Librarian Call to Action: Reader’s Advisory for Apps

I co-lead a program tonight entitled E-Books, Online Resources & Apps for Parents of Young Children. We had a group of 12 people, all parents of kids ages ranging from 0-6 years old. We had 2 app developers in the room. This was the first program of its kind at the Mountain View Library, and I sincerely hope it’ll be the first of many.

What struck me this evening was that I ended up doing reader’s advisory for apps in the middle of the program.  A woman asked me to recommend some apps to help her 3 year old develop some spatial and mathematical skills.  I used it as a teaching moment; here’s where I would go to find those resources, here’s how I would search, here’s how I would evaluate the results of the search.

Sound familiar, librarians?  It was a classic reader’s advisory/reference question.  My patron was looking for age-appropriate, good quality, educational media to share with her child.  But you know what?  I can bet you those questions don’t get asked much on the children’s reference desk.

Why not?  Why don’t we get asked to recommend apps? I’ll tell you why.  Because the public library has not yet effectively established itself as an authority in this medium.  Yeah, we do books.  We do DVDs.  We even do video games.  But we don’t really do apps yet. The only reason that woman thought to ask me that question was because I was standing at the front of the room saying “Ask me about apps!”

When people want a good app, they do NOT think of the library (or the library’s website) as the place to go to find it. Knowing good books is not going to cut it for the patrons of the future.  Or…. wait a second…… Knowing good books is not going to cut it for the patrons of the NOW. If all you’ve got is books and databases in your bag-o-tricks, get ready to have your budget cut and your community support ho-hum.

Librarians!  This is IT! This is the future! It’s here! If you want to remain relevant in people’s lives, get on board with emerging technology, or you WILL become irrelevant. Learn where to find good quality apps. Learn how to teach others where to find good quality apps. Start regular, ongoing programming in your library based around finding good apps. Someone asks where to find the books on how to design apps? App development program!

Now if I could only find a way to circulate apps the way we can now circ eBooks……..

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Posted on June 29, 2012, in Apps, Libraries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Fire – light ’em 🙂

  2. Librarians will balk at App advisory (Appvisory?) just like they did at open stacks, drop-in storytimes, telephone reference, phonograph records, and videocassettes.

    Librarians are not good at reading the writing on the wall. They call it graffiti and try to scrub it away. They will do absolutely nothing, until they are absolutely sure this is the future, that apps are the future, and by that point, it will already be the past.

    I agree, we need to be helping people navigate using the tools that they have, like and use. Great post.

    • It’s funny. Some librarians I know are among the most open-minded, tech savvy, innovative people I know. I interacted with quite a few of them at ALA recently. But you’re right, Mr Mortem, some are the polar opposite. Not only do they do nothing, they actively inhibit the efforts of others who are trying to innovate. “Appvisory,” as you so aptly name it, is just one of many servies the library of the now should be offering. Evolve or die!

  3. here’s a site that might be useful to Librarians
    http://www.childrenandmedia.org.au
    provides reviews of current movies (back to 2002 along with many golden oldies) and apps popular with children, and all from a child development perspective.

  1. Pingback: What? Another Conference? « Little eLit

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