Virtual Reading Rooms & Virtual Teaching Spaces


The RLUK announcement of the report opened with the following:

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. (See sidebar for link to the NISO summary of that previous report.)

Virtual Reading Rooms (VRR) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTS) offer an alternative means of accessing digitally physical materials held within a collection, without needing to impose new demands on library digitization projects or initiatives. 

The report findings analyze responses from 22 different institutions in the UK, Ireland, USA & Australia. 

Based on report findings, indicators are that this approach is a welcome addition to library services:

Although demand for virtual sessions has slowed down as academics, students and other users are currently able to visit physically, 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.”

Key Findings

Key points noted in a set of presentation slides covering the report include:

The audiences for these spaces include:

  • Internal academics and researchers
  • Internal students (postgrads and undergrads)
  • External academics and researchers
  • External students and undergrads
  • Community groups and members of the public

Special and archival collections were mostly consulted or will be most readily available for users to consult. 

More institutions consider making available other types of collections (e.g. artefacts and objects, art works, map collections, and non-special collections) to reach different types of audiences

Library staff become active participants in research by working closely with researchers and providing advice and support during VRR sessions.

The benefits that cross-institutional collaboration around VRRs can have for users:

  • Richer range of holdings available to a global audience. 
  • Collaboration around similar or split holdings can lead to virtually linked collections, facilitating research and learning.
  • Developing common practices and approaches can lead to greater consistency of experience of VRR services for researchers and other users.
  • A VRR network could constitute a pool of professionals to direct users to, such as researchers.

The point was made that this type of research environment may be more convenient and comfortable for those students well-acclimated to the digital information environment.

The full text of the 39-page report may be found here as a PDF.