Library iPads sent home

By Paul Hemsley

Disabled and homebound library clients will be able to use Apple iPads through an Adelaide City Council scheme to improve access to library resources.

Following a two month trial of the service in 2011, the council has begun the Homebound iPad Buddy Program where each client will be paired with an ‘iPad Buddy’ volunteer to ensure access to e-books and interactive apps.

The council has procured 10 iPads including the first and second versions of the device, with the project costing $8000.

Different e-reader devices were trialed, but according to the council, the “breadth of function and ease of use of the iPad leant itself to this project well”.

Mayor Steven Yarwood said it is the largest range of free e-books in South Australia and will be topped up with new items each month.

An Adelaide City Council spokesperson said the idea came from research about future needs and trends as well as concern that isolated and frail older people without easy access to IT could be “excluded from being active participants in community life”.

“It also came out of the need to ensure ongoing access to reading for people with major functional impairment. The devices can be lighter and easier to manage than a book,” the spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, the council’s IT librarian developed the idea initially and provided technical support.

“She then worked with Homebound Program staff to gauge interest and set up a trial with new users,” the spokesperson said.

The IT librarian was responsible for loading eBooks and apps initially, but the volunteers now work one-on-one with users to ensure the iPad is loaded regularly with books and apps of their choosing and interest, the spokesperson said.

The council did not develop a specific app for the library use of the devices, rather a range of free apps were already developed.

“We work with individuals to download apps according to their interests and needs including games and memory and cognitive functioning support apps such as that developed by the Alzheimer’s Association,” the spokesperson said.

Volunteers were recruited through the council’s volunteer program, which included advertising on the council’s website for people with skills in using iPads, with “good communication skills and an interest in working with older people”.

No plans currently exist to procure more iPads, but the council spokesperson said if people want to donate iPads when they upgrade, “they’ll be most welcome and will be put to good use”.

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