|Becoming a Better Community Library: Community Virtual Library|
Text by ABBEY ZENITH
We have been through some amazing changes in the last three and a half years since Lori Bell, Lorelei Junot in SL, claimed a small parcel of SL real estate to create a library and began to explore what place libraries could do in virtual worlds. The parcel became a sim, the sim became an archipelago, and librarians and libraries from all over the world joined in Lori’s quest. Alliance Library Systems, of Peoria IL, supported this exploration through Lori and achieved phenomenal success. Alliance Virtual Library (AVL), the heart of the Information Archipelago (IA) is today a thriving community of librarians, library staff, library students, educators and other professionals who share a common vision of service, education, and creativity often transcending national, cultural, and language boundaries. At AVL we have created locations in Second Life where visitors can find reference services, resources, exhibits, and events that attract, delight, and inform. SL residents looking for help, information, conversation, and purpose discover places that offer all of this and much more. We have grown in size and stature, in skills and in confidence. The nurture that Lori and ALS provided on this journey has sustained us and now many groups are stepping up to maintain what has been created by directly owning and managing sims in the IA. Adra Letov, member of the AVL Advisory Board aptly described this change as “representing a maturing of the IA and a healthy transition to full community management.”
As we move toward the a name change from Alliance Virtual Library to Community Virtual Library in 2010, we find that we are spending a lot of time reflecting on what this change means. We certainly aren’t changing the formula that has worked so well – the mix of services, resources, and events, nor the foundations we’ve built under Lori’s leadership. We aren’t changing our support of librarians and educators; if anything we are deepening that support with more resources than ever before for those professionals using SL. The Learning Curve orientation area, along with the Second Life Resource Center, and classes to teach skills, are all a part of our commitment to helping those interested in developing a place for themselves or their organizations in SL. We are going to be the same people, in the same place, offering the same services, but with a new name, Community Virtual Library, and with that name, a renewed dedication to becoming a virtual library for all of SL.
To do this we not only want to continue the work of volunteers over the last few years, but to work in collaboration with other Second Life Libraries, understanding that within the library community we each have areas of expertise and interests and together we can support each other in outreach to the residents of SL.
This is the kind of community library we want to develop, one that is built on relationships. Like visiting your local library and knowing that they understand your taste in novels, we want residents of SL to visit us again and again, knowing that we understand their interests in this virtual world. In order to this we need to make connections with residents one-on-one, to listen and to learn from them, to welcome them to our sims and be among them in places they gather. We need to ask more questions, take more notes, develop more relationships, welcome more feedback, be more responsive – this is our direction. This is the picture of our future growth, not outer expansion but inner development that meets the needs of SL residents and in turn provides a ripe field of endeavor for a library community poised and ready to serve.