Download the report

Research Libraries UK (RLUK) has published a new major research report exploring the current and future developments in the area of Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs) amongst collection-holding institutions.

This report presents the results of a recent survey launched by RLUK, in collaboration with members of the International Alliance of Research Library Associations (IARLA). This work informs an ongoing piece of research being undertaken by RLUK regarding the potential of VRRs as digital research infrastructure and the possibilities and benefits of undertaking a networked approach.

Remote technologies were employed by many collection-holding institutions as an emergency response to the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. As academics, researchers, and students were prevented from getting physical access to collections due to the closure of libraries and archives, VRRs and VTSs constituted an alternative way of accessing physical materials digitally, without relying on digitisation.

As our findings revealed, the re-opening of on-site operations has seen many institutions continuing to run VRRs and VTSs alongside physical processes and activities. Institutions are now more aware of the potential of VRRs and VTSs to make collections available to various audience groups as well as facilitate research and learning as bespoke services. Therefore, it is not surprising that more institutions internationally are planning to launch their VRRs and VTSs in the immediate future

The report presents the experiences of 22 institutions internationally which have created, or intend to create, VRR and VTS services. Participants share their experiences around the establishment of their VRR and VTS services, including the various requirements for running them, the engagement with their audiences as well as the challenges that need to be overcome. They also share their plans for future activity and reflect on the collaborative potential of VRRs.

A virtual poster based on the results of this report, and with the title ‘Accessible and Inclusive Collections: enhancing research and learning through Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs)’ is also available to view as part of the ACRL 2022 Distance and Online Learning Virtual Poster Session.