iPad Apps Cheaper (or Free) by the Dozen

By Ekart, Donna F. | Computers in Libraries, October 2012 | Go to article overview

iPad Apps Cheaper (or Free) by the Dozen


Ekart, Donna F., Computers in Libraries


The beginning of the school year is always marked by an influx of directional and informational questions at my library, as new students hit campus and realize they don't know anything about anything.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I recently helped someone find the student health center on a campus map, check the center's hours of operation, and verify that no appointment was necessary before going there. Everything was completely "start-of-semester routine," except that I was standing on the lawn outside the library building at our annual Information Oasis, accessing the internet on one of our reference desk iPads.

The opportunities like this that mobile computing and mobile apps provide libraries are dizzying. If you're considering iPads for use at reference desks or for users to check out, here are a dozen of my favorite apps that I can see easily being used in a library context. All have been thoroughly tested on my first-generation, Wi-Fi-only iPad. Additionally--and out of respect for shrinking library budgets--they're available for free from the iTunes App Store. I apologize to Android tablet users in advance; this column is 100% Apple-centric, but I only feel comfortable recommending things I've actually used in real life. I hope you're able to find Android versions of these apps.

1. 3D Brain. For a few years, I harbored dreams of being a neuropsychologist. Those days are gone, but my fascination with the brain and how it works never faded. The 3D Brain app would be useful, not only to nostalgic students like me but also to any actual student studying brain structures and functions, brain injuries, or mental illness. The app makes full use of the touchscreen to rotate and zoom in on various areas, and it includes a wealth of explanatory text, case studies, and links to additional research.

2. ArcGIS. I've just barely scratched the surface of GIS (geographic information systems), but it's been an idling interest of mine ever since the excellent FloatingSheep blog hit the news in 2010 with its quirky-yet-informative maps, such as The Beer Belly of America and Church, Bowling, Guns and Strip Clubs. The ArcGIS app may not be quite so irreverent, but it's useful and fun just to tinker around with. The app includes a large gallery of maps of various flavors, the ability to add and create additional layers, measure distances, and find and share additional maps from ArcGIS Online. It's also useful for exploring both places you see every day and those you may never see in person.

3. arXiv. This one is for the hard-core scientists and mathematicians, but it's such an amazing resource that I couldn't leave it off the list. Cornell University Library hosts arXiv.org, a repository of freely available scholarly publications in physics, mathematics, nonlinear sciences, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, and statistics. This app brings that wealth of information to the iPad. I won't even pretend to understand many of the topics at hand, but I do understand the immense value of making research freely and openly available to students, scholars, and the public.

4. iTunes U. Sometimes I get wistful for college days, romanticizing the lectures from learned professors and all-night study sessions well beyond any connection to reality. iTunes U lets me dip back into that world without tests, grades, or hangovers. With more than half a million lectures, videos, books, and other resources, your users could learn anything from creative writing to trigonometry to the science behind bicycles. Subscriptions to specific courses require logging in with an Apple ID, so you'll want to choose some potentially useful course offerings for your community in advance, and be prepared to sign in for people wanting to add other classes they discover in the extensive iTunes U catalog.

5. Congressional Record. Oh, Library of Congress, how I love you! This sweet app delivers daily editions of the Congressional Record directly to your iPad for easy perusal. …

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iPad Apps Cheaper (or Free) by the Dozen
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