Ten very good reasons why your librarians should be in Second Life


I’ve been experimenting with providing library service in Second Life for about 6 months. In the last 12 months, the Second Life library has moved from a shopfront on someone else’s island to a 19 island archipelago staffed by over 500 librarians.

There are great benefits to librarians in getting a Second Life. There are limited benefits to our parent organisations and to our users – at the moment. The same thing happened when librarians first authored web pages – the first stage was learning how to do it, the second stage was others accessing our output.

With Forbes.com reporting last Tuesday that Gartner Says 80 Percent of Active Internet Users Will Have A “Second Life” in the Virtual World by the End of 2011 , we need librarians with the skills to understand virtual worlds.

Here’s my top ten list. Many of them depend on creating and maintaining social networks within Second Life.


1. Learn a new interface

Web browsing in the future won’t be identical to being in Second Life. It will probably have elements very similar to the 3D, social, immersive environment of Second Life. Learning how to put out objects, create environments, navigate and interact socially within this environment gives your librarians an edge to learn new web interfaces.

2. Learn to relate to your PC like our users who game.

Second Life – without rules, points, objectives and strategies – is not a game. It has many elements of gaming, however – you control a 3D representation of yourself that has an inventory and interacts with the environment and other people. We all have clients who game. Gaming can be used for recreation, leisure and – increasingly – to provide information. It is an alternate literacy that we should understand.

3. Fun and creative expression

I’ve had several librarians remark to me in Second Life , “I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my professional life”. You can build your ultimate library service. Don’t like something? Zap it and start again.

4. Break down professional isolation

Second Life librarians who are geographically isolated, work in one-person libraries or have highly specialised positions can go days without contact with another similar librarian. In Second Life, you can meet other professionals every day.

5. Increase coding skills

You can create a book, make the pages move, make it give out some written information when touched, or force someone’s web browser outside Second Life to a specified web page. There are people around to help and example scripts that you can use, but ultimately it becomes a fun challenge that increments your scripting skills without you even noticing.

6. It’s a collaborative learning community

There’s lots of librarians there. Via meeting in Second Life, the InfoIsland blog and the google group, we share ideas and work together on projects, such as a package of useful bits and pieces for people brand new to Second Life.

7. Networking about non – Second Life library matters

There are official programs about topics like MySpace and book discussion groups and author visits. Dave Pattern and I were chatting one night in Second Life about user ratings on OPACs. I sent him a link to our OPAC and after half an hour of coding, he’d coded a similar facility for his OPAC too.

8. Access to a host of experts – not just with Second Life skills

Within Second Life, I’ve met people who are experts in podcasting in libraries, and single person libraries and library instruction. It’s a helpful kind of place and it’s like having a panel of experts to call on if you get stuck at work in Real Life.

9. It’s free, we can access it now and it has first mover advantage

The Second Life interface is clunky and the environment boring to people used to gaming. There are better online virtual worlds. Second Life does have critical mass and is where you’ll find the most librarians experimenting. It’s free and we can get on right now.

10. Flexibility of thought and learning

Once the tools of librarianship, like AACR and LCSH, were standardised, and could be taught in library school. Our toolkit is now rapidly evolving to include blogs, wikis, multimedia and social software tools. We need people with nimble, exercised minds who are able to adapt to a new environment. There are a hundred different ways to join people with information within Second Life. To do this successfully, librarians need to decide what they need to know, work out how they are going to learn it and find the resources available – including other people – to create the tools they need. This assessment and assimilation of new tools is a transferable, valuable skill that applies beyond the PC.

To give a bit of balance, my next post outlines six very bad reasons to have a library branch in Second Life.

16 thoughts on “Ten very good reasons why your librarians should be in Second Life

  1. What a great post! You’re so right about the many benefits of getting some exposure to something like this… if even if people take away from the experience just one of these things, they will have benefitted greatly! I have to get back into it more…

  2. Thanks Emily. I’m still amazed that something that I thought that only people with former Sims2 addictions would find interesting, has taken off like it has.

  3. I’m definitely going there asap. I’ve downloaded SL but haven’t yet had the courage to enter this new world (though I am hooked on recreational gaming). Your post has given me the impetus to give it a go.

  4. Great Maeve. When you log in for the first time, you are taken to an orientation island which shows you how to do things in SL. It’s best if you reserve an hour of so of your time to do this. It will fly by.

  5. Thanks for the great article….your comments are right on the money…and what a great way to explore the global library community and share resources that would otherwise be unattainable 24/4.
    We are so pleased you are joining in our adveture into the virtual world!!

    Kitty Pope ALS Executive Director
    located in East Peoria, Illinois, USA
    Kitty Phillip (avatar) ALS Info Island Executive Director
    located on Info Island ALS World Headquarters

  6. Have just watched your slideshare presentation on Second Life – you have me re-invigorated. While I have explored Second Life, I’m definitely behind the 8 ball as I’m still working out how to fly (and I always dreamed of doing this!). Now I will be re-exploring again. Thanks for the motivation and your Murdoch version of 23 Things!! THANKS…..Gill in Dubai (alas – many great things blocked here but at least I can get into Second Life sometimes!!)

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