(originally posted to the ALA Marginalia Blog - <http://discuss.ala.org/marginalia/2008/06/28/ala-library-in-second-life
My name is Valerie Hawkins and I work in the Library of the American Library Association (ALA), where my title is Library Reference Specialist. Chiefly I respond to questions about ALA and about libraries and librarianship from ALA staff, members, and nonmembers, by phone, fax, mail, e-mail, and, most recently, by chat/instant messaging.
But an even newer development in my reference duties has been appearing in and responding to questions while in the Second Life virtual world, specifically on ALA Island, in the Member Lounge, as the avatar, ALALIbraryVal Miles. My virtual self has already conducted an in-world book talk, discussing the various books available that teach and instruct about living and thriving in Second Life, and also created an in-world scavenger hunt, for the specific purpose of directing both new and long-existing avatars to some of the more interesting locations and destinations in Second Life, from its virtual space and sea museums to its islands devoted to television shows and cable channels to the incredible original creation of the Alliance Library System in Illinois, Info Island and its Second Life Library.
The scavenger hunt was meant to function much like ALA’s initial “50+ Great Web Sites for Kids & Adults” and its sequel, “700+ Amazing, Spectacular, Mysterious, Wonderful Web Sites for Kids and the Adults Who Care About Them,” in which the goal was to spotlight the many educational and cultural destinations available in this new online virtual space, as opposed to the adults-only destinations that receive a disproportionate amount of media attention, creating the impression that all there is to offer in this new space are such decidedly mature, even prurient entertainments. Nothing could be further from the truth. Second Life provides a brand new, one-of-a-kind opportunity to teach, learn, and communicate about any and all subjects in visually creative ways.
Your Second Life avatar is a 3-D representation of you, which types to communicate with other avatars via text chat (and now has the relatively new option to communicate through voice chat, speaking and listening to others using a headset that connects to your computer). So far, ALALibraryVal Miles has spoken in-world with:
a university librarian, working with a professor that has integrated Second Life into his accounting class assignments, who was looking for a library-related place to rent space and therefore expand her sole library kiosk and message board, in order to provide better library service to the professor’s students;
a university student, sent to me specifically by her professor (with whom I was acquainted), to talk out what kind of graduate-level Second Life library project she could create to complete her class with the professor;
a librarian from a prominent university library looking for advice on a possible in-world digitization project;
a librarian looking for groups devoted to teen and young adult literature;
and several others, including ALA staff, members, and nonmembers, who needed more direction and instruction on navigating the Second Life virtual world.
The Second Life virtual world is a valuable, special addition to the services that libraries can provide and to the knowledge that ALA can pass on to its members.
In order to continue the guidance provided by both the book talk and the scavenger hunt, a kiosk was built in the Member Lounge that freely distributes the detailed notecards that accompanied both events, so that any visitor to ALA Island can walk, fly, or teleport away with both more information on how Second life works and on what there is to see there. There is an intention to update these existing notecards and create new ones as needs arise.