• I'm a librarian on Second Life, a librarian on reference chat, a librarian on Facebook, a librarian on Twitter, and even a librarian on World of Warcraft! And yes, I am a librarian in real life! (that last one is easy to forget sometimes) :)
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    Ambrose and Hypatia: A Wedding Story.

    One of the questions that I hear very often about virtual worlds such as Second Life is: “Yes, but how does this apply to librarianship?“. The question is phrased many different ways, but the implication is always the same. Many times, it’s a perfectly genuine question. People are excited about the bright and shiny new thing, and want to implement it in their own libraries. The trouble is that it’s difficult to justify spending time and money with something that might not have any useful application in library science. Sometimes, the question seems to be asked with just a tiny bit of snarkiness, as if to say: “You’re just trying to justify playing video games all day on the company dime, aren’t you?“.

    The truth is, a virtual library is not the be-all and end-all of online library interaction. When working virtual reference, the question that you’ll most likely hear is: “So, this is a library, huh?“. I’ve been working virtual reference for about a year and a half now, and I still have yet to perform an intense research interaction with a patron. Perhaps this is because the technology is still in its infancy. There was a day when you had to ask IF someone had an e-mail address, rather than WHAT their e-mail was. So maybe in the far-flung future, everyone will have an avatar, and we’ll all interact virtually in peace and harmony, goo goo gajoob.

    But as for right now, you’re really not going to get a whole lot of reference questions from virtual patrons. (This is an awesome thing for a virtual librarian to be telling you, isn’t it?) 😉

    Here’s what you DO get by being involved in virtual worlds:

    When I first started working reference in Second Life, I met a wonderful lady named Hypatia Dejavu. Hypatia helped get me started in the virtual world of Second Life, and even took me clothes shopping so that I wouldn’t look like such a damn newbie. She’s been the coordinator of the Second Life Reference Group since its inception, and she does an amazing job of it. The Librarians of Second Life are all volunteer, so there’s really no penalty for not covering one’s reference shift. We won’t get fired, we won’t have our pay withheld, (what pay?) and there are times that the reference area is unstaffed for hours at a time. Yet Hypatia has been a wonderful motivator in getting librarians to work online reference, without any kind of reward or reimbursement.

    As I said, right now there aren’t a lot of patrons in Second Life, so hardly anyone notices when we’re NOT there. But many of the Second Life librarians spend their time in this virtual world because we genuinely WANT to be there. With no clear motivation, librarians enjoy being in Second Life. The reason for this, is that Second Life is a social environment. It’s fun, and it’s sexy, it’s social, and it’s a place for people to gather. In the field of Library Science, there’s always a lot of buzz about social networking. That’s why we have conferences. Librarians need to get out from behind the stacks and meet each other so that they can talk about work. Since the 21st century world seems to keep trying to shuffle us under a rug somewhere, it helps for librarians to just get out there and communicate.

    This past weekend, I attended the wedding of our Reference Coordinator Hypatia Dejavu to her long time partner Ambrose Anthony. The wedding took place in the virtual world of Second Life, even though the couple is married in Real Life first and foremost. But this wedding was attended by a bevy of librarians from across the globe. Many of us have never met in Real Life, but we all know each other in this virtual meeting place through the computer screen. This wasn’t a library convention, this wasn’t a teleconference, and there wasn’t a vendor in sight. This was a wedding, and the people that attended weren’t just colleagues from various libraries. It was a group of friends.

    See some photos here:

    That’s the real library application of Second Life. That new project that you’re working on? Maybe one of us knows a librarian who is working on the same thing. Did you have a reference question about Victorian social customs? We happen to know someone who is an expert in that. By expanding your own web of contacts, your library extends beyond the brick-and-mortar walls of your building, and you may just meet a few friends while you’re out there. 🙂

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