“Because of the pandemic, physical presence has become more difficult and, therefore, the website aims to be a place for welcoming, collaboration and openness,” Msgr. Cesare Pasini, the library’s prefect, told Vatican News July 22.
With a fresh look, easier and more intuitive navigation, and greater online services for researchers, the updated site went live in mid-July, right when the library closed for the summer months.
Along with many other Vatican institutions open to the public, the library had shut down during Italy’s nationwide lockdown, then reopened June 1 to limited numbers of scholars and with the required restrictions and safety measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Plans for the “restyling” ended up being especially opportune given the continued restrictions and that the pandemic in other parts of the world may be preventing other scholars from traveling to Italy to do research at the library.
Some of the new features, the monsignor said, include more powerful and expanded search functions, and registered researchers can now easily ask staff questions and order digital reproductions of manuscripts, texts and other materials from the libraries collections.
“We are the pope’s librarians,” he said, and every pope over the centuries has wanted the library to be open to the world.
“That is why we want to truly be at the service of our visitors with a modern and up-to-date tool that immediately provides what people are searching for or even offers them something more,” he said.
Pope Francis often talks about the need to reach out to the peripheries, “so I think there is nothing like an online site that potentially allows everyone” from around the world to visit, he said.
After the usual summer break, he said the library plans to open again to scholars Sept. 15.
“We are here for this — to open a site to those who are far and to open the doors to those who are near,” he said.