WHAT’S NEW IN LIBRARIES
Using virtual and augmented
reality in the library
Director of Libraries, Columbus State Columbus, Ohio, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the background for libraries to consider the benet
of implementing virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) usage.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper includes literature review and commentary on this
topic that has been addressed by professionals, researchers and practitioners.
Findings – VR or AR are not gimmicks, and must be seen as valid additions to the toolkit that may be
used by libraries to engage its audience, not only with the latest technology but also with the goal in
mind of ensuring a proper approach to teaching information literacy.
Originality/value – The value in addressing this topic is to examine the notion of virtual or
augmented reality and its suggested uses in libraries to support the teaching of information literacy.
Keywords Virtual reality, Libraries, Augmented reality
Paper type Viewpoint
Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) is a phenomenon that has been in its
varying growth stages for years (in the case of VR, decades, as far back as the 1930s).
But, today, with a headset available to some and a hand-held device available to many,
it benets library users who are fully expecting such enriched services in the future to
include VR or AR:
[…] libraries and institutions of memory have been challenged to nd new forms of dialogue
with their users and have turned to VR technology to entertain and inform their audience
Affordability, accessibility and a user-friendly platform are all determinant virtues for
any technology introduced in the library. To differentiate their denitions:
Virtual Reality strives to completely simulate an immersive sensory experience
indistinguishable from the real […] often using technologies like headsets that attempt to
completely deprive human sensory organs like the eyes from any stimuli outside of that which
is articially generated by the VR technology. Augmented Reality strives to overlay additional
layers of useful (e.g. actionable, descriptive, informative, directional) media onto the real
without replacing it (Zoladz, 2015).
Today, there are even free apps that can be downloaded to one’s smart device that can be
used to enter the VR/AR ecosystem for educational purposes that “might allow students
The author declares that there is no potential conict of interest in the research.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 13 August 2015
Revised 13 August 2015
Accepted 13 August 2015
New Library World
Vol. 116 No. 11/12, 2015
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited
to experience history, math, literature, art or any other area of academics” (Valibrarian,
Example 1 – Aurasma
Aurasma (www.aurasma.com) is an example of a free app that can be downloaded to
either an iOS or Android device. It is an easy-to-use AR platform. Upon downloading the
app, the user creates original content (called “auras”) or chooses from a library of
pre-recorded content; selects a specic, static image (called the “target”); and then
overlays the aura to the target, and when the user points a device at the target and holds
it steady, the aura appears at center screen, thus presenting a recording selected by the
originator to add an AR component to the target image.
As an example of its use, Aurasma can bring to life an exhibition in the library’s art
gallery. A series of posters can be created on a particular theme and auras can then be
developed for each poster, bringing a combination of charts, graphs, animations and
human-centered narrations to each one, thus providing the gallery viewer with a
uniquely enhanced manner of viewing what would have previously been merely a group
of at, wall posters. Several of the auras might contain the Web site address for a Web
site specially developed for the exhibition, whose link could be tapped to display the
website on a viewer’s device or downloaded for later use. It is important to note that,
because this is a technology that works with one’s smart, hand-held device, there are no
special headsets needed to enter this world of AR. In this instance, the use of the app
could bring additional trafc to the library and provide an even greater level of interest
in the exhibition’s subject. Armed with a strong level of curiosity, users might then
choose to move on to other supplementary materials such as books, articles and videos
on the topic, thus expanding the interest in a topic spurred on by the AR exhibit. In
incorporating the vast array of materials available in multiple media can serve to
support the obvious link to information literacy, where the user can build his or her skills
[…] the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate,
evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand (NFIL, 2015).
Example 2 – EON reality
Another advantage of a VR or AR platform is that it provides the developer with a set of
tools wherein original content can be created. No longer does the developer need to be
satised with merely searching through and selecting content from a pre-determined
menu of offerings. It is this shift to developing custom content that offers libraries the
ability to build VR or AR experiences themselves. The developer need not be a
professional. The ease of use of a number of these products places the power to conceive
original content squarely in the hands of any librarian or educator, regardless of
previous level of experience.
An example of an interactive VR solution through a three-dimensional experience
may be found at EON Reality, where mobile VR (EON Mobile) can be selected or
developed also for iOS or Android smart devices by libraries, educators and students.
Currently in use at Carnegie Mellon University (USA), Imperial College (UK), Nanyang
Technological University (Singapore) and many other educational institutions, where,
in a blended learning environment, the combination of in-class and online learning
reality in the
provides fertile ground for an immersive VR experience that allows an educator or
[…] combine 3D content with videos, sound effects, annotations, Wikipedia, PowerPoint,
YouTube, and […] to upload their work to the EON Experience portal, an interactive online
library that is home to thousands of 3D objects, avatars, scenes, and applications (EON Reality,
Example 3 – Layar
Based in Amsterdam, Layar is an augmented reality app also available for IOS, Android
and Blackberry devices. Similar to the concept offered by Aurasma, the app allows
creators to add multimedia of all types to bring static images to life and enhance the
With the Layar Creator, you can enhance yers, postcards, packaging or any other item with
interactive content, including video messages, Web and social links, photo slideshows, music
clips […] (Layar, 2015).
VR/AR as a learning solution for “Digital natives”
The mission of teachers in today’s classroom is to create the proper conditions to determine the
shift from the static transmission of knowledge to the student-centered learning. Students are
now active participants in the learning process. In order to be successful and to ensure the
engagement of students, teachers must use adequate methods common to the current
generation of “digital natives” (Nanu et al., 2013).
This concept, of course, is similar to the teaching and learning process in the library
as it is for the pure academic process at a university or college. It speaks to student
expectation and whether VR enhancements are developed for a course or a library
experience, there can be a heightened level of knowledge and understanding of the
virtual world and its electronic offerings brought to a generation, many of whom
were raised on electronic devices and all of the enrichments that technology can
provide. Because the basic understanding of these worlds is common to this
audience, libraries are keenly aware of the importance of introducing all modes of
material to support the work of the student. Librarians are always on the cutting
edge of these technologies to engage their customers and using such tools to
encourage higher levels of information literacy through all of the combined tools
available to them is critical to student success.
VR and AR are not gimmicks, and must be seen as valid additions to the toolkit that may
be used by libraries to engage its audience, not only with the latest technology but also
with the goal in mind of ensuring a proper approach to teaching information literacy.
Students will gain immeasurably from the enhanced delivery of information on a
particular topic through VR or AR and the multiple means by which the student can
become procient in the basic information literacy skills culminating is successful
search for information, using every tool at his or her disposal to complete their academic
assignments. Using these tools and through their use, VR and AR technology
enhancements offer librarians another opportunity to t into the role of:
[…] guides (where), visitors can time-travel to 1906 to witness the massive earthquake that tore
apart San Francisco, or ride on the Pequod, chasing Moby Dick – gaining exposure to great
books by entering and living in them (Sarno, 2014).
Angeletaki, A. (2013), “How is the use of virtual reality technology challenging the
museum-library sector?”, The case of the University Museum and Library of Trondheim,
Norway, CAAUK 2013, available at: www.lparchaeology.com/caauk/how-is-the-use-of-
EON Reality (2015), “Our Virtual 3D learning solution”, EON Reality, available at: www.
Layar (2015), Retrieved from the website, available at: www.layar.com/features/
Nanu, A., Titieni, A., Nedelcu, M., Nedelcu, F. and Sarbu, C. (2013), “IATED digital library”,
available at: http://library.iated.org/view/NANU2013USE
NFIL (2015), “National forum on information literacy”, available at: http://infolit.org/about-the-
Sarno, D. (2014), “Virtual reality for learning: linking communities with library-based world
building”, Knight Foundation, available at: www.newschallenge.org/challenge/libraries/
Valibrarian (2015), “Retiring into virtual reality”, Edublogs, available at: http://vhill.edublogs.org/
Zoladz, D. (2015), personal communication, 7 August.
Accart, J. (2014), “Augmented reality in the (real) library world”, Library High Tech News,
available at: www.jpaccart.ch/les-reseaux/2014-library-high-tech-news-augmented-reality-
Arapaho Library District, Oculus Rift, available at: http://arapahoelibraries.org/oculus-rift
Beheshti, J. (2012), “Teens, virtual enviroments and information literacy”, Bulleting of the
American Society of Information Science and Technology, available at: http://asis.org/
Lewis, R. (2015), “Virtual reality: soon to become mainstream in libraries?”, Information Today,
available at: www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-411752398/virtual-reality-soon-to-become-
The University of Adelaide (2015), “Virtual reality project”, available at: www.adelaide.edu.au/
Bruce Massis can be contacted at: BMASSIS@HOTMAIL.COM
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reality in the