Library Offering VR Facilities & Services for Community to Explore

Virtual Reality, VR, Immersive Technology & Simulated Environment

Library Offering VR Facilities & Services for Community to Explore

Normally, when we talk about library, our mind will automatically imagine the vast number of physical, hard copy books laying around us. And for most of the people, library is a boring and not a fun place to go. Not sure if you agree on this ­čÖé

However, there is a trend nowadays where the libraries start to offer the VR (virtual reality) facilities and services inside their place. Example of the libraries are Cromwell Belden Public Library, Clark Library in University of Portland, Redwood City Public Library, Berkeley Public Library, Georgetown University Library, Pellissippi State Communities College Libraries and Kitchener Public Library.

VR Facilities in Library
Cromwell Belden Public Library team trying VR. (Credit: Radeon Pro)

Based on the numbers, it seems that the library organization especially the librarian are quite fast in embracing this virtual reality technology to be adopted to the communities and public.

How the VR Activities Work at Library?

Normally, what happen is that the library will prepare a virtual reality station or area. This special are is usually managed by the Digital or New Media unit of the library. Or something like the technology and innovation arm of the library.

For visitors who are interested to try, they can register, book or reserve the time slot when to use the VR facilities. Usually, you need to be a member of the library. Remember the time when you have your own Library Membership Card? At the Heffner Studio of Kitchener Public Library, users are allowed for one session per day where they can use it up to 30 minutes.

Some of the VR applications that looks relevant to the spirit of the libraries are like “Google Earth VR“, “The Body VR: Journey Inside a Cell“, “The Night Cafe: A VR Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh“, “Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars” and many more. Some libraries such as The Hardin Valley Library also offer the education type of games which are downloaded from Steam platform.

One of the most important thing is that the users must follow the safety tips. For example is to remove the VR headset if they start feeling nausea, dizziness or discomfort. And to be extra careful with all those cables so they do not trip and causing incident while using it.

Sometimes, the library also need the support from others within the community to make this happen and can work smoothly. For example, at Clark Library Digital Lab in University of Portland, their Shiley School of Engineering provided support for the VR workstation. Here, the Digital Lab has two set of HTC Vive with the Windows Lenovo Desktop workstation to be use. And for the Redwood City Public Library, they has been awarded with grant from American Library Association for them to setup and install Oculus Rift platform.

If the libraries can’t afford to own the VR stuffs or maintain it for so long, then they will conduct a special session at the library to introduce the visitors to VR. For example, the “Experience VR at the Library!” session at the Berkeley Public Library which was held end of July 2017 last year. Since they only provide the Google Cardboard, the visitors need to bring in their own smartphone which is compatible with it.

Some places like Gelardin New Media Center of Georgetown University Library also offer the facilities to create your own VR and 360 video content by using the Ricoh Theta Cameras. That is a very cool value added services offered by the library.

With this kind of initiative from the library, it will ensure the library can remain relevant as the place for people and community to search for knowledge and explore more on it. Perhaps, soon all the VR materials and experiences can also be organized and arranged using the library classification system as well. Hence, with the addition of virtual reality in it, people can also search the experience they want in the library catalog as well.

Since the high-end, top performance VR equipments are still expensive, perhaps this can be one of the main attraction to keep people coming back to the library. For more info, you can read it at:
1) “Virtual reality now available in the Digital Lab” from The Beacon.
2) “Library plugs teens into virtual reality” from Scot Scoop of Carlmont High School.
3) “Come Try VR Gaming in the Atlanta Campus Library” from Georgia State University Library.
4) “Introducing the Marvel of VR to Communities through Library Labs” from Radeon Pro.

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