The pilot tablet loan program at Concordia’s libraries is only in its second week and it is already proving very popular with students. A visit to the library website shows that all 25 tablets are out on loan.
Concordia is the first academic library in Quebec with a tablet loan program, although other school libraries lend out digital reading devices (McGill has a program which loans out Sony Readers).
After conducting a needs analysis and consulting with McGill, Concordia University Libraries decided to purchase the iPad for its tablet loan program instead of a digital reader because the more versatile devices would allow better access to the university’s digital collection.
Tablets are convenient for students seeking to access the library's extensive collection of e-books and other digital resources. They also support productivity tools and certain other apps that students find useful in their studies. As well, some digital readers must be plugged into computers in order to download documents, whereas the iPad connects directly to the Internet.
“Anything that is available on the web is available on the iPad,” says Guylaine Beaudry, director of the Webster Library. “So we thought that it was better suited to our students’ needs.”
The tablet loan period is three days, with a fine of $10 for each day that the device is late. During the loan period, students are free to download apps to the device using their own iTunes accounts and experiment with the tablet’s functionality. “We consider that we’re providing not only a device, but also a library, which is why we decided to unlock the iPad,” Beaudry says.
Upon their return, the iPads are completely wiped of all personal information and any apps added by students. The library has purchased a Bretford Powersync Cart for the purpose of easily and efficiently “resyncing” the tablets, or restoring them to the state in which they were loaned out. The cart can sync up to 30 iPads at a time.
The tablets come equipped with some pre-loaded apps deemed useful and appropriate by librarians. One such app is Goodreader, which allows students to annotate documents as they read them — underlining or highlighting passages they wish to refer back to later. The tablets are also loaded with several news and reference apps, and some shortcuts to suggested apps.
Beaudry explains that since Concordia has so many different programs, coming up with a list of apps to load onto the tablet presented a challenge. However, as part of the pilot program, students who borrow the tablets are being asked to complete a survey, and provide a list of apps they think would be useful for students. They are also being asked why they borrowed the tablet, which pre-installed apps they found useful, and whether they think the tablet program is worthwhile. The library relies on user feedback from such pilot projects as guidance in the development of new library services.
Beaudry prefers not to guess how many tablets the school will have in its loan program in a year’s time, but judging from the pilot program’s popularity, it’s sure to be more than 25. “If there is a demand to acquire more tablets, we will consider what we can do with our budget,” she says. “We did the same with laptops. We started with five, and now we have 180 laptops in the loan service.”
Mobile site now available
For students who borrow a tablet, one useful site to check out is Concordia’s mobile library site. Designed for use on tablets and smart phones, this mobile site provides access to CLUES, the library’s online loan service, and its catalogue. It also provides the library’s hours and contact information, as well as an online chat function, which allows users to consult with a librarian in real time. On its site, the library also has a list of useful apps for mobile devices for Concordia students, some of which are already loaded onto the iPad tablets.
• Library’s list of useful apps
• Tablet loans page
• “Research for the masses” — NOW, October 18, 2011
• Concordia University Libraries