A question was posed on PUBYAC recently about how libraries are managing their iPads with timer and/or reservation systems. As replies indicate, this question can follow from two motivations: 1) allowing all interested customers to use library devices in a timely fashion; and 2) limiting any individual customer from excessive device usage. The PUBYAC post received four responses about time management for devices; thanks to the folks on PUBYAC for the following contributions:
1. We use a Google doc wait list maintained by staff. We also have a ton of gaming equipment [that we have been loaning out] so adding iPads was minor.
2. We don’t have any type of reservation software for our iPads, but we did find a “timer” solution that has worked for us so far. We downloaded a free app from the App Store called “Jumbo Stopwatch” onto our 5 iPads which we circulate within the children’s department. A staff person sets the timer as a part of the check-out process and then the stopwatch runs in the background while the children play games, etc. When the time is up, a window pops up over whatever they have open saying “Time’s Up.” This has worked well for us so far. There are a few ads in this free version, but since the staff person sets the timer and then it runs in the background, it hasn’t been a problem to date. I am sure savvy older children could figure out how to open the stopwatch and reset the timer, but we haven’t experienced that yet either. We keep track of the time at the desk as well so we would know if an iPad was due to be returned even if the timer was reset or the patron just ignored the timer. We don’t do waiting lists for the iPads. We just tell the patron when the next iPad should be available if it is returned on time (and not early) and invite them to check back.
3. Our solution for the major time management issues (without over-involving staff in the process) was to remove the games for the older kids from several of the iPads. This leaves them free for the young kids to use. We also have a small sign that says the library reserves the right to limit iPad use when others are waiting. We have elected not to use paper signups at this time. Most kids (or their parents) are pretty good at setting the time limit that is right for them/their child. It’s when we had three Minecraft addicts playing at once that things became a problem. (I also suggest avoiding “app immersion” when selecting your apps–are you choosing a game that has a finite end point, even if you can play it over and over–a la Plants vs Zombies–or an app where play continues endlessly?)
4. Pediatric health care professionals advise screen use be limited to a single 15 minute session per day:
Does your library have a strategy for managing the time customers spend on library devices? Please add your perspective in the comments.