheaper children’s devices are really just fancy toys.  Some even require you to use a stylus to use the “touch screen” and load games and books via cartridge!
  • Children’s devices are limited to software from the original vendor, which is much less than the software that Apple offers.  Using academic reviews to purchase apps from the lesser known tablets would be impossible.  Furthermore, many of the “educational” Apps and books (especially for the VTECH and LeapPad) were re-hashed representations of overly-commercial characters such as Dora, Disney Princesses and various Pixar characters.  Apps of a non-commercial nature were not very plentiful for any of these devices.
  • Slow processors on Vtech, LeapPad, and KDKurio.
  • Cost of individual books and Apps for the children’s devices is much higher.  Average App price is $5-7, and books were $14-24.
  • Less ability to restrict patron access to app store, internal settings, etc.

At least for the start of this venture, we will use identical products so that staff will not have to learn how to operate multiple devices.  Furthermore, using just one brand will allow us to share apps and books among devices. For Apple, 5 devices is the max number for sharing apps.

iPads in YS department

  • Two iPad 2s for in-house use, checkout at YS desk
  • Three iPad 2s mounted
  • Age restrictions
    • Ages 2-8 years, to be checked out by an adult 18+
    • Hopefully the elementary material will discourage older children from using the mounted iPad in the E Room
  • Time restrictions
    • One hour, if there are patrons waiting

What will be on the devices?

  • The tablets will only have materials selected by the tablet committee.  All Apps and books will be of significant educational value. The list of starting apps was chosen from recommendations by the School Library Journal and various RAILS libraries’ “top patron use.”
  • Each tablet will have pre-loaded books and apps appropriate to the intended use audience.
    • New apps will be added monthly and the device will be checked for updates.
  • Wireless access will be enabled for app use; however, access to the internet will be disabled.
  • Starting Apps & Books
    • Interactive Book Apps
      • Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! – $6
      • The Monster at the End of This Book…Starring Grover – $5
      • Barnyard Dance – $4
      • PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit – $5
      • The Cat in the Hat – $4
      • Miss Spider’s Tea Party – free
    • Books (Nook Read to me)
      • Llama Llama Red Pajama – $11
      • Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery – $4
      • But Not the Hippopotamus – $4
      • Froggy Goes to Camp – $6
    • Apps (supporting color & shape identification, matching, differentiation, patterns, music creation, singing)
      • Spot the Dot – $4 (shapes & colors)
      • Peek a Zoo (by Duck Duck Moose) – $1 (animals)
      • Dr. Panda’s Hospital – $2 (animals, compassion, vocabulary)
      • Shapes and Puzzles by Pirate Trio – $3
      • Bugs and Buttons – $3 (counting, patterns)
      • Bunny Fun (Rosemary Wells) – $2 (singing, offered in different languages)
      • Dr. Seuss Band – $1 (music)
      • Eric Carle: My Very First App – $2 (sorting, identification)

Security Concerns

  • Patrons will not be allowed to download or alter the content of the tablets in any way.  iPads allow a special feature to disable downloading and deleting apps. Access to the internet and iTunes will be disabled.

ADA Compliant

  • Via an article published in American Libraries, “As of right now, pretty much the only general consumer reading devices that meet accessibility standards are the Apple iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch families” (Harris, “Kindle Fire Adds Accessibility Features,” December 2012).
  • The iPad offers VoiceOver (gesture-based screen reader) available in 36 languages, inversion of colors, large text, and zoom for the vision impaired.


  • 5 iPads (with discount): $1920
  • 3 iPad mounts: $480
  • 2 Otter Box cases (with discount): $115
  • 5 y-splitters: $16
  • 10 headphones: $195 (2 headphones with each iPad to promote parent-child interaction)

Grant Funding

In searching for grant funding sources, we have not found a source that would allow us to implement our own program without having to comply with specifics set about by the granting agency.  Funding parties often thrust their own agendas onto how these materials and services are to be implemented.  Grants also require a lot of documentation that is costly in terms of staff time and wages.  Because the start-up of this undertaking is relatively small in terms of the library’s total budget, we are hopeful that this project can be funded locally through direct budget allocation and/or the Friends of Fremont Library.

Proposal Success?

You betcha! We even got more than we bargained for. By clearly and concisely presenting our research in a professional manner with a lot of passion behind our proposal, our committee showed our director, without a doubt, that funding this project is the right step for our library. Instead of just 3 iPads, we were approved for 5! Awww yeah.


We soon bought the merchandise and started experimenting. The mounts were great because the height was adjustable, the case could tilt up and down, and the case could rotate from portrait to landscape. This was crucial because most apps can only be viewed one way or the other. No for the bad features. The pole for the iPad mounts was secure, but the case was a little on the cheap-o side. Not only was the plastic flimsy but you could easily press a button and the iPad slide right off. Cool! – _ – Our facilities team was able to drill a hole through the arm and attach a cable to the case allowing this really cool button release to serve no purpose.

The iPad security settings are pretty nice. They are in Settings/General/Restrictions and can only be accessed with a password (once a password has been set up). You can turn off several “permanent” apps such as Safari, camera, iTunes, installing apps, and deleting apps. You can also turn off “in-app” purchases and prevent patrons from accessing/editing your Apple account. As an extra security measure, we bought an iTunes gift card so that if someone were to ever exploit our Apple account, they would not have access to our library credit card.

For adding apps, you can set up wireless, automatic downloads for all iPads connected to the same account. Make sure your tablet is connected to wifi, use iTunes to purchase an app on your computer, and the app will download immediately to all your devices. Pretty sweet–especially for the iPads that are secured to a table.

Staff Training

Our next step was staff training. This included three parts: (1) The philosophy behind tablets in libraries, (2) rules, check-out and check-in procedures, and (3) Using the iPad and playing with our apps. The following are our procedures.

Checking Out Tablets

  • Remind patrons of the rules
    • Tablets stay in Youth Services. Do NOT take home. Should they leave the building, they are considered stolen.
    • No food or drinks near tablets, just like patron computers.
    • Damage and replacement costs are very high so please keep an eye on where they are and treat them nicely
    • Please stay within “touching distance” of both your child and the tablet.
    • Check out procedures
      • Tablets will be located _____
      • Check tablet for signs of damage (Damage includes cracked screen, main buttons not working, and screen not displaying properly [potential water damage])
      • Check out with patron’s card
      • Hold patrons Driver’s License on clipboard inside cabinet
      • No waiver needs to be signed

Checking In Tablets

  • Make sure all pieces are returned—1 tablet, 2 headphones, 1 y-splitter
  • Check tablet for any signs of damage
    • If patron reports trouble or you see problems, please check it out to YS repairs and post to the wiki.
    • Discharge
    • Return Driver’s License
    • Check battery level. Charge if battery shows less than 50%
    • Power off
    • Clean screen
    • Return tablet to ______

We did two training sessions so that everyone could have their own iPad to experiment with.

Future Plans

In the future, we anticipate the need to purchase more devices for school-age kids. Apps and books will include:

  • Common Core standards to assist with research and homework
  • Summer reading and awards lists during the high-demand season of high-demand titles
  • Reading for leisure, encouraging a lifelong love of reading
  • Bridging the digital divide and offering patrons opportunities and access to these devices with a variety of apps to explore for both entertainment and educational purposes (educational games, photo editing and drawing, etc.)

We will reassess the types of devices for further purchase (more iPads? eReaders?) based on our hierarchy of needs at that time. We suspect we will want to have both kinds of devices available. We also expect to develop a plan for patron use outside of our building (check-out for home use).

Thus concludes this incredibly long blog post. Is your library circulating tablets? What have been your biggest hurdles or issues that have arisen?