Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who needs a second life?

I was asked by a colleague, "What exactly is this Second Life thing and can my library use it?" Perhaps I was asked this because I have my first life so together she assumed I must have a spectacular second one as well. Seriously though -- I think I was asked because, as I've mentioned before, I'm a gamer.

However, I am not a SLer -- but I did download it last night and gave it a whirl and am going to offer my insights to those of you who might want to try this in their libraries. Why are folks thinking about incorporating this into their libraries? Because SL has an entire Info Island with several libraries and librarians functioning on it and it's growing everyday.

The steps: I first had to create a free account -- there is an upgrade account available but it costs money and I didn't want to do that. I then had to download the client from the SL website and install it. I have DSL at home and it didn't take anytime at all. Just be sure you read the required system specs before you decide to install it on your machine. Here is my toon (aka avatar or character). I designed her body appearance, hair style, clothes and was able to give her a specific first name and selected a second name from a long list of preset options (Ms. Graf). The preset names are a nice feature so kids and the naïve don't immediately give away all their vital statistics to everyone they meet in the game.

The movement commands in the game are fairly standard (as far as computer games go) -- your primary movement keys are WASD with variations available and the option to reassign key functions if you want. Here's a video of what the movement looks like. This particular footage was taken on Info Island on the giant chess board in front of the Michigan Libraries building... (please note the youtube video may still be uploading on their site -- it's been slow lately please come back and try it later if it doesn't work right now)

So what do the actual libraries in SL look like? Here's a few snapshots of one of them -- and you can click on them to make them larger:
This first picture is of the Government Documents department -- but I couldn't find Oklahoma's favorite Docs Librarian Steve B...he must have been spelunking or something when I dropped in for my visit.

This next picture is at one of the computer work station areas in the library. This particular one was for finding literature resources. As I clicked on the computers the options became available in the blue box for me to visit external websites for more information on a particular subject.

These next two pictures are of the Michigan Library currently in development. If you notice the sign points up-up-up and so I flew up (yes, you can fly in SL) to see what was...well, up.

In the sky I met a very nice librarian from Michigan who told me she got drafted to do the Second Life thing since she was "under 30". But they were hoping to do some training and out reach through Second Life. In fact when I stopped back by today they had a training area built below them and were giving classes on how to manipulate the SL world to make all sorts of things.

So to the big question now -- Is Second Life for your library? It depends on who you want to reach and what you hope to accomplish. Second Life touts on their webpage that they have 963,206 total residents -- and the past two days I've been on in the evenings I've seen a max of approximately 13,000 of these residents actually logged in. So -- if you are hoping to tap into some of your real life patron base that doesn't visit the traditional library via Second Life think again -- the numbers just don't support it -- in fact you would probably be better off going and creating a library in The Sims or WoW (more people play those games).

But if you are hoping to advance information literacy beyond your traditional patron base and want to take advantage of and experiment with a program that could potentially influence future trends in online social networking then give SL a try. Just don't hire a librarian to do SL exclusively -- it would be a waste of money.

And Yes -- that's what SL is -- it's a social networking tool that allows people to create a life beyond their everyday one. Where other online games let you battle mythical beasts -- SL (like The Sims) allows you to socialize, build, and create in a way much more similar to "playing dolls" than "playing war".

1 comment:

Jami said...

I just wanted to say thanks for checking out the library. I am the librarian who does all of the SL instruction. I built the chess and checkers set, and I also built the training area where I teach classes.

Why am I there? Well yeah I believe this is the future but also because it will help me understand what I need to do as a librarian to help the RL people that come in library doors. Being in Second Life is an investment in gaining the skills I'll need in the future, for the next enviroment that does come along and is used by everyone.