iPads at the Airport

Like iPads, and think they could work in a public space? Check this video out! I recently saw a bunch of iPads at the Delta terminal at LaGuardia airport in New York, and took a short video of them. Here’s a link to some photos, too.

Basically, here’s what I saw – hundreds of iPads in the airport terminal gates, secured to tables with a cable. Each iPad had airport info, news, games, a restaurant menu, and web access apps installed. You could order items from the restaurant via a credit card swiper beside the iPad. No signup, no waiting list – just find an empty iPad and start using it. Here’s a couple of news articles written about this experiment.

The only real problem I saw was one of sorta gross smudges on the iPads. Thankfully, I also saw someone walking around, cleaning the screens.

iPads in the airportI think this type of setup could easily work in a library setting! Here are some starter thoughts on potential uses:

  • catalog-only computers
  • computer “overflow” – get out the iPads!
  • Simple browsing stations. Who needs PCs?
  • Complete mobile technology in the library – no PCs needed (with those handy self-service tablet checkout machines that were being shown in the exhibit hall at ALA Annual). Just check out an iPad, then take it wherever you want to in the library.
  • Out-of-the-building events
  • For staff, they could work nicely as roving reference tools.

Question – how does your library use iPads or mobile tablet technology? I’ll start: so far, we have some iPads that staff can check out for a learning opportunity, we have experimented with them for roving reference, and we teach a class on using an iPad. How about you?

Copying Other Websites During a Redesign

During my library’s last website redesign, we went through quite a few design iterations, and we still weren’t happy. Two people in our Creative Group team (more on that in the next post) … ok, our head of marketing and the deputy director … kept sending us website examples they liked. Sites like shoe stores or clothing shops. Yes, they were beautiful websites, and nicely designed. But they weren’t really all that similar to a library website.

One big difference – these attractive websites did one thing well – they sold shoes or clothes. They didn’t have any catalog to speak of. The websites were full of single pages that pointed to single items.

But a library website has at least two basic needs – a site that talks about the library, and shares useful stuff. And we have a library catalog. So it didn’t really make much sense to me to base our library website design around a site that only does half of what we do.

So I started poking around, looking for websites that focus on two things:

  1. stuff, like a storefront.
  2. a “catalog” of some sort.

Amazon and Zappos? Pretty much all catalog. News sites? Pretty much large multi-blog sites – focusing on stuff. Then it dawned on me – library websites are like Apple. Apple essentially has two separate websites – the main site that focuses on their stuff, and their “catalog” – their online store.

We based our redesign around Apple, in these ways:

  • Top horizontal navigation with drop down menus. We also found some “nav bar inspiration” at NPR’s website.
  • Focusing on a single large ad, then a couple of smaller ones, then more detailed content below that – based on many of Apple’s pages. This directs customers to a few things that you REALLY WANT THEM TO DO, while still having easy access to everything else.
  • A prominent link to the store. That’s where you’d click “Find Stuff” to get to our three catalogs (catalog, digital downloads catalog, and DVD dispenser catalog).

So far, it’s working out great – few complaints, lots of compliments. Our public trainers have told us they cut down training on how to use our website from an hour to 10-15 minutes. Fingers crossed that it stays that way for a while!

Video Creation at the Library

The video in this post is just me, playing around with a greenscreen for the first time (and playing around with the new Final Cut Pro X – nice app!). So in the video, first you’ll see me with a green background. Then I replace the green color with black, and then I replace it with a silly image.

Yay – I figured out how to use our greenscreen!

Towards the end of the video, I show off the beginnings of my library’s video studio (and I have to say – I really need to work on my video narration skills. I can do it pretty well when I do a little prep work, but not so much when it’s off-the-cuff. Yikes!).

So, our video studio. It’s really just some office space we weren’t using anymore. We cleaned it out (it had turned into storage), painted one wall with a bucket of chroma key greenscreen paint, and set up a couple of computers in the room:

  • Computer #1: A PC that we use for creating screencasts. We use Techsmith’s Camtasia.
  • Computer #2: an Apple iMac with Final Cut Pro, iMovie, GarageBand, etc on it. We use it for video editing, and for creating our HUSH podcast series.

Assuming our Board of Trustees votes our 2012 budget into existence next month, I’ll be able to buy some more video equipment next year! I plan to get a backdrop stand, some backdrops, and a lighting set. Most likely, I’ll also buy some microphones – especially some wireless mics. Take a good listen to the audio in my video – adequate, but not great. I used the internal mic on the video camera, which picked my voice up fine … it also picked up a bunch of room sound. That can be easily fixed with better mics!

That’s what we’re doing, anyway. How are you growing your organization’s video setup?

Doing a Presentation with the iPad

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a presentation using my iPad, and it worked out pretty well! I used the iPad version of Keynote (Apple’s Powerpoint-like presentation software). Keynote has a handy-dandy presenter notes feature that is really easy to use, so your notes are on your screen, and your slides still appear on the LCD projector – in a much easier and user-friendly way than Powerpoint.

Guess what? The iPad version of Keynote does the same thing. The screengrab above shows the presenter notes view on the iPad. If there’s more text than shows on the screen, just use your finger to scroll down to the rest of the text.

You also use your finger to advance slides – just swipe the screen, and slides advance. Swipe the other way to go back a slide. Pretty simple to use!

Now – how did it work?

  • It was really easy to set up and use – I just needed to get the iPad VGA adapter, and plug that into our LCD projector. Then the iPad magically did everything else, so I didn’t have to mess with screen resolution compatibility, etc.
  • I was able to stand up in front of the room (I was presenting for the library’s Board of Trustees, who sit at a long table) with no podium – I just held the iPad, and finger-swiped away.

There were a couple of oddities, too:

  • If you stand with the iPad, you need to hold onto the VGA cable. Otherwise, the weight of the cable will pull iPad VGA adapter out of your iPad. Not good.
  • Finger swiping the slides felt a bit odd to me – I’m used to clicking a hand-held thingie to advance slides.
  • Most important – the on-screen slide appeared first, followed by the presenter notes, so there was a bit of lag time. It looked weird for a bit, so I was swiping back and forth, looking for the correct notes, until I figured out the 1 second lag. Once I figured that out, I was ok.

So – looking to do a presentation without having to lug around a laptop? You might consider using an iPad/Keynote setup – easy stuff!

iPads in Libraries – Some Stories

There are quite a few uses for an iPad in a library setting, and some libraries have already started experimenting. Here are two examples:

#1: Omaha Public Library

From Amy Mather – “For the past few years, the Omaha Public Library’s Summer Reading Program kick-off party has been held in Elmwood Park in Omaha and has attracted up to 2500 kids for kick-off activities including live music, games,  pony rides, etc. Although always a success, we had one glaring “missed opportunity” at these events: signing up kids & teens for the Summer Reading program “online” at an outside venue.”

“Gary Wasdin, director of Omaha Public Library, applied for a local grant to obtain 6 iPads in which we could use to signup kids & adults for the Summer Reading Program. The iPads would allow us to connect to the AT&T’s 3G network and signup patrons on the spot for the Summer Reading Program. On June 9th, we signed up over 500 kids, teens, and adults using iPads. The iPad allowed us to take the mobile library to the next level and we looked really cool too!”

#2: Genesee Valley Educational Partnership

From Christopher Harris – “I am at a school library system, a regional support center funded by NY state to provide services and resources for 22 small, rural school districts in Western NY. Since we got the iPads so late in the year, right now we are just loaning them to teachers and librarians to build awareness in our districts. Over the summer, we will be working on developing some best practice guidelines and suggested uses for the devices. We hope to begin lending them for student use in the fall, though they may be for in-school use only the first year as they remain a very high-value theft target. We have 150 iPod shuffles we send home with students without any problems, so hopefully we will get to that point soon with the iPads as well.”

“Right now, we are loaning books from iBooks. My reading of the terms of use suggest that we can do this within our system. I am also working directly with publishers to secure additional content. We have a number of graphic novel biographies from Rosen, as well as a large collection (125 sci-fi/fantasy books) that I just got from another publisher. As for other apps, we purchased Pages/Keynote/Numbers and have 5 keyboard docks we can send out. We also have Dragon Dictation, Sundry Notes, Complete Shakespeare, Historical Maps, and a few others.”

What are these two libraries doing?

  • fixing a problem (signing up kids online … in a park)
  • experimenting … but also developing guidelines and strategy for use
  • breaking out of the “this is the way we’ve always done it” syndrome
  • applying new technology to traditional library services

Is your library experimenting with iPads? If so – how are you using them?