Library receives iPads to boost childhood literacy, learning

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 31, 2016

ROSEVILLE — A pair of iPads in bright blue cases rest on desks in the children’s section of the Roseville Public Library.

Loaded with free educational apps from Khan Academy, PBS Kids and others, the iPads are similar to those that kids — and adults — may be familiar with from operating a smartphone or tablet, Assistant Library Director Annamarie Lindstrom said.

Library Director Jackie Harvey said the library had the option to purchase iPads through the Suburban Library Cooperative at a group discount rate since last year, but could not afford them without assistance at the time. They did see a need for them at that time and approached the Friends of the Roseville Public Library for help.

“At least weekly, the librarians noticed young children touching the computer monitors in the building, as if they were touch screens like tablets or smartphones,” Harvey said in an email. “If young children were comfortable using touch screens, then we had to try to offer them in the library.”

The Friends of the Roseville Public Library organization paid for the two tablets through the library cooperative, Lindstrom said, and the tablets arrived around early May. The iPads came preloaded with educational software focused on early childhood literacy.

“These are all early literacy apps, aimed at 2- to 5-year-olds,” she said. “We thought we would start with those, and then at some point in the future through suggestions or reviews we’d add additional apps.”

Lindstrom said an added benefit of starting with free apps is that they become things parents can look into at home if they have these kinds of devices. She said parents have asked previously about the availability of children’s software on the library’s computers.

Aside from some early reading and writing programs, the library’s iPads also feature early math apps that cover counting and some other basic concepts, finger painting and Lego apps, and a literacy program where kids can choose books in multiple languages.

There are a few key differences that do set them apart for security and safety reasons. The iPads do not have Internet access, nor can any additional apps be “purchased” by someone simply playing around on the device, Lindstrom said. Rather, the Suburban Library Cooperative will be able to add apps or work with the device remotely as part of the existing computer network agreement, she said, though staff will also be able to access the devices themselves.

So far, the library has not done any advertising for the iPads. Lindstrom said they have noticed that kids who come in for children’s events or just to browse have seen them and started playing around with them since installation.

Going forward, Lindstrom said she hopes they can expand the number of iPads and the range of visitors they are geared toward.

“At some point in the future, we hope we could add additional iPads and load them (with) apps for our older users, like our teen and juvenile patrons,” Lindstrom said. “The other day, we were wandering around trying to determine where we could put them, but at this point we don’t have that problem.”

Harvey said the library could not afford to ignore these technological changes in the world.

“This type of technology is not a luxury in the public library any longer — it is a necessity,” she said in an email.