Report: Virtual reality in your library

On 26th April, the Adelaide City Library kindly welcomed a group of curious SALIN members to learn about the Library’s use of virtual reality technology.

Jessica Curtis, Digital Services Coordinator, explained the what, why and how of their VR programs followed by an opportunity for attendees to experiment with some of the technology.

Virtual reality is immersion into a 3D simulation or environment. It has been around in various forms since the 1950s, starting with a sensorama. VR has been available commercially since the ‘90s, with a resurgence in popularity since 2010. Recently, as prices have become more competitive more individuals and organisations have started using the technology.

Using VR in libraries allows library patrons to learn and experiment with this technology, engaging actively in a hands on approach that suits a range of learning styles. The communities served by libraries benefit from the opportunities for participation and education. Libraries provide equitable access to this new technology and a chance for staff, volunteers and patrons to learn new skills.

The Adelaide City Library employs specialists in residence, including historians, artists, poets and innovators. Specialists are used because librarians are not experts in everything (although some of us might like to think so!). The specialists develop new ways for members of the community to engage with the library, allowing for creative or experimental content and fostering collaboration.

To implement the VR program, the Library utilised an Innovator in Residence – Daish Malani. Daish is the technical director at Add Life Technology, as well as being the cofounder of the VR Network of Australia and the Adelaide VR Meetup. Daish brought his expert knowledge of VR to the library. He provided guidance in the types of technology, what applications to use, technological setup, environmental requirements, staff and volunteer training and promotion.

Choosing a VR headset: Consider phones vs computers, mobility/portability, quality of experience, interactivity, budget. Many different headsets are available at a range of prices. New phones or powerful computers are needed to support the experience. Graphics and CPU need to be considered.
Choosing software: look for VR experiences that will suit your clients and spaces. VR will appeal to a wide demographic so make sure the experiences available are diverse.
Don’t forget to plan for changes and updates in technology!

Building on Daish’s expertise, Library staff created a project plan encompassing timelines, risk assessment, procurement, events, and staffing. Staff knowledge of customers and library spaces was invaluable to this process.

The VR program developed through this plan is now run daily by a team of volunteers in the Library’s innovation lab. It is offered through a mix of of private bookable sessions and drop-in sessions. More information about VR sessions at Adelaide City Library, or any of the other great programs they run in their innovation lab can be found here.



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