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Job Posting: Second Life Reference Librarian

2011 August 19

Libraries were regarded to have “concentrated on acquiring and organizing materials, and library users were expected to find what they needed independently” according to Bunge and Bopp. The modern concept of reference work was first presented by Samuel Swett Green in 1876 and then accepted all over the world. Since then, the world has undergone various technological advancements, which has also added to the opportunities of the library in reference works. Reference services are conducted in various media like face-to-face, phone, e-mail, instant messaging, and immersion. An interesting feature I see with the immersion medium is that it is capable on encompassing all the previous means of communication of which reference work is based. With immersion reference service, the reference librarian and the information seeker could assume a face-to-face communication, via their avatars, communicate via voice over internet protocol (VOIP), and engage in email/instant messaging via chats in the virtual world they choose.

So, what are the qualifications for the position of a reference librarian in these virtual environments? Definitely, the real-life qualifications of a librarian are very important and needed for a position in the virtual world. A common and often the first of listed qualifications is “graduate degree from an accredited Library Science program.” In the world of Second Life, here are some of the qualifications I would add.

  • One year signed-on and active user of Second Life: Being used to the world of Second Life is imperative, as many ready reference questions might be related to the virtual world of Second Life. As a new user in Second Life, I find it hard to maneuver in the environment.
  • One year experience as a virtual reference librarian in real-life: The communication media in real-life virtual reference services are the means of communication in Second Life. An experienced real-life virtual reference librarian would perform perfectly well in a virtual world like Second life.
  • A realistic human-like representation of applicant avatar in Second Life: According to Buckland and Godfrey, avatars visually represents users, and those that have human faces have the attributes of human characteristics. This would help to increase the feelings of being in a physical library and communicating with a real person.

The interest in using Second Life and other virtual worlds is increasing in higher education and this will definitely create opportunities for libraries in reference services as well.

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