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Exploring “New Horizons” in VR.

When thinking of the “New Horizons” module and pondering on the thought provoking articles Professor Michael Stephens has shared, one “hits home” for me today. This article not only sparks curiosity, but instantly turns the imaginary lightbulb on in my head. A possible upcoming reality so bright because of potential the lumens emitted can’t conceivably be measured. The article I’m referring to is titled: “Is Virtual Reality the Future of Field Trips?”

The genius article was written by Mike McShane and really highlights how the developing technology of Virtual Reality is allowing patrons access to experiences that transcend physical boundaries. Imagine living in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path, or off the grid for that matter; access to Virtual Reality allows patrons to experience destinations that weren’t reachable before (just virtually). Socioeconomic standings, no matter where you fall in the scale, can’t be accounted for once you have access to the technology. Once you put on the headset and hold those wands in your hand, it’s an even playing field. Mobility limitations can be temporarily alleviated, and new possibilities can be achieved.

Now the direction McShane (2018) explores is in the area of schools benefiting from Virtual Reality and pondering if it can be a suitable substitute for field trips. There are many great points McShane (2018) makes:

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

Pros

“Outside of a few major cities, access to classic works of art and historical artifacts is much more limited” (para. 4). (VR could solve this.)

“Virtual reality can also take students to places that they could never go in person” (para. 7).

Cons

“There is something about getting a permission slip signed, packing a sack lunch, piling onto a bus, trundling through unfamiliar streets, and descending on a museum or theatre like locusts that made the experience seem important and worthy of remembering” (para. 8). (In VR you’d miss out on many of these hallmarks.)

I think this article was fascinating, but I want to use this as starting point to talk about what’s really been affecting my life and the lives of others worldwide: COVID-19. A pandemic that has massively altered the way we interact, live, work, shop, etc. Our world is rapidly changing, where “sheltering in place” and “social distancing” has become the new norm. Ponder with me, could VR make life better during these troubling times?

Imagine if Virtual Reality was now a necessity, everyone had a VR set at home, the way many today have a television, microwave, telephone, Social Media, and a computer. If VR software was robust when it comes to collaborating with others over the internet, similar to the way XBOX and PlayStation allows users to play together now, mixed reality rooms could be functional. Could public schools reopen in Virtual Reality while their physical doors remain shut? Can our children that are forced to learn online (from home) today be assigned to a virtual/augmented classroom that allows them to still be in school with their teachers and friends?

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

I can totally envision this in my head. I’m sitting in my school desk virtually, listening to my teacher lecture right in front of me while my peer behind me is passing me virtual notes in class. Not much has changed, just instead of wearing my usual baseball cap, I’m now wearing a VR headset. I think this would totally aide in preventing or at least reducing social isolation. The vibe is similar to Ready Player One, I know, but could really be a helpful option for public schools.

Could this be an appropriate answer for library book groups, varieties of programming, and storytimes in our current state? Just imagine it taking place through virtual reality lens: although we may be physically bound to the walls of our residence, we’d still have the comforts found in the “third space” or what sociologist Eric Klinenberg dubbed “Palaces for the People.” Imagine a VR experience so sophisticated it could create hologram avatars for each patron currently using the technology, storytime at the Belmont Library would “more or less” feel like a normal “in the library” storytime. All this simultaneously happening while “sheltering in place.” You could see your library friends, interact with them, tell a joke, etc. The storytime virtual room would react to your movement, allow you to sit cross-legged on the floor, high-five your neighbor, even dance along with the librarian leading the program to the “Hokey Pokey.”

I was inspired by the HoloLens 2 that was shared in the “Things to watch,” segment of the “New Horizons” module, and instantly imagined a mixed reality space that allows you to not only interact with neat software tools and people, but allows users to jump into everyday routine settings like public schools, libraries, the gym, you name it! I think author Mike McShane captured lightning in a bottle with his article, but when faced with today’s problems of living with a pandemic McShane’s focus can easily be shifted. I imagine a simple title change, “Is Virtual Reality OUR Future Now?”

References:

Cline, E. (2011). Ready Player One. Penguin Random House LLC.

Klinenber, E. (2018). Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. Penguin Random House LLC.

McShane, M. (2018, June 13). Is Virtual Reality the future of field trips? Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemcshane/2018/06/13/is-virtual-reality-the-future-of-field-trips/#427e5d7f1809

Stephens, M. (2020). New Horizons [Module]. INFO 287: The Hyperlinked Library. https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/module-9-new-horizons/

Upload VR. (2019, February 24). HoloLens 2 AR headset: on stage live demonstration [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIHPPtPBgHk&feature=emb_title

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Planning for Curbside Pick-Up

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:  

What sparks joy for me in the rapidly changing world of library is sheer innovation, especially around access. From eBooks to laptops and hotspots, libraries worldwide are looking to get with the times, and they’ve been doing a great job! Leferink (2018) states, “Clearly, in today’s world, the library competes with other places, such as restaurants, cafés, concert halls, and parks to name a few, to be the preferred Third Place…” (para. 6).  

As patrons continue to become occupied with everyday life, or even currently “socially distancing” themselves, libraries should think of additional ways to accommodate this population. One service that’s currently practiced both in retail and among libraries is Curbside Pick-Up. The service does not require costly technology or even infrastructure; just mostly staff buy-in and time. I have a feeling most patrons are already “in,” as this is a service, they are already accustomed to here in the United States. Patrons are already using “curbside” at Target, or similarly to the likes of Uber Eats and Amazon Delivery. To me, this service just makes sense to have, especially in urban areas where parking is a hot commodity. 

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

With Curbside Pick-Up, the library system I work for (San Mateo County Libraries) institutes a new service that keeps its collection equitable, accessible, and ultimately puts the needs of its patrons first. The book The Heart of Librarianship has a great line that really puts things in perspective: “And one of the things that we always need to keep thinking about is how we can connect with our users, find ways to be present in their lives, and let them know what we can do for them” (Stephens, 2016, p. 41). 

Description of Community you wish to engage:  

This is an empathetical approach to accommodate and better serve a population of patrons that are unable to set foot into the public library, for whatever the reason, in order to pick up items on hold. The circumstances can vary depending upon the patron, but Curbside Pick-Up can remove access barriers for many.   

I’d like to highlight groups of patrons that can benefit from this trending service: 

  • Patrons that have physical limitations or restrictions. 
  • Patrons that have “on-the-go” schedules, that are unable to set foot inside the libraries. 
  • Patrons that may be sick but are still in need of their materials. 
  • Patrons that are unable to get to the library during most hours of operations (business professionals, rideshare drivers, educators, etc.). 
  • Patrons that can only visit the library during peak times and are unable to find parking. 
  • Patrons that are unable to currently set foot in the library due to worldwide pandemic. 

Action Brief Statement:  

For patrons: 

Convince patrons that by using Curbside Pick-Up they will discover the library is looking to keep up with consumer trends by making its physical collection even more accessible which will improve the daily lives of its patrons by removing obstacles because the library is all about improvement, equity, and accessibility to high quality information. 

For library administration: 

Convince library administration that by allowing Curbside Pick-Up they will improve customer service and user experience which will attract new customers, aide in retention, and improve circulation statistics because the library is now adding a new stream of “access.” 

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:  

Archibald, E. (2020). Bringing curbside delivery to your library [PowerPoint slides – PLA 2020]. Tulsa City-County Library. 

Beaufort County Library. (2017) Curbside hold pickup service. Beaufortcountylibrary.org. https://www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/copy-of-podcasts 

Berkowitz, K. (2018, April 24). You can now check out books at the Highland Park Library without leaving your car. Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/highland-park/ct-hpn-library-promoting-curb-service-tl-0426-story.html 

St. Louis Public Library. (2020). Curbside pick up service. Slpl.org. https://www.slpl.org/curbsidepickup/ 

Turner, A. (2009, August 30). No parking? Librarians will deliver to your car. Chron. https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/No-parking-Librarians-will-deliver-to-your-car-1724990.php 

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:  

By implementing Curbside Pick-Up, the library removes additional barriers in terms of access and stays current by offering a service that’s quickly becoming an industry standard. This new service nicely aligns with San Mateo County Libraries’ strategic plan, one point being: “Spot opportunities to deliver services beyond buildings” (para. 4). Initial guidelines can be developed and instated by a library employee or employees that’ll spearhead the initiative, and then guidelines can be reviewed and refined by library administration. The library administration team can add the service’s policies onto the website in order to stay transparent. 

When looking for examples of policies for Curbside Pick-Up, since the service is well practiced around the nation, many library websites publicly list their policies. Inspiration can be drawn from visiting these websites. One of the best ways to learn what has worked and what has not is by calling libraries that are currently offering the service and asking. It’s well worth calling three or four libraries to get a well-rounded opinion.  

Guidelines that are easy to understand and well thought out can aide in any service running smoothly. Curbside pick-up guidelines should consist of: 

  1. Hours of service operation, including the days service will be provided 
  2. Contact method for patrons 
  3. How to place a curbside hold 
  4. What can be delivered curbside and what can’t (collection wise) 
  5. Address of library and instructions on where to park 
  6. A step-by-step list of instructions that patrons can follow when using Curbside Pick-Up 
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:  

Funding should not be so cumbersome in the implementation of this service. Funds can be set aside if the library deems it necessary to purchase a telephone service exclusively used for Curbside Pick-Up. This can come by way of a cellular carrier or traditional land line. Voice Over IP is a viable option today, since the library is almost always connected, Google Voice has enticing plans for businesses that are relatively inexpensive. By adding an exclusive telephone line for this service, the library’s existing phone lines can avoid new traffic. 

Parking lot signage will need some funds set aside; this can range anywhere from painting designations on parking spaces or adding placard style signage in front of spaces. Luckily this should only be one-time cost, and if the library building is owned by a city this may be covered (partially or in full) by the city.  

The library may look to purchase more book carts that can be used specifically for curbside pick-up, this generally would be a one-time purchase as well. 

Aside from what’s listed above I do not see the need to fundraise, receive grants, or donations for this service.  

Action Steps & Timeline:  

 In order to kick-off Curbside in my library system, we’d need our library administration to say yes. If this happens, either the selected employee or group can start working on a timeline for the service to launch. I’d estimate planning would take no more than two to three months for this project. This gives time to decide what library would be the best to pilot the service, a telephone service can be selected and purchased, signage for parking can be made, staff can be trained, the Communications Department can help create a vision for the service, etc.  

After three months all should be in place in order to launch Curbside Pick-Up, at least in pilot phase. After gathering data via staff and patron feedback for let’s say a period of two months, guidelines can then be refined and polished. Then a discussion with library administration can happen to discuss the service, while additionally considering if they’d like to move forward to adding this service to other libraries. 

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

 This service will require staffing, but most likely only for a limited window, daily. When starting off the service going “small” is key; be it only having one or two parking spaces allocated, which can most likely can be handled by one employee. I envision a staff rotation instituted for the branch, where a staff member is assigned to oversee the service for just one hour.  

Let’s say the service is only provided four hours each day, you can have four different staff members assigned to this duty on a given day, each working just one hour. Then the next day, you can have a different four staff members overseeing the service. For smaller branches in our library system, the service hours of operation may not need to last four hours, perhaps only one or two hours is necessary. Hours of operation for Curbside Pick-Up can really be gauged in the first month or two, then the library can adjust accordingly.    

Training for this Technology or Service:  

Library branch training can initially come from the group or employee that worked on developing the service. Since the group/individual has already met with administration, knows the service guidelines, and may have trained other libraries that are currently providing the service. Designing a training for libraries should come easy.  

At my branch, training for this fun service can be provided during our biweekly staff meetings. I think it is essential for all staff members to receive training. The more staff familiar with the service, the greater the odds are for staff buy-in. Providing patron feedback and even photos of happy patrons can help encourage staff about a soon to launch service. 

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:  

Any new service will need stellar graphic artwork with catchy wording to get people excited. Our Communications Department has an amazing team of employees that work hard in the area of library branding. They’ve launched numerous campaigns that have been seen by hundreds of thousands. Working with this department is essential when it comes to generating a creative vision for Curbside Pick-Up. 

Promotion for new services, resources, and collection items come in a multitude of ways in our library system. We have a rotating banner on our website’s homepage that any visitor will immediately see, showcasing the service here will be worthwhile. Creating a blog and a webpage that lives on our website will be an easy way to disseminate information pertinent to the service. Physical signage can be strategically placed in the given library that has added the service. Media outlets can be sent a press release about the service to see if they’d be interested in covering Curbside Pick-Up. 

Promoting within the organization would be easy to do. Library administration can send out an all staff email that discloses the new service, where it will be happening at, and provide the essential guidelines to the service. The team spearheading the service can develop infographics or a video to give staff members a clearer picture of how the service works. These documents and media can be shared in all staff emails as well. 

I’ve seen many businesses send off a series of email announcements leading up to a product launch date often giving consumers a small slice of the “pie.” Then on release date, they spill the beans on the revolutionary new thing. Fun ways to promote Curbside Pick-Up outside the organization can follow suit; we could send out a series of catchy initial email blasts to patrons saying:  

  1. “Something new is coming to the _________ library on (enter specific cate).” 
  1. “Got Curbside?” 
  1. “Curbside Pick-Up is now available at __________ Library, click here to find out how to participate!” 

Additionally, a short video can be made showcasing an example of one using curbside pick-up. This should not be hard to make and can be easily shared on our Instagram and Facebook social media pages making Curbside Pick-Up visible to the world!  

 Evaluation:  

Initial benchmarks can consist of measuring use of service statistics which can be accounted for in several ways: either by referencing the number of holds set for Curbside Pick-Up via the libraries’ ILS or checking call log history via Voice Over IP history log. Then ballpark figures can easily be provided for determining how many unique users have taken advantage of the service. 

Customer testimonials can be very impactful and can remind library administration, staff, and the public why this service is so important to keep. This information will not only encourage library staff but will help the library further refine the service for the better. Testimonials can come from in person conversation, service feedback forms, social media (Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), and even by way of word of mouth. Capturing these success stories can even be shared in the libraries’Annual Report.  

Professor Stephens (2011) states, “The participatory library is open and transparent, and it communicates with its community through many mechanisms” (para. 9). By keeping open communication lines on social media with the public, this can aide in seeing if we are hitting our benchmark goals. Not to mention, it will hold the library accountable for providing the best Curbside Pick-Up service it possibly can.  

Photo by Merakist on Unsplash

It only makes sense in terms of expansion to have more of our libraries on board with participating in the service. Understanding which libraries would greatly benefit by the addition of Curbside Pick-Up is important. This may not include all 12 of our libraries, therefore the library should have its ear open to feedback from patrons at the branch level. Perhaps seeking community feedback or hosting focus groups could help determine if this is necessary for a specific library branch.  

References: 

Leferink, S. (2018, January 24). To keep people happy … keep some books. OCLC.org. http://www.oclc.org/blog/main/to-keep-people-happy-keep-some-books/ 

San Mateo County Libraries. (n.d.). Annual reports. SMCL.org. https://smcl.org/annual-reports/ 

San Mateo County Libraries. (n.d.). Strategic plan. SMCL.org https://smcl.org/strategic-plan/ 

Stephens, M. (2011, October 20) Revisiting participatory service in trying times – a TTW guest post by Michael Casey. Tame the web. https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/ 

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. [Online version]. Retrieved from https://web-a-ebscohost-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzEzNTAzNTZfX0FO0?sid=8fb6aa07-b7bc-4235-a37c-b4146f03c421@sessionmgr4007&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1   

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The Hyperlinked Public Library

Given the opportunity and encouragement from Professor Michael Stephens to “choose your own adventure” by way of reading about hyperlinked communities, exploration of hyperlinked public libraries resonated well. As learned from earlier modules, in a hyperlinked environment “access” takes on a hybrid approach: being both physical and digital. Public Libraries today are investing time, research, and money into providing the best experience possible for patrons. Some hyperlinked library key terms that come to mind are: “equitable”, “accessible”, and “inclusive.”

Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

With patrons in mind, many public libraries have added non-traditional circulation items like WiFi hotspots, laptops, instruments, tools, and cameras to name a few. These items that could have been out of reach are now equitable to patrons of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The Pew Research Center (2014) states, “One major finding in our research into Americans’ use of public libraries is the extent to which libraries are synonymous not only with knowledge and information, but with the tools needed to acquire it in the digital age” (para. 1).

Thinking of access, both physical and digital collections come to mind. Public Libraries are the gate keepers of information, constantly scanning to think of new opportunities to ease the burden of access for its patrons. Online resources like eBook applications are now user friendly, contain a wide variety of options, and are becoming more popular for many users.

A new innovative service initiative that I keep hearing about is “Library Curbside Pick-Up.” While attending the 2020 PLA Conference, Regional Manager Emily Archibald of Tulsa City-County Library discussed how this revolutionary service eased access of her patrons. She listed some of the distinct reasons for instating curbside service:

“Library customers expect the library to keep pace with innovations they experience in their daily lives” (Bringing Curbside Delivery to Your Library, slide 2).

“Library customers are increasingly growing accustom to conveniences offered at local businesses, like grocery stores and restaurants” (Bringing Curbside Delivery to Your Library, slide 2).

Emily shared that research went into this service by way of a pilot committee that developed the scope of the service, then three pilot libraries were eventually established. This service proved valuable to the patrons of Tulsa City-County Library and still is offered today.

Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

The article “A Look at the Evolving Role – and Shifting Spaces – of Today’s Public Libraries,” written by Evie Hemphill literally “blew my mind.” For this blog post I want to share just one facet of her thought-provoking article: the golden nugget of information being “… the concept of “third place” comes into play” (para. 10). Libraries need to strive to become the third-home or “place” that patrons choose to visit both physically and digitally. Hemphill (2019) shares that JEMA’s John Mueller states, “the first place being our home, the second place being our work and the third place being this place in society where we go to make community,” Mueller explained” (para. 11).

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

This profound concept makes total sense to me. Libraries need to be the elusive “third place” that their patrons and community members choose to visit. The library system I work for implements out-of-the box programming and outreach opportunities, has inviting spaces, offers an inclusive collection, has non-traditional collection items like laptops and bicycles available, a plethora of online resources, and makerspaces; all to improve the livelihood of our patrons. This is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to becoming the “third place.” Strategies for retention and inviting new patrons to our public libraries must be accounted for.

Hyperlinked public libraries are real, improving, thriving, and trending. I’d like to leave you all with a question: “How is your library striving to become the ever so coveted ‘third space?’”

References:

Archibald, E. (2020). Bringing curbside delivery to your library [PowerPoint slides]. Tulsa City-County Library.

Hemphill, E. (2019, February 5). A look at the evolving role – and shifting spaces – of today’s public libraries. St. Louis Public Radio. https://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/look-evolving-role-and-shifting-spaces-todays-public-libraries#stream/0

Pew Research Center. (2014, July 9). Public libraries and technology: From “houses of knowledge” to “houses of access”. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2014/07/09/public-libraries-and-technology-from-houses-of-knowledge-to-houses-of-access/

Stephens, M. (2020). The hyperlinked library: hyperlinked communities . https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=74c82b0d-bd96-4e81-9894-aab40123a319