When Colorado’s Arapahoe Library District, which serves the Denver area, heard about the opportunity to purchase Google Glass before it was released to the public, the staff jumped on it.
It is a good thing they did, because as it turns out, the library staff heard about the Glass Explorer contest, in which you tweeted at Google what you would do with Google Glass using the hashtag #IfIHadGlass, just one day before the deadline.
They quickly got to work, crafting a short video and linking to it in their tweet. In it, a librarian talks to the camera. “Public libraries aren’t always known for embracing new technology, but we feel we’re on our way there,” he said, followed by, “You know what libraries are known for? Sweet glasses.”
They won the contest, and Oli Sanidas, Arapahoe’s director of digital services, flew out to San Francisco to pick up the glasses and get some training in how to use them.
“During training, they asked us what we were gonna do with it,” Sanidas said. “We said, ‘We’re gonna take it back to the library and we’re gonna let people play with it.’”
For Sanidas, the opportunity to showcase Google Glass at Arapahoe’s libraries fit right into his larger goal of making the forward-thinking library district more technology-focused.
“We try to acquire technology that is just out of reach to the common person, just a little too new or risky for most people to purchase,” Sanidas said.
This includes a 3D printer that patrons can use, as well as GoPro cameras, digital hard drives, and about 200 tablets available to check out. They also have several Oculus Rift devices, a new virtual-reality platform that’s not yet available to most of the public. Sanidas said you can hear squeals coming from people riding virtual roller coasters with the headsets on.
“It’s not just the specific technology—we are really trying to reinvent our image. Libraries are really around to expose you to ideas,” Sanidas said. “We think it fits really nicely, because in the end, we’re still checking out ideas. We’re just bringing it in a different format.”
Arapahoe paid $1,500 for each of the three Google Glass devices, and sets aside part of its budget specifically for innovative technology purchases.
“We pay for all this stuff,” Sanidas said. “It just takes a modest amount of investment” after he makes all the standard IT purchases, like public computers and Internet access, he said.
He thinks it’s worth it, though, because it attracts different kinds of people to the library.
“These technologies tend to be used at capacity,” he said, “and we are reaching members of the public that wouldn’t normally come to us.”
Jean Duane, for one, was excited to try out Google Glass at the library.
“I’m definitely one of those kinds of people, I’ll go get the first ones out there,” Duane said. “When you do a demonstration of it, you won’t stop thinking about ways that it could be used.”
Twin 11-year-old brothers Ian and Seth Harling went with their mother to check out some of the technology the library had to offer. They made 3D “Minecraft creepers” using the 3D printer and took turns playing with Google Glass.
“Me and my brother make videos,” Ian said. “It was really cool that you could do first person videos with it, so we tried to do that.”
They both loved Glass and would want a pair for themselves.
“It was cool that I got to use new technology before any of my friends got to,” Seth said.