Virtual Reality for Libraries – An Exploratory Workshop

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A variety of VR headsets used at the workshop

The first activity organised by the LAS Programmes and Social Committee in the new Council Year 2015 was a fun and insightful one. 28 participants attended the exploratory workshop on Virtual Reality (VR) conducted by a team of librarians from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Libraries on 30 September 2015, in spite of a hazy day with an unhealthy reading.

The workshop is part of the deliverables for the team’s LAS-YBP Grant Award (FY15/16), which allowed them to explore acquiring VR content and providing access through the library. It was held at the Programme Zone (Imagine This and Imagine That) at library@orchard, kindly sponsored by NLB.

Participants began arriving around 2:45pm, and they were given a Google Cardboard at the entrance. Those who arrived early took the opportunity to tour the library@orchard before the workshop started.

Law Loo Shien, the project team leader, started the workshop with an introduction to VR and the various forms it might take. He explained that the team sees VR as an emerging content form and that libraries have the role in curating and providing access. VR is expected to take off in 2016 with the launch of VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift. In recent months, there have been increasing references to VR in the news, for example the Straits Times (15 July 2015, 24 September 2015). And some libraries overseas have also started to explore VR. He also shared a little about the history of VR, its present-day developments, and talked about the team’s experiences with getting and using the various types of VR headsets.

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In the second part of the workshop, participants tried out some of the suggested VR apps using the Google Cardboard provided (with assistance from the project team). They enjoyed exploring the worlds inside the Cardboard!

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Some participants also tried the Oculus Rift which gave them a much more immersive experience.

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The third and final part of the workshop saw participants take part in a short thinking exercise by posting their ideas about the potential use of VR in their organisations, as well as the type of VR experiences that they would like to see on a Padlet wall. There were some interesting ideas like using VR for history education, creating virtual field trips, engaging reluctant teen readers, etc.

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Loo Shien wrapped up the workshop by going through some of the known issues and things to note when it comes to implementing VR in libraries, such as the long-term health implications, hygiene issue when sharing headgears (particularly the head-mounted device), etc.

He also shared recommended readings, videos, and suggested some VR content providers for interested librarians to follow. He has kindly shared his presentation slides with us. For those who were interested in the workshop but could not attend – you can check them out here.

Link to Loo Shien’s PPT slides – Virtual Reality for Libraries

Submitted by Jenny Wong, Member of Programmes and Social Committee