Emerging Technology Planning

As I’ve mentioned in a few of my reflection blog posts, I’ve really been extremely interested in virtual reality and how it can facilitate in participatory librarianship. I’ve also been thinking a bit about how these types of things can be implemented within the context of academic libraries, so I got to thinking: What if these services had been incorporated into my educational experience during undergrad?

I thought about how lovely it would have been for my alma mater’s music library (where many core classes were held) to have had the chance to utilize virtual reality as an educational tool. The primary core courses that were taught in the music library were on the subject of music history. Often, the content in music history courses were difficult to fully conceptualize because of how distant the epochs seemed both geographically and in relation to time. As a result, a lot of students really disliked our program’s music history requirement and dreaded the related classes in general.

Using VR as an educational tool, professors may be able to better connect students with historic time periods that may be otherwise difficult to truly appreciate. Imagine, in supplement to detailed historical writings and lectures, being able to travel to medieval Europe, to walk around and see the church architecture that inspired the creation of countless pieces of chant, to hear the sounds that inspired the music of the secular world.

So I propose to implement VR technology for my alma mater’s music library.

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:
1. To aid in the process of immersive, engaging, and participatory music education.
2. To increase the level of student satisfaction with the core music classes that are being taught in the music library.

Description of Community you wish to engage:
The community that I’m hoping to engage will involve any and all students who receive classroom instruction in my alma mater’s music library – where several core classes are taught.

Action Brief Statement:
Convince library administration and music professors who use the music library for instruction that by utilizing virtual reality technologies, they will facilitate in enhancing student appreciation for and retention of important content in the curriculum which will, in turn, positively affect their performance in other music classes because they will have developed a deeper understanding of crucial core content.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:
In this academic library setting, the guidelines, policies, and mission of whichever committees are appointed to direct the implementation of VR technologies would likely need to be informed both by the existing guidelines, policies, and mission of the parent institution (the university) and by the university administrators. After that point, it becomes a matter of staff training for library employees and the professors who will be utilizing the VR equipment. Such guidelines would be standard such as ensuring that the technology is equipped with the appropriate applications for its particular intended usage, keeping the equipment sanitized or cleaned between each use, and secure storage after usage.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:
Again, in an academic library setting, the source of the funding that would be used to support the development of VR technologies would need to be formally decided upon by a board of some sort. If it is decided that the implementation will go forward, the funding may come from any number of sources including tuition, grants, donations, or existing budgetary items.

Action Steps & Timeline:
1. The first step would, of course, be for library staff or administration to propose the implementation for the VR technology. That, according to the Waller, can take the form of a request for proposal which “represents a coordinated effort between members of the library staff to develop a coherent statement of the library’s mission, needs, and expectations” (Waller, 2009). This stage may take weeks or months to complete.

2. After this has been established and the implementation of VR technologies has been agreed upon by whichever library administrators, staff, and university leadership would need to be involved, it will be necessary to train library staff members to use and teach others to use the technology. Depending on the approach taken, it may be necessary to pre-test the technology with some type of student focus group (as an example) before fully incorporating it into the music library classroom. Staff training alone usually takes anywhere from a few months to over a year depending on a variety of factors. Pre-testing may additionally take a few months to complete.

3. In the instance that implementing the technology is not agreed upon, there are other routes that can be taken to engage students in a more immersive educational experience. Professors can utilize the devices that students already have to facilitate in their own VR experience, instructing them to download the appropriate applications on their smart phones and to utilize cheap alternative VR headsets the Google Cardboard for instance.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:
Introducing this new technology will require a certain level of staff training depending on the policies being used to guide the process of implementation determined by the library and university administrators who decided upon it. If it’s not possible to allocate a few staff hours for training and management, the university may take an approach taken by many a public library – utilizing the help of tech-savvy volunteers or interns.

Training for this Technology or Service:
As mentioned, determining which members of the library staff or volunteers will receive training will depend on the decisions of the administrators implementing the technology. Similarly, they will additionally determine the design of the training program (which may simply entail using a pre-established, standardized approach) and the scheduling for the training.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:
Promotion and marketing can take any variety of approaches. Within the context of a university campus, this may involve utilizing some combination of electronic notification through the university messaging center, sending periodic announcements to the students’ campus e-mail addresses, physically advertising with posters or digital signage within the library building itself or within other campus buildings, and utilizing the library’s social media accounts to make announcements (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Evaluation: 
VR technologies can be evaluated in any number of ways. As it is now, there don’t seem to be any formal standard practices in this light, but it may be beneficial to establish benchmarks and performance metrics based upon the technology’s usability. This type of evaluation often includes things like measurements of user satisfaction with the technology, its ease of use, its learnability, and may even include aspects of evaluating staff performance. Whichever method used will need to be established with reference to short-term and long-term goals. As mentioned, the primary purpose of implementing this technology would be to increase the level of student satisfaction with the university’s music history courses. As such, it would be necessary to establish criteria to measure student satisfaction quantitatively (perhaps incorporating specific questions onto mandatory, end-of-semester course reviews) and over the short-term and long-term. This will help to determine if the implementation goals are actually being achieved.

Expansion will not necessarily be in the horizon since the original function of implementing the technology would be for use by the music library within the university library, but I’m sure that VR can have other uses for other types of courses on campus and as an addition to existing library services and programs.

References

Chant, I. (2017). Oculus virtual reality tech rolls out in california libraries. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2017/09/technology/oculus-virtual-reality-tech-rolls-california-libraries/#_

Hellyar, D. (2016). Diana Hellyar on library use of new visualization technologies. Retrieved from  http://informatics.mit.edu/blog/guest-post-diana-hellyar-library-use-new-visualization-technologies

Kelly, R. (2016). 9 ed tech trends to watch in 2016. Retrieved from https://campustechnology.com/Articles/2016/01/13/9-Ed-Tech-Trends-to-Watch-in-2016.aspx?Page=2

Lambert, T. (2016). Virtual reality in the library: Creating a new experience. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2016/02/virtual-reality-in-the-library-creating-a-new-experience/

Pullen, J. P. (2017). Virtual reality for libraries on a shoestring. Retrieved from http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/plconnect/2017/06/21/virtual-reality-for-libraries-on-a-shoestring/

Waller, N. (2009). What Is An RFP And Why Is It Worth Your Time? Library Technology Reports, 39(4), p. 7-11.

2 Thoughts.

  1. I really like the idea of doing immersive experiences during arts classes, and I imagine that in just a few years VR will be popular enough that universities might be able to have someone creating experiences for them or be able to order custom made experiences for classes. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a class be able to walk into the Sistine Chapel as Michelangelo was painting the ceiling?
    All of this would clearly be a lot of work to implement. Do any current virtual experiences exist that match the types of things you mentioned above?

  2. @will1 Absolutely! I definitely thinking about how VR could enhance music students’ experience of music history, but it could be extremely useful for art classes as well.

    I’ve been searching around to find out if any academic libraries have utilized VR in similar ways, but no luck so far. It seems like these types of technologies are easier to find within public library settings, but I’ll definitely post about it if I find anything!

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