Our objective in creating the 360 Central Library Tour was to share the architectural treasures of Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library with the public, even though the physical building remained closed to access during the COVID pandemic. The 360 Central Library Tour engages and immerses patrons in a digital environment by pivoting from the on-site tours led by our Docents to a virtual tour accessible to anyone, anywhere. The self-guided tour includes dozens of brief snippets of information regarding the history, building, art and structure of Central Library. Additionally, docent-led tours are also available via Zoom utilizing this tool.
We designed the 360 Central Library Tour to be user-friendly, intuitive and accessible to patrons with varying degrees of skill in exploring the online environment. We also wanted to capture the spirit of the in-person tours that have been given at Central library for decades. The Docents who conduct tours for the public at Central Library provided key elements of historical content to include in the tour. Staff from the Public Relations and Marketing Department, Emerging Technologies & Collections and the Digital Content Team worked together to take the photos, shoot the video and provide other content to create the tour. The 360 Central Library Tour allows visitors to virtually explore the library. Schematic maps give a detailed look at all of the rooms covered on the tour, but visitors can simply click arrows to progress from room to room, exploring at their own pace. Explorers can also grab and drag the screen to turn right or left, or to look up or down. Central Library has some amazing ceilings (and some interesting carpets as well!) Clicking “I” (for information) icons scattered throughout the tour allows visitors to focus on key architectural features. The information about these features was provided by the Docents who given in person tours of the library, often using the same wording that they use on their tours. Images along the bottom of the screen also allow visitors to click on scenes of interest and jump directly to those locations. When exploring an individual subject department, such as Children’s Literature, clicking on an icon labelled “About” will open a unique feature of this tour, a short video interview with a librarian from that department, highlighting the department’s collection. It is as though an expert stopped by to chat with the visitor’s tour group for a moment or two. The 360 Central Library Tour combines still images, video and historic information into a comprehensive tour of Los Angeles Public Library’s stunning architectural treasure in downtown L.A., keeping the building open online and accessible to the community that loves it.
The 360 Central Library Tour met the library’s goal of easy access because users can view it from any smart device, be it mobile or a computer. If users are familiar with Google street view, this will have a similar feel, as they simply need to scroll from space to space. From the moment viewers begin the tour at the library’s 5th Street entrance, the doors to Central Library are open again during this long period of shutdown when we have been excluded from many of the everyday activities that form the fabric of our lives.
Since it was uploaded five months ago, the tour has been viewed nearly 5,800 times.
User comments include:
“Thank you! I was bummed when I couldn’t see this when I visited LA last year. I miss my home away from home!!”
About the embedded department videos: “When Librarians become Social Media Stars we will have a better world. COVID-19 is making us find new and better ways of communicating and disseminating knowledge.”