Librarians are increasingly moving into digital and virtual worlds in the world wide web in order to increase their presence to users. Many are using Massively multiplayer online role playing games such as Second Life as their digital tools for outreach to customers and patrons.
Massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), a type of computer game capable of supporting many game players simultaneously, enable players to cooperate, socialize and compete with each other on a world-wide scale and to interact meaningfully (even intimately) across digital platforms.
Although role-playing are nothing new, and in fact, many video game genres dating back several decades, many games require that the participants invest a large amount of time in order to master the skill required to properly participate in the games.
Because MMORPGs allow players to communicate with one another, and are therefore inherently social places, librarians have begun to notice and use different virtual world platforms to reach out to their users. Even if players never join formal groups, they are expected to participate as a team during game play and to carry out pre-defined roles.
Second Life Libraries
One popular MMORPG among librarians is Second Life. As a form of gaming and virtual world, Second Life moves beyond a a library’s physical building and services. Not only do some innovative librarians use Second Life as an online collaborative tool between other library professionals and virtual users in in a simulated environment, they use it to offer library services and virtual reference very much like what physical libraries do as a form of library outreach.
A number of educational institutions, such as colleges, universities, libraries and government entities have created their presence in Second Life, particularly for distance education classes. Instructors and researchers advocate using Second Life as a more personal form of distance learning. Many universities around the world teach courses or conduct research in Second Life.
As part of this innovative educational movement, innovative libraries are also taking advantage of the platform by embedding themselves in virtual worlds such as Second Life in order to deliver high quality service to a world wide audience at low cost.
Libraries and Second Life
For early technology adopters, Second Life often ranks as the gold standard as the librarian’s choice. There have been a number of virtual ‘continental’ libraries in Second Life, including HealthInfo Island used by health librarians, Info Islands, sponsored by the Illinois’ Alliance Library System, and OPAL currently offered online to librarians and library users within Second Life, SciLands for science and technology education.
In the Second Life world, librarians in their avatar identities, continue to carry out many of the same services they do in the physical world such as answering reference inquiries or developing relationships with constituent communities.
MMORPGs have become mainstream in society, to the point that even academia has accepted it as an educational and service tool. Libraries are no different. There is even now an annual conference SLanguages, that is dedicated to language learning in Second Life. Libraries are but one important institution that have adopted this technology for improving its programs and services for users.
How to Open an Online Library
Ever dreamed of becoming a librarian and can’t? Have a love for books? This can be a really great online business. Online libraries are growing and becoming more and more popular. This is a perfect time to get into the business of lending books, movies, audio books, and more.
A website is necessary for opening an online library. This will be the library owner’s virtual office. The online librarian will list the books that are available, and those that have been taken out. The librarian can also list books that are on reserve if she wants to add that option. The online library website will be the virtual online library where people will come to borrow books. The librarian will have to decide if she also wants to lend audio books, DVDs, video tapes, and other forms of media.
The librarian will need a good collection of books to start this business. The more varied the book selection is the more customers the online library is apt to attract. Keep on getting good deals on more and more books while opening the online library.
The librarian will need a place to keep all of these books for the online library! A spare room in the librarian’s home, storage space, or a commercial office space can hold all of the online library books and other media. Begin with space at home until enough funds are made to store the books in a more professional and safer environment, such as an office space.
Mail all books and other media that is borrowed via media mail through the United States Post Office. This will help the online library save money on postage and shipping. The online library should also offer its customers/lenders other shipping options such as through Fed Ex or UPS, as well as USPS faster shipping options. Add digital products (e-books and audio book files) for the online library customers as well. Buy them from writers and voice actors to allow customers to borrow or download those as well.
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