Second Life has been the subject of praise and contempt, and rightly so. Second Life has a number of issues (ie. stability) but also offers us some interesting opportunities (ie. distance education). I have admitted that I am still in the exploration phase of Second Life after a year and that it still needs a lot of work before I’ll be completely sold on this virtual world. That being said, I also find that I have to defend my exploration of Second Life.
A recent post on the Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty blog notes that talented librarians are devoting time to a leisure world rather than doing good things in the real world. I have a couple of problems with this statement. First of all, while Second Life is certainly a leisure world, many librarians are not working on leisure activities. We are trying to supply needed resources (ie. links to library resources) that may have gone unnoticed to a new user group. The user group in Second Life may not be the user group we see in the libraries and we need to reach all patrons. Higher education has taken an active interest in Second Life and academic libraries are looking at ways to support the classes, as we would in the real world. Being in Second Life is a point of need issue. The post quotes a letter sent to the American Libraries journal. This letter assumes that Second Life consumes all free time. While some individuals become addicted to the virtual world, many of us are there for work and continue to have a life outside of the virtual world. I still have enough time to teach a distance education course and if I was really ambitious, other volunteer projects. Other librarians are not as lucky as I am and are exploring the virtual world on their own time. They recognize virtual worlds as a technology that needs to be explored and are devoted to helping the profession stay current, even on their own time. I can’t speak for their free time but most I know do not spend all of their time in the virtual world.
Second Life is not something that everyone can understand. Many of us, myself included, are still trying to understand the importance of virtual worlds. Virtual worlds however, can not be ignored. If we do not stay current and examine new technologies, we will be blindsided and be in a constant state of catch-up. Second Life is part of my job, not my sole job, and I do not feel I am doing a disservice by exploring opportunities in this virtual world. Something will replace Second Life but at least we’ll be ready for it.