Monday, January 6, 2014

Gadgets Galore!

The State Library has a collection of Technology Petting Zoos (TPZs), created as part of the BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities) Program, which allowed libraries to experience all sorts of new gadgets and devices without having to actually purchase them. This was great when the ebook and tablet revolution exploded - we all needed a chance to try downloading to a variety of devices, as each seemed to have its own little quirks, and every patron seemed to choose a different one! Nooks, Kindles, iPads and iPods - the list goes on. Over time (less than 3 years if you think about it) technology has changed enough to make some of the earlier devices obsolete (first generation iPad, I'm thinking of you) and the software and process of downloading a little less difficult. I recently tried to download a new app on the iPad in my TPZ, only to get a message that it needed to be upgraded. Going through the process (which involves an iTunes account, something I needed to create since I didn't have any account information from the previous user) I got the message that my device was up to date - but not enough, apparently. This has led to a complete reconsideration of the TPZs and what they should contain. Last week I pulled out all the devices to see exactly what I had: 2 Sony ereaders, an iPad and iPod (with keyboard!), an older Kindle (but not the original - this wants to think it has wi-fi), 2 Google iRiver devices (something I admit I'd never heard of!), a Nook color tablet, a Sansa SanDisk MP3 player and another device for low-vision users HumanWare Victor Reader - a digital talking book reader according to the website). Trying out the Kindle reminded me of the frustrations early users ran across - it found the wi-fi network but trying to navigate to enter the password was an ordeal, and it wouldn't connect. The bottom line from this exercise: not much is really useful. The question is what should we have? If our goal is to help users (librarians and their patrons) become familiar with downloading e-books and audiobooks, the list of compatible devices (from OverDrive, what most patrons would be using) is still fairly extensive - we can't possibly have all of them. But as patrons become more familiar with all this technology, maybe we don't really need to have a collection; we just need to be able to help them with their own device. Even OverDrive has developed a program where libraries can check out devices to patrons to try out the procedure, and all information is deleted from the device when returned. I'm going to try out the Nook Color now - that seems to be the most up-to-date gadget in my kit. I bet it still involves creating some sort of account!

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