It's exciting…addictive…and fun. A chance to look
however you want, whether that is a robot, a harem girl, or an animal.
An opportunity to be whomever you want whether that is you or someone else…and
the occasion to explore interactive virtual places like museums,
the Globe Theater, hear concerts, and take classes. Museums full
of art, shopping malls, churches, movie theaters, and different cultures,
and now libraries, as in real life, are part of the Second Life experience.
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world for adults 18 and over where one can
create an avatar or persona and interact with others in a variety of different
settings. There is also a Teen Second Life for teens ages 14-18 where
no adults are allowed unless they are doing educational activities and
have gone through a background check.
Alliance Library System started the Second Life
Library project in April 2006 in response to a shift in people of all
ages from media consumers to media creators. They are all spending more
time on the Internet and they want to create and contribute, not just
consume. Alliance Library
System (ALS), located in East Peoria, Illinois, is one of nine regional
library systems in Illinois. ALS has 259 member libraries of all
types (academic, special, school and public). We provide a variety of
services for our members including continuing education, consulting,
grant writing, and new technology initiatives.
Although gaming is becoming more popular in libraries
to attract teens, we only have a couple of libraries offering gaming
libraries are interested, but most people do not understand the relationship
gaming has to literacy, learning, digital storytelling, and content
creation. Obtaining grant-funded support for gaming in libraries has
been difficult, perhaps in part because funding agencies cannot discern
the connection between gaming and other aspects of literacy, content
creation, and social interaction. Since then, we have been waiting and
looking for the right opportunity to get our libraries involved in gaming
and virtual worlds--to make library collections and services available
where the users already are.
More Questions Than Answers
We entered the Second Life environment with more questions than answers,
and one year later we have even more questions. We have found that Second
Life residents are interested in libraries--materials, services, and
community. Through this year-long project we have built library services
and are finding out what virtual world residents want in a twenty-first
Since we put out a call for participation, over
500 librarians from all over the world have joined our Google group,
which is used for project communication and discussion. Approximately
60-70 are actively involved in developing library services and programs.
Our need for virtual space has blossomed. We have gone from a rental space to a small plot of
land to an island from an anonymous donor and now ten library islands and
about 10 partner islands. Second Life Library is now part of Info
Island, which includes partners such as TechSoup.org, World Bridges,
and the ICT (Information Communications and Technology) Library, which
provides information on education tools in Second Life for educators.
Books or No Books?
Books or no books? That is the question. In a twenty-first century
virtual library, do we want books? What format do books and reading
take in Second Life? Do people want to read while in Second Life
or should the library function more as a gathering place to promote
reading and use of real life libraries?
There are books in Second Life in various formats. One format is a series
of notecards; another is almost an art form--it looks like a book, can
be a variety of sizes and is worn, but has to be read in a different view
than the normal screen. This does not make for easy reading in Second Life.
There are many writers and artists in Second Life who want to create and
share their work with others. The Second Life Library has had several generous
and beautiful art donations and real life authors willing to talk about
their work and do a program at the library.
We are "staffing" the island approximately 40 hours a week in
the evening when it is busiest to meet people, offer information services,
and give them tours of Info island. OCLC has generously provided
us with a trial of Question Point so that librarians provide reference
in person or in avatar, via Question Point chat and email. The librarians
involved in the project are almost all new to Second Life. Most are
volunteering their time and expertise, as it is difficult to explain
to a supervisor the value of using work hours for a library in a virtual
reality. The learning curve is somewhat steep because Second Life is like
a different culture and things are done differently than in real life.
A Variety Of Services
Here are some of the services and programs you will find at Info
Island if you visit us in Second Life:
"Namro Orman" (SL name), a medical librarian from the Netherlands,
developed a medical library, which has links to credible health resources on
the Internet, an email link to send reference questions to Namro when he is
offline, and ongoing displays and presentations. ALS received a grant
from the National Library of Medicine/Greater Midwest Region to create a consumer
health library and work with medical support groups in Second Life to offer
them information and resources. Carolina Keats (SL name) is coordinator
of this project.
•SciFi and Fantasy Portal
We have a spaceship building for science fiction fans with materials,
programs and book discussions. We have had a number of science
fiction authors speak with great program attendance. In honor of
hosting science fiction authors Steve Miller and Sharon Lee for a talk
on the island, we purchased a skypod, a futuristic building in the sky,
and furnished it with contemporary furnishings. We created posters of
book jackets of scifi titles written by Steve and Sharon. Thirty
people attended the program. A science fiction group has offered
to put up posters to promote additional science fiction authors,
and Bud Starhawk, a popular real life science fiction author, has agreed
to give a program on July 2.
•Murder at Mystery Manor
A large 19th century house features mystery collections and reading
guides and monthly book discussions will feature programs and information
on mystery and horror books and authors.
•Caledon – A Nineteenth Century Library
Caledon is a beautiful and popular nineteenth century area in Second
Life. Residents dress in Victorian attire and shops and homes are
required to be nineteenth century style. Caledon residents wanted a branch
library, so "CoyoteAngel Dimsum" donated land and is building
a period style library, which will be a branch of the Info Island main
library. Under the leadership of JJ Drinkwater, there is a group
of librarians working on programs, services, and staffing a virtual Victorian
library with twenty-first century technology. Caledon is a close-knit
virtual community, and residents will be actively involved in the
planning and implementation of library services in that community.
•Space for Local Presences
Libraries who provide staff time to the project are eligible for
a small plot of land in Cybrary City sponsored by Talis to put
a local presence on Second Life. Here they can have local programs
and feature local collections.
We are building an historical roleplay and education island of Elizabeth
Era England. There are period houses and shops where people can
live and set up business. There will be a Globe Theater and several other
period buildings where people might run into Queen Elizabeth herself
or William Shakespeare. People can learn about and experience the
period in an immersive environment.
San Jose State University has set up an island near Info Island to
offer distance education for library students via Second Life. We
are also working with the University of Illinois Graduate School
of Library and Information Science to host six week continuing education
courses this summer on virtual world librarianship.
We do have a building which is much like a typical library and each
floor offers resources and links to the web on a variety of topics.
Artists in Second Life can have an art show in the Art Gallery on
Info Island. We try to support artists, authors, and other creators
in Second Life as real life libraries do in their communities.
We have hosted live piano performances to full crowds in the Pantheon
Performance Center and will soon be offering drama and music in a replica
of an opera house in Lisbon during the 19th century.
ALA has part of an island and is setting up residence and programs
in Second Life. There is information from the Washington office
and they held an event on social networks by David Lankes on Info
More to Come
At this point, we are working to maintain and grow our current services
to meet the demands of residents and forming collaborative partnerships
to provide programs, events and services.collections group is working
on the formats and types of materials. We have a weekly column
in the "Metaverse
Messenger," a newspaper serving Second Life, and we have started
a citizen advisory group, which is working on a library business plan
to guide us through the next year. Challenges also include learning
about the audio and video formats which work in Second Life and
how the library might utilize these.
Where Users Are/Investigating the Future
We still have more questions than answers and the further we go,
the more questions we ask. The fact remains – libraries need
to provide services and build a presence where the users are. In
real life, libraries are an important and valuable part of their communities.
We think this is also true of the virtual world; use of virtual worlds
is growing rapidly. In April 2006, Second Life had 180,000 accounts.
In April 2007, they have over 5 million accounts. Soon we will
have an evaluative report on the first year to share with anyone