For this week’s module I spent some time as a dog in Second Life. After following a trail of arrows I ended up in what was described as a world to help orient newcomers. I didn’t find it very helpful upon entering since most of the signs appeared to be in a fictional language, but was eventually greeted by another dog in a “doggy language”. He/she told me there wasn’t a library when I asked about where to find it and no one else seemed to know where the library was either. Eventually I got tired of fumbling around with the keyboard arrows and exited the virtual world.
Despite my disinterest, Second Life is well populated, so what’s the appeal? It’s obviously there, but maybe not for traditional library users. In their article titled, “Library 2.0 or Library III: returning to leadership”, Frederick Nest and Jia Mi write the following:
While we agree that library interaction with students and faculty is essential, whether students or faculty see the library as a “social institution” is questionable… Libraries are many things, but they are not social networks. They may be important to faculty and to students and they may be highly valued, but they are no more part of user’s social networks than are their academic department or scholarly association (p.93).
Simply put students don’t want to hang out in the library on a social networking site. This reinforced the point for me that we do not necessarily need to use every social media application out there, yet I don’t think librarians should necessarily write Second Life off completely. In this article, Hedreen et al discuss a number of niche libraries/programs which seem unique to Second Life:
- Interactive role playing emergency preparedness program
- The Mystery Manor – a tribute to mystery and horror genres at the library
- Caledon’s special collection – collection created around the interests of a 19th century fictional world
For potential library users with very specifics interests, Second Life may in fact be an excellent place to connect with peers dispersed across the country or world, and does provide a valuable social/educational space. So I guess my final verdict would be that it’s probably not that cost or time effective for librarians to be in Second Life, but there are some unique resources in the virtual world that we should be aware of and able to recommend to interested patrons.
Does this seem like a fair middle ground?