Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Using AUGMENTED REALITY to Enhance Outreach, Instruction, and Library Exhibits

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Using AUGMENTED REALITY to Enhance Outreach, Instruction, and Library Exhibits

Article excerpt

Imagine engaging users with interactive outreach in which everyday content comes to life like the newspapers and paintings in Harry Potter movies. Or walking by a display case and watching the items burst free in an explosion of audio, video, and images. Or even maximizing the potential of students' personal devices to further the instruction experience. Picture a library where every sign, display, piece of technology, and room has been enhanced to merge the boundary between the physical and virtual worlds, offering patrons the opportunity to go beyond walking through stationary signage, resources, and displays to a full interactive experience. All of these scenarios are possible through augmented reality (AR), which is media content that's used to enhance a real-world environment.

Today, there are a number of mobile AR apps available to libraries to engage patrons and enhance their experience in our buildings and with our resources. Emporia State University (ESU) and Towson University (TU) partnered to explore how these apps can help the library culture evolve by changing the way our patrons see and interact with our physical library space and collections.

Meet the Apps


Blippar is a visual discovery browser that interacts with real-life objects through the network, camera, and touchscreen of a mobile app (McDermott 2016). The mobile side of Blippar is user-friendly, requiring that users download the app to their mobile device. Once they grant the app access to the mobile camera, they aim their camera lens at an object to identify "blipps." These blipps are "digital content that has been added to an image in the real world" and are known as "markers" (Blippar 2017). While the app can identify general objects such as a laptop keyboard, an animal, or an instrument, it can also identify custom-made blipps created by users through Blippbuilder. These markers comprise name-brand objects (such as ketchup bottles and energy drinks) and images and include custom links, selected by the user, that associate with that object.


The primary focus of Aurasma is marketing. Aurasma and Aurasma Studio also cater to educators to bring the AR experience into the classroom. One of the unique things about this tool is you can create an "aura" via your mobile device. All accounts are currently free and offer the same functionality, although the development of premium accounts is forthcoming.


Layar is a convenient AR app because users do not need to create an account to access content. A user can simply open the app and interact with it; however, this convenience comes at a price. Since Layar was designed with corporate marketing in mind, it does not have a free option. A basic page costs $3.50 and is only live for 30 days, whereas a pro page costs $34, is live for 1 year, and offers the added benefit of capturing statistics (Layar 2017).


Historypin is an AR app that allows content, such as photographs or maps, to be overlaid on real-world locations. Once at a particular location, users can pull up the pinned content, learn more about it through accompanying text, and use an opacity slider to see how the content compares to the real world. Although the content is static, this layer of information allows users to have a more immersive experience with the world around them by bringing buildings, streets, and locations to life so users can share their stories and memories.


Clio is an app developed within the academic environment to share content regarding U.S. historic and cultural sites and "put history at your fingertips" (Clio, n.d., para. one). Through the app, users can access information about museums, landmarks, and historic sites, as well as link to lists of additional resources. All of the entries are reviewed by historians and local history experts to ensure that the quality of the resource remains high.

AR in Action-Three Cases in Point

Banned Books Week Project

The university libraries and archives (ULA) at ESU has tried a variety of marketing techniques through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so on. …

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