• Beth Roberts

Shelf Talk 5: Virtual Reality

When I was a kid, the big new thing was Virtual Reality. In the ‘90s, personal computers were just becoming common place, internet (for those who had it) was still dial-up, video game graphics were just pixelated blobs, and cell phones plugged into the cigarette lighter in the car. We didn’t live our lives on the computer yet; our worlds were defined by school and neighborhood experiences.


My friends and I loved to visit the Virtual Reality kiosks at the mall. We’d pool our money and take turns slipping on the VR headset and slipping into a virtual world that was so different from our own. Virtual Reality was the promise of imagination fulfilled: put on a headset, and you could have adventures around the globe, explore imaginary worlds, even participate in great historical moments. Virtual Reality allowed us to engage with experiences beyond our own little bubbles, to imagine lives greater than our own.


We are all now living a virtual reality. Stores, restaurants, schools, churches, and even parks are closed. We are staying home and practicing social distancing as well as we can, which means that our worlds are once again limited to family and neighborhood experiences. Our best connection to each other and to the world outside our bubbles is virtual. Businesses are offering drive-through and pickup services. Meetings, church services, even weddings and funerals are being broadcast online. Virtual is our new reality as we ride out the COVID19 pandemic.


The Mississippi County Library System (MCLS) is committed to making the most of this new virtual reality. As of the time of this writing, our state government predicts the peak of COVID19 spread in Arkansas will be April 29th. Our libraries will therefore remain closed to the public through at least Monday, May 18th. But instead of worrying about what we’re missing, we are going to celebrate! Next week, April 19-25, is National Library Week. This year’s theme reflects our nation’s virtual reality: Find the Library at Your Place. We are working on all sorts of ways to help you continue to benefit from the library’s resources and services. Bring the library into your home…you’ll be surprised by how much there is to share!


The MCLS Blytheville, Manila, and Osceola branches will continue to offer curbside checkout services: call-in and request a book in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon! For more information, please visit www.mclibrary.net or follow Mississippi County Library System on Facebook. We are also continuing to add to our Boredom Buster site (mclibrary.net/boredom-busters) with fun, educational, and safe experiences for all ages. New to the list are virtual escape rooms, created by libraries across our country. Try one out and see if you can escape! Your MCLS has also partnered with TumbleBooks to bring your pre- and early-readers free and unlimited access to hundreds of animated, talking picture books. Many of these services are subscription-based and are offered to you for free, just for being part of our virtual reality.


We are also moving much of our programming to the virtual realm. The Tell Me a Story preschool story time is live on Facebook and our website every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 am. MCLS Programming and Grants Specialist Tom Henry has launched Tom’s Book Reviews, a series intended to encourage interest in new genres. A new review airs every Monday and Wednesday at 5 pm. STEM Club has gone virtual and is posting weekly science activities every Saturday at 11 am. Knitting Club is coming together with a Facebook group, sharing patterns and advice. We are developing more virtual ways to make finding the library at your place a reality.


Do you have a suggestion for ways the MCLS can better serve our community? Would you like to volunteer to help make our virtual reality better? Reach out and let us know! As always, I’m available for questions and assistance; you can reach me at broberts@mclibrary.net. Stay home and stay healthy, Mississippi County!


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