Defining a Library

I have been thinking lately about the direction to take our research in Second Life. Our general goal is to discover how information changes or not change in Second Life, and how these changes affect libraries. Before we can know how it changes a library we must understand what a library is.

The question then is how do you define a library? Is a library a sum of its collections? Is it the services offered? If we take away the brick and mortar aspect of the library, what is left? If a library is not a place, what is it? How do we still bring what is the essence of a library to a virtual world, and what is no longer necessary, or what is something new that we must add?

At the heart of it, I think a library is a gateway to information. If you look at this very broadly, everything that happens at a library is tied to information. It could be information at the research level or information such as provided by the children’s book “I Stink” about a garbage truck. Cultural and community programs at the library provide information. Fiction books and fiction movies provide information. It goes without saying that computers at a library provide information. It is a librarian’s job to help their patrons find information whether that is with direct help such as reference or self-help through discovery aids or something as simple as browsing.

This still does not answer my research dilemma. It is so broad! What is the most important aspect with which to focus, or is there one? I have to admit that I want to do it all! Some additional questions that occurs to are: Should we look as some non-traditional ways to provide the information? We have provided a structure in Second Life that is very traditional, do we need to rethink our structure? Do we need to focus on collection management? What type of services should we provide?

In the end, I think collection management is a good place to start. How does Second Life changes what information people want access to? How do they want to access it? Do they want it available via webmons? Streaming video? Streaming audio? Are they actually going to do research inside Second Life? Is this a good medium for distance education classes to come together and use library resources?

I hope one day soon to post answers to all these questions.

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~ by jenymn on November 5, 2009.

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