What do Virtual Reality and Books have in Common?

By August 3, 2017Featured, News

What do Virtual Reality and Books have in common? They both transport you to other worlds, and you can experience both at the library. At Meridian Library’s technology branch, unBound, anyone can walk in and use an Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, or the Microsoft Hololens.

Meridian Library’s first Virtual Reality headset came about as the result of Teen Tech Week. YALSA, the youth division of the American Library Association, coordinates the nationwide event each year, encouraging teens to encounter emerging technology at their local libraries. Nick Grove, then the Teen Specialist for Meridian Library District, received a grant through Best Buy and YALSA. With it, he purchased an Oculus Rift DK2, 3D printer, and Finch robots. Many of the items from this grant ended up shaping what would eventually become unBound, Meridian Library’s technology branch.

The Oculus DK2 on during unBound's grand opening, October 2015.

unBound opened in October of 2015 with the goal of supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs. Located in a renovated bank building in the heart of downtown Meridian, unBound is anything but a stereotypical library. While we have a small book collection, our main focus is technology. In our 3D Printer cove we have 4 Ultimaker 3D printers, a custom Rep-Rap and a desktop CNC milling machine. Anyone can come in anytime to set up a 3D print. We do charge $.05 per gram of filament for a completed project. This helps us recoup a little of the material cost, while still keeping the cost affordable for the majority of the community. In our Design Lab, every computer has the Adobe Creative Cloud installed, removing another cost barrier for creatives and entrepreneurs. We converted the old bank vault into a recording studio, where you can also digitize VHS tapes and vinyl records. We also have plenty of flexible meeting and workspace, and the community can check out a GoPro, Canon DLSR lenses, and more.

Of course, our most popular feature this summer has been our newly updated Virtual Reality station. In our minds, Virtual Reality and libraries go hand and hand. It’s the role of a library to provide access to resource and knowledge that would be cost-prohibitive for the average person. Despite our reputation as stuffy shushers, librarians tend to be early adopters and technology champions (and rarely quiet). In the early 90’s, librarians pushed for publicly available internet access, and now we’re doing the same with 3D printing and Virtual Reality.

The Oculus DK2 travels with us to events, such as the Meridian Block Party last year.

In June 2017, we added a new Oculus Rift and an HTC Vive to our collection. It took quite a bit of innovative finagling to find a spot to accommodate the Vive (we rearranged over half the building), but we were determined. Developers are always welcome to use our headsets for testing, and of course, anyone is welcome to come in and play. Over the summer, we’ve offered beginning classes in video game design. While the games have not been in Virtual Reality, kids are being introduced to basic programming concepts and building a foundation on which to continue to design and innovate.

One of the unfortunate side effects of being a public space is the amount of wear and tear that everything is exposed to. We also have a Microsoft Hololens, a device for Augmented Reality. Our Hololens recently suffered an injury at the hands of over-eager spring breakers. We’re exploring different ways of repairing or replacing the headband, but in the meantime, we can hold it on with one hand and interact with holograms with the other.

As we introduce the community of Meridian to Virtual Reality, we enjoy hearing what they’ve heard about it, and what they’re expecting. Whether it’s real estate or helping veterans, everyone has a story of how Virtual Reality is going to change the world, and we’re happy to be here to help them do just that.

713 N Main St, Meridian, ID 83642
(208) 258-2000
For hours and programming information go HERE

Alex Johnatakis, Tech Library Assistant, unBound, ajohnatakis(at)mld.org



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