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THE PIPELINE: Future School Libraries--A Third Presence in Second Life?

By Stephen Abram - Posted May 1, 2007
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Second Life: definition—"Second Life is an open-ended virtual world created by San Francisco-based Linden Lab. It is similar to There, another such world created around the same time, in that one of its primary focuses is socialization, but the similarity ends there. The brain child of former RealNetworks CTO Philip Rosedale, Second Life gives its users (referred to as residents) tools to shape its world" (

Avatar: definition—"A graphical representation of a real person in cyberspace."

So, you've likely heard the numbers. The most conservative estimates, as of January 2007, describe Second Life as a pretty huge virtual ecology. More than 1.2 million people have created avatars in Second Life, and 1,525,670 unique people have logged into Second Life at least once. Of that number, 252,284 people have logged in more than 30 days after their account-creation date. The conservative monthly growth rate is about 23 percent. Twenty-three percent growth will mean 3 million in a year's time—a healthy number, but not hyperbolic growth. It can be managed, and we can see the effects and react—unlike other Web-based changes we've lived through.

We're in a new world where experimentation and exciting pilots are multiplying like Tribbles (non-Trekkies will just have to look this up!). Cool! Rad! Sweet! Hot! Cats pajamas! Whatever your age, this is so engaging and interesting to a profession that thrives on being interested and making things interesting.

Check out the hundreds of Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo sites for librarians, teachers, schools, and students connecting with other students, librarians, and teachers. Visit the unbelievably fantastic Activeworlds library at Eastern University in Pennsylvania and see visual displays added to OPACs, library story-time podcasts from the Web sites, community blogs, DDR and gaming events, rock ‘n' roll concert nights, and more—well, it's just sooooo exciting. Feel the change! Library first life is heading for another new plateau, while still maintaining a strong and vital first life presence—physical and virtual.

I am writing this article after returning from the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. At that event, we offered live tours of the Second Life libraries. There are more than 400 librarians in Second Life now working on virtual library services on more than nine islands in Second Life. Info Island, the focal island, attracts 4,000 visitors a day. Cybrary City, where the Australian Libraries Building is located, has 1,000 visits per day. There are dozens of EduIslands too.

Several people at the meeting, including one from the library press, asked me why Second Life libraries were such an important development. One said he just didn't "get it." I know it's not age, because I'm getting up there in years and I get it. I didn't have a great answer at the time, but it gave me the impetus to write this article. It's about the experience. It's about learning by doing.

Why Is Second Life Library 2.0 Important?

Complete article is available now, or will be shortly, in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE and search “Multimedia & Internet@Schools” for the story by title.

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