Closing the App Gap I: Quick Tips on Using Apps in Libraries

Click here for a PDF version of this page.

Why Apps?

  • Diagram showing the difference in app use between lower income and higher income children. "Only 22% of lower-income children have spent time on a smartphone, iPod, or tablet for playing games or using apps compared to 55% of higher-income children."Appeal to kids of a variety of learning styles and abilities
  • Access to important technologies for kids who don’t have it at home
  • New media can appeal to kids when their interest in books flags
  • Opportunities for productive (and fun!) interaction and cooperation between kids
  • Opportunities for multi-level programming to parents and children
  • Positioning of librarian as greatly needed mentor for tech use with kids
  • Great draw for the library!

Click here for an additional bibliography of scholarly and practitioner articles on app and tablet use with young people.


First, catch your apps!

1. Choose your app review sources.

Resources for App Reviews:

2. Choose your selection criteria

Some common criteria:
developmental appropriateness
meaningful content
integration of features
quality of audio
clarity of navigation

Our criteria: 
ease of use
child interest
levels of difficulty
customization of settings
feedback/corrective features
accuracy of content
appeals to learning objectives
diversity of representation

Other possible considerations: 
themes of intended programming
patron interest and requests
local/curricular relevance


Then, use them!


  • Kids love interacting with one another while they’re using apps
  • Kids enjoy adult approval and acknowledgement of achievement (high fives go a long way!)
  • The more interactive the app, the longer kids stay with it
  • Allow for kids’ varied interests, experiences, and preferences
  • Children progress quickly from novice to expert when using a well-designed app
  • Headphones can minimize disruption with noisy apps (and splitters can allow multiple users to share a single tablet)
  • The best results come with apps that provide clear play, respond overtly to users and give feedback for interactions, offer clear objectives, and contain limited distractions



Additional resources on app use with youth:

Click here for more information about the Closing the App Gap IMLS-funded research and planning grant behind these suggestions.