Libraries in Second Life: ULA/MPLA 2008

Libraries in Second LifeSteve Harris [Second Life avatar: Stolvano Barbosa] who blogs at Collections 2.0 and Susan MacMurdo [Librainian Infinity], both from Utah State University’s Library, presented a very interesting and well-attended session on Second Life and how libraries can use it to promote services and network with other librarians.

Here are my notes:

What is Second Life?

Virtual world: Three dimensional environment; persistent;

Second Life is not a game but a society with a fully-developed economy

50000 users/day

Susan–four types of users in virtual worlds:

Achievers: building and selling

Explorers: find bugs or limits of the game

Socializers: empathy and communication; virtual world is just a backdrop for just socializing

Killers: imposition of stress or harassment

Cost? I have played for a year and have not had to pay anything



Certain kind of building technologies; Linden Labs created ‘prims’ (primitives) basic shapes and building blocks and then you stretch or twist their shape


900M sq meters of virtual land; regions: sims = 256 m/ side (16 acre of land); there are 14,000 of these regions; sometimes called ‘islands’

How are libraries using it?

Alliance Library System out of Illinois; they own Info Island Archipelago; several 1000s of visitors/day

Info Island; 40 volunteers 80 hours/week; noon-10p PST busiest time;

See 300 patrons in a week with 150 questions/week

Common questions: how does second life work

Like in real life: where’s the bathroom question

Point of reference is not just to judge the questions but to be there to answer the questions

Displays specific to interests (what are the usage stats on these? Going up?)

Distance Learning

250 Universities conducting classes and research in SL

Disaster simulations

Voice or Text chat available

Virtual office hours for professors


Collections in SL have not really reached their full potential; books and other items are clunky to use; most link out to another website for an online view

Newer SL clients have an internal browser so this may become more seamless

Books that are note cards

Plain text window

Books made of a prim so they exist as a 3D object but they are kind of clunky to use

Some books are wearable (you look over your own shoulder to read the book) others have a heads-up display you can see in another window over your SL view

Because it is a social environment a lot of libraries have had an online discussion about books in the virtual environment

Had another book discussion on Beowulf and Grendel (John Gardner);


Meeting space for those who are geographically distant; 130 people were registered (most regions have a limit on the number of avatars that can go to the island—so this is good for small-scale conferences)

Space for vendor booths even

Challenges and Opportunities

Reliability: it is hard for 50,000 to be on at the time (big lags)

Archiving: a lot of the stuff is very ephemeral

not interoperable: you cannot be in different worlds; you need to make a separate avatar

Geography/collaboration: you can meet people you would never meet

Creativity: many people can be artists, photographers, etc in real life but they can feel very empowered in SL to do those things



Free and anonymous (risk-free)

Many tutorials to work through the environment

Persistent nature; always something happening—reference services 24 hours/day


Digital divide

Not totally intuitive

Funding: difficult to commit local funds to serve a global community

Scheduling: no way to overcome time zone challenges

Burnout: high turnover of virtual reference librarians at Info Island

We need to go where people are learning; great networking environment for librarians; familiarize ourselves now because virtual world services will become even more prevalent—we need to know—a lot of our future customers are in virtual worlds;


Q: what do you need money for?

Fancy clothes or hairstyle; furniture and apartments;

Q: mistakes to avoid

Since it is anonymous it’s okay

Steve: make mistakes; but just as a warning: there are unsavory places in SL

Q: how can you make libraries in SL open but protect licensed content?

Steve: not now; it is a rampant copyright violation right now

Susan: libraries are more about services and connection than about collections and access in SL

Q: can someone edit your material after you create it?

Steve: no you can control that as long as you have rights to it

Q: how labor intensive was it?

Steve: we were utilizing places already built; it is fairly stressful conducting a discussion via text chat—this means at least three different simultaneous conversations and threads to keep track of

Q: is there any fraud or illegal factor in money here?

Steve: good question; avatars gave a guy money in a bank and then vanished; it is not a rampant problem but there are many people that are doing shady things

Q: how long did it take to do this motion—dancing and clapping?

Susan: most of these are pre-done; sometimes it is an interactive facilitator in world;

Steve: you can actually write the script for dance moves or hair; then they sell their code to another person

Q: has anyone been caught for copyright violations?

Steve: no case that I know of so far


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