Matt Enis’ “Meet the Tabletarians” discusses different libraries that have incorporated tablets into their everyday work life. While many have tried to use them as a roving reference accessory, others have found tablets to be most beneficial and effective for special projects such as story time or other youth service events. Those that use them as a reference assistant have found it best to walk around with the tablet to find material rather than look up information on a desktop and then direct the patron in the right direction. With the tablet, a librarian can walk with the patron and engage in more of a reference interview—potentially covering multiple topics—without having to go back to the reference desk.
Early experimenters with tablets found them a bit weighty and burdensome, but newer technology has eliminated that complaint for the most part. Some libraries have taken the tablet concept a bit further and even use them to check out material, renew an item, or place other items on hold, thus eliminating the requisite stop at the circulation desk. Also, in reference to downloadables (e.g., books, recorded books, movies) librarians have found that it is easier to teach the patrons how to use the features on the actual products people will have at their home, as opposed to reading directions from a desktop.
At the Boise Public Library (BPL), they have begun to switch out desktop computers altogether and replace them with tablets for the librarians in their offices/reference desk. This way they can “work” on them and also be roving reference librarians without switching from one piece of equipment to another.
Full disclosure: I do not own a tablet, although I have used them at friend’s houses and at work for a special project. The one I used at work was not owned by my library, but was my boss’ personal tablet that I used for an offsite cataloging project for a major donor. It took a little getting used to; I favor a mouse to a touch pad any day of the week. That being said, I can see the efficacy and need to integrate tablets into libraries. In the long run, they will probably eradicate paper and ink waste from printing out locations of books for patrons or receipts from check outs. The integration of tablets is just another sign of the times that libraries need to and will amend to.