Friday, Mar 11, 2022
Oculus headsets will take users into the narratives of historically marginalized communities
by Diane Cornell
Rider’s Franklin F. Moore Library received a $10,000 grant funded by the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) that is made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Moore Library will use the grant to provide immersive, virtual reality programming focused on the Holocaust, Black history, the refugee experience, the racial justice movement and homelessness.
The funds are part of a federal emergency relief program designed to assist libraries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Moore Library was one of only 200 libraries nationwide selected to receive the funding.
Immersive experiences pull viewers into another real or imagined world by using a blend of visuals, sounds and technology. During the experience, users are able to manipulate and interact with their environment.
The technology will first become available to patrons in April and will be used to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Wearing Oculus headsets, users will be transported via virtual reality to Anne Frank’s Secret Annex and feel as if they are able to walk the rooms where she wrote in her diary while in hiding for two years during WWII.
Future offerings will immerse viewers in the experience of Black Americans during the Jim Crow era; provide an account of racial justice protests; present the experience of being homeless and living in a tent city; and offer a look into challenges refugees face.
“The pandemic exacerbated Moore Library’s growing issues to support humanities curriculum through library materials and programming,” says Dr. Sharon Whitfield, an assistant professor-librarian. “Yet, the library remains committed to being a supportive place and providing a vehicle for students to engage in out-of-the-classroom learning experiences.”
Associate Professor-Librarian Melissa A. Hofmann adds, “This grant will allow us to continue to offer humanities programming which is an important element of a liberal arts education.”
The topics chosen for the VR series complement courses that are taught at Rider. Further exploration of each area will include books, film screenings and discussions and will also be open to Mercer County Library patrons.