what is a virtual library? Accessing knowledge has never been so easy


If you are a person who researches and learns constantly, you have probably searched a virtual library without knowing it. From business proposals to your final exam in college, libraries are the largest source of reliable information currently available to us.

As you already know, digital libraries are quickly becoming the norm in colleges and universities, as they combine technology and information resources to allow remote access to educational content, breaking down physical barriers.

But what exactly is a virtual library? are there other types of libraries? what are the differences between traditional libraries and digital libraries? These and other questions will be answered in this article we have prepared for you.

In addition, we will give you some examples of virtual libraries so that you can learn what a virtual library is and what it is for.

Curious minds could not be at a better time. So, if you want to know what a virtual library is and what it’s for, you’re in the right place.

Definition of a virtual library

The term “virtual library” was introduced by the National Science Foundation. This concept emerged simultaneously with that of electronic library and digital library. We will see them later on.

Its emergence is due to a long process of technological evolution that ends up requiring various uses of information in the digital environment, without the physical existence of books on the shelves.

The concept of virtual library is that anyone with a computer and a connection to the library’s networks can access the information it houses .

In other words, not only can the library’s own resources be consulted, but also a variety of information available through national and international networks, both Internet and Intranet, without being physically present in the library.

In short, answering the question of what a virtual library is, it can be defined simply as an Internet-based digital library.

can you already imagine what are the benefits of having a digital library at hand? Let’s continue on our way to discover in more detail what a virtual library is and how it works.

Differences from other types of libraries

Now that you have an overview of what a virtual library is and what it is used for, it is necessary to distinguish this way of archiving and consulting information from other types of libraries.

For that, we will find a series of aspects that determine its characteristics:

Who manages the service
How it is consulted
On what support the archives are organized

Let’s look at the different types of libraries below:

Traditional library

One of the primary characteristics of traditional libraries is the storage and preservation of physical items, particularly books and periodicals, in which the librarian is the custodian of the library.

The librarian is in charge of the care of the library; he or she sorts and classifies the books and facilitates the consultation and lending of volumes requested by the public.

If you ever went to a traditional library, you will remember the times you went to do group work and how hard it was to keep quiet. shhhhhh!

Automated library

An automated library is one that works with MARC technology, also known as Machine-Readable Cataloging, which is a system by which data elements within bibliographic records are uniquely tagged for computer handling.

MARC is an international digital standard for describing bibliographic information developed by the Library of Congress during the 1960s to make information available from one library to another within the same country or between countries.

In other words, these types of libraries not only have a paper archive, but are also organized by means of data management and information software.

biblioteca tradicional

Source: Pixabay

Electronic library

The next type of library on our list is the electronic library. It is made up of a set of documents available through electronic media by using digital technologies that allow a series of actions to be performed on the documents:


Usually a physical site and/or website that provides 24-hour online access to digitized audio, video, and written materials.

It differs from the digital library, the next on our list, in that the electronic information is accessible through various technological equipment. In contrast, in the case of the digital library, all information is digitized in the form of “zeros and ones” and is accessible only through computers.

Digital library

A digital library is the next stage of the electronic library and provides a wide range of Internet-based services.

Most of the content of a digital library is in computer-readable form and also acts as an access point to other online sources.

Hybrid library

The hybrid library, on the other hand, was designed to bring together a range of technologies from different sources in the context of a working library to explore integrated systems and services in electronic and print environments.

The hybrid library concept is said to reflect the transitional state of the library, which today should neither be print-only nor fully digital.

Ilustración de biblioteca virtualSource: Freepik

Characteristics of a virtual library

According to ResearchGate, “a virtual library is fundamentally a resource that reconstructs the intellectual substance and services of a traditional library in digital format.”

Based on the above, we can state that digital libraries rely on a number of common elements:

In digital contents, which are sometimes, but not necessarily, text-based.
In interconnections, which can be simple links or complex metadata or query-based relationships.
In software, which can be HTML and CSS or complex database management systems.

In a meaningful sense,a single, simple, stand-alone web page is probably not a digital library, any more than a single page (or a single book) is a traditional library.

For example, a large amount of raw data, such as that from the Hubble telescope, is probably not a digital library either, although its content arguably belongs in one.

So you will agree that digital libraries are not replacing traditional libraries, but are rather the future of traditional libraries.

So a virtual library is a digital space that maintains and organizes virtual books and their associated documents . It can also refer to a space where books can be read, and these spaces can include computers, mobile devices and the Internet, an important fact that you must differentiate about what a virtual library is.

Advantages of online libraries

To understand in greater depth what a virtual library is and why you should include it today in your information search methods, here are a series of benefits of its use:

1. It gathers everything in one place

One of the most important advantages of virtual libraries is that they give you access to multiple contents with a potentially infinite number of available resources.

On the other hand, the main limitation of traditional libraries is represented by the physical space: books consume a lot of space. In addition, people have to travel to look for a particular material. Not to mention the state of preservation of materials and the possible loss of materials.

By using a digital library, readers can access a wealth of information in one place, either through a computer or a mobile device.

Thanks to the Internet and cloud storage, digital libraries overcome this limitation and expand the learning horizons of students, as they can access more knowledge and share content with others, facilitating the expansion of education.

The same is true for researchers and team members who need to analyze a topic for their next business proposal. how much time do they save by avoiding a trip to the nearest library? Now finding your favorite quote is just a couple of clicks away!

2. It’s a virtual wealth of information

For a better understanding of what a virtual library is, it is important to know its advantages and the benefits it brings to the development of science, beyond the personal use we can make of it.

Online libraries help the scientific society, as they act as a repository for the storage of important data, information and research findings.

For a long time, physical records of scientific studies and research had to live with a critical issue: they were destroyed or lost.

Today, thanks to digital libraries, online copies of studies and research can be protected and collected to create a virtual heritage of information for future generations.

Una persona tomando notas desde su teléfono inteligenteSource: Pixabay

3. Enables instant access to educational content

As long as you have access to an Internet connection, a virtual library is accessible anywhere and anytime via a simple technological device, such as a PC, tablet or even a smartphone.

This means that students can consult books, images, online videos and all other educational content without having to wait and head to the nearest physical library.

This is an advantage that traditional libraries do not offer. You can enter a virtual library in a formal setting, for example, at school or university, or you can relax at home and have instant access to the information you need.

In addition, the issue of access to information from virtual libraries means a greater diversification of formats and ways of communicating. Due to the multimedia nature of digital, now not only texts, but also videos and even podcasts serve as a source of information.

4. It contributes to the preservation of online information

Digital storage of books and, above all, audios, solves the problem of deterioration.

In traditional libraries, audio tapes and vinyl records were shared among many students, which posed the problem of supporting a large number of reproductions. Fragile photographs or old documents had to withstand several transfers and consultations, risking breakage or other damage.

Thanks to the digitization of materials, it is possible to access content as many times as you need it, using formats (mp3, digital images, online textbooks, etc.) that are definitely much safer to use without running the risk of deterioration.

beneficios de una biblioteca virtual

Source: Pixabay

5. Improved data collection

Over the years, digital libraries have developed a variety of search functions that facilitate information access and data collections, allowing students to perform sophisticated searches (such as Boolean searching) for a variety of queries.

Thanks to intuitive search engine technologies, for example, sorting or automatic term expansion is much easier. Even novice users can start using digital libraries to search independently.

Most interestingly, as digital collections grow, the level of sophistication of these search functions increases exponentially. super interesting, isn’t it? Well, this topic is so rich that it deserves a separate mention. Read on and find out how virtual libraries work.

Digital libraries in education

The introduction of digital libraries in the educational process was facilitated by distance education, which has developed rapidly in recent years. With the Internet and the worldwide web, distance education programs can mount sets of materials on web servers to support the importance of online education.

One of the basic ideas of the virtual library is to bring together learning materials on various subjects, written by many educators, into a digital library of learning materials.

Virtual libraries have the potential to significantly change the fundamentals of the classroom in ways that can have an enormous impact on teaching and learning.

New pedagogical models are using virtual libraries to help education achieve its most compelling vision by combining technology and information resources. This allows remote access for students, breaking down physical barriers between resources.

While these resources will remain specialized to meet the needs of specific communities of learners, digital libraries allow teachers and students to tap into a wider range of materials and communicate with people outside the formal learning environment, facilitating greater integration of different types of learning.

Leave a Comment