A UIUC graduate student, Sue Bergren (Sue Karillion in SL), wrote yesterday asking if she could interview me for a paper she was writing as part of a practicum in SL this semester. She explained that she had attended my online presentation at the Virtual Librarian Conference , was reading my blog and had some questions. I was glad to answer as it caused me to reflect on what I've been doing and where I'm headed. Thanks, Sue!
How can librarians provide value in a virtual world? - As a librarian, what do you do in SL? - Would you give me some examples of what you do?
I think we need to keep our eyes on the mission of our libraries and work to that end while in Second Life (SL), and by doing so we will provide value.
I am an academic librarian and according to my library's mission statement we are "to support the instructional programs and research activities of our institutions by providing access to information in a variety of formats, and to provide instruction in the use of traditional and new information resources and technologies." I see SL as many things, including another format of information. Most everything I do as a librarian in SL lines up with my library's mission statement.
As a librarian I do a variety of things in SL. This past summer I assisted a professor from my institution in teaching his first class in SL. I researched the best resources for helping his students to get started in SL and then included those in a wiki we developed for his class. I was given a skydeck to develop above some land we leased and went about setting up an office building with resources I felt would be helpful for his students. I created tutorial posters and an informational display on education in SL. Most importantly, I assisted students with their information needs in much the same way I assist students needing help with library databases. I met with students and the professor inworld when requested and built strong relationships with all.
Finally, I collaborate with other librarians inworld and volunteer on the reference desk at Info Island International once per week. The professional development and networking potential (global networking at that!) was something I did not immediately value and which I now find to be incredibley valuable. A whole new world has opened up for me. I've always wanted to travel and meet others from around the country and the world. Not only do I do that in SL, but we share and collaborate in ways that simply are not possible in 1st life. I attend information literacy discussions 2-3 times a month on Infolit iSchool Island hosted by Univ of Sheffield faculty/lecturer, Sheila Webber. I attend professional association meetings without putting a dent in my university's travel budget. I meet, work and play with librarians and educators from around the world on a regular basis. Sometimes when I leave these meetings I walk away (well...fly or teleport usually) and think about events I've attended in 1st life. Events/conferences for which I spent money for travel and paid to attend, and I marvel that my experiences attending events inworld tend to be as good and many times better. I learn and grow in Second Life.
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How long have you been using SL? - Why did you choose SL over some of the other virtual worlds?
I have been in SL since June 2006, but was not very active at all during my first year. SL was less developed at that time, there were fewer orientation options, and I struggled with learning the technology. I did, however, see the potential and as an early adopter I kept going back until I eventually became comfortable.
I chose SL over other virtual worlds because it is currently the most developed, especially in the area of education. This may change with the many VWs in development. I explore other VWs at times and work to keep abreast of VW developments.
What are your plans for the future?
Now that I'm known at my university as the "SLibrarian," I am the go-to person for anyone who has questions on SL from profs to students to administrators. I will continue to do my best to assist with any questions/needs they may have regarding this newer technology.
I am also working in SL with other librarians on ways we can best work to serve others and each other in SL. I belong to the American Librarian Association (ALA) group in SL as well as the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) group in SL.
I am currently working on a project that involves creating inworld educational subject guides using an inworld/outworld tool called Sloog. In the same way that librarians create subject guides for web resources, there is a growing need for such guides inworld. I hope to share about this project at an ACRL in SL meeting in the near future and recently lead a discussion on Infolit iSchool Island on this topic.
Lastly, I am working on a couple of other non-profit ventures in SL. There are so many opportunities to be involved inworld, I find it can be difficult to say no to some of them. SL is an excellent way for early adopter librarians to keep abreast of emerging technologies and to take a lead role in the brave new vitual worlds of our future.