The Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) Toolkit is a resource for all collection-holding institutions, including libraries, archives, and museums, which are interested in setting up a VRR consultation service or are at the early stages of VRR development.

VRRs constituted part of the emergency response of libraries and archives to the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Through VRRs, many institutions were able to provide geographically remote access to collections and learning materials to a worldwide audience.

Since then, VRRs have increasingly been integrated into the existing service offering of institutions as a way of ensuring their sustainability and further development. Moreover, libraries and archives are becoming more aware of the potential of VRRs to make different types of collections accessible to a variety of audience groups.

In October 2022, RLUK in collaboration with its partners, held an international sprint relay symposium on ‘Creating a community-driven toolkit for the development and delivery of Virtual Reading Room services’. This community-driven toolkit constitutes the collaborative output of the symposium and it is based on intelligence gathered through talks, discussions, and interactive sessions where delegates shared their experiences in developing and running VRRs for the benefit of the sector.

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How do we define Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs)?

Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) provide human-mediated remote digital access to collections which do not depend on digitisation. 

Through the use of live streaming via hi-res 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 non-digitised collection materials.

Context of their creation

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, research libraries and cultural institutions around the world have invested in ceiling-mounted and desktop visualisers to enable the creation of virtual reading rooms and classrooms. 

Although a number of VRR services did exist before Covid-19, the vast majority have emerged in response to the pandemic and the experience of lockdowns, partial reopenings, and ongoing disruption of movement.

RLUK has been charting the development of these services since late 2020 and has published three reports and a series of case studies on the RLUK website.

VRR services are geographically diverse: UK, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Although we identified a significant number of institutions that have developed or aiming to develop VRRs services, it is believed that there are more of these services elsewhere.

Methodology of creating this toolkit

This VRR community-driven toolkit was developed during an international symposium which spanned the globe through a series of three connected, sequential, and iterative seminars that took place in the Australia/ New Zealand, UK/ Europe, and US/ Canada regions. 

Talks, discussions, and intelligence gathered through interactive breakout sessions and other elements (Mentimeter and Google Jamboards) directly informed and shaped the contents of a practical toolkit for the development and delivery of Virtual Reading Room services amongst collection-holding institutions.

The structure of this toolkit was based on the work of the Frameworks and Standards sub-group of the IARLA VRR working group. Please consult this toolkit alongside the resources found in the References and Useful Links section.

The IARLA working group

The International Alliance of Research Library Associations (IARLA) has convened a cross-sector working group to explore the development and delivery of Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs). The working group includes representatives of IARLA members, key stakeholder bodies and organisations, and members of the wider heritage/ cultural communities. 

The purpose of the working group was to explore the international collaborative opportunities presented by the development and delivery of VRRs and VTSs amongst research libraries and other collection-holding institutions. In particular, the role of the working group was to: 

  • Provide a forum for knowledge exchange and the sharing of experiences between institutions who have or intend to create VRRs or VTSs.

  • Envisage, plan or support events to showcase the experience of the international research library and collection-holding community in the development and delivery of these services.

  • Explore the possibility of creating an agreed framework of characteristics or features that constitute a VRR or VTS service between institutions that have or are developing these.

  • Explore the collaborative opportunities posed by VRRs and VTSs between institutions, including in relation to their discovery, use, and networking.

Its subgroups were: Frameworks and Standards (inc. definitions) group; Resourcing and Sustainability group; Survey and Data Gathering group; Case Study Collation and Editorial group; Symposium Planning group.

Members of the following organisations participate at the IARLA VRR working group:

Association of Research Libraries (ARL)  –  Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL)  –  Research Libraries UK (RLUK)  

The National Archives, UK  –  The British Library  –  Jisc  –  OCLC Research Library Partnership

Applications and motivations

Why create a Virtual Reading Room service?

According to the most recent RLUK report looking at the institutional perspectives around the development of VRRs and VTSs (Kamposiori, 2022, p. 12), the majority of institutions with developed VRRs mainly established these as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and with the aim of delivering remote reading room sessions. Providing access to remote researchers for private study, scholarship or research is the main reason for institutions aiming to launch VRRs in the immediate future. Few consider developing a VRR service solely as a method to support targeted digitisation.

Key drivers for VRR development:

Institutional perspectives

VRRs have been taking on different roles and evolving after the pandemic emergency, especially in certain regions such as Europe and the US. Some VRR services are listed on library websites while others are offered during a reference transaction.

In some regions, such as the UK, institutions investigate how VRR services and digitisation complement each other; VRR services as part of a digitisation workflow could create more impact for digitisation services. In the US, based on the Society of American Archivists (SAA) terminology, a VRR refers to access to digitised materials.

VRRs offer opportunities for working with other institutions. There are discrete areas internationally which have strong communities of practice. The benefits of a community built around VRRs include testing different theories and working together as well as having conversations and learning about the different aspects of developing and running the services (e.g. benefits of VRRs). Being part of a community means that institutions can be signposts for other VRR services. 

Recommended resources on the VRR institutional perspectives:

User perspectives

VRRs support equity as their use is not limited to those who can afford to travel. This is particularly important for institutions whose collections have a broad, international reach. They can blur borders and bring collections from different institutions or organisations together in a wholly new, unique and powerful way. 

VRRs allow users to evaluate if they want to schedule an in-person visit as they can provide useful information beyond the single collection description line. It is about respecting people’s time and letting them scope out their visit. The ecological benefits that VRRs have by reducing long-haul and short-haul travel are also of considerable importance.  

Most users use VRRs to do one or more of the following: 

  • To conduct preliminary research
  • As a precursor to a physical visit 
  • To make a digitisation request 
  • To check single documents 
  • For referencing purposes

Users can have different needs when using VRRs. Some may want to record and view later, while others may just want to get a feel for an item and establish if they want to make a digitisation request or visit in the future. Some may want to view the whole item, some are looking for particular features or would like to compare to other institutional holdings.

VRRs can provide more than a visual experience: with a microphone set-up they can provide a more complete sensory experience with the sounds of pages turning (and their crackling) in older books; lead into other sensory discussions around the smell of the paper, it’s production; the scale and heft of the object. Thus, they can be equally used for conducting original research and teaching a variety of user groups (from students to experts). However, extensive research on collection items, such as uncatalogued material, through VRRs is not advised as it can be too time consuming for library staff.

They also have strong cultural capability as they can help open up collections and make them available to a wide range of communities. They can be used to encourage greater collaboration with and participation by community members who may not traditionally engage with institutional collections, such as First Nation communities in Australia. For example, by joining a VRR session through Zoom or similar, community members can see collections in real time. They can, then, make decisions on whether they want certain collection items to be digitised or voice their opinion on whether certain digitisation initiatives are inappropriate, and influence decisions on the level of access to these materials for others. In a similar way, VRRs can be used to evaluate material for cultural gifts.

There is still a need to build reputation and get recognition from researchers and the library community has a role to play in ensuring and supporting the legitimacy and validity of VRR research compared to traditional consultation (and its status) and role for libraries. Identifying and collaborating with academic VRR champions is a proven way of enhancing visibility and usage of the services. The establishment of best practice and cross-sector collaboration can increase benefits for users and institutions; however, issues around resourcing and sustainability of the services should not be overlooked.    

Recommended resources on the VRR user perspective:

The Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) Toolkit

Developing a VRR service

Making the case for developing and launching a VRR:

  • VRRs can open up new areas of scholarship and, through global connection and relationship building, can be used to bring collections together.
  • Join forces with VRR champions who may have used the services to advocate and promote the development and launch of a VRR.
  • Building a business case through consultation with users. The pandemic business case is now less relevant so greater focus needs to be placed on internationalisation, or environmental impact.
  • Develop and deliver a master class for researchers/academics and PhD students on how to use VRRs effectively and engage them with VRR use.
  • Case studies or exemplars which bring collections together across different institutions and which highlight the role of VRRs can be useful for securing institutional support.
  • International side of collaboration: VRR needs to be promoted alongside the VRRs of other institutions. To achieve cross promotion across institutions, links between the services should be provided.

Key considerations when planning to launch VRR consultation services include:

  • Getting buy in from rare books librarians who may view the technology as being the responsibility of the digital team (if separate areas).
  • Looking at how the VRR service interacts with other service models, e.g. digitisation, acquisitions.
  • Keep it as simple as possible. Modest expenditure can deliver a lot, and maybe doesn’t present staff and users with the same technical challenges.
  • Testing the waters and seeing first what works for an organisation when funding is tight is important.
    • If institutions have not formally launched yet, there is the option of providing the services on an ad hoc basis based on demand.
    • A soft launch can take the pressure off staff as it allows the service to grow organically, to get informal feedback from users to modify the service, test the capacity, and build confidence.
  • Consider rolling VRRs alongside other services. For example, in post-Covid-19 era, institutions are increasingly considering the application of VRRs in teaching, especially hybrid teaching, and for wider engagement, e.g. engaging with Alumni.
  • Consider access requirements for collections which often differ internationally. Highlight different ideas on best practice.
  • Institutions currently in the planning stage should not aim to reinvent the wheel.
    • Consulting closely with other institutions that have already set up a VRR service can be very useful.
    • Have a list of institutions that have already launched a VRR service to contact for advice and engage in knowledge sharing through participating in forums or communities of practice to discuss implementation issues, e.g. tech set up; charging models; sustainability framework in order to be able to argue for this service within the institution as something that aligns to institutional priorities or strategy.
  • Ensure that staff are adequately prepared and trained to use the visualiser hardware and software, the video platform, etc. Being skilled at using these makes the experience much smoother.
    • Have some staff who are more confident as ‘champions’ who can support others with tech issues, etc.
  • Think about your audiences for the VRR at the outset.
    • Consider who the service is for and the benefits for users, e.g. being able to scan documents quickly, using prior to making a decision about visiting in person or ordering digital images.
    • Manage expectations of users in terms of the types of material they will be able to consult.
    • Inclusive access is important – any requirements for access, such as letters of introduction, should be flagged in the directory.
    • There is an opportunity to build connections with researchers through 1:1 interaction.

Below are some lessons learnt and advice on the technological considerations for developing a VRR service.

Cameras/ Visualisers

  • An 1080p camera is a good option for entry level – higher resolution becomes more complex.
  • A VRR session can be delivered with just a document camera and through Zoom. More expensive cameras for higher quality can be used.
  • A mobile camera or set-up can be valuable for more flexible use and access to material.
  • Portability is important so smaller visualisers are convenient. Consider the ability to quickly purchase equipment, and move the visualiser into storage spaces.
  • Visualiser Avervision U70+ provides quick plug and play and is very usable.
  • Capturing larger items can be challenging as cameras most often do not have wider angled lenses. Up to a point, putting the camera on a box can get it up higher to capture a wider area.
  • Using snake weights can make the camera more stable.


  • Lessons learnt about letting Zoom control camera – use software to zoom in.
  • Zoom recording needs to be local, not on cloud.
  • Streaming issues: Zoom can lock to 1080p, so institutions may need to explore alternative streaming services (e.g. Twitch or YouTube).
  • System requirements for computer running Zoom: min. 16GB needed to run Zoom/ visualiser without issue.
  • Zoom is often preferred as the majority of users are familiar with the platform.
    • However, it is better to assume no user knowledge about Zoom and instruct all the way.


  • Zoom calls became quite common from the pandemic onwards and therefore most have laptops with cameras, microphones, etc. Institutions often have almost all of the equipment needed to start a VRR service.
  • Keeping technology quite basic can be useful.
  • Connection using ethernet cable if at all possible.
  • Use of microphones and audio to capture the noise of accessing and using the books and other material.
  • Cost of equipment is major consideration as it also depends on material shown, especially if bringing together archive and library material, e.g. large scale drawings as well as small items.
  • Large institutions must get buy-in from IT departments, to ensure that they take responsibility for the kit (maintenance, updates, etc.).
  • Technology becomes obsolete so we need to keep making business cases and show use of it.
    • Maintenance and replacement costs need to be built into rolling IT/ AV budgets.
  • Technology can be borrowed from other departments, so there can be quick fixes if needed.
  • This depends on the system purchased for delivering VRR sessions. If a fixed visualiser is used, a dedicated space is needed. However, if on a trolley,  secure storage for the system is needed and the ability to move to a suitable location/ meeting room. If a smaller system is used there is the need to ensure the ability to book a meeting room and, possibly, deal with glare produced by any overhead lighting.
    • If the primary equipment (laptop and document camera) are mobile, most spaces where you could have a Zoom call could also be used to do a VRR session.
  • A secure space for special collections material is needed alongside agreements with rare books on how these items can be stored ahead of session.
  • Different approaches can be employed by different institutions; for example, one UK institution will move all VRR equipment in one space (digitisation suite).
  • Space has been challenging for some, as others within the institution can be ‘territorial’ about it.
  • There is interest in the use of VRR services for relics/ physical objects.
  • VRR sessions can help identify priorities for conservation.
  • A mix of modern and archival/ special collections is often consulted through VRRs.
  • A focus on discovery should be places, especially for materials with limited or no metadata.
  • Material can be big and heavy – tech difficulties with Zoom may be caused due to the format of material.
  • Consider ways to communicate the materiality of an object, including sounds and smell, through the VRR experience.
  • The risk to collections needs to be considered. For example, a protocol may be needed to address issues related to moving collections to office/ meeting rooms for VRR sessions.
  • Consider any copyright and data protection issues and what restrictions you need to include. Things to take into consideration:
    • Broadcasting versus illustration for instruction?
    • What copyright exceptions do you use?
    • How risk averse is your organisation?
    • Would you allow screenshots or recordings of sessions?
  • There is potential of using VRRs to share different types of collections, such as born-digital (as it involves screen sharing) and audio material (through sound streamer).

Delivering a VRR service

Below are some lessons learnt and advice on promoting a VRR service and engaging with current and potential users.

Promoting VRR services

  • Institutions planning to launch or interested in launching a VRR service should consider what their target audience is from the beginning (internal only; external/ international; teaching or research).
    • A VRR service is a very viable option for international researchers – statistics show an inverse pattern for research profiles international/ local vs. local/ international.
    • Some institutions doing soft launch with collections with no sensitive content engaged only selected researchers to see what the team can learn from the experience.
  • Consider how people find out about things in collections, and how this can be linked to a VRR service.
  • Direct contact and pro-actively sharing information about the service with users when they get in touch can be more effective in some cases compared to general promotion.
  • There is an opportunity for cross promotion of VRR/ VTS services in the same way that inter-library loans/ document delivery services work.
  • Reach users through college librarians, mailing lists and social media, as well as open days.
  • Provide clear guidelines for service on the organisation website.
    • Framing VRR as an ‘enhanced enquiry service’ may work better for some organisations.
  • Registration processes can cover both in-person and virtual consultations, but this can make forms very long. Institutions should consider what works best for them (e.g. separate registration).
  • There is an opportunity for greater communication and promotion if we engage with other organisations which may already have VRRs/ VTSs but may not necessarily use these terms to describe the services.

Engaging with users   

  • Good communication with the user is necessary to manage expectations in terms of what is possible.
  • Understanding the practices and needs of users can benefit promotion and user engagement.
    • Users often belong to two groups: those who are looking to answer specific questions and those who want to conduct  more exploratory research. VRRs can best support the first group. Consider what the best approach is to support the second group in your organisation and who is best to do this within the library/ organisation.
    • Consider how users find out about VRR services (e.g. through research newsletter).
    • Researchers are often interested in capturing and reusing images during the session similar to how they take images in the reading room – images are an important part of notetaking and archiving the research trajectory. Consider whether or how you can support this.
    • VRR gives a sense of authenticity when viewing documents live which can be appealing to textual scholars.
    • Researchers value the human side of the virtual tool, often fundamental for a successful research experience.
    • Researchers also feel the service is grounded in social justice and goodwill not just convenience.
    • Researchers value partnering with library staff during the virtual visit which feels like having a research coach.
  • More advocacy work needs to be done with researchers to show the value of VRR, e.g. being able to be exposed to different editions of the same book in different locations.
    • Suggestion of Masterclass training opportunities with VRRs for researchers and PhD students. There is an opportunity to ‘normalise’ VRR use by researchers but also to share best practice and funding opportunities e.g. with UKRI (PhD) or AHRC.
  • Issues to consider regarding staff/ user engagement:
    • While some partnerships with users are effective, some staff may prefer to remain anonymous/ muted, while rotating schedules can hinder active collaboration with users. Working with the same staff member is a good experience for researchers, as the staff member learns about their interests and develops a rapport with them.
    • Some staff may be concerned about the possibility of negative interactions with researchers, and how to handle them. Managers can authorise staff to disengage and end calls if it becomes a problem, and provide necessary support. However, this rarely happens, since users are almost always very happy with the service.
    • If helpful, staff can turn off their laptop cameras while doing a VRR session to keep the focus on the items being viewed instead of them.
    • In some cases, staff and researchers may prefer to use chat to communicate instead of voice. In other cases, particularly when paging quickly through large amounts of material, it can be easier to say “next” to move to the next item. However, problems with microphones can sometimes hinder verbal interaction and, thus, chat can be a good fallback to continue the session.

VRRs enable and support broader global engagement. They also offer the opportunity to increase accessibility to collections and resources for a variety of audiences, including living communities (e.g. Indigenous/ First Nations) with items containing their knowledge or which are about them in institutional collections. Institutions holding this type of material can aspire to care for these collections in a respectful way while making these items available to their communities.

Institutions aiming to improve discoverability of VRRs and increase accessibility of their collections and services should take into considerations the below points:

  • More advocacy work with users will enhance discoverability and accessibility.
  • Defining a strategy to market the service to researchers is important.
    • Raising awareness about the services’ existence or continuity after returning to on-site operations is important as some users may not be aware that VRR services are still on offer.
  • VRRs can be a ‘welcome mat’ to make a special collections library or archive less intimidating. VRR sessions can be an on-ramp to in-person visits.
  • The convenience of VRRs is also a key accessibility issue for people with limited ability to travel or take time off from work/ school.
    • For example, high school students may be unable to come to the reading room in person because of the travel time after school dismissal. Using a VRR can allow them to do research they could not do in person.
  • VRRs can also constitute a solution to barriers relating to physical reading room accessibility, including poor accessibility for people with limited mobility, lack of travel funding or capability, lack of childcare, etc.
  • VRRs are an effective way to provide access to very fragile items as staff can handle the items instead of researchers/ users.
  • To reduce any language barriers, having staff who are native speakers of the language of the materials can be very helpful when the researcher is a second-language speaker. It can make it easier to figure out things that a second-language speaker might not understand as readily as a native speaker.
  • Consider the software accessibility features – for example, Zoom has better accessibility features than Teams, e.g. subtitling, BSL.
  • Users and disability: Consider EDI issues through and take advice from university teams.
    • For example, OCR material can be used for blind people but causes other access issues.
    • There is scope for guidance for audio descriptions for the material via VRR.
    • Possibility of using text to speech software, but it is not confirmed if it works in real time via VRRs.
  • Good metadata is essential at identifying what to view – a VRR can help with gaps and ambiguities, but it is not a substitute for good cataloguing.
  • Processing backlogs make some items inaccessible, and the complexity of digitisation workflows often mean that they need to wait for processing, description, conservation etc. VRRs can be a lightweight way to give access to items with fewer dependencies on sometimes slow or delayed processes.
  • A central space, such as the IARLA VRR Register (tbc), where researchers and other interested parties can find which institutions offer VRRs will increase discoverability and accessibility.

VRRs began as a replacement service, but maybe over time this has changed depending on circumstances, such as the nature of collections and nature of patrons. Below are some lessons learnt regarding their relationship to digitisation so far:

  • VRRs have been mostly used as a reference system rather than a digitisation service, but they can sometimes allow for targeted digitisation (e.g. 6/300 images).
  • Even though for equity reasons digitisation should be free, it is often very expensive and has a cost recovery model attached.
    • Thus, the cost of delivering a VRR session is often higher compared to the service delivered in a traditional reading room service, but can be considered low compared to digitisation of a whole item.
  • They can be used to open up collections that are not digitised and publicly online. There is a question of how to best identify which ones to digitise vs. just offer for viewing.
  • VRRs can also be used as a way of identifying which images should be digitised in high quality. They can also be used as a service for evaluating digitisation requests as, often, there is more effort involved in describing each item instead of showing directly.
  • VRRs can be seen as a tool to help support and assess digitisation priorities rather than be re-active.
    • VRRs can be used to inform decisions for digitising what is needed based on user demand and not an entire item in case part of it might be helpful.
  • VRRs have been effective in expediting requests for restricted materials (privacy, HIPAA, FERPA, etc.); items in folders can be filtered during the visit and these types of materials are often not candidates for digitisation.
  • VRRs/ VTSs allow the viewer to see the item as a 3D object instead of a still/ flat image so the physicality of the item is still present in a way compared to a digital surrogate.
  • Researchers frequently need images/ screenshots for the purposes of their work. However, this may not always be possible through VRRs due to copyright or other reasons.
    • Some services allow users to capture screenshots, and some institutions can capture high-quality images from their document cameras. In other cases, this is limited (e.g. because of copyright or time constraints).
    • In some cases, the entire session is recorded and the recording is shared with the researcher where they can take as many still images as they like. This changes the nature of the session to a quick perusal of the items, knowing they can go back to the recording later to read more thoroughly.
  • Clarity is needed on the boundaries between VRR and full digitisation service in an institution. Staff members delivering VRR sessions need to be very rights-aware and clear with users about what they can do with screenshots.

Sustaining a VRR service

  • Embedding VRRs in current institutional offering, linking to institutional strategy and using them as part of other library services, e.g. blended/ hybrid sessions and events, can increase strategic importance of VRRs and, as a result, resourcing.
  • Some institutions found it effective, during staffing shortages, to balance visits and digitisation requests.
  • Setting up test sessions to set parameters for what does and does not work for the system used allows to develop acceptance or rejection rules, e.g. what does and doesn’t work for the system.
  • Preparation for sessions can increase efficiency, e.g if you are aware of what the user wants, you can skip to those sections.
  • Need to consider time zones and staffing, as this can remain a challenge for international users of VRR services.
  • Most institutions reported a single person who held the knowledge of the service, something that can be a high risk/ point of failure.
  • Balancing the different staffing needs for teaching vs. research if needed.
    • For example, there may be different staffing needs when supporting teaching compared to research consultations via VRRs, when a more in depth relationship is developed with users.
  • Training needs of staff include skills development around the handling of equipment as well as training on how to develop close dialogue with researchers and how to gather feedback.
    • If students (e.g. PhD students), employed as staff (paid/ unpaid), are supporting VRR sessions, there may be a need for specific training and support.
  • Ongoing training for staff can be achieved through using champions to support other staff.
  • Moving from pandemic mode to new service models, there is a need to consider how a VRR service looks now and how staff can pitch it and resource it. There is also a role for the community in facilitating access, standards and communities of practice that ensure sustainability of service.
  • There is scope for standardising VRR services and developing a charging framework model.
    • Charging/ cost models can also enable the management and demand for these services.
    • Scope to explore different fees and costing models and different staff skill sets (and in turn different costings).
  • There is interest in looking at other institutions’ charging models, especially if implementing a more sophisticated service. At the moment most institutions are not charging but many are considering what and how to charge.
  • Charging might depend also on the types of audiences an institution decides to service. For example, an institution might charge international users or as consultancy externally,  but this will depend on context.
    • Possibility of using charging models already in place for non-VRR services to charge certain types of groups, e.g. external users, as well as have different charges for the different levels of skills/ expertise of staff.
  • However, there is a need to think about EDI when considering charging users for VRR services.
  • Issue to consider: income may not come directly to the library but be ‘swiped’ by the parent organisation.
  • Look for alternative routes to funding VRRs, e.g. if they contribute to the digitisation strategy, then part of the digitisation funds can be directed to VRRs.
  • Persuade/ insist that researchers build the costs of VRR into research grant applications – typically buy-out for staff.
  • Evaluation can be fairly informal initially (especially institutions at planning stage), then more formalised, e.g. through QR code. A key success measure will be to engage academics as internal engagement that focuses on students might be perceived by staff as an additional burden.
  • For smaller organisations, another measure of success would be the level of external engagement since small institutions often want to grow researcher numbers and develop research networks globally.
  • Metrics that can show global engagement can also be a measure of success for institutions which have only recently put their catalogue online or for those which have external engagement as a key driver for setting up a VRR.
  • Using client/ user feedback forms as part of service to evaluate opportunities for feedback.
    • Each institution tends to develop their own evaluation form which is sent to every user but, since not everyone completes it, it may be more productive to gather more detailed feedback during the 1:1 consultation.
  • Staff members also provide feedback as part of a VRR session, e.g. through filling out a very similar form to establish actual time required to run the service.
  • Establishing standards across the community and having a comparable experience across institutions while using VRRs can be useful for both institutions and users.

Other considerations

As copyright and licensing regulations differ across different countries, approaches employed by institutions worldwide vary in terms of the items or details that users are allowed to view during a VRR session, or whether they are allowed to take screenshots. Below are some examples of approaches that different services have taken, including relevant advice:

  • If restricted access applies, you can show things in copyright, but do not share things that might risk data protection legislation.
  • One service noted that they do not allow readers to do screen-grabs, but do ask users to note when they would like captures. The user then asks for photographs after the session (path to digitisation).
  • Another service allows screen captures, but limits the number of these if copyright is a consideration.
  • A UK service highlighted that they do not impose restrictions to material due to copyright as they treat virtual visits as physical ones. No screenshots are allowed.
  • T&Cs for use of VRR now included as part of some institutions regulations. For example,
  • Another UK service allows screenshots but they do not permit the use of these images in publications. Users need to make a request for high quality TIFF or JPEG.
  • Modern archival material should be reviewed and checked to assess suitability for VRR.
  • There are opportunities to use VRRs to provide access to collections beyond the traditional special collection and archive materials.
    • Born digital collections (e.g. mail archives) and material that cannot be transmitted traditionally can be good candidates for sharing through VRRs. However, there is limited knowledge of how this can be done so far.
    • Different types of objects (e.g. wood blocks) or other types of artefacts can be consulted through VRRs.
    • AV collections (e.g. Playstation games) can also be candidates for use during a VRR session.
  • Regarding engagement during a session, there is the opportunity to use other features of video conferencing which have not been used yet. For example, staff have made annotations through the software, but this has not been enabled for clients/ users yet. If clients/ users could control zoom and add annotations, it could provide an extra layer of engagement.
  • There are opportunities to widen participation through reaching out to various audience groups e.g. underrepresented communities, schools etc. However, the strategic priorities of the institution will need to be taken into consideration.

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