Tomorrow we’ll have a department meeting at the library, about the future of our « digital lounge » , there it is behind the link.
It has been three years now since it opened to the patrons, quite a constant success, but maybe it diverted from its original destination : we have to assess now what is relevant and what is not in this experience.
When the lounge was created, tablets had just surfaced in France, electronic reading was not so common, so we wanted to provide a wider access to these new tools.
After the first months of discovery and surprise, our role was mostly to deliver buying advices to the elderly, and to explain the smooth running of the devices, which is a little bit deceptive. Even among us librarians, the expectations were not the same. You can see this experience as a new window to knowledge, as well as you can figure it out more simply as a gateway to the digital world.
Not surprisingly, electronic readers didn’t meet the general public. It’s less flashy, less immediate than tablets, and…you seldom have a complete internet access. Eventually, people stuck to the tablets, and the general use was webmail and access to the world wide web.
So, for the present librarian, the question that arises when you display electronic devices is : « which resources should I propose to the patrons ? ». The profit we bring to the patrons should derive from the selection we do upstream, but also from the needs of the patrons. Should we buy apps, and should we guide the patron among the jungle of iOS and android applications ? There is a term you meet more often these days in the professional papers in France : it’s « applithécaire », which you could translate by « appbrarian ».
My personal opinion about buying apps is mixed : in a public library, it’s not necessary, it’s not compulsory to influence the patron in its apps choices. We don’t really need to buy apps for the patrons. The field of information is just so vast when you use other channels in the library (internet, our collections), that apps don’t necessarily bring new or essential material. It can be very convenient for a specific use, but not that essential in the knowledge field.
But, one resource is different, very different, because of the medium : yes, it’s press. It’s so convenient to read press on a tablet. There are tons of press apps on iPad, sure they could find their way in the newspapers and periodical areas of our libraries. I like Google Play Newsstand on Android myself, despite the former version was slightly better in navigation, but it’s ok. And when it comes to academic journals, of course applications tend to be more specific. Browzine is a very good example, there are references in Open Access and also to University Libraries Subscriptions, it’s okay for the newbie.
So, except for press, I believe that the benefits of selecting apps for patrons using tablets is limited. But maybe I’ll change my mind after our meeting tomorrow.