New pilot services

The Archives and Special Collections department will be running two pilot services in Semester 2, 2022: the Virtual Reading Room (VRR) and Virtual Teaching Space (VTS).

Archives and Special Collections is pleased to announce that we will be launching pilots of two new services through Semester 2, 2022: the Virtual Reading Room (VTS) and Virtual Teaching Space (VTS). These pilots intend to inform potential changes in the way which we provide access to and facilitate engagement with our collections to local and global scholars. We are looking for participants to take part in both pilot services and provide valuable feedback.

The Virtual Reading Room (VRR) service will provide users of the Baillieu Reading Room virtual access to collection materials that cannot be borrowed. Users can book an online session and consult materials with the help of Reading Room staff. With the pilot, we aim to find out how we can increase access to our collections, including supporting users who cannot travel to the Library, have accessibility or health concerns, or prefer to see particular material while in their own space.

VRR services emerged in many academic and research libraries when access was limited by Covid restrictions. The service uses a visualiser and online video conferencing to provide users with a digital alternative to in-person research. These sessions may also be useful for users wishing to view material before they decide to visit the Library or make a digitisation request.

The Virtual Teaching Space (VTS) service is a new teaching and learning service model that provides live and interactive object-based learning with a curator, archivist or lecturer (or both in conversation) and students in an online session. Collection materials will be made available in a live online session via the visualizer. Students will be able to view and digitally engage with collection items in a participatory manner and VTS sessions can be integrated into the Canvas LMS and/or supported by further use of digitised collection materials.

We are consulting with colleagues across the global research library community to explore the potential of both services. We are also working closely with in the University of Sydney’s Rare Book & Special Collections department, who are running a similar pilot. Participants in the pilot service will be asked to complete a questionnaire and provide feedback in order to help us to assess the potential impact of these services.