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4 Oct 2007 / Julie

Why SecondLife?

I’ve been sitting on some thoughts about SecondLife but I think it’s time to get them out there…

Second Life first came across my radar when I was working on the grant-funded research project Seeking Synchronicity at Rutgers. I wanted to see what all the hype was about so I immediately signed up for residency. Elizabeth Furlinghetti was to be my virtual identity. Personally, I think it sounds too posh to really be me, but then again, Furlinghetti was the best of the last names still available.

But still being a student, exams happened and I never ended up downloading the SecondLife program to really play around with it. I kept reading the discussions and articles around SL, but never got into it.

This past April, at Computers in Libraries, Gail Zasada from Anne Arundel County PL gave a presentation about SL. She had screen shots and spoke of all the wonderful things about SL. Then she mentioned you could fly. Okay, maybe I’ll try it.

When I got home from CIL I dl-ed SL and started playing. Well, floundering is more like it. The learning curve on how to get your avatar to do stuff was a little slippery but I went to the library and got some help (since the initial tutorials on Beginners Island didn’t do too much).

I spoke with the reference librarian there (who’s name I don’t remember now, and can’t find on my buddy list since my hard drive died a month ago, taking SL with it) and once I got situated (sort of), I went to explore the rest of SL.

What I ended up finding was a lot of empty space, buildings with no life, events with no participants, and people who either didn’t acknowledge my presents or wanted to get into my virtual pants.

“Well Julie, clearly you didn’t spend enough time in SL! There’s tons to do,” you say?

Really? Once I had logged in to SL, I entered your standard computer-time vacuum and 15 minutes later I realized I had been playing with SL for 4 hours. If 4 hours isn’t enough to explore and get a good idea of what SL is, I’m not interested in spending more time to find out.

People in Libraryland (and elsewhere) have spent tons of real currency in this virtual world- and for what? I keep reading how deserted it is! (How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life (Wired)).

From all the talk around LibraryLand, and all the presentations at conferences, etc it seems to me that the only folks in SecondLife at any given time fall into a few categories:

  • Library folks (not customers) who are trying to do something innovative
  • Folks who have no FirstLife (thanks to my bf for the link) and would be roll playing even if SL didn’t exist
  • those who float around the sticky underbelly (According to the Chicago Tribune, “one of most frequently purchased items in SecondLife is genitalia)

I may be wrong about SecondLife and the opportunities it holds for reaching library customers but I’m having trouble seeing it when we can’t seem to focus on something. Why are we exploring a virtual world when our real world library to customer service isn’t where it should be across the board? If we’re in SL as another access point to our customers- what does it matter if the reference folks are getting at the other access points is less than desirable? (I’m making BROAD generalizations here) Why are we spending energies in SecondLife when not every library has email, IM, or chat reference- or even good face to face reference? Why are we spending real money in a virtual world when in the real world there are still libraries falling apart, libraries with no staff or no computers, or who aren’t even open for business?

If we’re only as strong as our weakest link I think the head of the pack need to come back and get those who have fallen behind.

I welcome folks who are in SL to comment and prove me wrong. Are you doing reference in SL? Do you actually have customers? Repeat customers? Or only those who are in to try SL and then never come back?

Further Reading on SecondLife:

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