Top Ten iPad Apps for Librarians

I’ve had an iPad for a number of weeks now and I find it’s really helping me organize information better. With the help of a few select apps I’ve downloaded I’m able to connect from anywhere, catch up on videos and reading, and maintain a social media presence. It was really useful at ALA Annual and I’ve heard other librarians say great things about their iPads too. These are a few of the apps that I think are essential for librarians.

  1. iBooksThis is Apple’s attempt at doing books and it does a pretty good job. Like most everything Apple does, they put thought into the user experience and it shows. The way the pages turn is pretty and you can see your books all on a shelf that you can look through. The selection in the Apple book store isn’t as good as the Amazon of Barnes and Noble book stores, which also both have apps. But it is decent and there are a lot of free books you can choose from too. Cost – Free
  2. StanzaAnother great ebook reader. They have books for purchase but also over 50,000 free titles from places like project Gutenburg. You can also import ebooks inPDF, ePub, or various other formats. It gives you a few more options for customization than iBooks does. Cost – Free
  3. EvernoteAn amazing app for note-taking that may make me switch from paper notebooks. Librarians are often in meetings or have great ideas but forget to bring a notebook or instead bring the wrong one. With Evernote you can sync notes across devices (I use it on my Android phone) and never lose notes. You can also take voice notes or capture webpages. This is one of the best tools I’ve found to capture ideas before they slip away. Cost – Free
  4. DropboxIf you have multiple devices (tablet, desktop, laptop, smartphone) then this is a must have apps. Dropbox allows you to sync files across the web and access them from anywhere. Save a document you were working on at home and read it on the road on your phone. Then edit it again at home on your laptop. It is super easy and integrates with a number of other apps too. Cost – Free up to 2GB of storage, reasonable pricing for more

  5. screenshot of dropbox

  6. TwitterificWe’re all aware that many librarians are social media butterflies, so a Twitter app is necessary. Whether you’re monitoring multiple searches for conference hashtags, chatting with your colleagues, or looking at different lists you’ve set up, Twitterific does it all well. It has a clean interface with not too much clutter. The only downside is that the free version does not support multiple accounts. So if you need that functionality for your library account too, you might want to look at Osfoora HD for $3.99. Cost – Free
  7. Dictionary.comThis app is exactly what it sounds like. Librarians can smith words with the best of them with this handy reference tool. It has a good interface and includes a thesaurus and word of the day (which I really like!) Cost – Free
  8. GoodReaderIt’s sometimes difficult for librarians to find the time to read scholarly literature. This is a very useful app for reading all sorts of different documents. I store Word and PDF files here like articles and reports for reading later when offline. It’s a little confusing with all the options for set up and organization, and Jason Griffey noticed that you may want to check your settings for security reasons. But for saving and reading different files, it is great. It also integrates with Dropbox! Cost – $0.99
  9. QuickOfficeA productivity app that allows full editing of both Word and Excel documents. It connects with services like Dropbox or Google Docs to make it easy to find your documents and edit them. This app turns the iPad into a full fledged office device. Cost – $9.99
  10. AudiobooksThis app uses the admirable Librivox recording project to make it easy to get over 2,800 classic audiobooks on your iPad. It automatically bookmarks your last spot and has a built in browser so you can surf the web while listening (kinda multitasking). Cost – $0.99
  11. WikipanionAnother quick reference app that uses Wikipedia entries and displays them in a visually pleasing format for the iPad. It cuts down on some of the annoying extras from the Wikipedia site and gives you just content, nice and clean. Cost – Free

There are 13,000+ iPad apps and growing in the App Store, and this list is by no means comprehensive. What are some of your favorite apps? Did I miss some? Post a link in the comments.


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.