I joined Second Life in January 2007. I was fascinated and intrigued for about a month, I adored my alter ego, and had some “playmates” that I enjoyed. I didn’t meet any librarians because a) they were never there at Info Island when I was, b) I didn’t have the $$ to start a project so couldn’t insert myself in any kind of collaboration, and c) I was still my shy self. I played with my “friends” for about 8 months before deleting the account. I had no intention of knowing them IRL, so what’s the point?
Question: Is there a roll for Second Life in libraries?
Long Answer: Still no. I appreciate that Alliance has a grant to pay for server space in Second Life, and for staff time to create and maintain those islands and supporting information. I do believe that there should be a library presence in Second Life, but I don’t believe it should be incorporated into regular workflow, or incorporated into public libraries – yet. Our patrons aren’t there, the software is clunky, there is scheduled downtime all the time and unscheduled downtime even more often, and the lag during peak usage hours was AWFUL. It might make more sense for a university library IF that university has a presence and IF they are using SL to conduct distance learning classes.
Question: Are there insights to be gleaned from Second Life?
Long Answer: Just as you can apply any out-of-library experience to the library world, you can apply what you witness from Second Life to your library. An example? You can try the self-checkout at Ikea and apply your perspective from that experience to the self-checkout at your library. You can visit Info Island in Second Life and either a) find nobody there, or b) find librarians who are too busy talking about their own thing, and then go back to your library with a new perspective of what it might be like for a patron coming to your building for the first time. Really, the few librarians that I met weren’t especially welcoming. The guys who ran the Irish Pub on the other hand – AWESOME at welcoming newcomers.
My (not necessarily insightful) insights?
- Avatars are powerful. In the online world, an avatar can give that face-to-face feeling of intimacy and makes it more personal. Add avatars or pictures to your IM reference service or to your homepages.
- Keep perspective. The library projects that I saw or sessions I attended were cool, but they didn’t have a huge impact on SL itself. And they’re worth it. The event I had at my library last week was cool, but it might not have had a huge impact on my community itself. And it was worth it. So, this is not to undermine the work we do, but just to say that it is humbling to keep the self-congratulations at a minimum.
- Librarians don’t own information the way they used to. If I wanted to learn how to do something in SL, the library wasn’t a one-stop shop for me. In fact, it wasn’t a destination at all. If I wanted to find something or learn how to do something in SL, I would just ask whoever was around me at the time, and probably get my answer there.
- The library still goes un-noticed by non-library-minded folk. During my time in SL, the only people who knew about the Information Island Archipelago were librarians or people from related fields. Their events were not posted on the public search very well, and the traffic was low compared to other sites. And trust me, when I “got together” with my “playmates,” going to “the library” was not on our list of things to do in SL. Even when I suggested it. So, how do we reach the non-library users in our real life communities?
- It might not be the point of the Alliance network to have an impact on SL. Even if they are, I get that it doesn’t happen overnight. They are using SL as a tool to explore virtual worlds. It is an innovative project, and I’m glad they and others are doing it, and that they’re sharing their experience with the library world. Just as we can’t learn the 23 things by reading about them, we can’t learn about SL without trying it.