Second Life and Libraries: What’s the point?

Second Life, created by Linden Lab in San Francisco, is a persistent online world: a 3-D virtual continent where 10% of its 3.7 million account holder citizens log on daily as avatars to socialize, attend classes and events, do business, learn, build and create. Realize your Project Runway dreams, design a Frank Lloyd Wright style building, discover live music from talented independent artists, play a role playing game, or hang out at a neighborhood bar, dancing, drinking virtual beer, and talking to the regulars.
Everything in the space is user created, from the clothing the avatars wear to the landscapes, buildings, and objects. Perks include the ability to fly and teleport (just like apparating in Harry Porter!) and the freedom to be yourself, or someone else entirely.
Imagine if MySpace were 3-D and you could walk around in it to get from user profile to band website. Second Life is social networking software on steriods: social networking software that can be–that IS being– harnessed for library use.
It makes some degree of sense that a simulation modeled after real life, containing venues for employment, entertainment and education, would have a library. A few citizens and groups have created them in the past, but in April 2006, Alliance Library System in IL become the first library organization to plunk down money for virtual land. With a tentative mission to explore the potential of delivering services to (non-traditional) library users who might be in Second Life, ALS hoped to direct users back to the resources of their local libraries. Instead, they have found that the diverse citizenry of Second Life has unique informational and recreational needs, and that librarians are interested in the Second Life platform for professional development.
In the last year, over 200 librarians from all types of libraries around the globe have contributed time, energy, and other resources to creating virtual collections, delivering virtual reference, creating virtual displays, producing virtual programs such as book discussions, lectures and author visits, and much more. Unique partnerships with colleges and universities, museums, library vendors and various organizations have developed, and Alliance’s singular Info Island has blossomed into an Info Archipelago.

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