Virtual Reality Headsets – Plan of Action
March 20, 2017
Virtual Reality Plan of Action
Remember the View Master, where you would put in a wheel of tiny images and you could look into the light and be wowed? Well, virtual reality has evolved quite a bit since then. Now, we’re getting closer to being able to full immerse oneself in a digital world completely foreign to our own. Instead of seeing a still image of the Pyramids from your View Master, someday you can actually visit, interact, and walk around in remote places of the world thanks to virtual reality. Absolutely loved a roller coaster at the local theme park? It’s now possible with the right tools to film your ride on the roller coaster, upload it to YouTube, and then view it 360 degrees using VR headsets as cheap as $10. It’s not all about games and riding roller coasters, however. According to Alexander, “a further twist is the use of VR for digital storytelling, which we now recognize as a major form of digital media” (Kelly, 2016).
This rapidly evolving technology is on the cusp of the next wave libraries need to implement. VR will allow people to visit faraway lands, be entertained and engaged, or learn a new skill: create VR ready videos. School Library Journal has included virtual reality in their top 10 tech list for 2016 (Ishizuka, 2016).
“The library is also a virtual space where individuals can gain access to information, resources and rich experiences the library offers” (Garmer, 2014). Imagine the possibilities if patrons could tour their library from the comfort of their own home, with a VR headset! This is a breakthrough for home bound or elderly patrons in particular. A simple tour of the library offers patrons access to information in virtual spaces, which are as important as the physical realm.
There are so many options for headsets. Though there are very inexpensive options such as the Google Cardboard, this plan will encourage the purchase of three HTC Vive headsets for circulation accompanied by a user agreement.
This is not mere “technolust” as mentioned by Stephens (2004), but a solid plan with phases of implementation. Virtual reality is here to stay.
Goals & Objectives
The primary goal of the virtual technology headsets as a circulating item in the collection is to introduce a new digital format to the community. The main objectives of this service are:
- Introduce a fun, educational, and entertaining technology to the library community
- Inspire creativity and entrepreneurship by educating patrons about the VR format
- Offer a new technology that might be cost prohibitive to some to everyone
The Pleasant Town Public Library serves roughly 27,000 patrons in an urban area. The median age is 51 years old, with a median household income of $99,000*. Pleasant Town has a rapidly aging population, for whom VR headsets could be a great asset in particular. In the most recent survey of the community, Pleasant Town residents would like to see more technology classes and opportunities offered at their library, especially after the library’s recent renovation and somewhat barren Makerspace. The library has recently deployed a survey to see what types of technology in specific the community are hoping to see, largely focusing on two areas – tech and arts & crafts.
The Pleasant Town Public Library has 40 employees, and the main employees tasked with assisting with the VR headsets, answering questions, and circulating them will be the adult reference and circulation staff. The individual overseeing the project is the Emerging Technologies Librarian, supervised by the Assistant Director.
Action Brief Statement
Convince library administration that by offering circulating VR headsets they will increase digital literacy skills, engage patrons in an all new, never before utilized digital environment, and offer a cost prohibitive service for all which will increase digital literacy skills, because virtual reality is going to become the next most common and important digital format in coming years.
Evidence and Resources
A quote from someone I believe to be an innovator in the truest sense of the word, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, has said “there’s always a richer, more immersive medium to experience the world, and after video, the next logical step is fully immersive virtual reality” (Entis, 2017). These resources have guided me in realizing the many applications and relevancy of VR in general, and as VR relates to libraries and putting VR tech into practice on a variety of budgets.
The mission of this project supports the library’s mission, which states “the purpose of the Pleasant Town Public Library is to provide and promote a variety of library resources and services in response to the informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs of both the residential and business communities” (adapted from Library Mission and Awards, 2016).
The guidelines of this circulating tech are as follows:
- Limited to in-district Pleasant Town Public Library cardholders
- Must sign user agreement prior to checkout
- Checked out by patrons 14 and up. Patrons between ages 14 and 17 must obtain parent signature of user agreement prior to checkout.
- Replacement cost of $800, or fair market value for a new headset (whichever is least expensive)
- Checkout period of one week
- Will comply with patron behavior and internet use policies as approved by the Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees will be presented with a general circulating technology blanket policy for approval at a future board meeting. This policy will cover circulating technologies. We will query other area libraries for example policies using listservs and professional contacts.
Each of the three HTC Vive headsets cost $800. This is a perfect opportunity to seek out grant opportunities or propose a funding opportunity to the Friends of the Library, who earn money for such projects by selling donated and withdrawn books from the library’s collections. The total cost for the devices is $2,400.00. An additional $100 per headset will be reserved for cases and incidental items such as a USB extension cable or hardware replacements. This will bring the total cost of the project to $2,700.00.
This project will require staff time for training. Before launch to the public, staff will have the opportunity to borrow these headsets for one month for a reduced loan period. This will allow them to spend time with the headsets and learn how to use them in a relaxed setting that will reduce cost on company time.
Action Steps & Timeline
- Month 1: Submit proposal and ideas to supervisors (assistant director and library director). If not approved, adjust guidelines and policy
- Month 2: Submit policy to Board for potential approval
- Month 3: If approved, purchase headsets and accessories. If not approved, make adjustments and attempt approval of policy next Board meeting.
- Month 4-5: Spend time with technical services to catalog and process the headsets, and allow time for staff to take home the headsets
- Month 6: Promote headsets to the public, unveil them for checkout
- Ongoing: Clean headsets and wipe any accumulated data, if applicable, and ensure working condition. Train new staff how to circulate and check for damage as they are hired.
The reference desk or circulation staff will be required to make sure patrons are briefed in how to use the headsets, instruct them to sign the user agreements, and actually see to it that they are checked out. When the headsets are returned, they will inspect the headsets for physical damage and put into the office of the technology team who will them do a second checking for damage and reset if needed for the next patron. This will not add any additional hours for reference or circulation staff, but the technology team have dedicated off desk hours that they will devote a few hours a week to maintaining the circulating tech collection to.
Training for this Technology
Circulation desk and adult reference desk staff will be trained from a circulation standpoint, but all staff must have a basic understanding of these headsets. Training is already well intertwined in the library culture, so the standard one hour devoted to continuing education that each staff member receives each week (at the minimum) can be devoted to education. The technology team will develop instructional videos for the library YouTube page that can be used for patrons and staff alike to instruct them on basic use.
Promotion & Marketing
- Social media blitz. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram will all be keen on marketing the service
- Invite relevant members of the press to gain coverage on the headsets
- Include relevant programming and thus information in the quarterly library newsletter
- Develop section of the library website to explain the parameters of these headsets and that they are available to patrons
The primary metrics for evaluation will be circulation statistics and results of an optional survey sent to patrons after they return the headsets. This will evaluate both the amount of people actually using the headsets, and the feedback from the users themselves. Staff feedback after the staff trial period will also be taken seriously. The positive or negative reviews from patrons who use the headsets will be taken the most seriously over how much the headsets are circulated.
The service may be expanded in the future by adding more headsets and expanding to different brands. The library may purchase cheaper headsets for use in programs, such as the View Master VR, which can be used with a smart phone. The high end HTC Vive headsets are meant to get the community excited with the top of the line product in VR and set the bar high for future immersion with VR technology. “Mining user behavior” will also be crucial (Casey & Stephens, 2008). Asking patrons HOW they are using the headsets will be important to evaluate the project. If it seems like mostly gamers are checking them out, do programs around gaming with VR. If artists are using them to create time based art projects in the VR realm, buy books on the topic. Mining the user behavior and how they use or don’t use VR headsets will speak volumes about their success and future considerations.
Casey, M., & Stephens, M. (2008). Measuring progress. http://tametheweb.com/2008/04/15/measuring-progress/
Entis, L. (2017) I didn’t believe VR was the future – until now. http://fortune.com/2017/01/13/virtual-reality-future/
Garmer, A. K. (2014). Rising to the challenge: Re-Envisioning public libraries (A report of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries). http://csreports.aspeninstitute.org/documents/AspenLibrariesReport.pdf
Ishizuka, K. (2016). Top Ten Tech 2016. http://www.slj.com/2016/12/reviews/best-of/top-10-tech-2016/
Kelly, R. (2016). 9 Ed Tech trends to Watch in 2016. https://campustechnology.com/Articles/2016/01/13/9-Ed-Tech-Trends-to-Watch-in-2016.aspx?Page=2
Library Mission and Awards, 2016. http://www.wauclib.org/library-mission-and-awards
Stephens, M. (2004). Technoplans vs. technolust. http://tametheweb.com/2004/11/01/technoplans-vs-technolust/
*Fictional data for Pleasant Town created by Jostock, M. (2017)