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Renovated Park Slope Library to Have iPads for Very Young Readers

By Leslie Albrecht | September 11, 2012 6:54am

PARK SLOPE — When the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library closed for renovations in 2009, Apple's iPad was still to take the tech world by storm.

But, when the branch reopens this week, the tablets will be a central feature.

Four iPads will be mounted in the children's area of the renovated library, which officially opens this Thursday after a nearly three-year makeover.

A noon ribbon-cutting ceremony with Borough President Marty Markowitz and other local officials will celebrate the reopening, followed by a 6:30 p.m. reading by writer Pete Hamill, who was a regular visitor to the branch when he was growing up in Park Slope.

Hamill called the library a "glorious palace of books" in his memoir "A Drinking Life," but times have changed, and the library's vast collections now include 75 iPads that are used in branches throughout the borough, said Brooklyn Public Library Director and Chief Librarian Richard Reyes-Gavilan.

The iPads at the Park Slope branch will be geared toward readers as young as 2-years-old, but kids as old as 8 could enjoy using them, said Rachel Payne, Brooklyn Public Library's coordinator of early childhood services.

They'll be loaded with picture book apps based on classic children's literature such as "The Cat in the Hat," "Pat The Bunny" and "Harold and the Purple Crayon."

Unlike traditional e-books that are simply digitized text and illustrations, picture book apps on an iPad have an interactive element. For example, kids can use the iPad's touch screen to help Harold draw with his famous purple crayon.

The iPads will also be stocked with videos of library staff performing children's songs and rhymes, including versions in Spanish and Russian and possibly Chinese, Payne said. 

"So if a parent doesn't really know the words to 'The Eensy Weensy Spider' they can watch a video of staff doing it and hopefully learn the words on the spot," Payne said.

In addition, the iPads will have information for parents about specific steps they can take to get their kids ready to read.

The Park Slope library, on Sixth Avenue at Ninth Street, is the first branch in the borough to have iPads set aside for very young readers, Payne said. The tablet devices were also used this summer for a cultural program where 7 to 12-year-olds learned about Greek mythology and made their own movies, and for a teen program where kids made their own magazine.

They're not just for the library's younger users — many of the Brooklyn Public library's iPads are used at the library system's five adult learning centers, Reyes-Gavilan said.

Some parents have complained about the use of high-tech devices like iPads at the library, Reyes-Gavilan said. Parents say they bring their kids to the library to escape the deluge of screen-based entertainment in daily life and they get upset when they see glowing screens at an instutition dedicated to books.

He said he's sympathetic to those gripes, because his own 6-year-old daughter "fantasizes" about iPads.

"But those complaints are coming from parents who themselves have a laptop and a desktop and a cell phone," Reyes-Gavilan said.

"We're serving all of Brooklyn's kids — most of whom don't have access to that kind of technology at home. At the library, you're still going to overwhelmed with books, and it's going to be many years before that's going to change.

"It's the parents' job to steer their kids toward books when they're at the library if that's what they want to emphasize."