Forget a comfy couch, how about cozying up with a book under the sea?
The National Library of Korea, in an attempt to picture what future libraries are going to look like and to find what services it needs to be equipped with, is holding an exhibition titled “The Live Library” until May 31.
Visitors can experience how virtual reality (VR) can be incorporated into libraries to develop unique reading experiences.
No need to pack up your picnic mat when you want to read outside on the grass, the VR technology will load the background for you. You can choose which book to read, just like you how you browse your e-books on smart devices, and use controllers to flip the pages. If you want to take a break from reading, there are also some games available to play. As the sun goes down, the color of the sky will also change to make the experience more realistic.
“We are trying to think more about what reading experiences people may want in the future, and what roles they expect a library to play,” said Park Sang-jun, an official at the National Library of Korea’s digital library service division.
The experimental technology offers two other backgrounds: a library of a royal and an underwater scene.
Gyeongbok Palace’s Jibokjae, a library used by Emperor Gojong (1863-1907) in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), has been recreated as the particular venue isn’t always open to the public.
For a more exotic and slightly surreal experience, the library created a deep sea experience that feels like you are in a submarine with floor-to-ceiling windows.
It is also possible to choose audio book options to listen to texts while appreciating your surroundings.
As well as VR reading experiences, the exhibition also shows what the future of libraries could look like.
Instead of being greeted by a human, visitors will meet a robot as soon as they enter, and will be briefed on how they can be assisted. Behind the robot are drones that can search the shelves to find what visitors are looking for.
Instead of browsing for books alphabetically, the exhibition suggests a new method whereby an algorithm based on your answers to a series of questions suggests books for you based on your mood.
When the exhibition comes to a close at the end of May, the library will move it to a digital space called Silgam Seojae, which means interactive library. Here, visitors can learn about how centuries-old documents written in Chinese characters can be better understood with the help of modern-day technology. A very flat and faded-colored painting from the Joseon era, for example, becomes a lot livelier on a large screen. If visitors select a particular animal in the painting, detailed information about the animal and why it's been placed in that particular spot will appear.
“There is a very limited chance for the public to see old documents that are registered as national treasures, and even if they do, it’s difficult to really appreciate them because people don’t know what the writing means,” said Yu Ji-hyun, another official at the National Library of Korea’s digital library service division.
“We are still in the early stage of transforming analog to digital, but we are securing more budget to have various content available so that we can digitally transform documents in many different forms and languages.”
In the digital book section is a version of Donguibogam (National Treasure No. 319), a medical encyclopedia written and complied by Joseon era doctor Heo Jun. Eight pages from the book have been digitalized so far, and visitors can click on the drawings of a human body to know more about each part. The data explained in Chinese characters in the original document is translated into Korean, and you can get the Korean version when you simply tap the Chinese text.
The library is considering adding trending digitalized documents first, such as Jasaneobo, a book about sea creatures written by Joseon era scholar Jeong Yak-jeon. This particular book has become widely known among the public thanks to recently released movie “The Book of Fish” by director Lee Joon-ik, which features actors Sol Kyung-gu, Byun Yo-han, and Lee Jung-eun.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
The exhibition “The Live Library” runs until May 31 at the National Library of Korea in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Admission is free. There are 12 time slots open to the public each day and each slot will take up to 10 people, who will have 30 minutes to enjoy the exhibition. Visiting Silgam Seojae also requires a reservation. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. It is closed every second and fourth Monday of each month and on public holidays. To get to the library, go to either Seocho station, line No. 2, exit 6, or go to Express Bus Terminal station, line No. 3, 7, and 9, exit 5, and walk for about 10 minutes. For more information, go to www.nl.go.kr, or call (02) 590-0500.