Tablets, Libraries, and the Future


Our library recently got several iPads. I’ve been playing with one for two weeks now and there are a number of  reasons why tablet computers could have a significant impact on libraries:

  • It’s easy to read long texts – I enjoy reading text on the iPad. I downloaded A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain and am flying through it like I would any other book. There are several ways to get books including through iBook, the Kindle app, and the Barnes & Noble app. Also any books in the open EPUB format work in Apple’s iBook app. A great app for books like these is Lexcyle Stanza which has tons of free titles, including many from Project Gutenburg. A grad student even told me that he purchased all his books for the summer semester on his iPad and is reading them on that single device. I thought to myself, “this is the future.”
  • It’s great for consuming information – This is one of the most fun devices to consume content on. I love sitting with it in my hands like a book, reading something (as opposed to a laptop or netbook that needs to be on a desk or your lap). I love laying on the couch watching a TED talk, lazily holding it at the perfect angle. It is a device perfect for consumption.
  • You can give it to someone – This is one of the ways I see it being very useful for libraries. On regular PCs or laptops you can show people a book record or a database search. On a tablet, you can physically hand them the record or the search and allow them to view it, interact with it, and make it their own. The physical act of handing someone information should not be discounted. Tablets are much more intimate and bring information down to a very personal level.
  • It’s another tool to organize information – We all organize our information. We have piles on our desks. We have notebooks filled with ideas, lists, and things to remember. We have folders (physical and virtual) whose titles makes sense, at least to us. The iPad and tablets in general are another type of device that allows us to organize this information. How well it works for you depends on your personality and preferences. I still like actual notebooks, but I am using Evernote a lot more since getting this device.

There are things I dislike too. I wish it was easier to create content, though the keyboard is getting easier to use. I still don’t like Apple’s censorship, lack of Flash support, and closed environment. Tablets are going to be big and I’m looking forward to the upcoming rounds of devices, including one’s running Android or Windows.

Andy Burkhardt


  1. And don't forget how much we wish it would multitask! And edit documents. I am loving it for a lot of the same reasons but those two are pretty big hurdles in my book!

  2. I agree, no multitasking is pretty annoying. But sometimes I almost like it. It makes me concentrate on one thing at a time which I sometimes struggle to do. Hopefully they fix it in the next OS update.

  3. This is one area that we need to look into while doing our long range planning! Look how far we've come in the past 5 years.

  4. It's definitely one you might want to experiment with and be thinking about for the future. Devices like these could be excellent opportunities for the library to improve services and continue to adapt in the 21st century.

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