I’m a gadget person. There’s no doubt about it. Some make fun of me for it, but really, if I didn’t try out new gadgets and technology regularly, I would not be aware of what to look towards when thinking about library services for teens now and in the future. For that reason, I did purchase an iPad shortly after it was released. And, while some wonder why I love my iPad when to them it seems just like a big iPhone I have to say, “If you only knew, It’s so much more.” The larger screen, the consuming and creating capabilities, the way in which I can use it for work, all of these make it a game-changing device. It’s not game-changer just for people like me – gadget loving women and men – but also for people working with and providing service to teens. A few reasons why:
- Gaming: Many have talked about why the iPhone, somewhat unexpectedly, is a great gaming platform. But, it’s also true, and maybe even more so, that the iPad is a device that is perfect for games and, unlike the iPhone, it’s perfect for playing board games face-to-face. This can be accomplished by either putting the device on a table and having people sit around, just like they would with a traditional board game, or passing the device around as different people take turns. The fact that it is also perfect for face-to-face game play makes me wonder, how does this fit into library service to teens? Will teen services departments make iPads available for teens to use for game play in the library? Will teens begin using their own iPads to play games with their friends face-to-face while in the library? Games are already a part of library service to teens in many libraries, how will the iPad be integrated into that service area? Ars Technica published a good article on the iPad and board games recently. You may want to check it out.
- Working: While it certainly is possible to create and edit documents on an iPhone, in reality it’s not that comfortable a thing to do. But, with an iPad (or similar tablet computer) it is possible to comfortably and effectively write everything from reports, to articles, to blog posts. One thing people have said to me is, “But, I don’t mind working on my laptop so why is this any better or different?” I know, it may seem odd, but the size and shape of the iPad makes it very conducive to working in a variety of environments on a device with a small footprint and that is easily portable. Think about the teens with whom you work. What might they prefer to carry around from the library to home to school to a friend’s house? A laptop that has to go into a backpack and/or special case, or a tablet computer like the iPad that can easily fit under an arm? (Or in a dress or suit pocket for that matter.) Think too about being able to pass this lightweight device around to show a friend, family member, or classmate a project that is currently in the works. It’s a lot easier to do that then requiring standing over a shoulder to look at a laptop screen. It’s also much more compatible with library work spaces where there might not be enough chairs to pull around a computer, or might not be enough space for the chairs to fit around a computer. This portability and ease of sharing of the physical device has a lot to do with the appeal of the iPad as a tool for getting work done. I know for a fact that portability and ease of sharing is something that has great appeal to teens.
- Reading: I’ve written on this blog before about reading on my iPhone, however, manga, and graphic novels, aren’t available for that device. Now, even that part of the reading world has opened up with the availability of these materials in digital format for the iPad. Marvel has an easy to use app in order to read many of their comics on the iPad and graphic materials are available in the iBooks store. Again, think about teens reading graphic format materials on this device. Just like a book, they can pass it around, but also they can easily access a variety of titles all on the one device and discuss the titles with friends and librarians while sharing the device.
Of course not every teen or librarian/library has an iPad, or will have an iPad. But, ultimately, this isn’t about the iPad. It’s about access to content and the ability to create and consume materials. The ways in which these can be accomplished changed with the introduction of the iPad. For librarians working with teens, it’s time to think about this type of technology as more than a gadget and start to consider it as a tool and resource for successfully connecting and working with teens.