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.