TTW Grant Winner: VR @ the Library

For this year’s Teen Tech Week, the Willmar Public Library will be implementing a virtual reality (VR) program for teens.  Through YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Grant, the library was able to purchase an HTC Vive, green screens, and several Steam apps for teens to test out.

VR @ the Library will be a two-part program.  On the first day, members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB) will teach their peers about VR and show them how to use several Steam VR apps.  The teens will then get to choose which VR app they would like to try and each of them will get to take a turn in using the equipment.  For the second, four-hour program, twelve registered teens will get twenty minutes each to test out the app(s) of their choice.

Through this program, the library hopes to give teens the opportunity to experience, learn and create with the Steam VR apps Job Simulator, Tilt Brush, Sound Stage, The VR Museum of Fine Art, and Google Earth VR.  TAB members selected these apps for their universal appeal and  potential to provide quality educational experiences: Job Simulator allows teens to try out four different jobs that were available before the fictional robot apocalypse, giving them a taste of what life could be like in their future careers, albeit with a humorous twist; Tilt Brush allows teens to create their own virtual world with the touch of a brush, allowing them to express themselves creatively; Sound Stage lets teens become their own DJ, making and manipulating music to create their own sound; The VR Museum of Fine Art allows teens to browse through a museum of real life art and learn about the history of each piece; and Google Earth VR lets teens travel to and explore places around the world that they may not otherwise have the chance to visit.

To prepare for the program, TAB members will install and test out the VR equipment and software to get a better idea of what the VR apps can do, what age range each app is suitable for, and estimate how much time it will take for a person to complete an activity in each of the apps.  The teens will use this experience to help set up the equipment on the day of the program and to help their peers use the apps if they are not sure what to do.

The library hopes that this program will provide a fun and safe environment for teens to explore VR technology together, while still having a quality educational experience.  The library also hopes that this VR experience will make teens feel more comfortable with using new technology and inspire them to try out other new technologies as well.

The impact and success of this program will be measured through the number of participants as well as by the teens’ evaluations after both programs and at the monthly TAB meeting. 

By the end of the program, the library expects that teens will:

  • have developed a basic understanding of VR
  • be comfortable with using VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • be able to teach their peers to use VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • feel that they have learned skills that can be applied to other areas of technology and life
  • express an interest in learning to use a new technology
  • feel comfortable approaching and learning a new technology

Evaluations will be assessed by the TAB, teen services librarian and head librarian.  The library would like to use the evaluations to plan subsequent VR programming at the library that reflects the interests and needs of the teens who attended this program.

The teens have been talking about implementing VR programming since early last year and are so excited to get started during Teen Tech Week.  Thank you again to YALSA for making this programming possible.

Emily Sovell is the Teen/Young Adult Services Librarian at Willmar Public Library.  The Willmar Public Library is the largest of a 32-library consortium, which is part of the Pioneerland Library System.  Willmar is located 90 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, in West Central Minnesota.

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