Virtual Library

Virtual Library:
Virtual Reality (VR) is an illusive environment for the eyes, ears and other sense organs where user can experience the real world in an artificially created environment by the computer system. It is a state of real sensational feeling in an imaginary environment. The environment is so perfectly created and highly stimulated that one can experience just like a real situation but with a full control over the environment.

a) Definition: Virtual Library refers to the scientifically managed collection of information resources and services on site as well as off site that are available in a virtual reality environment and accessible electronically through the internet at any time from any geographical location.Such type of library only exists in the networked environment, without the physical existence of books or journals on the shelves.

Kay Gapen’s (1994) defines the Virtual Library as “The concept of remote access to the content and services of libraries and other information resources combining an onsite collection of current and heavily used material in both print and electronic form, with an electronic network that provide access to and delivery from external World Wide library and commercial information and knowledge sources.”

Powell (1994) defines Virtual Library as “It is a library with little or no physical presence of books, periodicals, reading space or support staff, but are that disseminate selective information directly to distribute library customers, usually electronically.”

An electronic library may or may not be virtual. Eg. If the holding of a library is available in CD ROM, DVD ROM, etc. and these resources only can be accessed through a stand alone computer but not through the internet or WAN, then it is termed as electronic library and not as virtual library. Further the VL set up should give an illusive environment of the real library world.

b) Characteristic of Virtual Library: The main characteristics of Virtual Library are as follows-

i) Information sources should be stored in 3 D format, electronically.

ii) Library staff should be able to work in the library from any geographical location.

iii) Library Services such as union catalogue, OPAC, CAS, SDI, etc should be available at the user desktop, itself.

iv) All resources should be accessible over Internet with effective Searching, Browsing and Navigation options.

v) The library should be integrated with Bulletin Board, Blog, Email, Voice Mail, E-List, Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing, etc services.

vi) Constant training and retraining must be imparted both to the library staff as well as library user to talk with the newly emerging technologies.

vii) It may or may not have a physical existence.

      Sherwell (1997) describes the characteristic of Virtual Library as-

i) There is no corresponding physical collection.

ii) Documents will be available in electronic format.

iii) Documents are not stored in any one location.

iv) Documents can be accessed from any workstation.

v) Documents are retrieved and delivered as and when required and

vi) Effective search and Browse facility are available.

c) Technology behind Virtual Library: Creation of Virtual Library involves use of highly sophisticated technology that includes:

i) Use of multimedia material for information storage.

ii) Use of 3D sound, 3D Graphics, 3D Photo, etc.

iii) Use of Voice Message, Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing, etc by the library staff as well as library user.

iv) Origin and Development of PC with VR technologies attached.

d) Facilities in a Virtual Library Setup: The virtual library to be functional, following facilities need to be extended to the Library Staff

i) Computer Resources: In case any library staff is not in a position to procure the computer resources to work from their home, it will be the responsibility of the library to provide the same to him/her.

ii) Office Stationary: The library should provide the office stationary i.e Calculators, staplers, Directory of Phone numbers of Library staff, Job Manual, etc. to the library staff at their homes.

iii) Arrangement of Online Meeting: Arrangement of online meeting at fixed hour of the day by using Voice Mail, Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing, etc that helps in live, two way communications.

            In the virtual library setup, the following facilities need to be extended to the Library Users-

i) Access to Information: Access to all information resources from any geographical location.

ii) PC equipped with VR Technologies: If the VL is a part of any physical library then attempt should be made to provide in the library itself the user with PC that are equipped with VR technologies such as Head-tracked HMDs (Head Mounted Display), Data Gloves, Gesture, Trackers, etc. The monitor, keyboard, speaker, joystick, etc should also be compatible to VR set up.

e) Advantages of Virtual Library: VL set up will help the administrative staff of the library to appoint handicapped person, elderly and parents with young children, etc.

A virtual library setup will provide following advantages to the administrator-

i) Low Office Space: In VL setup the library staff hopes to work from their homes itself that will eliminate the necessity of large office capacity, thereby reducing the cost involved in office rent or library building or cost related to its future expansion.

ii) Reduce Work Stoppage:  Holiday, different kind of bandh, storm, flood, hurricanes and like other makes it impossible for the employees to travel to the workplace of the library resulting in halt of every kind of library activities. The VL will eliminate such type of work stoppage. Even in holiday, employees can spend their leisure time by working certain hours for the library.

The virtual library will have the following advantages for library staff-

i) No Physical Constraints of Workplace: The Library staff should be able to work from their home or any other place convenient to them.

ii) Own Boss: Every one wants to be his/her own boss. VL will give the employees the freedom to do their job according to their own method.

iii) Everything is Formal: VL will demand the instruction to be given by the boss or the librarian in a formal way to his/her subordinate that hopes to achieve better management.

iv) Direct Communications: The direct communication through voice mail, video conferencing helps to foster a sense of group belongingness among the library staff.

The library user will have the following advantages-

i) Distance Education: Individual member of the library can enter into the virtual mode and can feel the real library environment i.e can see the reference librarian, can browse the card catalogue, etc.

f) Disadvantages of Virtual Library: Some of the disadvantages of a virtual library are-

i) Sense of not Belongingness: In VL set up the employees will not come in direct contact with their colleague, so they hope to lose the feeling of being an important part of the library.

ii) Fear of Job Loss: In VL set up; employees can easily sink in the idea that they are expandable by thinking in mind that any body with a computer and modem can do their work. So, they will hope to be the victim of fear of job loss.

iii) Low Moral: VL will not support the positive feed back that comes with face to face interaction with superiors and peers.

iv) Demand more dedication from Library Staff: The employees of VL should be more sincere, disciplined and dedicated than the employees of physical library set up as he/she must work without any external supervision and motivation in most cases.

v) Family Tension: If family tension will find its entry into the life of telecommuters they will not be able to escape from it at least for a few hours when they will be in the same environment, resulting interruption will occur in the work. If the tension will be from spouse, then he/she may also view the job as a working arrangement to avoid family responsibility.

vi) Hazardous Set Up: VL will give the environment where employees hope to be the sufferer of eyesight loss, Arthritis, Nerve problem, etc.

      Another disadvantage of VL is that any user with negative mind will be able to mislead the library staff.

g) Conclusion: The word “Virtual Library” is displayed in different kinds of library websites, but in reality a true VL is yet to be set up. But when it will be implemented it will help to extend the sense so distantly that any one can do, learn or manipulate the things in reality. It will help us to build a library environment that will be similar to our physical library but will be accessible from distant location; one can just see the library just like using a microscope or telescope.