5 ways for libraries to utilize the iPad

If you believe rampant speculation, tomorrow Steve Jobs will announce a new, white, extra thin, USB integrated iPad 2. More importantly, they will probably be cheaper and a little more affordable for libraries. It is a given that iPads could be used in libraries as digital lending devices, but the reach of possibilities extends much further than just a platform for ebooks. My philosophy is “brainstorm now, pay later” so here’s my top five ideas for iPads in the library, shallow pockets notwithstanding:

1. A touch wall of iPads as conceptualized by the ClareHopkinsClarke architectural firm, for book browsing and interactive learning. The wall pictured would cost $150k for 300 iPads, so brush off your grant writing skills.

2. A digital lending device using OverDrive. The company just announced their new iPad app for libraries, allowing patrons to download library books from a wireless server and read them locally on the iPad. A digtal content industry executive called the app “breathtaking.”

3. An iPad chair. At Gottesman Libraries we are all too familiar with the importance of comfy study seating. This chair combines a recliner with a built-in viewing station, a great place to watch your Reserves videos. I don’t think the leather would be approved by our architect, but surely upholstery can be negotiated.

4. An iPad newsstand, ideal for library cafes. Our cafe is already a hub for media and current events. With iPads tethered to cafe tables, multiple copies of current periodicals could be made available, along with the Associated Press and NYT news apps and Internet browsing. The fact that iPads are not multiple-user friendly has been pointed out by many Apple devotees and perhaps this will be changed in the upgrade, but currently a user’s iTunes password is saved for 15 minutes after login, which could allow patrons to go on a shopping spree. This would not be too difficult to monitor, though–if staff logs in to perform upgrades or make a purchase, just hold onto it for 15 minutes before putting the device back in circulation. There are even waterproof cases available, to assuage concerns about spilled lattes.

5. A self-checkout device. It depends on your ILS vendor, but Innovative Interfaces offers a software called Express Lane that is supported for Mac and PC, so it’s not a far stretch that an iPad app could also be released. If you use III, you’ll have to buy an additional device for desensitizing security strips. iPads are so small you could put them almost anywhere in the library and you won’t even have to hire a contractor and electrician make it possible.

At the rate the library field is changing, we may even be able to steal Stephen Colbert’s idea and use the iPad to chop vegetables. What better incentive for visiting the library than free chips and salsa?