A few years ago (it must have been early this decade) I entered a virtual online world out of curiosity. This 3D world seemed pretty sparse until I ventured into a populated area. There were other ‘avatars’ around with whom I could chat if I so desired – text would appear in little speech bubbles. I could go into a building and furnish an apartment and explore the virtual world from there.
I didn’t really see the point so didn’t go back. I can’t remember what it was called.
Second Life is one such virtual world that I’d heard a lot about. I’ve read articles about the virtual lives of those seemingly addicted to this world. People have residences, businesses, jobs, love affairs, even weddings. I still don’t get the point. I suppose it’s a way of meeting people and finding information through a game-like 3D environment. I’d rather do that in a text format. Call me old-fashioned…
However, I thought I’d find out a little more about Second Life. It was developed by Linden Lab and opened its virtual gates in 2003. People go about their business in Second Life purchasing things and services using the Linden dollar. The Linden dollar is purchased using the real US dollar. US$1 = approximately L$266 (it fluctuates just like real exchange rates).
Naturally I’d heard of ‘a’ Second Life Library. I, naïvely, thought there was just one Second Life library, but no. There is a whole island devoted to information called, funnily enough, Info Island. This is where the ‘adult’ libraries are (no, not that sort of ‘adult’). The libraries for teens are on a teen info island.
So what does this world look like? Here’s a virtual library tour dating from 2007.
Pictures of Second Life libraries can be found at Flickr.
“What do they do?”, I wondered. Well, they do everything a library in the real world does. There is a website devoted to Second Life Libraries at infoisland.org. On this site are listed library events such as discussions about movies and books, lectures, details of venues for distance classes, career fairs and even conferences.
Another very useful and informative Youtube video explains Second Life library services for distance education.
The main libraries appear to be sponsored by Alliance Library systems and the public library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg. They are operated, naturally enough, by real librarians. “How well used are the libraries?”, I also wondered. One librarian devotes a blog to her online world and recently had an interesting post about defining a library in Second Life. Interesting stuff! She ends the blog post with questions for which a survey is being planned. Just like in real life.
“… I think before we can begin to truly define a library in a virtual environment, we need to define information in a virtual environment. How will it be used? How will it be found? For are the users looking? As part of our grant, we will conduct a survey which we hope will if not answer some of these questions, at least shed some light on some possible answers. I will post a link after the survey is approved.”
I look forward to, hopefully, seeing the results of the survey once it is completed. This blog, written by assistant professor at New Mexico State University, Tracey Thompson, did more in helping me try to understand Second Life a little better than any other website.
Are there any librarians out there who are “Second Lifers” or who have visited Second Life libraries? I’d love to hear your experiences.