Reimagining Modern Libraries: Using VR to Boost Teen Health

Teenage girl sitting cross-legged on floor using VR goggles.

What do you think of when you think of a modern library? Features of modern libraries include library bookmobiles, WI-FI connectivity, device rental, makerspaces, and digital lending. Even before the pandemic, the rise of digital books and resources sparked a debate over whether physical libraries were obsolete. While it’s true that those libraries that best served their patrons during the pandemic closures were those that had already adopted digital lending platforms and scaled these services, the value of these libraries as gathering spaces cannot be overlooked post-pandemic.

Libraries as social hotspots

Gen Z is about experiences and physical locations to shop and hang out (Medium). So, it’s perhaps not surprising that Gen Z’ers are reinforcing the concept of libraries as community hubs for activities, including relaxation (Pacific Standard). Now to cater to Gen Z, libraries are shaping new services to meet the needs of this youngest group of patrons. Beyond running makerspaces to stay relevant, some libraries are now venturing into another new frontier – Virtual Reality (VR).

Tackling Teen Mental Health with VR

Pandemic traumas and isolation during the pandemic have left 1 in 4 teens contemplating suicide, leaving parents, educators, and doctors grappling with how to best handle this mental health crisis (Psychology Today). When you think of modern libraries, providing mental health services would probably not top your list. However, with the gathering space that libraries provide teens, libraries could become a crucial resource for combating teen depression. In partnership with the University of Washington, three libraries are running a VR pilot program to improve mental health for teens. This program could inspire another shift in modernizing libraries that keep them relevant in the digital age (Library Journal). Learn more about this pilot VR program by clicking here.

Does your library offer VR services? Share with us in the comments below.


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