Research Libraries UK, working with a number of our national and international partners, is re-issuing its major survey, first conducted in May-June 2021, regarding the development and delivery of Virtual Reading Room and Virtual Teaching Space services. The aim is to document the most recent developments and innovations in the area by the RLUK and broader national and international research library communities.
Many collection-holding institutions have been actively exploring new and innovative ways through which digital access can be provided to their collections. This need has been enhanced by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The closure of libraries, archives, and museums to researchers during the height of the pandemic, restricted access during successive periods of national lockdown, and on-going social distancing rules, have significantly disrupted the ability of scholars to conduct research.
In response to these challenges, research libraries, archives and special collections, and museums and galleries have been experimenting with the provision of geographically remote digital access to heritage and cultural collections through the creation of Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs).
What do we mean by a Virtual Reading Room or a Virtual Teaching Space?
VRRs and VTSs provide human-mediated remote digital access to collections without digitisation. Through the use of live streaming and visualisers positioned within physical research spaces, scholars, teachers or members of the public can view and digitally engage with an institution’s heritage and cultural collections, asking for these to be positioned and repositioned by a member of staff, to enable their research. These are emerging and bespoke services which provide another means of user-responsive access to collection materials.
This is a video demonstration of a Virtual Reading Room service:
Complete the survey:
This survey asks a series of questions about the development and use of Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs) within institutions.