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Zennovation Fund Award Boosts Virtual Reality Learning Opportunities at Community Libraries

Published Date: 
May 17, 2018

Grant Provides Equipment for Bigger Classes and New Projects

The Zennovation Fund at United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI) has awarded Providence Community Library (PCL) a grant of $5,000 to purchase Virtual Reality (VR) equipment for use at its nine neighborhood locations. The grant will allow more than 20 students to interact simultaneously with VR technology, enable PCL to expand its VR project, Virtual Providence and plan new VR ventures with other Rhode Island based partner organizations. The Zennovation Fund is advised by community leader, Lorne Adrain.  

The Zennovation Fund grant provides PCL with 17 additional VR headsets and two new laptops equipped with video editing software. The new equipment will,in part, supplement the hardware and software purchased for Virtual Providence, a project funded by a Studio Rhode Next Generation Library Challenge grant awarded in March 2018. Virtual Providence trains teens to work together and create videos using a special 360 degree camera and video editing software. David Sok, PCL’s IT Manager, will create two pilot videos with the Library’s teen interns, who will then pass on the skills they have learned to student peers in subsequent trainings. The Zennovation Fund award allows Sok to plan additional VR projects with other RI organizations, such as Rhode Island Virtual Reality (RIVR) and FabNewport, that are beyond the scope of the Studio Rhode grant.

Virtual Providence will provide virtual reality experiences of educational experiences and cultural attractions associated with PCL’s Summer Reading Program and the City of Providence’s Passport to Summer Learning, which include libraries, farmers’ markets, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence Children’s Museum and the State House.  Children who cannot travel to a site in person will be able to enjoy a “virtual” experience through a headset.  All videos produced through Virtual Providence will be stored online, with downloadable versions available through the PCL website. Library users will be able to view the videos by downloading copies on to their smartphones or by viewing them through one of PCL’s preloaded VR headsets.

“The mission of the Zennovation Fund is to advance the most impactful innovations in our community,” said Library Director, Jeff Cannell. “We are proud that PCL’s Virtual Reality program was selected for this honor,” he added.

The Zennovation Fund was created by a $500,000 gift to UWRI and will be administered using UWRI’s recently developed online giving tool, MyFund. The MyFund product has attracted more than three times its original goal.

The Studio Rhode Next Generation Library Challenge is funded in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, administered by the Rhode Island Office of Innovation in partnership with the Office of Library and Information Services.  

For more information on Studio Rhode, visit

Photo: Lorne Adrain presents PCL with a check from the Zennovation Fund. Left the right: Michelle Novello (PCL Program Development and Community Relations Coordinator), David Sok (PCL IT Manager), Lorne Adrain, Cheryl Space, (PCL Assistant Library Director).