Back in the “technological dark ages” at least a year ago or more, when a group of children were sitting together in the library not talking, they were playing their Nintendo DS together via the library’s wi-fi. Oh how times have changed. Now it means you have a bunch of kids on their iPod Touches on the library’s wi-fi!
In my community over the past six months or so, the “it” gift for tweens and even kids as young as six or seven has been an iPod Touch. Whether brand-new or refurbished, I swear practically everyone got an iPod Touch for Christmas this past year! Sitting in corners on the floor or on couches in the children’s area, there are small people buried in their devices.
Apparently, for the parents, this was a gift of practicality because of the Facetime app or iMessage. These were ways for their kids to have text messaging capabilities without actually getting their kids an actual cell phone. Not being an iPhone or Mac user, this was all news to me. I knew nothing of these apps. However, it did mean that these kids had something that used apps! And the library now had several app-based services: the Overdrive app for ebooks, the Freegal app for music, and the Zinio app for downloadable magazines.
We’ve been aggressively trying to teach adults how to download and use the apps on their various devices. Now we needed to show kids. Unfortunately now all the reference staff had to know about how to use the different apps. There was no longer a good excuse of “my patrons don’t use this so I don’t need to know it.” So far the reaction to the apps has been mixed from the kids. The first problem we ran into was some kids’ iPod Touches were password protected. They couldn’t download any apps without their parents putting in a password. The next challenges were the apps themselves. In the kids’ eyes, there was hardly anything available as an ebook that they wanted to read so the Overdrive app was a waste! So far Zinio has been a complete bust as well! Fortunately we realized the problem before we started to talk to kids about it. There are practically no magazines for the non-teenager or adult crowd available. So with no magazines to interest them, the kids haven’t been excited about Zinio at all.
Freegal…now that’s another story! It has been very successful. The kids love that they can download music for free. Admittedly it’s three songs per week, but the kids are so excited. That by far has been the most popular app we have helped kids download and use. We’ve had kids getting their own library cards so they don’t have to share song with their parents or siblings because they were using their parents’ library cards.
At the end of the day, the kids really mostly come to the library with their iPod Touches to use the wi-fi and play games against their friends. And when there’s a lock-in, they use the text messaging apps to send their parents and friends periodic updates on what they are or are not doing. And don’t even get me started on Facebook status posts they make during that time!
The point of this story…. relatively young children have devices and need to be introduced to the app based products your library offers. If you’re not familiar with them yourself, now you have a reason. Know what’s available so you can show your “kids” all the cool library apps they can put on their iPod Touches.
Melanie A. Lyttle
Children and Technology Committee