At the Seymour library, patrons can check out more than just books, magazines, movies and music.

To keep up with how people educate and entertain themselves, the library is investing more money in technology for all ages.

Just recently, the Jackson County Public Library, with branches in Seymour, Crothersville and Medora, purchased Playaway Launchpad tablet computers that are available for children to check out and take home.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

The tablets are loaded with 10 themed apps for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Subjects include science, math, reading, English, life skills and critical thinking. The parent company, Findaway, worked with Fingerprint, a children’s app company, to choose the apps most appropriate, educational and fun for children.

The Launchpads have a simple interface that allows kids to use them with ease, said Lola Snyder, head of youth services at the Seymour Library.

“This is completely intuitive,” she said. “I think (tablets) in general are pretty intuitive. You turn them on, and kids can figure it out faster than (adults) can.”

By having the Launchpads available, it enables any child to have access to technology, Snyder said.

“We try to stay at the forefront of things. We read blogs, we read trade journals, all those kinds of things to see what the next trend is,” she said.

“But we also don’t want it to be just a trend; we don’t want it to just be a fad because that would waste taxpayers’ money,” she said. “Because tablets have been around for so long, we know that this, at least right now, is a technology that’s here to stay for awhile. It may evolve, but it’s going to stay. We know kids are using it. We know they love it.”

Snyder said the Seymour Library was one of the first libraries in the state to have the Launchpads. They currently have 30 of them and hope to be able to buy more and possibly have them at the Medora and Crothersville libraries, too.

“In fact, when we purchased them, we were the first in Indiana. Now, I know several that have them,” she said.

The Launchpad tablets cost about $100 each and were paid for out of the library’s budget, which is funded through local property tax revenue. The library also receives grant money, support from the Friends of the Jackson County Public Library group and donations from the community.

Earlier this year, library staff learned about Playaway Bookpacks and purchased 45 of them. They’re not new to the market, but they are new to the Seymour Library, Snyder said.

Bookpacks are all-in-one audiobooks boxed with their print book versions. They come with an MP3-type device and a book, and a person plugs in their headphones, turns on the device, presses play and listens to the book while following along with the print copy.

“It’s perfect for struggling readers because they can follow along, so they can hear those words they are reading being spoken, and it helps with comprehension and pronunciation and fluency,” Snyder said.

Some of the Bookpacks contain a single book, while others have several books in one. They come in a variety of age and interest levels and genres, from classics to nonfiction to fantasy.

Snyder said if the Bookpacks are popular, she may order more.

Since the Launchpad tablets were placed on the library’s shelves, they have been checked out numerous times.

“I only ordered 30, and I think there’s maybe 10 on the shelf now. Often, there are none,” Snyder said.

“They are really popular, and the company is going to keep releasing them,” she said. “As they gather 10 more apps on a subject, they will release another one, so they will continually have more. They are always working on improving the product, so we’re one of their test sites, basically. We’re in contact with them quite a bit.”

Because of their popularity, Snyder said she plans on ordering more of the Launchpads. They can be checked out a week at a time and can be renewed once. There is a $5-per-day late fee.

Holds can be placed on the Launchpads by customers of the Crothersville and Medora libraries.

The tablets are not connected to the Internet and do not contain personal information. As a child checks one out, he or she creates a character to use in the apps. Once the library receives them back, the tablets are cleared.

“I know that everyone I’ve talked to here talks them up because they are such a good product,” Snyder said. “We talk them up. We love them.”

Brooke Bogan of Seymour said she and her daughter, Caroline, 3, happened to be in the library the day the Launchpads became available. Since then, Caroline has checked them out several times.

“She’s 3, and she can do all of them,” Brooke Bogan said of the apps on the tablet. “All of the apps are age-appropriate, and they are interest-appropriate, too. A lot of the ones for her have either little stories that she can follow along on or games or the alphabet. She had the math one last week with number games, which proved that she could do them, which was really cool.”

Brooke Bogan said her daughter also likes the interactive books on the Launchpads.

“It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s basically like an iPad for a kid. It’s the same kind of apps I put on my iPad for her.”

The Jackson County Public Library also offers tablets for teens and adults.

Using a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Indiana State Library, Jackson County Public Library purchased six iPads that are available for teens to use in Seymour Library’s Teen Scene Room.

The iPads cannot be checked out, but Jill Willey, youth services assistant at the Seymour Library, said they get a lot of use by teen patrons, who play games on them or use them to read, chat, surf the Internet, listen to music, watch movies or do homework.

For adults, there are LSTA-funded Kindle tablets available that can be checked out for three weeks at a time.

Each Kindle is pre-loaded with nearly 30 books, including fiction and nonfiction titles.

Christina Hime, head of circulation at the Seymour Library, said there currently are 10 Kindles available at the Seymour Library that will be updated with new titles regularly.

“At first, they were pretty popular,” she said. “But I think people have forgotten that we have them, so we need to get the word out.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Playaway Launchpads and Playaway Bookpacks may be checked out by visiting the Seymour Library, 303 W. Second St., or by calling youth services at 812-522-3412, option 2.

The library also offers iPads for use in the Teen Scene Room at the Seymour Library, and Kindle e-readers can be checked out at the main circulation desk.