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XR In Libraries: Beyond the Hype

Speakers
Mr David Di Muro, Ms Alicia Rogers

Macquarie University

Abstract
Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), collectively called Extended Reality (XR), are technologies of the looming experiential age. They are emerging in higher education as disruptive technologies, where their successful adoption depends upon the agile digital literacy skills of everyone.

In response to this, many academic libraries have created XR spaces and services to engage users with these technologies. Rather than wait for access to these technologies to become a user expectation, these libraries are positioning themselves as innovative digital literacy facilitators. But, these will date quickly and continue to feel like an added novelty unless there is stronger direction towards producing visible and evolving output. This is essential to continuing and increasing user engagement and library investment.

In 2016, at Macquarie University Library we set out an open approach in implementing and evaluating XR services with the goal of developing XR competency in library staff and students. Following this we have conducted qualitative and quantitative data gathering exercises and established a dedicated reference group to evaluate the significance of the findings. There is an absence of institutional standards and best practices within the library sector for acquiring, producing, managing, and preserving XR content. The current acquisition and delivery model conflicts with our traditional preferences and acquisition models. Libraries, even those within academic institutions, face obstacles in acquiring content and output from creators.

Additionally, library staff need to develop their own digital literacies to confidently navigate the XR arena and keep abreast of changes, especially as this is an evolving technology. As library-focused professional development opportunities are currently limited, libraries need to consider development activities with a wider scope.

For XR services to progress, libraries need to consider XR in staff development, wider user engagement, collaboration with faculty and content creators, and development of collection development strategies.