Penn State Altoona's Eiche Library boasts new equipment for patrons

ALTOONA, Pa. — Penn State Altoona’s Eiche Library recently acquired some new equipment in support of several academic programs.

The library now offers two Nikon KeyMission 360 cameras, enabling patrons to make fully immersive 360-degree videos. Also included are a variety of specialized clamps and stabilizers and two View-Master Deluxe VR Viewer Headsets for viewing the videos.

Library Director Bonnie Imler, Nick Smerker from Media Commons, and Dan Getz from the Immersive Experiences Lab worked together with Bryan Schlake, lecturer in rail transportation engineering (RTE),  to purchase the equipment. Schlake wanted the gear for his RTE 303 course in which students record 360-degree videos of railroad routes, but he also wanted it to be available to the entire Penn State Altoona community.

Getz explains, “Our goal is to make this technology accessible to the broader Penn State population. While the physical Immersive Experiences Lab itself is located at University Park, the service runs across the entire Commonwealth. Like the regular Media Commons offerings, faculty members will have the ability to get help creating assignments and scheduling workshops. We offer training on equipment and editing, or people can just come and explore a variety of 360-degree video and VR experiences.”

Smerker adds that students at Commonwealth Campus locations can also get support remotely. “I am always available to travel or connect via tools like Zoom, and our hotline is available for student questions in the evenings and on weekends," he said.

The second set of equipment now available at Eiche includes a life-sized torso model, a muscular model, and a molecular model kit to support Penn State Altoona’s nursing, biology and newly accredited kinesiology programs. These models add to the library’s existing collection of anatomical realia of a life-sized, full skeleton as well as two hearts, a skull, and a brain.

Imler collaborated with Mary Kananen, assistant teaching professor of biology, to process the purchase requests. Imler also consulted with campus carpenter Tom Vogel, who custom-built a wheeled cart for the heavy torso model. The models are on two- or four-hour course reserve.

Imler says, “We are happy to help out Mary and her students. These large, take-apart anatomical models are expensive. Even in cases where the department owns a model, offering them at the library improves service because they can be borrowed at any time the library is open.”

Kananen adds, “Having these models in the library is an enormous help. I’ve had students tell me how much they appreciate it. The library has invested in laboratory quality models that will be used by students at all levels for decades.”

Kananen notes that in addition to science courses, the models can be used for others, such as art and even Spanish.