Steve 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
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?)
250 Universities conducting classes and research in SL
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
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