In many ways, it is difficult to believe that my library has been circulating iPads in the children’s library for almost three years. Despite the continued discourse on the role of tablet technology among pre-readers, there is no question that children and families have continued to integrate such devices into their lives. In our community parents look to the librarians to guide their app selections, or at least point them towards the resources that can assist in discerning which purchases to make.
It first began with the preschool set, as our library made the decision to circulate Early Literacy Kits. The idea was to infuse tech into what we as children’s librarians were already expounding to parents and caregivers about the practices they can master in order to cultivate a reader. Now after so many parents have expressed that their child has already “Spot the Red Dot,” so to speak, what’s next?
After the debut of our nonfiction reorganization we began thinking of ways to market the collection glades and showcase other resources that reflected these areas. Time and time again we kept hearing requests to circulate tablets for school-age children. Some of our initial concerns stemmed from the prevalence in the community of iPads in the home. Was there even really a need with most families already owning at least one device? We realized that this wasn’t the case for all families, and if anything a lot of the feedback has been that patrons look to our curated list of apps as the main draw. With this encouragement, why not mirror some of the same subjects we wanted to point kids to in redefining how we navigate nonfiction? Our focus would be to highlight apps that inform, engage, and are used to create. Looking to a previous attempt at providing tweens with circulating devices that dissolved, we knew that we could give our Tween Tabs new life.
The method of circulating, updating, and restricting the devices would match the process of the early literacy tablets. Due to other initiatives we wouldn’t be able to roll out six iPads at once, but decided to test-drive the service with two tablets. Instead of the 5 Early Literacy Practices, we would be dividing our apps into the new nonfiction glades: Facts, Traditions, Create, Sports, Self, Fun, Animals, STEM, Then & Now, adding Bio and Languages to round it out. Compiling some of our favorites from the past few years, which we have demoed in programs and sometimes spontaneously in the stacks, the total list included over 70 apps.
From homework help apps like Stack the States, Prezi, and the American Presidents for iPad, to brainteasers like Rube Works and American Girl Doll Trivia, the reception has been quite astounding. There are currently over 20 holds on the kits, while pitching the new offering has purely been accomplished through word of mouth. Families are eager to use language resources like Gus on the Go: Mandarin and Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds, and STEM picks Motion Math: Match, Hopscotch, and Oh No! Fractions. Personally, my heart tends to gravitate towards apps that give kids the ability to produce art digitally, like Easy Studio, Photogene, Bloom HD, and Auryn Ink.
Whatever new technologies are making waves, let’s continue to make sure we are providing these services for a variety of age groups in the community.
Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at email@example.com.
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