wii playingPublic and school libraries have always contained a wide variety of resources for children and young adults. Over the past century, libraries have increasingly provided access to nonprint materials such as maps, photographs, slides, and kits.

The past few decades have seen a tremendous increase in electronic materials for children and young adults. These kinds of materials include computer software, audio CDs, DVDs, apps, and Internet resources.

Increasingly, libraries are being designed with electronic materials and gaming areas in mind.

The Wikimedia Commons image on the left shows two boys playing wii tennis.

eyeRead Public Libraries by Design by Kelly Czarnecki in School Library Journal (11/1/2010). Explore the design of teen spaces.

Kaplan ACT BoxTechnology and Today's Youth

In the past, students preparing for the SAT or ACT carried around heavy books for study. Today, they check out the Kaplan Higher Score SAT, ACT, and PSAT Deluxe CD or the Princeton Review Deluxe CD instead. Or, they use a smartphone app such as SAT Challenge by Princeton Review.

eyeRead the article Teen Content Creators and Consumers (PDF file) and Teens and Technology: Youth are Leading the Transition to a Fully Wired and Mobile Nation (PDF file) from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Check out the Teen section. Are you surprised by their findings?

In the Pew Internet and American Life Project survey (Dec. 30, 2007) titled Information searches that solve problems (PDF), it was found that "Young adults in Generation Y (age 18-29) are the heaviest users of libraries when they face these problems. They are also the most likely library visitors for any purpose. Most of those who visit libraries to seek problem-solving information are very satisfied with what they find and they appreciate the resources available there, especially access to computers and the internet."

The MacArthur Foundation studied how children and young adults use and learn from digital media. They examined young people as "active innovators using digital media rather than passive consumers of popular culture or academic knowledge." It was found that "although computers are now fixtures in most schools and many homes, there is a growing recognition that kids' passion for digital media has been ignited more by peer group sociability and play than academic learning. This gap between in-school and out-of-school experience represents a gap in children's engagement in learning, a gap in our research and understandings, and a missed opportunity to reenergize public education." Learn more about this study at Digital Youth.

Go to the Penguin Young Readers page to see how publishers are addressing technology. Notice the options for downloading apps, exploring discussions, visiting book websites, and following with social technology.

video clipWatch the following YouTube video titled Kristiena and Meagan Share Thoughts on Reading, Choice, and Kindles YouTube showing two teens discussing use of Kindle e-book readers.


Electronic Materials Defined

Electronic materials are much less tangible than traditional materials such as books or paper maps. The data itself is stored electronically and requires some kind of device to display information. For example, a compact disc can be played on an audio player or computer.

According to School Library Market Report 2008-2009 from Simba Information, digital media purchases by school libraries are expected to increase by 6 percent annually through 2013.

How many times have you read the story Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss? When you think of the book, you might think of the traditional print version. However there are many ways to experience this story. Did you know there's even an iPhone App? Learn more able Dr. Seuss apps at Oceanhouse Media.

iPhone App

eyeGo to Green Eggs and Ham Video Clips and explore the many examples. Then explore other examples at the Dr. Seuss Lensography.

CDs and DVDs

CDs and DVDs are used to hold all kinds of information and learning resources. Many educational software programs combine informational, instructional, and creativity resources. The software may include background information on the topic, contain practice questions, and also encourage students to develop projects using information from the software. For example, WiggleWorks by Scholastic focuses on early literacy by having students listen to narrated stories, practice reading concepts, record their voices, and write and illustrate their own stories.

An increasing number of software packages provide web-based support, downloads, and extra games. Building Cars with Gary Gadget is an example. Participants help Gary by choosing parts of the cars and correctly positioning them on an empty chassis. In addition, users solve problems and complete tasks.

Gary GadgetGary Gadget

Internet and Websites

The Internet has dramatically changed the way people access information. A web page is viewed using a web browser on the computer or other devices such as a smartphone or iPad. Web pages stored on a web server are accessed through the Internet.

The benefit of electronically stored materials is their flexibility. Rather than walking or driving to the library, patrons can access electronic materials anywhere, anytime through the Internet. Although some materials are still stored on CDs or DVDs, an increasing number are shared as electronic data through the Internet.

Beyond the informational materials found on the web, a growing number of young people use the Internet as a integral part of their social life.

Skim Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites (PDF version), Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks (PDF version) and Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview (PDF version). Examine the PowerPoint presentation Social Media and Libraries: New applications for a new generation of users from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Explore other reports and presentations at the Pew website.

Although some people have expressed concern that digital content will replace paper-based materials such as books, others feel that all materials can co-exist.

eye means readRead the 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic. How is the digital age impacting reading for kids 6 through 17?


eye means readRead Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work Into Real Book Sales by Motoko Rich in The New York Times (12/13/2007). What do you see as the future of online and print content? How does this impact libraries? Go to Fun Brain's Web Comics and skim the book Diary of a Wimpy Kid that's also available in a book form. You can also read On the Rocks, Brewster Rockit Space Guy, and Silent Kimbly. For mature readers and adults go to Smith Mag. This website contains many examples of webcomics including A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge and Shooting War.

E-books Readers to Slablets

ipadAn e-book is a book delivered as an electronic file. Software is needed to run your e-book on your computer or your mobile device. Some books are produced in special e-book formats that can be viewed on a computer or a special e-Book reader such as the Kindle. Learn more about the Kindle and the Nook.

This technology has been in the news over the past few years. Some have predicted that e-books will replace print books while others say e-books will never have large scale adoption.

A new wave of tablet or "slablet" technology are changing how people think about screen reading. More than e-books these tools allow users to run mobile technology apps and multimedia in addition to e-books. Explore examples at iPad.

Skim A Souped Up Picture Book: What Apple's iPad Might Mean for Libraries by Christoper Harris in School Library Journal (3/1/2010).

Explore other resources on online reading including interactive stories, articles, and books at Electronic Books and Online Reading from eduScapes Teacher Tap.

Mobile Technology, Netbooks, and Laptops

For many generations, teens have been obsessed with using the telephone. However today's young people have much more than a rotary phone for communicating with friends, many have mobile technology tools with texting options, cameras, gps, and web access.

eye means readRead Teens and Mobile Phones (PDF) (4/20/2010) from Pew Internet and American Life and Innovation in Libraries Explores Mobile Services from SLC (11/9/2009). In addition to mobile technology, young people are using other devices such as ipads, netbooks, and laptops to access social technologies. Read Social Media and Young Adults (PDF) (2/3/2010) from Pew Internet and American Life.

Application software is a computer program designed to help the user perform specific tasks. Mobile applications are often called "apps". These resources can be downloaded directly to the device. Many websites are designing mobile apps to complement their websites. According to the article Poetry as Close as Your Mobile Phone, the Academy of American Poets has launched a mobile version of their archives from

Although Apple's iTune Apps are the best known, there are many other mobile devices with specialized apps. Tools such as Appitalism and AppShopper allow users to search for apps for particular devices such as the Android and Blackberry smartphones and Facebook and Twitter websites. While many apps are free, others are available for a small charge. Some games are available for free as a "lite" version with the option to pay for the full version or a subscription.

Explore the education apps available for the iPhone and iPad.

Some mobile devices are stand-alone tools for specific information or learning needs. For example, there is an increasing demand for hand-held devices such as the SkyScout Personal Planetarium that can be used outdoors at night while viewing the night sky.

Go to Handhelds in the Classroom from Teacher Tap. Explore some of the applications of handheld devices and software.

LeapPadCompanies such as LeapFrog produce popular lap size and handheld learning devices. Some libraries now check out these kinds of devices.

eye means readRead the off-site article Smart Toy Story by Walter Minkel in School Library Journal (4/1/2003). Will these devices impact the library? Why or why not?

During the early 2000s laptops became the norm in schools. Some schools and libraries even check-out laptops.

eye means readRead the off-site article Maine Middle School Laptop Program Leads to Better Writers by Debra Lay Whelan (10/30/2007), Maine's Middle School Laptop Program (PDF), Life Among the Laptops by Barbara Weathers in School Library Journal (2/1/2001). Also, read Laptop Lessons by Walter Minkel in School Library Journal (3/1/2003). How are laptops impacting the library?

In the past several years, netbooks have gained in popularity because of their small size and low cost. However during the next decade there will be increases in the use of tablet computers such as the iPad and other portable devices.

Over the next few decades the technology will become even more transparent as files are shared at high speed through wireless systems. As the human interfaces such as computers, headphones, and mice become even more "human-friendly," electronic media will become as common as books and baseball caps.

With all of the changes in libraries, will libraries and librarians survive?

eye means readRead Are librarians totally obsolete? 33 reasons why libraries and librarians are still extremely important by Will Sherman in Teacher Librarian (October 2007). (IUPUI password required to access)

video clipView Mystery Adventure on a James River Plantation (7:30)

Rebecca Thomas makes writing fun by allowing her students to surf the net to develop ghost stories based on real people (Grade 4). - Available through WHRO

Download free Real Player.


Special Needs

Many resources are available to accommodate the needs of people with challenges such as the visually impaired. For example Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech recognition software solution that send emails and instant messages, helps surf the Web, creates documents and more by simply speaking.

Marilyn Irwin offers a graduate course focusing on Assistive Technologies that provides depth in this area.


Merging Technology

No longer are the technologies totally separate. The wii system is a great example. Although a young person may have a game system at home, they may check out games such as Endless Ocean from the library. They may even check out specialty items such as the wii speak microphone to use with Animal Crossing: City Folk or wii tennis rackets to go with the wii Sports. In addition to the system, games, and accessories, many books are available to go with the games. Also, look for website materials. When you put it all together there are endless opportunities for reading, playing, and sharing.

Explore a list of libraries with use Wii programs.

Endless OceanOcean

Skim 50 Ways to Use the Wii in Your Library in Online Education Database (July 2008).


To learn more...

To find out about some of the latest Internet developments, read the PEW/INTERNET report on The Future of Internet III (12/14/2008). To see how Internet impacts families read the Networked Families (10/19/2008) report.

Skim the article What America Needs to Know by Walter Minkel in School Library Journal (3/1/2003). Are you surprised by the results of the UCLA study? What do you think of the suggested survey questions? What else would you add?

Skim the off-site article When Students Hit the Surf by John Lubans in School Library Journal (9/1/1999). What implications do you think this survey has for librarians?

Skim the Pew Study: Students Prefer 'Virtual Library' by Walter Minkel in School Library Journal (10/1/2002). Will we always have libraries? Why or why not? What's the role of the virtual library?


Proceed to the Informational Materials page.

Some sections adapted with permission from Chapter 5 in Lamb, A. (2006). Building Treehouses for Learning: Technology in Today's Classroom, Fourth Edition.

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