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* Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Second Library

Unfortunately, it looks like I won't get to go to this year's Games + Learning + Society Conference, which looks just as fascinating as last year's version. I learned a lot about gaming and education at this event last year, made some great connections, and became intrigued with the online game Second Life.

Actually, I don't really think of SL as a game so much as a virtual world, a parallel universe where you can be and do what interests you in that type of space. After seeing some presentations about how SL works and how it's being used in both higher education and in the medical field, I started to wonder if there was an intersection for libraries. I talked to the lead developer, to a professor that is using the game in her ethics course, and to some of the other folks at the conference. Some of the ideas generated have been floating around in the back of my mind ever since, never getting any further due simply to a lack of time.

However Lori Bell, currently the Director of Innovation at the Alliance Library System, has picked up the ball and run with it. Here's what she sent me yesterday.

Alliance Library System and OPAL to Open an Alliance of Libraries 2.0 on Second Life

"Alliance Library System(http://www.alliancelibrarysystem.com/) and OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) – (http://www.opal-online.org/) are pleased to announce that selected OPAL programs will soon be offered in the online virtual reality game Second Life (http://www.secondlife.com/). Book discussions, training sessions, and other programs will be offered to current virtual residents. The goal of the project is to promote the real library and online library services to adults who might not otherwise use the library.

'We are excited to be offering new outreach programs, events, and services to people who might not otherwise come to the library,' stated Kitty Pope, Executive Director of the Alliance Library System. 'Second Life has almost 200,000 residents and is rapidly growing in popularity. This will allow us to see what works and what does not work in this area. Second Life has malls, residential neighborhoods, online communities – why not a library?'

Alliance Library System and OPAL are teaming up to utilize the programs currently offered online to librarians and library users to extend the programs to the Second Life virtual reality game. Although there are a couple of libraries currently on Second Life, none currently offers programs or services. Alliance and OPAL will start with programs and eventually hope to offer library services.

'I am pleased to work with the Alliance Library System on this exciting project,' said Tom Peters, OPAL Coordinator. 'This will expand the reach of OPAL to an additional community which spends much of its time online.'

Second Life also now has a Teen Second Life. If adult programs are successful, the group will work to offer library services in Teen Second Life. Librarians who would like to become involved and receive updates on this collaborative project can join a google group set up for the new service at http://groups.google.com/group/alliancesecondlife .

Interested librarians may also contact Lori Bell at lbell@alliancelibrarysystem.com for an invitation.

'We invite any librarian interested in working on this exciting project to join us,' remarked Kitty Pope. 'After we offer some programs, if they are successful, we will want to expand to offer additional programs and services.'

Alliance will begin Second Life programming in June 2006. Alliance Library System is a regional library system located in East Peoria, Illinois with 260 library members of all types. Alliance offers continuing education, consulting, resource sharing, and delivery service to members."

I can't wait to see what happens in this space, and I've already told Lori to count me in. She has already found a Librariaum, as well as the Second Life Public Library, within the game. Neither currently offers reference services, programming, or anything other than a place to gather and some nonfiction books. What could we do with these spaces in the game?

"...Conceiving and planning the library began almost from the moment Jade first became a volunteer SL mentor, in November of 2003. 'The library is really just a reflection of my desire to bring understanding of SL to residents,' she says. Features like a coffee shop and open-air reading rooms are also a reflection of Jade's desire to create 'a social atmosphere for residents who prefer not to go to clubs.'

Though the library has yet to begin producing articles, Jade says the institution will take an active role in acquiring content....

Visitors to the library will access its holdings through searchable and browsable terminals linked to a r/l database that will return a notecard visitors will be welcome to keep, free of charge. The system’s code is being written by Jade, Christopher Omega, and Robin Huber. Librarians will also be on hand eventually to help visitors navigate the system." [The Second Life Herald]

"Acquiring content." That sounds familiar, doesn't it? What if we could get some of our databases in there, so users could find articles about Second Life in our commercial databases? What if we could get Open Worldcat in there? It sounds like the team could use some preservation and archival help, too! In addition, Lori wondered if perhaps we could build a library in the teen version of Second Life and have programs on gaming, teen coffee houses, and ongoing lists of good reading as well as places to find ebooks.

If nothing else, if MLS decides to continue the Gaming Special Interest Group, perhaps we could hold one of the virtual meetings in Second Life, as Aaron and I discussed last year, just to get people used to such an environment.

Join the AllianceSecondLife Google Group to follow along, and watch Lori and ALS innovate in this space!

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