What is a virtual library? The term has been defined by many different people in many different ways. It is a library in which the holdings are found in electronic stacks. It is a library that exists, without any regard to a physical space or location. It is a technological way to bring together the resources of various libraries and information services, both internal and external, all in one place, so users can find what they need quickly and easily.
Well, the virtual library also has its drawbacks and limitations.However, when they work, virtual libraries can be very useful and very diverse in what they contain. The options for what they can include are virtually endless, and become more and more boundless as technology advances. Some of the content of a virtual library may include, but certainly is not limited to, CD-ROM, Internet subscriptions, lists of annotated web links, internal work products (such as brief banks), proprietary databases (such as LexisNexis or Westlaw) and even web spiders or push technology that deliver targeted research to the user.
- It saves and/or reduces the physical space taken up by library materials.
- It often adds enhanced searching capabilities in a digital format.
- The library materials are available at the user's desktop, regardless of where the user is physically located.
- It allows for the inclusion of materials only available on the Internet or in digital format.
- It provides the user with the capability to download and manipulate text.
- It often allows for multiple, concurrent users.
- It eliminates the problem of a book being missing or off the shelf.
- It is less labor intensive.
- Every product has its own distinct user interface.
- Users need to remember different passwords for different products.
- The scope of coverage and available archives is often limited.
- There are often difficulties with downloading or printing.
- Often there is no cost savings, especially when both the virtual and print products are maintained.
- Everything is NOT available in digital format.
- There are restrictions, which vary from vendor to vendor, on how the product can be used.
- The virtual library relies on power and computer networks in order to be available for use.
- Users can't spread everything out in front of them and use it all at once.
- Users are most comfortable using books.
Development:-The stages of development that are involved in creating a virtual library, or converting portions of a traditional print library into a virtual library, can be broken down into seven areas:
- The Decision-Making Process
- New Training and Skills for Library Staff
- Installation and Testing
- Creating a Structure for Organizing and Accessing Materials
- Marketing and Promoting Materials
- Training Users
- Evaluation and Reevaluation