by REBEKAH CAVAN
In October 2006, I attended Monroe County Library System's Technology Institute in Rochester, New York. The day-long workshop was designed to bring library staff up to speed on new and exciting technologies and their implications on library service. Both Stephen Abram and Michael Stephens talked about a fantastic virtual world called "Second Life." They showed us photos and explained that there were real life librarians doing real library work on a place called InfoIsland. I turned to my friend Larry, who was seated next to me and said, "I am so there." Larry replied, "Ok, you KNOW what you have to name your avatar, don't you?" I had worked with Larry on a project for several months and for some reason, he could not remember my name. He always called me Rebekah.
Later that day, Rebekah Cavan was born.
My first day in Second Life consisted of me creating my account, doing the orientation, and then typing "library" into the search bar. I ended up at a small library that was not on Info Island, where a very helpful librarian, whose name I didn't catch, gave me a copy of Frankenstein (I had no idea what to do once I got to a virtual library, so I asked for a book) and then gave me a landmark to Info Island.
I was fortunate to be greeted there by Lorelei Junot, who immediately added me to the library group, showed me around, and made me feel welcome. I saw libraries and universities. I saw a gallery of Renaissance art. I saw a law library and a government documents library. Before long, I was invited to a staff meeting. In the weeks that followed, I was shown around the archipelago and taught many, many basic skills by Abbey Zenith and JJ Drinkwater. All of the Info Island staff were wonderfully patient and very encouraging.
Franja Russell allowed me to help at the SciFi Portal, where I brought Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer and his avatar, SF Writer, in for a visit. He had just launched his book, Rollback, and was delighted to stop by the SciFi Portal for a discussion. Franja was wonderful to work with and I quickly acquired more skills and gained confidence at the Portal – enough to take a stab at creating an amphitheater on Cybrary City II for my local library system.
In May of last year, Monroe County Library System participated in the Big Read, selecting Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. We hosted a "book burning" at the new amphitheater. For over two hours, we talked about the book, Ray Bradbury, censorship, banned books, fiction, poetry, war - it was a very lively and interesting discussion.
As I look toward renewing our space on Cybrary City II, I continue to be thrilled to work with such a fantastic group of people in an environment that is still new, still exciting, and completely open to making the best use of creative space to reach out to the community. I've thought long and hard about how to not only provide library service for avatars who are in-world, but also to our real life library patrons. I will focus my effort in the upcoming year on highlighting Rochester as a hotbed of writing activity. We have a lot of talent here in Western New York, and I will be bringing in authors and poets for readings and discussions.
As I reflect on my time spent in Second Life, I have to say that many, many of the InfoIsland staff have helped me along the way. Their support and encouragement, as well as enthusiasm and creativity, inspire me every day – in both worlds.