Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good and bad reasons to be in Second Life

Is it worthwhile for a library to invest time and resources in a Second Life presence? I think it's still safe to say that the majority of librarians involved in the SL libraries are doing it on their own time. But what if you are trying to make a case for SL in your library that involves actual money?

In her blog Librarians Matter, Kathryn Greenhill (Emerald Dumont in SL), a librarian at Murdoch University, has been investigating SL. She wrote a couple of great posts a few months ago;

Ten very good reasons why your librarians should be in Second Life

Six very bad reasons to have a library branch in Second Life

Among her good reasons to be there are:
  • Learning - a new interface, how to relate to your patrons into gaming, how to code
  • Collaboration and networking - on SL projects with other librarians, breaking down professional isolation, accessing people with expertise in all fields, not just SL
  • Flexibility in thought and learning
I can say that I've experienced every advantage she mentions. I have learned from librarians, archivists, and information professionals all over the world. I have learned a new interface where I am now at ease.

The thing that I find interesting is her distinction between librarians and libraries. She says:
"There are great benefits to librarians in getting a Second Life. There are limited benefits to our parent organisations and to our users - at the moment."

and that many of her reasons

"depend on creating and maintaining social networks within Second Life."
As I have watched the tremendous amount of time and energy that the Info Island librarians have invested in Second Life, I still wonder if this translates into direct services or benefits to the patrons of their real life libraries yet.

Kathryn's post about "bad reasons" includes:
  • It's where users are
  • Corporations like IBM are there
  • It's Library 2.0
  • It provides access to more people
  • It doesn't take much time or skill
  • We need a separate service just for our users
She ends with one very good reason: to provide access to Second Life to the library's patrons. The biggest obstacles to SL being a useful tool for everyone is lack of the technical resources and know-how; a workstation and connection adequate to run the program.

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