Technical Difficulties. Please Stand By…

I held my first session of Second Life training at Rochester Regional Library Council tonight. Unfortunately, there is a limit on the number of new accounts you can create from an I.P. address at any given time, which forced me to quickly rethink my training plan.

The intention was to lead librarians through the process of setting up an account, creating an avatar, and then touring InfoIsland to show them the library work that is going on in Second Life.

We ended up having only five people able to create accounts (the others got error messages) and it turned into a demo for the rest of the group. It wasn’t bad, but I had to quickly rethink my plan and provide the same information without the benefit of the hands-on part of the program.

I’ll be holding another session next week, so will have people create their accounts ahead of time.

Book Discussions in 3D

The Talis SciFi and Fantasy Portal is a library in Second Life devoted to science fiction and fantasy.

We’ve just set the schedule for our new monthly book discussions:

March 20 – The Stand  by Stephen King – Led by Grizzy Griswold
April 17 – Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler –  Led by Franja Russell
May 15 – Planet of Exile by Ursula Le Guin –  Led by Hawk Lightcloud
June 19 – Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer – Led by  Rebekah Cavan
July 17 – The Prestige by Christopher Priest –  Led by Phenyks Winx
September 18 –  Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Led by Dare2B Wise

All book discussions are held at the Portal on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 SLT (9:30 pm Eastern time.)

Our June discussion of Rollback features an in-world visit by the author, Robert J. Sawyer. Don’t miss this opportunity to discuss this brand new book (to be released in April) with the author!

(We have nothing booked for August yet. Anyone out there who would like to lead a discussion of a favorite sf or fantasy book should contact Floria Hand in Second Life.)

Structure

I’ve been looking at the structure of my library site a lot lately, feeling that it’s just not right. We have the usual categories: teens, kids, adults. We have a link to the catalog and a link to patron information, and our calendar and newsletter. We’ve put our services into labeled boxes. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but the boxes we’ve used feel wrong.

I’m not sure why we have a category called “adults.” Perhaps at an early meeting we discussed the way librarians are put into categories: adult services, teen services, children’s services, and divided our website accordingly. While this may be a good way to distribute job duties, it doesn’t work well for a website. It makes sense to break out separate sections for kids and teens, but labeling a section for adults sounds almost like we have an R-rated section.

I still chuckle every time I hear a co-worker tell a patron, “The kids videos are over there on the right, and the adult videos are on the left.” Adult videos? Do they realize how that sounds? Apparently not. : ) 

Rather than putting all of our users into one category, “adults” (leaving out the kids and teens for now), perhaps we’d be more helpful if we think about who these adults are and how they might be using the website.

It seems to me that there is a useful correlation between what a person will use the website for and their level of internet experience. Someone new to the internet may come a library’s website just to see if we have a book. A more experienced person will look around the site for information on programs or book recommendations. And those who live and work on the web will want to interact with the site, rather than passively obtaining information.

We need to accomodate all of these users if we want to have a successful website. We need to make it easy and intuitive for a newbie, without “dumbing it down” and driving away patrons who are looking for something more. Because the library may be one of the first sites a newbie visits (After all, people look to the library understand and learn new things. That’s our business.) we need to make that first experience a positive one. And we need to provide an engaging environment that will keep people coming back for more than the catalog.

Once we start thinking in terms of real user categories, the services required by these users begins to become clear.

Second Life Library

I’ve been spending some time during the past couple of months in Second Life. For those who haven’t heard yet, Second Life is an online virtual world where people create avatars and wander around this second universe, interacting with other people from all over the world.

Many organizations have set up shop in this world — businesses, educational institutions, government, etc. There is a cluster of “islands” where real-life librarians are doing real reference work and promoting books and programs, just as they do at their day jobs. This is where I spend most of my SL time, but I do wander out and explore a lot. If you’re ever “in-world”, look me up. My avatar’s name is Rebekah Cavan.

Take a look at http://infoisland.org/ to get an idea of the kind of work people are doing here. It’s a fantastic group of dedicated people who are working toward bringing library resources to the millions of SL inhabitants. I’ll be doing a couple of tours of Second Life for Rochester Regional Library Council. The first session (February 26th) is completely booked, so I’ll be doing a repeat session (no need to attend both — they’ll be identical) on March 6, 2007 from 4 – 6 pm. You can register at the RRLC website.

These will be hands-on, beginner classes. We’ll download and install the SL software, create an account and an avatar, and then tour InfoIsland. I’m expecting these classes to be a lot of fun!