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Virtual Reading Room Pilot Project

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The Virtual Reading Room Pilot Project

The Virtual Reading Room was a three-year pilot project to investigate the role that electronic versions of Core Curriculum materials might play in building a technologically-enhanced teaching and learning environment at Columbia in support of undergraduate education.

The first phase of the VRR project included the selection, in consultation with faculty, of specific titles from the Contemporary Civilization (CC) syllabus for possible digitization.  Since virtually all works in the CC syllabus are assigned to be read in modern critical editions, the next step was to initiate discussions with publishers and other copyright holders to secure permission to use their publications in the VRR project. From the initial list of works assigned for CC, permissions were able to be obtained for nine titles within the pilot project's timeframe.  (See VRR Title Listing.)

An outside vendor was then selected for scanning and conversion, with the aim of generating basic HTML versions of the printed texts that could be used for reading and study or for classroom demonstration.  At the same time, a standards-conformant TEI/XML version was created for possible later use in developing course-related presentations or for otherwise repurposing within the framework of the VRR project.   

The project came to a close in 2002.  The preliminary assessment was that -- although the goals of the project had been meant -- the site was in fact not heavily used by undergraduates, nor did Core Curriculum instructors feel the project was of great value for instruction.   At the same time, alternative commercial sources for online texts were becoming available that could be used for instruction and teaching.


Columbia University Libraries would like to thank the following publishers for their generous participation in the Virtual Reading Room Pilot Project.

Broadview Press

Hackett Publishing Co.


Northeastern University Press

Penguin Putnam Inc.

Random House Inc.

Viking Press (Penguin Putnam)

Columbia University Libraries staff who worked on this project included: Ree Dedonato, Linda L. Rath, Bob Scott, and Stephen Davis.

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Last revision: 01/21/09
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