YA Clicks February 2011

YA Clicks: There IS an App for That!

February 2011

Rebecca Purdy and the Web Surfers from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

These days at the reference desk, a teen request to “borrow the phone” is rare and surprising. We expect them to have a cell phone and usually they do.  But do they use it for anything besides phone calls and texting?

A recent report, “Teens, Cell Phones and Texting,” from the Pew Research Center, says yes, “teens who have multi-purpose phones are avid users of those extra features.”  What does that mean to libraries?   Well, much like when we first started actively recommending Web sites with teen appeal, it is time to do the same with mobile phone applications or apps.  If your library doesn’t have an app for its catalog, why not explore the possibility?  The name may make you chuckle, but the company, Boopsie allows Central Rappahannock Regional Library users to check their holds, renew materials, read the latest library blog entries and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  You can try it for yourself without downloading anything at crrl.boopsie.com.  The Seattle and LA County Public libraries are just a few others using this platform.

Finding apps to recommend was harder than expected.  Searching many of the phone specific online app stores was time consuming and not very efficient.  Luckily, I discovered a ZDnet article, “App Search Engine Competition Heating Up” that directed me to two great sites that are, surprisingly, not sponsored by the companies for whose phones they provide apps.  The iPhone specific Chomp has an easy to use search interface that offers options even as you type.  If you don’t like any of its suggestions, just hit enter and you get a list by topic.  App Brain is a similar site for the Google Android phone.  While it doesn’t feed you suggestions it does provide you with a nice clear list of your choices.  Of course, both are also available as apps!  AppAppeal is the most comprehensive across brands site for apps.  You can search or browse through suggested categories.  Results are easy to browse and the entry for each app includes an in-depth  review of one thousand five hundred and sixty-nine apps as well as clear listings of the different ways the app is available away from a computer, for example, via Facebook, a mobile Web site or downloaded on your phone.

Below are some suggested apps for you to share with your teens. If the name is not hyperlinked, try AppAppeal above.  Otherwise, the best way to search for an app is using the app’s name with the name of your phone.  For example “dictionary.com blackberry.”  Unfortunately, much like my experience with the app “stores” for the various phones, it is usually easier to search this way than by visiting the Web site associated with the app.

Smartphones come with their own Internet browser, but most of us want our favorite search engine even on the go.  Google is free even without one of the company’s phones.  Yahoo! apps are available for all of its offerings from the search engine to its Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey.   There’s even an app for Bing.

Web Surfer Makenna likes a dictionary app so she can look up words on the go.  Dictionary.com includes a thesaurus and a word of the day which you can hear said aloud by clicking the screen.  Free encyclopedias are harder to come by.   Wikipedia has an official app available free through iTunes, but other phones have unofficial versions requiring a small fee.  Howcast has a teen section accessible through its app with video instruction on how to do almost anything from “How to Survive in a Teenage Wasteland” to “How to Start a Babysitting Service.”  For other types of video, there’s a YouTube app for that!

Apps make communicating with friends easy even without texting.  Teens can download an app for their favorite social networking site from Facebook, My Space, and Twitter.  If they want to instant message, Yahoo! Messenger and Meebo are also available.

Flixster has a great movie app but you have to scroll to the bottom of the page to find the one for your phone.  You can set it to default to your local theater and easily find ones nearby if you’re out of town.  Tickets can be purchased via the app and current box office hits and upcoming movies are clearly listed.  Linked with the Rotten Tomatoes movie rating site, users get instant access to reviews by both critics and the general public.  Another fun feature is the ability to search an actor or director to find some biographical information and other work.

Teens K.C. and Chris both count on their smartphone for music.  Chris says, “my fav smartphone app would be Pandora radio because of the endless streaming. Although on one occasion, I was dismayed to find Selena Gomez on the Fray radio. But it’s free music and I’m poor.”  Pandora is also fun because it lets you give thumbs up or thumbs down on a song so you can jump to a new one if you don’t like what is currently playing.

These are only a handful of the many wonderful apps out there.  Use them as a starting point to help teens locate some of the best free ones for their phones.

Kudos for Library Teen Sites

Teens @ Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (PA)

As soon as I arrived I knew this was February’s Kudos site.  The locker graphics pulled me in even before I noticed I could personalize the site with my favorite color; of course I had to try them all!  When the mouse is dragged over the lockers, an easy to read text box appears explaining your options.  One of the most unique links is to STEM, “an extensive collection of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subject and career educational resources that are available throughout the library system.”  The subjects are easy to choose from and each booklist is annotated.  Near the bottom of STEM, you can click on “Fun” to find recommended Web sites on writing, music, and the city itself.  The site also has a teen blog on books and programs, but also fun things like inviting readers to consider, “How many ways can you think of to use a paperclip?” with a video link to demonstrate.

Rebecca Purdy is the youth services coordinator for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.

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