Rare Books & Special Collections New Virtual Reading Room

Introducing the Library’s new Virtual Reading Room and Teaching Space.

The Library is excited to announce that we will be launching a pilot Virtual Reading Room (VRR) service in July 2022 that will run for six months within our Rare Books and Special Collections library. This service uses special cameras and video conferencing (like Zoom or Teams), to provide remote access to our special collections.

Interested people can book online at least two days in advance of the session, and we’ll work with you to make sure we’re able to give you the best experience possible. With this pilot, we’re looking forward to finding out more about how we can better support clients with accessibility needs, those who cannot travel to the Library, or who would prefer to interact with Rare Books and Special Collections in their own space.

We will have more info soon on our Rare Book & Special Collections page, so watch this space!


What is a Virtual Reading Room?
Virtual Reading Rooms provide clients with real-time access to our unique and distinctive collections which are not loanable and have not been digitised. VRRs emerged as a service during COVID restrictions. VRRs use visualisers and online video conferencing platforms to provide a surrogate research experience for initial scoping of collections prior to digitisation, or as a surrogate for in-person research.

What is a Virtual Teaching Space?
A Virtual Teaching Space is very similar to a Virtual Reading Room and often uses the same equipment. Instead of being a one-on-one interaction, it is a part of object or collections-based learning and is most frequently one-to-many, with an expert delivering the session to an audience, and that allows for live interaction between audience and object. Virtual Teaching Spaces are used to make object-based learning available remotely and allow for teaching about our collections in ways that cannot happen with image-based digitisation.

Equipment for the VRR/VTS service
There are several ways of equipping a VRR service, ranging from a smartphone taped to a homemade stand through to high end visualisers costing tens of thousands of dollars with discrete lighting systems.

After examining the equipment currently used by colleagues in Northern Hemisphere libraries, we have made the decision to run the pilot service with an IPEVO VZ-X visualiser (right). We have selected this equipment as it has best fit with our user stories, is priced well, and has plug and play functionality.

IPEVO VZ-X visualiser