University College Dublin (UCD) recently opened the doors of its sixth library, which exists only in cyberspace on Second Life, a popular virtual world on the internet where citizens buy property, make friends and trade in their own unique currency.
“I attended a conference in Second Life and decided to set up a branch in-world. In between the conference and the opening we also conducted a multi-purpose survey of our real-life clients and found that 30pc would like Second Life-type virtual reference desks. It is early days yet but we get about 40 visits a day,” said Cathal McCauley, project leader for UCD’s Second Life Library.
This is one of 40 odd libraries that are located on Second Life’s Cybrary City Islands, which plays host to the virtual version of existing public and university libraries.
Already prominent US universities Berkeley, Stanford and Harvard have their own Second Life presence.
“We’ve had instant messaging and blogs for quite some time now so we thought that this virtual world might offer another useful compliment to the provision of traditional library services,” said McCauley.
The virtual library is modeled on the James Joyce Library, UCD’s main library on the Belfield campus, and was developed with help from the US, UK and Holland.
Although it won’t be quite the same as visiting the actual campus library, visitors can use a virtual PC, watch Sky News, pore over various e-books and watch library presentations.
The aim is to eventually have a regular staff presence in the virtual library, helping visitors to avail of UCD library services.
Anyone, UCD student or not, can access the library but McCauley told SiliconRepublic that depending on services developed in the future some type of access control may have to be considered.
The possibilities offered by the Second Life library include the option for lecturers to deliver notes and podcasts in a more interactive way to their students.
By Marie Boran
Pictured – some bookish avatars check out UCD’s Second Life library