Name: Andrew Tweet
Library: Folsom Public Library
Position: Lead Senior Librarian
2 computer based VR systems, 2 wireless VR headsets, 2 phone based systems, IPad for AR, plus all the clipboards, signs, and exhibits jammed onto one large Rubbermaid cart.
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Oculus go, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, and AR books to use with the Ipad.
Staff train and equip volunteer docents (age 15 through adult) to operate the VR lab on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Specialized workshops on more advanced skills and VR creation are taught by staff.
1) Design a program that fits within the constraints of your library, but still meets your goals.
2) Mimic any successful technology programs your library is already operating so that you have a template for the staff and public to be able to understand the VR program.
Docents talk with patrons of all ages about VR in general and our specific equipment. Interested patrons sign up for 15 minute turns with the Rift and Vive. There are articles on the tables that people can read about various VR applications in real life. While they wait for their turn, people can try out the Cardboard, Go, AR books, and learn from docents.
Two times per month on the 2nd and 4th Sundays. The VR program alternates with the 3D printing lab which operates on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month.
About one-third of the first time visitors are walk-ins since Sunday is a very popular day at our library. That is not for lack of promoting the program to the public; we posted a lot on social media when the program launched, and the local paper picked up a press release about our VR Expo. The City of Folsom has both a print newsletter and a digital newsletter. Our communications manager has included it in each of these newsletters a few times. We also have posters and flyers around the library that advertise the program. Although it is not a traditional form of promotion, the VR program was mentioned as a highlight in the Mayor’s State of the City speech.
We have partnered with our local Makers group for events, done outreach to the Senior Center and Farmer’s market, as well as local tech corporations and the Junior College.
Share some examples: Instead of just posting our flyers for events we will explain a little bit about each piece of equipment or talk about why libraries are hosting VR programs (My answer: because libraries have been making scarce resources available for education, entertainment, and productivity for centuries. VR is scarce and can be used for all three purposes.)
Probably a tie between Google Earth, Fruit Ninja, and Rec Room.
We’d like to add more family friendly games.
One of the top requests we get is for longer sessions. Currently people get 15 minute turns with the VR equipment, but they would like to get sessions of 30 to 60 minutes, however with 50 people currently attending each 4 hour lab there just isn’t enough equipment and time to make those longer sessions a reality.
Yes, there has been some interest in people becoming content creators.
We won a Libraries Illuminated grant that allowed us to expand the XR equipment offerings and facilitate some content creation workshops so currently we have plenty of equipment to fit our programming capacity. Future programming expansion would require more volunteer hours so that is our current limiting factor.
and if so, in what time frame and budget.
And if not, why.
It’s hard to tell what the impacts are likely to be. Content creators are still learning what educational experiences are possible and enjoyable in VR. If you watch some of the very early films from the silent era, there are some really odd ones compared to the standard genres you see today. Filmmakers were experimenting with the capabilities of the medium. VR feels like it is still in that part of its history, where content creators are just trying stuff out to see if it works.
One of the very first people to use the Rift visited his hometown in Croatia. As he ‘walked’ the streets of a hometown he hadn’t been able to visit for years he narrated excitedly for everybody to hear, “That church, my grandfather was baptized in that church, my cousin lives in that house. I just Skyped with them this morning. My grade school is right there…” He was very touched by the experience.
Name: Andrew Despres
Library: Downey City Library
Position: Supervising Librarian, Technical Services
We currently own two Oculus Rifts, one HTC Vive, and we recently acquired 12 Oculus GO headsets.
We have the HTC Vive and one Oculus Rift installed in a dedicated space in the Library – the VR Lab. The VR Lab has the same hours as the Library, but is primarily used during afterschool hours and weekends as teenagers make up the largest user group.
We also have a portable setup with an Oculus Rift and a 50” that we setup in our event space on Monday afternoons.
It is our plan to use the Oculus Go headsets for special Library events and outreach. We intend to introduce the headsets at Downey’s annual Dia de los Muerto’s festival, held this year on October 28th. We will have a table set up with staff and will be giving guests the chance to try the Coco VR experience.
When the Library first received the Oculus Rift we setup the system in our event room and I presented it to library staff, demonstrating how to use the system and the different applications we had installed. Staff was then encouraged to try out the system.
To introduce the Oculus Rift to our patrons we recruited and trained a small group of teen volunteers. These volunteers were then scheduled to provide support to our patrons during after school hours. This was tremendously successful and ultimately resulted in a culture of non-volunteer teens teaching other teens and patrons how to use VR.
Because we had such a successful rollout and a group of very enthusiastic patrons we were able to phase out our teen volunteers and rely mostly on a core group of regulars to teach others how to use VR. In the event that the room is empty when a first-timer wants to use VR we have our computer lab staff close by to provide assistance.
Implementing VR as a passive program is what has enabled our library to be successful. By making VR available during all open hours we haven’t had the challenge of communicating when VR is available. We would also recommend finding one or more people on staff that is really excited about VR and not afraid of new technology. Give them the opportunity to explore the Rift or the Vive and learn the in-and-outs of how to use the system and what it is capable of. Let this staff member be the VR evangelist in your library and the one responsible for training staff and or volunteers and help shape what your VR programming will look like.
Except for early demonstrations to staff and volunteers, we haven’t had a real need to demonstrate VR to our patrons. This may change over time as our VR related programming matures, but our model of always-available VR, formal demonstrations have been unnecessary.
Through our VR Lab, we offer informal and passive VR programming every day. More formal programming, such as Tilt Brush art competitions and high-score competitions in games such as Fruit Ninja have been considered but ultimately deemed unnecessary to drum up interest.
Our primary way of promoting VR to the public has been through social media. This is usually accomplished by sharing photos of teens playing in our VR Lab on Facebook and Instagram, or periodically promoting our Teen Zone programming which occurs every Monday afternoon and prominently features VR.
Shortly after receiving our first Rift system we took it to a local high school and set it up in their library for a week, where students and faculty could come and try it out. This helped to generate interest in our newly established VR Lab. In the coming weeks we will be sharing our Oculus Go headsets with our community at the City’s Dia de los Muertos festival.
Since the introduction of VR in our library, Job Simulator is a long-standing favorite. Other favorites include Robo Recall and Superhot VR. Most recently, Beat Saber has been a huge hit — we logged almost 50 hours of use in a three-week period.
Games are by-far the most popular choice of our patrons, but animated 360 shorts have also been a popular way to introduce people to VR because apart from a menu, there is usually no interaction required. Google Earth and Tilt Brush are popular non-game applications.
Unless a library has multiple systems available at any given time, the curation of content should favor games and applications that can be fully experienced by patrons in a small amount of time.
XR programming can, and should, be different from library to library because what works in my library may not work in others. That being said, VR programming at the Downey City Library has primarily centered on entertainment but libraries should explore ways to introduce their patrons to the educational and instructional qualities of the technology.
Our patrons have not explicitly asked for library programming related to content creation, but when the idea of an introductory VR-coding course has been floated by some of our most ardent users seem very excited by the prospect.
I would love to acquire some AR hardware such as the Microsoft Hololens or Magic Leap to let our patrons experiment and explore with Augmented Reality. If in the future we are able to obtain some hardware, I would likely develop some curriculum pertaining to AR content creation.
There is currently no firm budget or plan for expanding XR content, but the Downey City Library will be undergoing an extensive renovation beginning in Spring 2019 and VR will have a prominent home in this new space. This will be a perfect time to introduce new AR/VR hardware and expanded programming offerings but we are still exploring our options.
VR has the potential to radically alter education and learning. Visit a faraway or otherworldly destination, such as the Great Barrier Reef or Mars; attend a class with people from all over the world in a virtual space that encourages social engagement in a way that browser-based online courses couldn’t come close to matching; step backwards in time and interactively experience a history lesson that engages your senses and you are unlikely to forget. All of this and more is suddenly within reach for anyone with access to VR. Libraries have long been an equalizer, providing free access to a world of information to those most in need and this tradition will continue, or rather must continue by providing access to VR.
Despite decades of research and investment VR is still in its infancy, but never before has it been this close to being a technology capable of radically changing our everyday lives. This reality may still seem far off to some but as the technology continues to evolve and become more accessible to the masses we may begin to see a shift where the consumption of VR content for purposes other than entertainment become commonplace.
Libraries should position themselves ahead of this trend and introduce VR to their communities now, because communities with access to this technology today will be the communities that determine how this technology will be used tomorrow.
My favorite story involves a staff member trying VR for the first time. At one of our first introductions to VR events for staff, a library aide decided to try Google Earth VR and after a brief introduction to the controls she was off, flying across the globe from one destination to another. As she explored New York City and then Paris, Rome and Egypt she would stop and immerse herself in 360 photo spheres that made her feel as if she was actually in these places. She was so enthusiastic about her experience that for weeks afterward she would exclaim how amazing and cool it was. I have since witnessed similar responses with our patrons but what really struck me was how genuine she was in sharing her excitement and enthusiasm.
XR connects and engages people in transformative experiences to build empathy and
understanding. Help make it happen in your community