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My library has been checking out iPads to students, staff and faculty for about two weeks now.  On the circulation side of things, there isn’t much to report yet — the iPads have checked out about 20 times between the two of them.  Next semester, we will definitely increase the loan period to at least 1 or 2 days.  Right now, the loan period has been just four hours, in anticipation of high demand.  The demand, however, has not been nearly as much as we expected and we think our patrons would get more out of the iPad if they were able to spend more time with it.

We have been getting excellent responses on our little surveys that are included in the iPad bags.  Most people don’t have any apps to suggest, the few suggestions we do get have been for games.  Overall, patrons have enjoyed just having the opportunity to try out this new gadget they’ve heard so much about. It appears that the folks on campus who are *really* interested in the iPads have already ordered one for themselves, which means we actually get a lot of questions about which apps they should download and how to use the apps they have.

Which brings me to the … “curation” side of things — the library has spent almost $100 on apps for the iPads, which is our limit for now.  Since both iPads are syncing to the same iTunes account, we only have to buy apps once for them to appear on both devices.  Would this still be true if we had 20 devices?  That I don’t know.  Of the amount we’ve spent on apps, over half was for productivity / document creation.  These include QuickOffice, the Apple trinity of iWork apps, a to do list app, and a PDF annotating app.

Unfortunately, this means that by the time we started getting feedback from patrons, we did not have app-purchasing funds left for games.  So I have been adding any free games I can find that don’t appear to require in-app purchases in order to play.  We also have the values of the college to consider – being a Franciscan university – apps that promote shooting people are not quite within our purview.  Have you found free games for the iPad that would work for this kind of setting?  Please share in the comments!

And I cannot say enough good things about the content available out on iTunes U.  Sure, some of it is dorky and some might be lower quality, but overall there are some excellent videos and audio recordings to be had for the taking.  Our library iPads have several gigabytes of just iTunes content alone.  We have short videos from the early 1900’s thanks to the Library of Congress, we have lectures on social marketing thanks to MIT, and lessons on creative writing thanks to Open University.  Amazing.

Our next step is finding out how to use these devices in the classroom.  I have a running list of bookmarks about the iPad being used for educational purposes, but the challenge we keep running into is the whole temporary problem I mentioned before.  For example, we had a really big class in the library’s computer lab for an instruction session last week.  Every computer was taken, so the late arriving students were handed the iPads from the Circulation Desk in order to follow along with our database how-to.  They were able to do all the browsing and searching just fine, but when it came time to email their results to themselves, the iPad wanted an email account already set up, which would not have been efficient at all in light of the one hour these students had with the device.  The students on the PCs were able to just copy/paste their results into a Word document and save it to their campus network space.

I am optimistic about the operating system upgrade that should be coming next month (hopefully) for at least the multi-tasking activities.  But getting files on and off the iPad is still a challenge and probably will continue to be.

This weekend I will get to use the iPad in the very setting I’ve wanted it for all along — conferences!  I will be at the Iowa Library Association Conference, taking notes one way or another on the iPad.  In fact, I won’t even bring my laptop with me on the trip.  My challenge to myself is to take notes and write a blog post all from within the iPad’s apps.  Stay tuned.