Introducing our Virtual Reading Room – another way to view the collections

Whether you are scholar, learner, or just a little curious – the virtual reading room allows you to immerse yourself in the Library’s collections anywhere. We have added quotes from readers throughout this blog.

Great opportunity for people who cannot visit the library…

Our new virtual reading room allows you to explore our collections without the hassle and cost of travel. You can view collection items online in real-time, no matter where you are in the world.

“Invaluable for my research

We use special cameras to capture images of collection items. These images can be presented on a large screen or shared on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

A reader is looking at the laptop with an image of a map through the visualiser
What you will see when using the visualizer

We have two camera set-ups: our ceiling visualizer and our desktop visualiser. Our desktop visualiser is suitable for collection items that are smaller than A3 like letters, books, and pamphlets. 

Photo of the desktop visualiser and a bound volume
Our desktop visualizer set up to look at a bound volume

Our ceiling visualiser is more suitable for larger items like maps and newspapers.

The ceiling visualizer with the camera showing a map on the projector behind
Our ceiling visualiser showing a page from an atlas

We have supported a wide range of people during our pilot. From visitors who experienced travel problems and wanted to check their family tree to an international production company who used the visualiser to find out if a map of the Mediterranean was suitable as set dressing.

Wonderful service… helpful to have a staff member on the other side”

In another visit, a reader who has been researching roads for 20 years could finally see a key 17th century account of roads. Some examples of what people looked at can be seen below from left: an account from a family history record, a section of a road map and a map of the Mediterranean.

You will need to join the Library to use the virtual reading room and joining is free. Find out more about how to register.

You will also need a PC or a large tablet with a good internet connection – phones often do not display the image very well. We would then set up a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call.

Image of the ceiling visualiser being set up. There is a map on the table with a member of staff looking at it. Just ahead is a projected image of the map on a large screen. To the left of the staff member is a laptop showing the map.
Member of staff setting up a virtual reading room session using the ceiling visualiser

Requests to view items can be made through our ask a question service. We would need to know details of what material you would like to see and when you would like to use the service. We would also need to know if you unable to visit the reading rooms due to disability, long-term health conditions, or caring responsibilities. Please contact us at least a week in advance so we have time to organise the material.

Patience assistance from staff allowed me to go at my own pace”

After we hear from you, we will need to assess if the collection item is suitable for viewing. Some items that are too large, fragile, or restricted by data protection or copyright may not be able to be viewed.

Library staff offer support and go through the material under your direction. We can zoom in and out or move the item to focus on a particular area. We will even try to decipher any difficult to read handwriting with you!

Box from Family History Tree. Handwritten and very small
Example of difficult to read handwriting

The sessions last one hour but follow up sessions can be booked if needed. During the session, you are welcome to ask questions or discuss the material or take notes. We will ask you not to take screenshots or recordings.

It has been really interesting to learn about different subjects people are researching. I feel I learn a lot during these sessions.

Quote from colleague

The service is available Monday to Friday, 09:30am to 12 noon and 2pm to 4:30pm, subject to staff availability.