At the 2012 American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, held January 20-24 in Dallas, LJ was on the exhibit floor taking a look at library tech companies’ latest wares. Here are a few of the highlights:
Sometimes the simplest ideas gain surprising traction; for example, the MediaSurfer kiosk system, launched at ALA Midwinter by Tech Logic, attracted many interested observers (and was even referred to in passing during the Top Technology Trends panel on January 22). The system, a sort of “vending machine” for iPads, is a self-service option that lets users check out their own iPad with a swipe of a library card (and, if the library chooses, a credit-card swipe for security). Libraries can loan them within the library building, or allow patrons to borrow and take the tablets home. Once the iPad has been returned, whatever content the patron has put on it, including ebooks, is erased and the tablet reset for the next patron.
Though the system is currently configured solely for iPads (which are not provided with the unit), Tech Logic president Gary Kirk told LJ at ALA Midwinter that it will soon be able to handle other types of tablets, ereaders, or even handheld videogames in future iterations. The kiosk connects with a library integrated library system (ILS) via a SIP2 interface, allowing compatibility with several different systems, Kirk said; when tablets are checked out at the kiosk, they are also checked out in the ILS. Units may be bought outright or rented, and the company has been taking orders since December. The first units will be rolled out in April.