Exploring Second Life
Second Life was started in 2003 by Linden Labs. It is a Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) in which multiple payers can engage in an online community.
“Being a librarian working in Second Life is a double-edged sword, with both benefits and challenges” (Baum & Lyons, 2012). Whilst I understand the need for libraries to explore new technologies and ways of delivering their services, I have found that at this point the disadvantages of Second Life outweigh the perceived advantages. More importantly the age restriction of 18 years stops me as a school librarian from delving further.
Technology barriers are a deterrent as Second Life puts heavy demands on computers. A high end computer is needed with a fast processer and good graphic card making this a difficult application for those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Second Life is subject to frequent crashes (Helmer, 2007), as I experienced on my third attempt to explore the application, crashing six times throughout the class tour. A frustrating first experience, which has definitely played a large part in putting me off as it would many other users.
Linden Labs also point out that orientation alone takes four hours which I believe is very conservative. As Baum and Lyons (2012, p. 387) indicate, creating and designing attractive and functional places in virtual worlds entails a substantial time commitment and a certain level of technological skill. Cost comes down to design, code and the hidden cost of staff time and training for both staff and patrons. This comes at a time when time constraints grow even tighter.
Greenhill (2008) elaborates on a number of advantages of Second Life. In particular, the breakdown of professional isolation; becoming part of a collaborative learning community; networking and professional support about real-life library topics and having fun in a “play” orientated application are all good reasons to persevere, particularly as becoming conversant with Second Life allows a librarian to better understand her gaming patrons. However it is important to remember that like any potential new service, there are costs, equity issues, and the demand from users should be assessed.
I have only scraped the surface with my foray into Second Life. I discovered today how to find Charles Sturt University and the identities of LenaLotus Latte (Lyn Hay) and Heyjude Jenns (Judy O’Connell) on my own and was just getting excited about finding other places when it once again crashed.
Miller, Porter and Ryan (2010) advise considering the details associated with starting and maintaining a presence in a virtual world, and the safety and suitability of the chosen virtual environment before charging ahead. In my case, our school library is not yet ready but I am much better informed should the subject of virtual worlds be raised.
Baum, J., & Lyons, K. (2012). Librarianship Presence in Virtual Worlds. In (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in Virtual Worlds and Environments (pp. 384-399). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch020
Greenhill, K. (2008). Do we remove all the walls? Second Life librarianship. Australian Library Journal, 57(4)
Helmer, J., & Learning Light (2007). Second Life and virtual worlds Available from http://www.norfolkelearningforum.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/virtual-worlds_ll_oct_2007.pdf, 377-393.
Miller, Rebecca, Marjorie Porter, and Jenna Ryan. “Academic Library Services in Virtual Worlds: An Examination of the Potential for Library Services in Immersive Environments.” Journal of Information Technology Education 9 (2010): IIP 253. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. <http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ps/i.do?id=GALE|A251459967&v=2.1&u=csu_au&it=r&p=EAIM&sw=w&asid=e47ca375d400fa307cf56483718c47f3>.