The future of libraries lies in iSee


An iSee installation at Blacktown Library in Sydney’s west is set to create a range of exciting opportunities that will give the general public better access to a range of library services.


iSee is a multi-platform, real-time video collaboration tool that uses socially interactive video streaming to create lifelike 3D business and collaboration environments. Hundreds of people can gather in a virtual iSee world at once and mingle as a crowd.


Blacktown Library gained access to the iSee technology via the Australian Government’s NBN Digital Hub, which facilitated the development of an online replica of the existing Max Webber Library Function Centre. Visitors logging into the library’s iSee account will be able to undertake virtual tours of the library and function facilities; attend virtual events, such as author talks; and host virtual meetings, all without having to leave their homes.


The Library is looking at is developing virtual conferencing and encouraging collaboration from a couple of different perspectives – one from in-house use for staff meetings and training sessions.


The other is the option to provide virtual meeting rooms for members of the community to come along and gather in the same way as they do in the library’s physical function room space.


NSW libraries have long been embracing new technologies in order to enhance visitor experiences. While it’s now common to see Skpye and other web conferencing technologies within library spaces, Blacktown Library may well be the first to engage with an immersive software platform like iSee.


The system’s low-bandwith usage requirements means that anyone with an internet connection can engage with it, increasing the library’s reach within the Blacktown community and increasing the community’s access to the latest in Australian technological innovation. For example, people who don’t live in the vicinity of the library, elderly people who may not leave home as often as they’d like, or community groups seeking interactive meeting spaces without the burden of physical travel, will now have the opportunity remain connected to library services via the iSee interface.


One of the things about iSee is that although this whole thing was driven by the demand for fast broadband, you don’t need the fastest-level technology to use it effectively.


In-house, iSee will provide a range of solutions for the library’s workforce, which is dispersed over five branch libraries in a range of geographic locations. Currently, organising staff meetings and professional development opportunities is a costly process.


The custom-built virtual library was delivered to Blacktown City Council in early November. It is expected to be available to the public in the next few weeks.