Once upon a time, libraries just loaned books. They they started to let patrons check out records, tapes and DVDs. Now in an increasingly digital world, at least one library is attempting to stay relevant by loaning out iPads.
The L.E. Phillips Memorial Library in Eau Claire, Wis. announced it will allow patrons to check out an iPad for up to a week to partake of a preloaded tablet with more than 1,000 digital books, 10 audiobooks and various links and applications, according to the library's website. From the site:
The goal of the iPad lending program is to provide library customers with opportunities to gain familiarity and comfort with new technology that allows them to make use of alternative methods of enjoying the written and spoken word and to more fully explore the Internet and its vast resources.
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While AllThingsD seemed to indicate this was all an ad for Apple, it's more about the changing face of libraries.
"There's been a profound shift in how people consume information," Robert Berring, a law professor who specializes in the publishing industry at the Berkeley School of Law, told Press:Here. "My undergrads don't read in paper form anymore. (If I assign a book) they ask if they can get it on Kindle. . . . It's going to kill libraries."
The only option is for brick-and-mortar libraries to change their focus from bookshelves to gateways to digital technology, said Daniel E. Atkins, a professor of information and computer science at the University of Michigan. "They have been predicting the demise of public libraries now for two decades," he told Press:Here. "I think that libraries have shifted from places that own things to places that provide access to things."
The iPad lending is symbolic of this -- giving access to a tablet computer that people would not have otherwise. And if Android wants to compete seriously with Apple, it should start donating its Chromebooks to libraries immediately.