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Award Report: Creating Virtual Offices and Classrooms with Apple’s iPad–Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh

When looking at tablet use across our patron populations, and with experience from our iPad patron circulation program, it became apparent that the Apple iPads would be highly beneficial for our liaison and outreach librarians. Out in the field, many opportunities for instruction are lost due to technology issues. This is especially true for embedded librarians who spend much of their working day outside of the library with their respective health sciences schools or in a clinical setting.

Through a MAR Technology Improvement award, 12 librarians at the Health Sciences Library System of the University of Pittsburgh recieved:

  • Apple iPad (8 GB wi-fi)
  • Apple iPad case
  • keyboard dock
  • charging cables and adapter

Software (app)-wise, HelvetiNote (a note-taking app) and GoodReader (a PDF and MS Office file reader) were provided to each librarian.  Both our university campus and the medical center have robust wi-fi access.

Through the use of the iPads we asked librarians to create a virtual “office” to enhance off-site or on-the-fly consultations and educational or clinical support opportunities. The anticipated outcome of the project was the ability for librarians to provide information support wherever they might be.

Librarians quickly adapted to the new technology. Online surveys were given to gauge usage and impressions of the tablets. Comments included:

  • “fills a need for portable computing that is not filled by laptop computers, PDAs, or smart phones”
  • “easy to use”
  • “LOVE”

Challenges included:

  • not enough time to locate or learn about the apps
  • iPad keyboard is hard to use
  • no Flash or USB
  • if no wi-fi network isavailable, there is no connectivity
  • no out-of-box MS Office products

Overall, 91 percent of the group utilized iPad for off-site work, including:

  • consultations
  • morning report
  • meetings
  • on the hospital floor
  • School of Health Sciences journal club

Based on this project, we recommend that libraries begin to investigate tablet computers as librarian-centered productivity and outreach tools.

Fran Yarger
Assistant Director for Computing and Metadata Services
Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh/UPMC

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