Six months ago, I was on the other side of this digital divide. When I read posts from librarians that seem outraged about using eBooks or book apps in storytime, I can hear myself echoed in those sentiments. But I’ve changed my thoughts, and so can you. Read on.
Until very recently, I was a true fence-sitter regarding digital books. eBooks made me slightly uncomfortable. I tried a few and was not really impressed. I spend so much time facing a screen during my work day that I want my books to be on paper; I want to read by lamplight, not digital light. I mourned the fact that kids would be read bedtime stories on a little screen. No page turns with that smooth paper sound, that tactile feel of the book in hand. I was pretty adamant about the whole thing — I really did not want to join the digital books bandwagon. Realizing that I was too hesitant to embrace this new technology, I made myself take an online class, The Book as iPad. As you can read in this post, that was a real eye-opener. I did it because I’ve had parents ask me how they can compete with book apps — their kids want to play with the books on the iPad instead of read a bedtime story (and I work in a very rural area, far from Silicon Valley); I did it because younger colleagues were asking me what I thought about eBooks. Pretty quickly, I have had to reassess my hesitance and embrace this technology. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, experimenting, and brainstorming. While I have not yet used an iPad in storytime, I know it is just a matter of time (and getting the right adapter!). The discussion that has been happening here on the blog and the ALSC list-serv is so helpful — I am compiling resources and ideas like mad. And as a librarian who has been around for a while, I would like to encourage other fence-sitters to step outside their comfort zone, dip their toes into the digital waters, and give it a chance. I no longer fear for the paper book, nor do I fear that storytime will go the way of the dinosaur. In fact, I think we can make books and storytimes even more enticing if we embrace what kids and young parents are fascinated with, and combine them all into one big fun party at the library.
And, if occasionally, app developers want some children’s librarians to give input, I don’t mind doing that. I’m happy that they recognize us as experts in the field of children’s lit. Yes, they are going to make money, and they aren’t paying me, but so are the daycares I go to and read for free. I’d rather have librarians giving input than corporate execs who don’t even know what ECRR stands for. There’s a happy medium somewhere, and I think we will all find it together!