When I got my first iPad, the first thing I did was download all the books apps. I didn’t know what the difference was between them, but I’d basically bought the thing to be a glorified e-reader with a backlight (this was before the existence of the Paperwhite) and I was going to read on it, darnit.
After discovering that there was a reason the majority of the “free” ebooks in the iBooks, Kindle, and Nook apps were free, I sought out a better option for reading.
I didn’t know much about OverDrive in 2010. It had already been around for a while, sure, but you had to jump through hoops to read every book on a Kindle or other e-reader. When they introduced that beautiful blue-and-white-buttoned app, which allowed you to use your library card, connect, and search for books right there, a whole new world opened up to me. Each available book, many of which had pretty high price tags for personal purchase, felt like a gift, and every hold notification inspired a happy dance.
But it wasn’t until I started working at Pima County Public Library as the Online Resources and Learning Librarian that I understood the full gamut of apps that you can use on any tablet or device, not just the iPad, with just those 14 magical numbers.
Here are some of the apps you can download to your iPad, tablet, phone, or even computer, to get the maximum library experience during Stay-At-Home time and any other time.
OverDrive’s app for public libraries is called Libby, and while the older OverDrive app is still available for download (especially if you use a screenreader), Libby is the better user experience. Read books you’ve found and already checked out through the library catalog or the OverDrive desktop site, or explore and read right on the app; it’s the books and audio app for every reader.
Of course, if you’re an audiobook person, RBdigital might be where you go first. There are literally thousands of books you can check out and listen to at any time, and a small batch of ebooks, too. (Note: many books require holds, but the majority of them don’t.) But this isn’t just the place to go if you want audiobooks. RBdigital is a straight-up repository of tons of different media, right in the app, including magazines, comics, and streaming video. You’ll get taken out of the app for the video sites, but you can also find apps for a few of those and load them up on your smart device or TV. The Qello app is lots of fun.
Romance Book Cloud (temporary)
The Romance Book Cloud app works a little funny regularly, but while we’re in this wild period, Tumbleweed Press, the company that owns RBC, is offering free access to their materials, so you can download the RBC app and read to your heart’s content.
Make Way for Books App
Pima County Public Library values their partnership with Make Way For Books, and we love their app, which not only offers book recommendations, but also has original books by local authors!
The Brainfuse app is a treasure trove of things for you to use if you or a loved one is learning from home. Not only is Brainfuse the place to go for live tutoring every day from 2-11, but you can have virtual study rooms, download and build flashcard decks, submit papers and resumes for review, and explore a vast collection of peer-created study materials. And that’s just the beginning.
We talk about Kanopy a lot. It’s a great place to go for movies, documentaries, and educational series (including the Great Courses!) so it could actually go under the Learning section, too. Download the app on your device or TV after creating an account, and watch 10 films a month on Kanopy, unlimited films on Kanopy Kids, and anything from the Kanopy-curated list of credit-free films.
With your library card, you can download five songs a week, free to keep, and stream unlimited songs and videos. (Usually, it’s three hours per day, but Freegal has made it 24 for the time being). This isn’t a skimpy collection, either. Popular artist from every era are there, as well as tons of seriously deep cuts.
I haven’t seen a commercial for BrainHQ in a long time, so it’s likely you’ll need a reminder of what it is. You can create an account and—either on your computer or through the app—play games to help with brain elasticity, whether it’s hand-eye coordination, connecting ideas, or speed.
Another app that I would definitely recommend having:
The Pima County Library app (for iOS and Android) has its flaws, but it is very useful. If you like to keep track of your checkouts and holds, or want to find out if something is in the collection with a quick barcode scan or title search, you can do that very quickly. It isn’t the best for searching or using My Shelves, though, which is why you can...
Make the PCPL browser site an app-like shortcut:
We all love shortcuts, even though it’s pretty easy to type the library’s URL into the browser (especially when your phone or tablet already knows where you want to go after you type in L-I…)
ALSO! Lots of the other things that are fun for exploration, like CultureGrams and Britannica Library Edition, are designed to respond to the size and shape of your screen; some are even optimized for mobile use! So feel free to wander around, whether you’re on a laptop or holding your phone or tablet.
So celebrate ten years—ten years—of the iPad by using your favorite piece of technology to try out a library app or two. It’s free!