In early 2010 Apple Inc announced the iPad and the tablet computer has caused quite a stir in both the education and legal fields. iPad applications allow users to interact with information in new ways and the portability of the device allows people to keep information, literally, at their fingertips. Some modern courts have discussed going paperless and because of the the versatility of the iPad, it has the potential to replace the legal pad in the courtroom. Due to these developments institutions of legal education have begun adopting tablet technology into their educational models.
In the summer of 2011 the Dean of the Charlotte School of Law Library, Roberta (Bobbie) Studwell, mandated that the Law Library purchase and begin circulating iPads by the end of fall 2012 semester. Dean Studwell had informed the library staff she would be taking a position at a law library in Florida and that the library staff would be responsible for establishing the policies and procedures associated with the new library iPad program. To prepare the library staff for this venture into new technology iPads were ordered for the library staff to use in their daily work. Over the next couple of months the staff became familiar with the different applications and resources offered by this new technology.
An iPad task force was established to make decisions on tablet circulation policy, iPad security measures, and to make decisions on installed applications. The task force consisted of the library circulation manager, two reference librarians, and two members of the circulation staff (myself included in the last group.) Over the course of several semiweekly meetings, the task force discussed our opinions on the applications and circulation policy. Each member of the task force did their own separate research on applications, looked into the way other schools (specifically law schools) circulated tablets and presented the information back to the group. We based many of our decisions on the policies used by our sister school, the Phoenix School of Law. PSL’s iPad policies did not fit the scope the Charlotte iPad program so additional research was needed and other school policies were consulted. In the end, policies were decided, iPad applications were earmarked and 20 iPads were purchased.
Over the course of the next year the implementation of the Charlotte School of Law Library iPad program was stagnated by a number of technological hurdles as well as some schedule conflicts. Until, October of 2012, I was asked to take on the responsibility of the initial iPad setup and making the final push in integrating the iPads into the library.
Concerns, Problems, Areas of Interest and Methodology
Even with over a year spent on preparation, a few questions needed to be addressed before the iPads could begin to circulate. After meeting with the library leadership team and explaining my idea it was decided that a short questionnaire would answer some needed questions and help to inform students about the upcoming iPad program. I wanted to keep the survey short and simple so I could hit a broader audience. Historically it has been hard to get busy law students to give more than a few seconds of their time, unless you bribe them with food which for the purpose of this survey I was not willing to provide. I decided to conduct the survey at the circulation desk of the Charlotte School of Law Library. It is one of the most visited desks in the building and it would insure we gain the opinions of the people that regularly used the library. I setup three iPads with the decided upon applications and placed them at the circulation desk. I then asked the students to “play around” with the new technology and then take a short survey when they finished.
I created the CSL iPad survey by using the website www.surveymonkey.com. I chose to use this website because it is free to use, tracks the data, and allows the students to complete the survey on the actual iPad they were trying out. Using Safari, the default web browser on the iPad, I made a shortcut to the survey webpage that looks like an application icon and placed the short cut on the home screen of the device. This also made it much easier to have students participate in the survey when all they had to do was tap the icon labeled “iPad Survey.” Below is a screenshot of the survey taken from one of the demonstration iPads.
These questions were chosen for a number of reasons. The first and most important reason was to allow students to begin thinking about how they would use this device. Simply providing a piece of technology will not get people to use it. You have to let people make a personal connection to the technology. This is why it was essential to have the students explore the iPad and take the survey using the iPad. By placing the device in their hands, the iPad stops being a concept and starts being a tool. Secondly, most of the applications we installed on the iPads were law research related and I did not want this to stifle students’ ideas about the possible uses for these devices. It is my opinion that libraries provide resources and should not dictate how these resources are used. This is why I chose to ask several questions about the possible entertainment uses for these devices. Thirdly, I realize that even with all the research done by the library our student body may know of additional application that could be useful to our library patrons. Lastly, buying applications and study aids for 20 individual devices can be rather pricy and I wanted to use this survey to justify this expenditure. For this reason I wanted to get very specific information from individual students about what study aids they wanted to see on the circulating iPads.
Early in the CSL iPad project one of our reference librarians conducted a focus group on student opinion on the law library circulating iPads. The pool for the focus group consisted of students with experience using smartphones and tablets. The overall consensus of the study was negative toward the library integrating iPads. I had hoped that opening the survey to a broader audience would lend more positive results. After two days of surveying the students coming to the circulation desk, 83% of the students said that they would checkout an iPad when they came available.
The majority of students stated that they would most likely use the iPads to do legal research. Many of the students were also interested in web browsing and other entertainment applications.
There was a stronger divide in student opinion over the installation of entertainment focused applications. Of the students that said they were interested in more entertainment applications, Facebook and Pandora were the most requested.
As far as additional legal applications suggested by the student body there was no great consensus. Black’s Law Dictionary, a bar preparation application, and a language translator were all requested. Students appeared to be the most interested in question 6 regarding the purchase of study aids. Q&A appears to be the front runner of the suggested study aids to be purchase with Examples and Explanations, Glannon Guides, and Fins following close behind. By using the data collected in this survey we will determine the applications to be used in the final product.