October 31, 2014

Libraries Jumping on the Augmented Reality Bandwagon

One fascinating surprise of the Roadshow: more libraries are jumping on the augmented reality bandwagon than I previously suspected. In a previous post, I mentioned Layar as one example of an app that shows the locations of libraries and bookstores via an augmented reality overlay, but aside from WolfWalk at North Carolina State University and a mention at LITA’s Top Tech Trends a few years back, I haven’t heard much about other libraries delving into this particular emerging technology.

At the meetup last night in Richmond, a number of librarians from the Chesterfield County Library said that they were experimenting with an app called Tagwhat, which allows users to add location data to digital objects in a collection, and make them discoverable through a combined map and camera interface. For a library, that means connecting elements of local flare and history — such as digital photos, and first-person accounts — to nearby sites like historic buildings and other sites.

Nanci Clary, public services administrator at the Chesterfield County Public Library, told us that they’re just in the initial stages of building up a collection based on sites in the County. But they’re taking their inspiration in large part from the Virginia Beach Public Library, which last year announced a partnership with Tagwhat to build a location-based resource tied to the library’s digital collections.

Here’s a description from the a press release describing Virginia Beach’s work with the mobile app developer:

Tagwhat stories are organized into subject channels, including heritage, movies, music, sports, art, food and nature. Just tap on a story tag to read, watch videos, view photos or listen to audio. You can even share a “digital postcard” with your friends through Facebook, Twitter or email – and they can experience the story, too, with your photo and message. There is even a “Visit” feature in Tagwhat that lets people far away travel virtually to feature cities like Virginia Beach, to enjoy stories there.

If you want a better visual idea, take a look at the company’s demonstration video.

Another Chesterfield librarian, Kareemah Hamdan, added that the library is also hoping to include oral history recordings as part of the materials it connects to local points of interest.

As we talked the idea through with other librarians at the table, we thought about what a dedicated platform for library collections of this sort might look like, and the connections this could help public libraries make to other institutions like nearby colleges and universities, archives, museums, and historical societies. But it could also a way for libraries to make an explicit connection to other agencies such as tourism boards and trade associations.

As we all agreed, the potential is great, and if you know of other libraries using similar technology to highlight local collections and oral histories, let us know in the comments, or tweet us at #libshow on Twitter.

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About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (jhadro@mediasourceinc.com; @hadro on Twitter) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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