Kathryn Greenhill posted a great piece on why libraries should consider exploring Second Life. She’s certainly done a great job at highlighting the advantages to librarians for being in Second Life. It got me thinking about what the advantages for our patrons might be. This is a preliminary list that I hope to continue working on.
1. Leave the traditional behind. The great strength of Second Life is that the library doesn’t have to be traditional. We don’t need walls. We can offer information in a new and exciting way that may be more appealing to our patrons.
2. Visual. Many of our patrons, particularly the Net Gen, prefer to have information provided in a visual manner. Second Life provides an amazing way to present information visually and in 3D.
3. Point of need. Yes, it’s true that many of our patrons are not in Second Life yet, but they could be here soon or somewhere similar. By at least offering information or services here, we can reach them when they need it.
4. Reach new user groups. Some users may feel uncomfortable coming to a library, due to pschological or mental issues, physical disabilities, or a strange dislike of the library. By offering a presence in a virtual world where there are fewer stigmas (you don’t need that wheel chair, you can avoid crowds), we can meet their needs.
5. Interactive. Second Life is a social virtual world. We can create interactive exhibits which will be of interest to our new patrons. We can also be more interactive with our patrons. It may be my experience, but people who I’ve helped have often asked me more questions in Second Life, possibly on account of the anonymity it provides (will see if this continues when we get voice in world). They are also likely to friend you. A new level of relationship may occur between patron and librarian. You may feel more connected.