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Manchester City Council and Zeus 360 bring virtual tours to all 22 of authority’s libraries

Manchester City Council has taken a significant step towards inclusivity and accessibility by introducing Matterport virtual tours across all of its 22 libraries.

The project, brought to life by Zeus 360, was funded by a £20,250 grant from the Arts Council England’s LibraryOn programme.

Launched in late 2023 and completed by March 2024, the initiative aims to enhance online discoverability and encourage individuals, especially those with social anxiety and autism, to visit their local libraries.

Manchester City Council has demonstrated its commitment to inclusivity by leveraging advanced technologies to create a welcoming environment for all community members. The Matterport virtual tours provide a comprehensive, interactive experience that allows users to explore library facilities from the comfort of their homes.

This project aligns with the council’s broader strategy to support individuals with disabilities and ensure equal access to public resources. By partnering with Zeus 360, a leading virtual tour provider, Manchester City Council has harnessed the power of technology to break down traditional barriers and make library services more accessible and engaging.

Zeus 360 utilised Matterport technology to capture high-resolution, 3D images of each library. These images were then stitched together to form seamless virtual tours, allowing users to navigate through library spaces as if they were physically present.

Matterport technology is renowned for its ability to create detailed and realistic 3D environments. For this project, it was instrumental in showcasing the diverse facilities and services that Manchester’s libraries have to offer. Users can explore different sections of the libraries, view reading areas, study spaces, and even locate specific resources, all through an intuitive and user-friendly interface.

One of the primary goals of the project was to make libraries more accessible to individuals with social anxiety and autism. Traditional library environments can be overwhelming for some people, with crowded spaces and sensory overload posing significant challenges. The virtual tours offer a solution by allowing potential visitors to familiarise themselves with the layout and environment of their local library before making a physical visit.

For individuals with social anxiety, the ability to explore the library virtually can significantly reduce the stress associated with visiting a new or unfamiliar place.

They can take their time to navigate through the space, identify areas of interest, and plan their visit in advance, all of which contribute to a more positive and manageable experience.

Similarly, for those on the autism spectrum, the virtual tours provide a controlled environment where they can acclimate to the library setting at their own pace. The tours can help them understand what to expect and reduce the uncertainty that can often accompany new experiences.

In addition to supporting individuals with disabilities, the virtual tours enhance the overall online discoverability of Manchester’s libraries. By making these tours available on the Loads To Do Website (https://loadstodo.co.uk) and other platforms, the council has made it easier for existing and new customers to find, access, and engage with library services. This increased visibility is expected to attract a broader audience and encourage more people to utilize library resources.

The LibraryOn programme, funded by Arts Council England, aims to promote library services across the country and foster community engagement. The virtual tours showcase how digital innovation can transform public services and make them more inclusive and accessible, and can hopefully set a precedent for other local authorities to follow.

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