Children’s Librarians! We need to build a mechanism by which we can work together to evaluate and recommend apps for kids on a large scale, and I know how we can do it.
Yesterday I spoke with Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime for the first time. She is full of wonderful information, is incredibly well spoken and knows the kids’ app world better than anyone else I know. She told me that it’s the highest compliment she can receive when someone asks if she’s a children’s librarian (she’s not) because her area of expertise is book-based apps for kids. She told me how in 2010, when she went into her local library to get recommendations for book based apps to share with her son, she was given the cold shoulder by the children’s librarian and told to read a paper book instead. So she took it upon herself to take her background in teacher training and social work and become an expert in digital media for kids. “If librarians are not going to supervise this new playground of [digital] children’s literature to make sure the equipment is safe, then I am.” Compared to Carisa’s work, Little eLit is in the dark ages. She saw a need for this way before I did, and I see the need for this way before most other children’s librarians do. Colleagues; we have some catching up to do.
I told Carissa about a recent conversation on the ALSC listserv and blog where some librarians were recommending that we as children’s librarians should stick our collective heads in the sand, pretend the technology doesn’t exist and only recommend paper books. She and I agreed that the long-term studies that will support the inclusion of digital media in literacy programming for kids is at least a decade off. Does that mean that we AREN’T going to begin to develop best practices around using this new format with kids? NO! Tablet technology is pervasive and parents are using it anyway. Abstinence-only education doesn’t work. Telling parents that they shouldn’t use technology with their less-than-five-year old child is not an acceptable course of action for professionals who pride themselves on evaluating, curating and recommending high quality media for children.
So what can we do? Carisa had an amazing idea. What if children’s librarians work together to build a tool for evaluating and recommending apps? Sure there are review sites like SLJ, Horn Book, Kirkus, Appitic, Common Sense Media and Digital Storytime, but even these only scratch the surface of book based and educational apps for kids. It’s time we started working together to apply our collection development and programming expertise to the ever-expanding, dynamic, and useful world of children’s interactive media. Carisa has offered to help us build a system by which we can tag, comment on, organize and curate apps that we discover that are high quality, safe, educational and well-designed. All we have to do is tell her what kind of information we’d want in there, and she’ll see what she can do about building the database.
Here are some more specifics from Carisa:
We could set up a test server for you & anyone else from ALSC to test it out. It would be based on the software we built to show price drops on kids apps, with curated ‘tabs’, although most of the elements & visual look of the page can be changed, this give you an idea: http://edapps4sale.com/?BookWe can customize it quite a bit & remove the price-tracking feature and/or add in other types of categorization, maybe based on a group of at least 6 people willing to act as a steering committee and committed to beta testing before the software is opened to a larger group of librarians (and to help handle technical questions as it launches). Initially I can simply have a version of the blank database set up at one of the url’s we use for testing, just for you to log in and play with it. We can host it, or if you have technical folks who are willing to step-up, we can simply give you the code.
Children’s librarians! Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff in the app world for kids. Let’s bring those evaluation skills into the digital age. Comment below, contact me on Twitter, or fill out my contact form to start this conversation.
I’ve been continuing my search for resources and guidance on collection development for apps in libraries. Tess Prendergast, a PhD student at UBC and a Children’s librarian at VPL pointed me to the work of Francesca de Freitas, who uses apps in her position as a Children’s Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library. Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime sent me the presentation by Carolina Nugent at KinderTown.
Check out the Digital Media Diet’s Top 10 iPad Book Apps for Halloween! And for the record, I prefer weird, misshapen pumpkins too.