Why Librarians Should have a Second Life

As a colleague of mine, Dr. Mike DeMers said, “Second Life is bleeding edge technology, and you will bleed from it.”  I have certainly taken a few ‘cuts’ from remarks people have made to me about Second Life.  “Why should I have a second life when I can’t deal with my first life?” There are even naysayers within the library world such as notable blogger Tara Robertson.  Why then should librarians use their precious resources and time to invest in such an ephemeral item as a virtual world?  In a vain attempt to be brief, I have limited myself to five reasons.

5. Explore growing technology and how libraries can survive and thrive.  Granted to explore every new Web 2.0 technology would beyond the reach of many, if not all, libraries, but virtual environments have some strong benefits (see below).  Second Life is currently the most prevalent virtual environment used for educational purposes.  Also, if we do not explore growing technologies we will make ourselves irrelevant.  Can we say Google?

4. To utilize the training opportunities.  I have attended lectures by an anthropologist from University of California – Irvine, library conferences, historical presentations, book talks, and worked with colleagues from across the state and country all without leaving the comfort of my easy chair and laptop (of which my cat and I are currently sharing).  Even the U.S. military is exploring how SL can be used to train their soldiers and airman located across the globe.  This cuts down on the travel required which consequently cuts down on the costs of training and lessens our carbon footprint.

3. Promote libraries resources.  Don’t think 2-D and don’t think traditional.  How can we present our unique collections to our users and utilize the capabilites of this environment?  In SL we have the opportunity to turn our unique collections into a museum-like exhibit with information embedded in the pictures or 3-D rendered objects.  I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I shamelessly stole it from Caledon Library.

2. Provide information to users by taking advantage of this unique platform.  This is a partial repeat of #3, but it is important enough to be said again and with a twist. There are some users in Second Life that generate areas that would be impossible to have in real life.  For example, there is a 3-D cell on the Biomedicine Research Lab in which you can actually immerse yourself inside the cell.  You can then click on each item in the cell for information about that item.  How great would it be though if you could also see some information sources (in other words, library resources) when you click on the item?  What a great opportunity for collaboration with a department outside the library.

1. To provide a service to our patrons.  Is not our main mission all about the services we can provide our patrons?  It may be in a very non-traditional manner such as those listed above, but we still owe them that service.  Also, there are users who fare better in a virtual environment than in a real life one.  There are those who would sneer and blame it on web 2.0 technologies such as virtual environments.  This is not always the case. There are those with other reasons be it a physical disability that does not allow them to or makes it difficult for them to leave their house or a developmental disability such as autism in which those users may find face-to-face communication very difficult.  We go out of our way to provide multi-lingual material for our users who do not speak English, so why do we not provide that same service for our users who have other communication barriers?

I will step off of my soap box, and give you a chance to comment.  What other reasons do librarians have to be in Second Life?


~ by jenymn on May 1, 2009.

2 Responses to “Why Librarians Should have a Second Life”

  1. Great summary! I think another great perk to librarians using Second Life is to meet and network with other librarians and educators. Second Life provides an inspiring social space!

  2. Excellent post, thank you. I wrote a similar post titled, “Should Academic Librarians Assist in Virtual Worlds?”

    I agree with you, it’s important we are involved for so many reasons. I didn’t receive as much feedback as I would have liked and I’m still wondering why librarians and library administrators are reluctant to move forward in these areas. If there are good reasons why we should not be involved in virtual worlds, I would appreciate hearing them.

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