« Back to Organizational Change

DCPL iPad Portal

District of Columbia Public Library
Go to Website

Innovation Summary

A specially formatted portal for the iPad that puts common circulation, outreach, and customer service tasks within easy reach of library staff. Encourages staff to come out from behind desks and interact with customers anywhere. Provides staff a portable tool for common tasks, and teaching tools for ebooks

Problem Statement

With an increasing number of customers using mobile devices to access library services, the desk-based, mode of interaction between customers and staff is becoming obsolete. The DC Public library wanted to try a new service model, meeting customers on the library floor, in external locations, and virtually. To do this, the library also wanted to leverage the capabilities of its integrated library system, and its web team.


The DCPL iPad portal is an web based interface to common circulation tasks, and information, including: Customer lookup, new customer registration, item lookup (by library barcode or isbn), item checkin, item checkout, and others. The portal also includes an rss feed from the calendar of events, some circulation statistics, and links to commonly use databases. Also loaded on each iPad are kindle and nook software, overdrive download manager, and remote access to the ILS so that the full range of features are available to the staff. The portal is simple, and managed via Drupal making it easy and inexpensive to maintain. The back end connection to the ILS uses RESTful web services originally created for our iPhone app. This allows for efficient transfer of data, and can be easily updated to accommodate new functions.


Staff using the iPad portal have increased customer satisfaction. They have also gained confidence and ability with the supporting applications installed on the iPad. The ability to register customers anywhere, and to perform common circulation tasks anywhere has led to increased presence in the community. Lastly, the iPad portal has helped reduce the internal digital divide in the library - that is, staff who were uncomfortable with mobile technology now have greater understanding of it and are finding ways to use to effectively interact with customers