Sunday, October 7, 2012

Libraries and Second Life

I must admit that Second Life (SL) is becoming more appealing. Yes, I still have lag, my client crashes at inopportune times, but I have enjoyed interacting on this platform in my early experiences and on tours. It is very immersive, it somehow blurs the edged between reality and the virtual.

I am a little disappointed in the libraries that I experiences. I am not sure what I expected.I have experienced two different type of libraries in SL libraries such as Standford University which is a physical library as well as virtual and others such as Community Virtual Library (CVL) which is only virtual. Libraries exist in SL as many aspects of it try to imitate real life (well...not the parts where avatars are half beast, half person). And once people become more familiar with SL, they look for information on how they can improve their experiences and as in real life, people head for the library within Second Life for that information (Baity et al, 2009 p.5). 

Standford library is nicely set up with some lovely places to wander. I thought that I would interact more within SL but most of the interaction happened on websites outside of SL. I could leave a message, or be taken to a website to get questions answered. Visual boards of different branches linked me to their websites or catalogue. I loved reading about the rare books in the Book Garden.

My avatar perusing the Book Garden at Standford University Library

The CVL was similar. I could visit when there was a librarian present but it seemed to follow a US timetable. It seemed to have little popups that helped me to navigate round, had displays where I could get information on SL features such as scripting. It seemed to provide information about interacting in SL as well as linking to traditional resources via web pages.  

Using the reference services at CVL

From my experiences libraries in SL are: 
  • Offering traditional library services linking to back to library websites
  • Setting up virtual services with avatar librarians
  • Showcasing their collections
  • Providing spaces for conferences/lectures/learning opportunities. I see this as one of the best features of libraries in SL. People from different geographic locations can get together for discussions. It would be a great learning tool for distance education students to gather socially and also be able to have virtual lectures together and give presentations.
Some concluding thoughts
  • I wonder if SL has had its peak. Long term concurrancy statistics (maximum number of users on at any one time) show that that SL peaked in early 2009.  
  • SL requires a lot of staff time in experimenting and becoming comfortable in Second Life, in becoming competent and knowledgeable enough to help other users in their SL Journey and I wonder if that time is worthwhile.
  • What percentage of current library patrons would choose to access the library via SL? I would suggest very few from a public library, so is it really adding value to services.
  • SL is very resource heavy in that it requires newer computers with good graphics cards and large bandwidth to function well. This is a barrier for some in using services on SL, adding to digital divide issues
  • It still seems quite novel to me, and I wonder how many people use SL libraries from traditional information searching apart from information about engaging in SL.

Baity, C., Chappell, P., Rachlin, D., Vinson, C. & Zamarripa, M. (2009) When Real and Virtual Worlds Collide: A Second Life Library. Retrieved from

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