Library of the future: Virtual reality for all
Helping to tackle loneliness and digital isolation in Amsterdam by making virtual reality accessible to everyone.
A community of virtual reality (VR) enthusiasts is working with Amsterdam’s Public Library (OBA) – which includes the Amsterdam Central Library and 26 branch libraries – to understand how virtual reality can become part of a library experience and to tackle problems of digital inclusion.
OBA started working with a small group of people interested in VR. This group quickly grew to include a wide range of people with different interests.
The community wanted to liberate VR technology for all the citizens of Amsterdam. Their thought was that this technology could be a significant tool for education, and to prevent loneliness. So the challenge was to offer VR to Amsterdam citizens and ask them what they would use it for in daily life.
The community discussed using VR technology for diversity, for feminism, for LGBTIQA+ rights and the inclusion of elderly people. They built a LGBTIQA+ museum with students from the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA), some of whom incorporated it into their studies.
Learning from the project will partly inform the development of OBA NEXT, a library of the future that will be developed in Amsterdam. While VR was the focus for the initial work, the challenge is now a model for ways of working with other communities that want to become involved with the library. As a result, one of OBA’s branch libraries is hosting a VR community-driven evening every month, where people can share their ideas, connect and work together.
There is also interest in continuing to explore how VR can help with digital exclusion and give communities a way to conquer their fears and experience – sharing and learning in a totally new way.