Eau Claire (Press Release) - Without a doubt, the iPad lending project begun last year at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire has succeeded beyond all expectations.
Initially funded by a grant from The Presto Foundation, the project has provided area residents the opportunity to borrow Apple iPads for the purpose of gaining familiarity with emerging technology, specifically devices that offer a new way to access and use information and media.
The library began lending iPads to customers on September 21, 2011. The project was an instant newsmaker that sparked lead-story coverage by local media as well as a great deal of nationwide coverage, including NBC (San Francisco Bay area), Fox News, LA Times, and American Libraries Direct. Online forums, (outlets such as AllThingsD, Daily Tech, Mashable, Gotta Be Mobile, Tech News Daily, INFODocket, Digital Trends, TUAW, and endgadget, for example) were especially excited about the project, and there was even a little international coverage. Although there were a couple of other public libraries loaning one or two iPads prior to the project's launch, the public library in Eau Claire appears to have been the first public library in the country to begin lending iPads in such large numbers.
Demand for the iPads was high for quite some time after their introduction, and at one point the number of holds remained around 400. There were constantly 350-plus holds for the first six months. By early October 2012, iPads designated for checkout had been borrowed more than 1,000 times, and in-house use iPads had been checked out almost 600 times.
Remarkably, there have been few customer or equipment problems. Prior to the program launch, library staff developed policies, use guidelines and training documents that helped inform and educate would-be borrowers about the use and care of iPads, and security optionsand protective cases were researched in depth. This advance planning along with customers' attentiveness has resulted in only a few incidents of minor wear and tear and the occasional overdue return. Serious issues relating to the lending of the iPads have been extremely rare. Considering all the customers that have borrowed iPads and the number of times they have been lent, library staff have been pleased with how well everything has gone.
The library website's iPad page (http://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/services/library-services/ipads.html) has been continuously updated; it includes iPad resources, guidelines and agreements, video tutorials, and accessibility guides. It also includes information on the library's "easy start" version of the iPad. This special streamlined version contains less library-added content, thus making for easier navigation. For added accessibility, the Zoom feature is enabled on all Easy Start iPads (making it easier to use for those with visual impairments), and most of the content does not require Wi-Fi, so nearly everything will work without Internet access.
Throughout this past year, more than 30 libraries have contacted Eau Claire's public library to inquire about the lending program – many from the Midwest; others from as far away as Los Angeles, British Columbia and Sweden. Library staff members have responded to inquiries through a combination of e-mails, phone calls and in-person visits, and they have also presented information about the program at the Lake Superior Libraries Symposium, the Minnesota Library Association and the Wisconsin Library Association conferences. Locally, library staff members have been invited to present information about the iPad lending program to several community groups, and they continue to work with organizations throughout the area to spread the word about iPad lending availability.
The purchase of a desktop video magnifier was also made possible thanks to a grant from the Foundation. Library staff and customers extensively evaluated a variety of magnifier models and, in March 2012, a desktop video magnifier was selected for purchase. It is now available at the library for anyone to use. The magnifier makes it possible for those with vision impairments to more easily read print documents.
For information, stop at Information & Reference on your next visit to the library, call 715-839-5004, or e-mail the library at email@example.com. To learn more about library programs, check our library events calendar at www.ecpubliclibrary.info.