Tips and Trends

Fall 2007

Tips and Trends, written by Instructional Technologies Committee members, introduces and discusses new, emerging, or even familiar technology which can be applied in the library instruction setting. Issues are published 4 times a year.

Second Life: Using SL to Teach IL
By Lisa A. Ancelet

The Instructional Technologies Committee would like to introduce you to a new technology that you might find useful, or a familiar technology you may not have used in library instruction. Each quarter committee members will focus on a new or emerging technology that is affecting library instruction. The profile is announced on ILI-L and posted on the committee web site.

Overview and Definition

Second Life (SL) is a Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) or 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. ( Second Whether you create your virtual space, buy it, or have access via your institution, as a library or information literacy (IL) instructor, you can make the most of the growing popularity of Second Life. Virtual environments offer new ways to cultivate a unique learning place for students through collaboration with faculty or as part of an institutional objective to provide IL instruction in different media formats to meet the needs of learners in a variety of ways.

Basis for Current Interest

Gaming and virtual communities are a way of life for large number of people worldwide. Second Life opened to the public in 2003 and since that time the registrations (accounts) have grown to over 13,700,000 Residents and increasing. Typically, about 45,000 Residents are online at one time. ( Second Life FAQ.) Many of the Residents are educators building online communities, campuses, libraries, and classrooms. As a result of the tremendous popularity of this and other MUVEs, learning and gaming has garnered a lot of attention and serious research. Use of Second Life in an instructional setting increases the likelihood that the learner will be engaged. Opportunity is there for the student to experience a creative way of learning, allow them to discover new skills, strengthen their use of technology, and bring them together virtually, if not geographically.

Current Applications in Academic Libraries and Higher Education

Universities and libraries began showing up inworld in 2005. There are many universities and colleges with a strong presence in SL. For a complete list see references below.

Currently there are over 50 libraries of all types in Second Life. Academic libraries can offer instruction via a virtual classroom, tutorials, podcasts, graphic displays, posters, individual research help and research guides.

Many libraries and universities are still in the building and experimental phase of using Second Life to teach. However, as you explore SL, you soon realize a lot has been accomplished in a short time.

Current Applications in Academic Library Instruction

Murdoch University Library, Western Australia offers a “Library Starter Pack” of clothes and objects, as well as a “Murdoch Library Treasure Hunt” inworld leading to “Steps to Research.” There, balls with many graphic designs float above a set of steps. Each offers its own note card, including “Evaluate” and “Manage resources.”

Other examples of Second Life as an instruction tool and library services venue are:

Sheila Weber a.k.a. Sheila Yoshikawa addresses information literacy in Second Life in her blog, Information Literacy Weblog. Weber and others at the University of Sheffield iSchool are conducting research on IL in SL. Her blog includes notes, transcripts of meetings and other information about using Second Life for information literacy instruction.

The Second Life Library (Infoisland) offers programming and services to librarians and library users through a partnership between Alliance Library System and OPAL. Infoisland offers reference service staffed by volunteers and also holds buzz sessions, virtual conferences, and information for educators and librarians who want to set up a presence in SL.

Alkek Library at Texas State University-San Marcos is currently adding video tutorials about using library resources, embedding links to subject research guides, and offering the Ask a Librarian service in SL. A white board serves as the mechanism for instruction and presentations which can display power point slides, screen shots, etc.

Potential Value

Enhanced library instruction
Library instruction in a distance educational setting can be improved by using a virtual environment as a meeting place when the class is dispersed geographically. If the system requirements for connectivity are met by the end-user, the effect on the distance education library user can be a positive one that offers them real-time interaction with a librarian. Use of chat and voice is easily accomplished and the recently released inworld browser makes viewing resources better.

Unlimited possibilities
As mentioned earlier, the potential is there for library instruction to enhance learning in a rich, virtual environment. Educational Uses of Second Life by xxArete2xx is a good example of the possibilities for the use of SL in an educational setting that can be adapted to include libraries and library resources.

Potential hurdles

Second Life is free for anyone to sign up. With a free account you can explore, build, script, shop and attend events. To purchase land, typical residents spend around $9.95 a month plus a land use fee determined by the amount of land you own. Residents can either choose to buy or build objects and buildings. There are also different levels of membership plans available. Developing a virtual classroom or SL library instruction session is easier to attain if your institution already has a presence in SL.

Technology skills and computer compatibility
To join SL you first have to download the software to a computer with a compatible video graphics card and broadband connection. If you meet these requirements you can then create your avatar. That is the easy part. You then have to learn to walk, sit, pick up objects, fly, and navigate your avatar in SL regions which may pose somewhat of a challenge for some users.

Your target audience (faculty and students) have to be willing to invest the technology, time, and effort to make the project or services viable. In addition to target audience, institutional support is necessary in order for the project to be successful.


As with many new technologies, Esther Grassian SL: Alexandria Knight had some great comments: “ILI librarians can apply much that we’ve learned in RL (real life) over many decades, so that we can develop goals and expected learning outcomes for our instruction, and then try out creative means of achieving those goals and ELOs (expected learning outcomes) in immersive virtual worlds like SL, and then assess and revise what we do.”

References and Further Readings

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). 2006. Seven things you should know about virtual worlds. EDUCAUSE Connect.

Hurst-Wahl, Jill. 2007. Librarians and Second Life. Information Outlook 11, 6:44.

Websites & SLurls:
ALA Island, American Library Association SLurl: ALA Island 127, 104, 29
Locate the ACRL Second Life site on ALA Island being developed by Rhonda Trueman, who leads the ACRL Task Force on SL.

Albert B. Alkek Library, Bobcat Village Texas State University- San Marcos.
SLurl: Bobcat Village 131, 63, 26

Centre for Information Literacy Research (CILR), Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, UK
SLurl: Eduserv Island 200, 240, 43
Eduserv Island where Sheila Weber conducts research for CILR and the University of Sheffield iSchool.

Murdock University
Murdock’s Library Starter Pack:

New Media Consortium
NMC offers discounted space on its islands for faculty from their member institutions who want to teach courses in SL.

Quick Guide to Second Life for Librarians
Nice guide created by Ellyssa Kroski a reference librarian at Columbia University’s Butler Library.

Second Life Education Wiki
Linden Lab’s official resource for educators to find other institutions in SL, blogs and podcasts, lesson plans, mailing lists, and much more.

Second Life Homepage
Lots of information about getting started, creating an account and downloading software.

Second Life Library Inventory
This Google doc is the most up-to-date list of libraries on Second life.

SLED Picayune
One of the education-related newspapers in SL published by non-librarian educators who staff the ICT Library.

San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science project integrating Second Life and Moodle (open source course management system.)

Interesting Machinimas and Slideshows:
Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities
YouTube video example of educational uses in SL.

Introduction to Second Life
A great introduction for someone who knows nothing about SL.

Stumbling, Bumbling, Teleporting & Flying…a Librarian Avatar in Second Life
Esther Grassian a.k.a. Alexandria Knight’s slide share introduction to SL.

Tour of Info Island/Second Life Libraries
Created by SL avatar Rik Riel soon after Info Island opened in 2006.

Tips and Trends: Fall 2007
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