I’m in my seventh and final semester of library school and I suddenly have a piece of advice for people who are starting library school this semester:

Buy a tablet.

Ideally, buy a 10-inch tablet. Doesn’t have to be an iPad, there are a few similarly-sized tablets out there, including a Galaxy model.

My library school experience has been what I’d roughly estimate at 90% PDFs and 10% books. Possibly fewer books. My brain recalls—3? Maybe 4? That’s out of 12 classes. I thought that having a Kindle would get me through a lot of PDF reading. Just load it up and read on the train, at lunch, etc. Sadly, I was mistaken.

While some library school PDFs were textual and could, mostly, adapt to the Kindle format, a LOT were image PDFs that wouldn’t enlarge for proper reading. Even in the text PDFs, a handful had images that would interfere with formatting. All-in-all, using my Kindle for library school wasn’t a great experience (I would still heartily endorse it for my non-academic reading!).

I would read most on my laptop or, during downtime, on my work computer. Neither were great reading experiences for me. Computer reading is fine (for me) for websites & such, but not for 20 or 40 pages of material.

I recently bought a refurbished iPad, not for school, but for my RPG books, which are also in PDF. After just a week being back at school, I’ve realized how lovely it is reading my library school PDFs on it and how I can now read them at work, on the train, etc. I can also read homework NOT on my laptop in the evenings at home. Just lie back on the couch and read. It’s fantastic.

My suggestion for a tablet setup

  1. Tablet. Ideally get a 10″ because PDFs look better on them. Older is fine, lower-end is fine–I got a used wifi-only 16GB iPad and it’s going to work well enough for my needs.
  2. Dropbox & app. Save PDFs in Dropbox, either from your computer or tablet. Easy synching.
  3. Annotating App. I got GoodReader (site). I hear good things about PDFPen and MaxPDF as well. When I use GoodReader, I can save a copy with notable passages underlined or drawings or notes on the PDF. It’s great.
  4. Keyboard. Not necessary, but I got a keyboard cover + a note-taking app and have started using that for taking notes in class. The battery life on my older iPad works pretty well for the 3 hours.

This would likely be useful for any grad program in which you use a lot of PDFs. If you hear from those further along in the program that PDFs are heavy, I suggest you give this a shot.

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