Why Virtual Reality is Important for Libraries

As Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized the amount of information available to the public in the 15th century, so, too, has the information technology revolution of recent history supplied mass amounts of digital content to modern society. The way information has been absorbed remained wholly unchanged for centuries, but recent innovations have created new pathways to the mind. Virtual reality, or VR, allows users to explore and interact with artificial, digitally-based environments. VR offers a relatively high level of immersion by placing people in omnidirectional worlds for educational, therapeutic, functional, and entertainment purposes.

Libraries have always been a source of information, dating as far back as the Library of Alexandria during the Hellenistic era of Ancient Greece. Sharing information with the public was, until recently, achieved mostly through written works. Today’s libraries have expanded to lend everything from gardening tools and musical instruments to children’s games and sports equipment; technology is not an exception. The development of new mediums has allowed libraries to extend offerings to include audiobooks, music formats, tablets, eBooks, apps, and more.

Many of today’s patrons are interested in experiencing emerging technologies like VR because of the infinite possibilities and the deep level of immersion, like diving into the atmosphere of a good book. Libraries can also educate the public on how they can access the technology at home with smartphones and VR viewers – knowledge worth sharing. Libraries that are able to keep up with modern technologies provide patrons with knowledge and new skills they need in today’s tech-driven world.

In the coming years, Virtual Reality is going to have a significant impact on society and libraries should begin to prepare. Critics of VR may claim it is just another gimmick in today’s mercurial technology scene; however, current business trends point to a future with Virtual Reality at the forefront with long-term potential, and there is a rising demand for places to house interactive experiences and content. Libraries have the perfect opportunity to fill this need while upholding the core value of providing lifelong learning services for all.

There are many logistical issues surrounding VR that libraries must thoughtfully plan around, but, if properly executed, it is possible to offer a vast array of new and exciting services that would benefit the community. From virtual conference meetings and exposure therapy to educational media and digital exhibits, it is only limited by our imaginations. Utilizing VR equipment and free software, patrons of all ages can build worlds and explore creative possibilities. By embracing technologies like VR, libraries can continue to be relevant educational institutions in today’s society as the venue for exploration and innovation.