Virtual Reality: Staff Training and Responsibilities

image of a person wearing a virtual reality headset

The following article was adapted from the book Best Technologies for Public Libraries: Policies, Programs, and Services by Christopher DeCristofaro, James Hutter, and Nick Tanzi. Libraries Unlimited, January 2020, 211 pages.

The Three Levels of Staff Engagement

book coverA well-trained staff is essential for the successful adoption of virtual reality technology at your library. To this end, we have identified three categories of staff interactions with the technology and the requisite knowledge needed to do so.It is important to note that these categories do not address job titles, merely responsibilities. In absence of formal requirements, such as civil service regulations, contracts or other restrictions, you may wish to assign responsibilities based on staff enthusiasm. One need only think about their favorite teachers growing up. Likely, these educators loved the subject matter and conveyed their enthusiasm when showing it to others. As you train, seek out those employees expressing excitement and determine if they can be offered a greater role in the development of programs and services. 

Empowering All Staff with Basic VR Knowledge

While every single employee of the library is unlikely to utilize virtual reality in their day-to-day job responsibilities, this does not exempt them from staff training! This first level of training is more akin to an orientation to the technology, and more specifically, how you intend to use it at the library. Structure this training as a show and tell. Explain to staff what virtual reality is, and what specific equipment you’ve invested in. Demonstrate how it works. With transparency in mind, describe the potential side-effects of using a virtual reality headset. Whether or not staff wishes to try the equipment themselves, attempt to give them some insight on what it looks like to a user. In the case of a pc-connected headset, you can display the experience on a monitor, or through a projector. For an all-in-one, more will be left to the imagination, although you could show a trailer that conveys the general idea. 

While every single employee of the library is unlikely to utilize virtual reality in their day-to-day job responsibilities, this does not exempt them from staff training!

Depending on how many staff you will be training, you may wish to split the instruction between the orientation and demonstration portions. While all staff can usually sit through a lecture, providing individuals with a VR experience can be time-intensive. A good option is to simply have people sign up for ten minute slots where they can use the equipment for themselves. In terms of the content of their VR experience, consider using something that is low-intensity and doesn’t require a lot of explanation. 360 video is a good entry point, as a user can simply put a headset on and observe, gaining an idea of how immersive virtual reality can be. If you instead decide to provide access to a game or more active experience, you may need to first have the user go through a VR orientation experience offered by many manufacturers. 

VR Event Programmers and Facilitators

Programmers are those staff members who will be using the technology with your public, and may include enthusiastic staff members that you’ve identified in your general VR orientation. These individuals will need to be shown how to operate the equipment in depth. This training should include how to turn on and calibrate your equipment, and how to adjust the sizing on the headset. They will also need to know how to open and use the experiences you intend to offer, and some basic troubleshooting in case you encounter an issue requiring immediate attention during a program. 

Do not ignore the customer service component of training!

In addition to managing the equipment, your programmers must be shown library procedure. Ensure that they understand age restrictions and your library’s policies regarding content. If you are using a waiver, these staff members should be familiar with it. While some individuals may know how to use VR personally, they must be comfortable instructing others. Can they relay instructions effectively and courteously? Do not ignore the customer service component of training!

VR Technicians

The technician is the highest level of staff training, and subsequently, the smallest group to contend with. These employees are the lead staff trainers for your virtual reality equipment. Paradoxically, as your library’s first user, they will often lack any formal training themselves. In absence of formal training, your first technician will need to be self-taught. As a first step, they should devour the owner’s manual cover to cover. They may then need to rely on product forums and web tutorials to first find their way.

Once familiar with the equipment, your technicians will become responsible for the long-term operation of the library’s virtual reality equipment, including advanced troubleshooting. They should immediately register and file away any warranties that came with the equipment to protect against potential equipment failure. Following this, they must work with library administration to develop a cleaning/maintenance cycle for the equipment that complies with the manufacturer’s instructions. 

In addition to managing the equipment itself, employees in this category are responsible for purchasing and downloading content for your VR equipment. This requires them to be familiar with your library’s collection development policy, particularly if you have one specific to virtual reality. They will need to manage storage space and keep an eye on the budget associated with your VR equipment. 

While the above represents a suggested assignment of responsibilities, you should feel free to develop a process that works for your own organization. Roles can, of course, be combined. Ultimately, you should choose an approach that allows you to effectively operate your equipment without creating a complex workflow that burdens staff unnecessarily. 

For more information, to look inside, or to purchase, click here: Best Technologies for Public Libraries

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