Hull Library unveils new virtual reality device

Jeanne Visser | Staff Writer

Using a virtual reality headset and clicker, Renae DeBoer toured the Anne Frank House while seated at the Hull Public Library.  She called the virtual reality tour “a lot of fun” and chose that app because she’d written a report on Anne Frank at school and wanted to see the museum. The headset will be available for public use beginning next Wednesday. (Photo/Jeanne Visser)

Libraries have been offering patrons much more than books for many years. Next week, visitors at the Hull Public Library can experience virtual reality.

Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment, which places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed in and able to interact with 3D worlds. Users can play a game, tour a museum or city or experience a rocket launch.

“A few libraries in Iowa were starting to offer virtual reality, so I looked into it,” explained library director Matt Hoehamer. “It’s a way to give people a chance to experience this type of technology and also offer some educational and fun opportunities at the library.”

He has loaded about 20 apps into the headset and they range from a tour of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam or excursion to Florence, Italy, to a roller coaster ride game and interactive Star Wars video. Another app lets users tour national monuments.

“Not everyone can travel to Europe to visit the Anne Frank house, so this is the next best thing,” stated Hoehamer.

The virtual reality headset can be used in the library beginning Wednesday, Aug. 22, the same day as the library’s End of Summer party.  From 12:30-9 p.m. games and snacks will be shared with visitors and kids can pick up free books.

Virtual reality headset users must be aged 13 or older. The device can be checked out for one hour and must be used in a designated area. Patrons must read and sign a user agreement.

Virtual reality apps offer something for all ages, according to Hoehamer.

“You can be part of the dance during the song ‘Be Our Guest’ in the ‘Beauty and Beast’ video or you can tour a national park,” he said. “Plus, if people visit the library to use virtual reality, they might notice books or magazines they’d like to browse and begin a whole new reading adventure.”

If virtual reality is popular at the library, Hoehamer plans to purchase another headset and download more applications.

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