It is time for a public library example of augmented reality

Woman wearing Google Glass

Augmented reality is no longer a technology just of science fiction, it is very quickly becoming a part of our daily lives. With Occulus Rift and Google Glass enhancing the user experience, augmented reality has the capacity to create amazing new library and learner user experiences.

For several years now, augmented reality has been talked about and demonstrated at library conferences as the next big thing in user engagement. Whilst impressive in demonstrations at conferences, there have been no practical implementations in public libraries in the UK so far. 

A public library example of augmented reality

It is time for a public library example of augmented reality. The Reading Agency’s “2014 Summer Reading Challenge” was a first! At the heart of the Summer Reading Challenge is the crucial goal of trying to encourage more children to read and to improve their literacy skills.

It was an innovative collaboration between us at SOLUS and The Reading Agency that aimed to excite and engage children across the UK and hopefully attract many more children into libraries in the summer months. 

The Mythical Maze app

Children or their families download a free mobile application onto their devices (IOS and Android) and their augmented reality experience begins. Even before they enter the library, the “Mythical Maze” App used augmented reality triggers in promotional materials, such as the Summer Reading Challenge posters and invitations, to give the viewer exciting content, implanted to “wow”. 

This element of the challenge was designed to engage children, encourage them to visit the library and take part in the challenge. When they enter the library, the magic really begins! When children find the mythical legends using the App, the augmented reality brings the legend to life on their device. As children collect more and more legends, they also get rewards for finding them. When they’ve found three, they get to play a specially designed game on their device, after six, another game and, if they collect all ten, another game and a virtual gold medal. 

Embracing new technologoy

Today, the concept of literacy encompasses much more than just reading and writing; it has evolved into “transliteracy,” commonly defined as the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms and tools.

If we can all admit now that the Internet has radically changed the way people seek and find all kinds of information and content, does anybody believe that libraries can keep the same physical experiences & services? 

Those who succeed in our new future will be those that create new spaces and see gaming, interactivity, self-publishing, augmented reality, inquiry, tinkering and messy learning as part of the revitalised library brand.

Let us not fear new technologies as they emerge, we must embrace them as our library customers will continue to turn to us - to libraries and librarians for support in their use of them, for help and troubleshooting, and for many as their only means of access to those technologies. 

What other examples of augmented reality have you come across? How else could this tech be used in the library? Let us know in the comments below


Image source: "Google Glass and Future Health 25822" by taedc, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Original cropped and resized

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