Life After 2.0; ALA Annual Conference 2009

(presented by PLA)

Lori Bell, Director of Innovation at Alliance Library System in East Peoria, IL, came to this session to demonstrate her library’s amazing Second Life virtual library project, “Info Island Archipelago.”  Second Life libraries are great meeting places for people who want to use avatars to meet from a distance.  Virtual libraries don’t even have to look like buildings — they can look however we want them to look.  They don’t have to be constrained by walls, and the weather can be perfect every day.  And, just like the Info Island Archipelago, your reference librarian can be. . . Yoda.

Right now, experimental Second Life projects are staffed by volunteers who give up their own time and often face burnout.  But Bell looks forward to the day when organizations will fund positions for Second Life librarians.  If libraries want to start their own Second Life projects, Bell suggested that it helps to set clear objectives.  Although many new services will certainly emerge, virtual libraries can still offer traditional services in Second Life: reference, book discussions, continuing education, collections, genealogy groups, training programs, conferences, exhibits, etc.

Second Life is great for immersive education opportunities.  For instance,  librarians can simulate a Tudor village where users perform in a Shakespearean play.  Other possible scenarios include the Renaissance, the Antebellum South, the Roman Republic, etc.  One of Alliance Library System’s most fabulous projects so far is Bradburyville, which immerses readers in the world of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Finally, Bell mentioned that Harvard and other Universities are experimenting with Sloodle, which is an education tool like Moodle or Blackboard that uses the 3-D virtual environment of Second Life.

Next, Michelle Springer, the Project Manager for Digital Initiatives at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., gave a presentation on Web 2.0 initiatives by the LOC.  Realizing that users expect to be able to share, download, embed and tag content on websites, LOC launched its pilot Web 2.0 initiative in 2008.

The first phase of the project was to increase awareness of LOC photographs by posting them on Flickr.  They partnered with Flickr to create The Commons where institutions can share their historical and archival photos.  From there, community members are able to tag and discuss the photos, and often solve mysteries or correct misinformation through an organic collaborative effort.  The project has been immensely successful thusfar, and LOC is also now on YouTube, Twitter and iTunes.

Springer shared that it’s important to “brand” your content when making it shareable online.  By developing a logo or “bumper” for photos, videos, etc, libraries will ensure that the end-users know where the content came from even if they accessed it from another site.  She concurred that web 2.0 projects need to be moderated and are not resource-free projects, and she warned librarians not to launch projects and then walk away from them.  New content should be loaded regularly, such as once per week.

Finally, Helene Blowers, the Director of Digital Strategy at the Columbus (OH) Metropolitan Library discussed the Learning 2.0 program, which you might know as the 23 Things.  This project included over 300 individual libraries from 15 countries, including the National Library of Norway and the State Library of Victoria.  Her presentation stressed that Web 2.0 is now becoming mainstream and more users understand how to use it.  She quoted Clay Shirky, who said that things get “socially interesting when they become technologically boring.”  (I suggest you take that with a grain of salt!)

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