Wednesday, July 26, 2006

second life library more

I liked the idea. I liked it so much, the idea that a truly collaborative virtual universe needed library services, that I went and signed up for a free Second Life account, made my avatar, and have been hanging around the library there ever since. I rarely go anywhere else.

Unfortunate scheduling seems to have me logging in to SL when no one else is around in the library. So I look around at the changes, admire the architecture, sit on a cushion, look at a shelf full of books I can't read, and soon log out again. The librarians probably come around later, you know, West Coast time or East Coast time, and have big trainings and massive chats. Learning from each other, they postulate on building better virtual and digital library resources and services. And that's great.

But where are the patrons?

Where are the patrons, and what do they think when they come and look around? When they click a really great link on the reference terminal that takes them to a website in a web-browser outside of the SL environment, do they wonder why they bothered? When they can't find books -- or worse -- when they do find books but realize they'd be happier sitting on the couch with a physical book, a beer, and a cat? What happens then? Do the patrons wonder why the hell there's a library in SL in the first place? Do they wonder what the point is, or am I missing something? Certainly SL Library isn't a case of librarians letting their normally quashed vainglorious sides take a peacock walk through ubernerdling land...

I learn lots from librarians -- from talking to them, observing them, from reading library publications and blogs. But I think I learn even more from my patrons. I learn the patrons' needs, preferences, habits and tendencies. I learn why the patron was unhappy that she didn't find what she needed so that I can help get her to the resource that does have what she needs next time.

How can SL Library mature without real need from patrons? How can SL Library become meaningful and relevant?

If these questions are answered well (and I hope that they can be), I think it will shine a real ray of hope on the future of libraries generally.


Starrlett said...

Thanks for posting this comment--I have been wondering the same things myself. I want desperately to love SL and get the point, but my small experience at the moment is causing me, too, to question its relevancy.

Woody Evans said...

Thanks -- and I know what you mean! I want to love it, but I barely like it... Maybe that will change. Hope so.

Lori said...

Guys, give it some time. On Saturday night we had an author who shared the written work she had done and created into a virtual reality in Second Life. Tonight we had a tour of 20 graduate students doing work and teaching in Second Life. We are working on more events and partnering with teachers teaching classes in Second Life to see if we can give instruction sessions, develop resources, etc. We are working with several colleges and universities which are starting to offer classes there. Our events have been successful; we are still making many changes. Join us- we have only been here 3 months and people are using us. Please IM me - Lorelei Junot - help us. :)

Woody Evans said...

Thanks for adding to this. I see the possibilities of (and obviously I didn't give you guys enough credit for the work your putting into) SL Library -- but I think the aversion I feel toward it has a lot to do with the fact that it, for present, appeals to the elite of the elite of the Earth. Your library isn't touching the lives of those who might need it most, you know? The writers and students who use it are already by-and-large info literate. And I don't believe the kids in Nigeria slated to get a $100 laptop from Negroponte's crowd will be at the level of expertise or geek enculturation to adequately exploit SL or its library. So who is the SL Library for?

Again, I applaud the idea in abstract, and I do imagine that it has big potential. But as yet I'm still wondering what the point is.

Lori said...

I understand where you are coming from. The other side of the coin is that we are building a teen library in teen second life. We are partnering with a rl library -and hope to partner with more where young adults are no longer using the library - even those who really need it. If we can create a virtual library where they can get access in the library with activities that appeal to them and will bring them to the library, maybe that will have more value for you and others wondering what we are doing and why. It is also an experiment - is a library needed in a virtual world? Will people use it? What will they use it for? Thanks for your thoughtful comments. In the next year or two, we hope to have some answers for you. And please, feel free to participate, share ideas, thoughts - everyone has something important to share and communicate - be it positive, negative, or in between. Lori

Woody Evans said...

Hi Lori,
I hope you'll consider my post and our discussion here part of my contribution to SL Library. I don't want to be the kind of guy who throws the baby out with the bath.

If it's an experiement -- excellent. I'm all for that, even if it's an expensive experiment (librarians' time, energy, man-hours). But experiments should have carefully constructed methodologies, controls, and hypotheses laid out at the outset. And there ought to be a set of specific desired outcomes articulated from the outset too. Does SL Library have these? If so, it may be a powerful force for change, testing the facts of observed relationships and new services in VR against our assumptions!

The teen library aspect is interesting -- but I bet if we looked at the numbers, we'd find that MySpace trumps SL as the place where teens gather, share information and media, and create new content. Has MySpace become the 'teen room' for the 'library' of the Internet? MySpace smells much more relevant as a teen media/library space than does SL. But I have no numbers. SL smells like Pier1 or something. Bed Bath & Beyond. Commercial, tidy, and decidely early-30s.