Public libraries as a partner in digital innovation project
We introduce a project titled as Our Shared Virtual World which aims at increasing public libraries’ capability to provide knowledge on digital technology to general public. The practical goal of the project has been to produce a functional prototype of a virtual reality (VR) application that could be utilized freely in all the public libraries in Finland. In many countries worldwide, libraries’ role is expanding from providers of traditional books to providers of information technologies and related new forms of literacy, and this development provides the broader backdrop for the project. The contribution of the article is two-fold: First, we describe how an immersive VR application can be collaboratively developed within this specific research context, namely within a network of public libraries, and introduce the tangible outcome of the project, the VR application called Forest Elf. Secondly, we scrutinize how results of such a design work can be sustained over time: through participatory design (PD), we aimed at creating conditions which would enable public libraries to continue developing and using the artefact also after the project. We provide insights on how to tackle the challenge of research prototypes ending up being abandoned, and what factors in the context of library partnership support or hamper sustainable digital innovation — digital innovation that is inclusive and equitable but also has a long-lasting impact.