Friday, August 17, 2007

Reference in a 3-D Virtual World : Library Outreach in Second Life

Just Published in The Reference Librarian, Vol. 47(2) (#98) 2007 Available online at © 2007 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J120v47n98_04 29

Reference in a 3-D Virtual World : Preliminary Observations on Library Outreach in “Second Life” / Jacquelyn Erdman , MSLS, is Coordinator of Assessment and Planning, Stanley E. Wimberly Library, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431 (E-mail:

ABSTRACT. As technologies continue to evolve, the library will need to explore new ways to communicate with the public. One of the newest technologies is a 3-D virtual world software called Second Life. Second Life presents new opportunities and challenges for reference librarians to support the information needs of that community. KEYWORDS. Second Life, virtual reference, skills transfer, cooperative reference

CONCLUSION Each new development of technology lends itself as a new way for librarians to reach out to the community. This paper focused on the new obstacles and advantages reference librarians encountered in the virtual world of SL. Through the experiences of reference librarians in SL, the medium seems to present an opportunity to serve this vaguely defined online community. There seems to be a place for reference librarians in the SL community and SL allows access to the library to residents who may not have access to a physical library. To serve this community, reference librarians will have to continue to struggle with accessibility, approachability, and understanding the user’s needs. However, these issues are not unique to virtual world reference. There are tools within SL that the librarians can use to improve these issues such as gestures, labeling their avatar as a librarian, and using the chat function to communicate with the residents. Library outreach to virtual world communities is still young and has not been explored to the full potential of the medium, but the overall objective of a library serving a community is not affected by the technology.

On July 16th Abbey Zenith and various other librarians gave a tour of Info Island to about a dozen SJSU MLS students. Here they are in the main reference area.
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