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HandWiki. Libraries in Second Life. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 13 April 2024).
HandWiki. Libraries in Second Life. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 13, 2024.
HandWiki. "Libraries in Second Life" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 13, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, October 26). Libraries in Second Life. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Libraries in Second Life." Encyclopedia. Web. 26 October, 2022.
Libraries in Second Life

Second Life (SL) is an immersive 3D environment that can be used for entertainment and educational purposes. Due to increasing interest in digital services, some libraries have established virtual services on Second Life.

virtual services digital sl

1. History

By 2007, there were more than 40 libraries in Second Life and the number was increasing as of April 2011.[1] Many of those libraries were found in Cybrary City,[2] part of the information archipelago on Second Life. This place was built for libraries to set up their virtual services and for displaying their resources. Libraries can provide their services while also learning new skills for 21st-century librarianship.

2. Second Life Libraries

Library services in Second Life can be found at the following SL locations:

  • Info Island 1
  • Info Island 2
  • Edu Island
  • Caledon Library
  • Healthinfo Island
  • Imagination Island - Rachelville
  • ALA Arts Island
  • Cybrary City 1
  • Cybrary City 2[3]

Second Life libraries are examples of immersive learning environments. Users can interact with the services in practical ways, such as walking around a virtual space. Libraries in Second Life often put on digital exhibitions as part of their services, for example an exhibit displaying virtual representations of Van Gogh paintings, including Starry Night.[4] The aim of virtual library services is to attract new users to traditional libraries as well as establishing links with librarians from all over the world.[5] Most of these services are run by volunteers.

There have been numerous initiatives to create educational spaces within Second Life. There are Victorian areas in which residents dress in period clothes, an Egyptian tomb and a Renaissance Island created by the Alliance Second Life Libraries.[6] Central Missouri State University has also received funding to create a reproduction of 1920s Harlem.[7]

Libraries can also put on virtual events such as conferences, seminars and lectures. In 2008 and 2009 Alliance Library System (ALS) organised a conference called Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education and Museums Conference. It took place in the New Media Consortium Conference Center in Second Life and was designed to "provide a gathering place for librarians, information professionals, educators, museologists, and others to learn about and discuss the educational, informational, and cultural opportunities of virtual worlds".[8]

Virtual libraries which are independent, run by volunteers and not affiliated with a traditional library are often the most successful ones in Second Life. Second Life-only virtual libraries tend to be more successful than the Second Life branches of public libraries.[5] Users suggest that the libraries in Second Life serve a niche population, which results in difficulties with marketing.[5] Staff of public libraries have different perspectives on SL when they are experimenting with it, which results in general conflict.[5]

In order to have a successful virtual library in Second Life there are six different elements that should be considered.[5] These are:

  • Location
  • Timing
  • Funding
  • Techniques
  • Organisational baggage
  • Computing technology[5]

3. Examples and Projects

3.1. Alliance Library System (ALS)

The Alliance Library System[9] is an Illinois based local library co-operator, providing vital library services to citizens. It serves three sectors: libraries, legislators and communities. It is also one of the nine multitype library systems. Multitype library systems cooperate amongst different library sectors in a community, including academic, public, school, and special libraries.[10]

In 2003, the Alliance Library System, the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, and the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service founded Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL).[11] OPAL is an international cooperative program supported by libraries and organisations that provide web-based service and courses/trainings for library customers and staff. The administrator of OPAL is TAP Information Services. Programs include library training, special events and virtual tours of digital library collections. OPAL events mainly happen online. Those online rooms can be accessed via various ways (e.g. voice-over-IP, text chatting and synchronised browsing) by participants. In 2006, Alliance Library System and OPAL Opened an Alliance of Libraries 2.0 on Second Life together.[12]

In 2006 the Alliance Library System, along with other library organisations, began to investigate the possibility of establishing a library network on Second Life. By late 2006 they had purchased some land in Second Life and built a virtual library. They started holding discussion groups as well as classes for teens in the library, including courses on podcasting and film-making and an open-mic night.[13]

In 2007 ALS created a virtual information archipelago called Info Island. The grand opening was on 12–14 October 2007.[14] Info Island consists of numerous islands housing various libraries and institutions run by the volunteers of the Community Virtual Library as well as Academic libraries such as Stanford University Library[15] and government organisations such as the Centres for Disease Control.[6]

3.2. When Real and Virtual Worlds Collide: a Second Life library

"When Real and Virtual Worlds Collide: A Second Life Library" is a research paper carried out by Chase Baity, Pam Chappell, David Rachlin, C. Vinson and Marilyn Zamarripa. The group studied traditional public libraries, their Second Life counterparts, and independent Second Life in order to find out whether independent Second Life libraries or libraries affiliated with a Real Life library were the most successful. They used surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Over 350 users and 15 staff members participated in the study.[5]

The research questions for the study were:

  • What are the integrated goals between the real world and virtual world libraries?
  • What is the optimal way to deliver services to reach these goals that are highly usable for employees and patrons?
  • How usable currently is the virtual library?[5]

A secondary question was looking at how other real life and Second Life libraries are similar to or different from the Olathe project.[5]

The study found that "Second-Life-only libraries are far more popular than Second Life branches of public libraries".[5] They also found that "there are no clear indications of what makes a Second Life library more or less popular than an other.[5]

3.3. University College Dublin (UCD) Library in Second Life

The University College Dublin (UCD) James Joyce Library built up the first Irish library in Second Life.[1] University College Dublin set up its library in Second Life in March 2007 as a part of ALS's Cybrary City project.[16] This virtual library has several features and services, including user surveys, e-mail services, e-books, presentations, comment box, virtual PC, notecard giver, trampoline, dance machine and visitor counter. A work group was established for services, technology, staffing and marketing.[16]

3.4. Caledon Library

The Independent State of Caledon is an area of Second Life which is exclusively Victorian-themed.[17] It includes its own virtual library.

As well as a traditional building, Caledon Library has an outdoor reading room, the Vannevar Bush Memorial Reading Garden. Users can find a book and sit under a tree to read it.[18] It also holds book discussion groups and hosts art exhibitions.[18]

Caledon Library has two main collection policies. These are 19th-century literature and materials relating to the Independent State of Caledon.[18] They collect primary source material (including 19th-century novels and periodicals or materials from earlier ages considered important in the 19th century) and research materials relating to the 19th century. They are hoping to build a "listening collection" of audio books on these topics. Another project is a collection of materials created by residents of Caledon or items relating to Caledon. Their aspiration is to eventually establish the Caledon Archives.[18]

3..5 Other Examples of Educational Libraries in Second Life

  • Many US universities in Second Life such as Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford and Princeton.
  • Universities from the following countries: UK, Australia, Denmark, France, The Netherlands etc.
  • UCLA offered a graduate level course, DIS 250 "Techniques and Issues in Information Access: Information Seeking in Second Life"[19] during the Winter 2008 term.

4. Impact

Due to changes in modern lifestyle and consumer behaviours, modern customers may not visit local library buildings. This has become a worry and reason for city councils to cut libraries' budgets. Some libraries, such as ALS decided to take the organisations to their customers, transferring from real life into a virtual world.[13]

In recent years Second Life libraries have held discussion groups and planned events. Participant librarians say that responses have been much higher than they thought they could be. For example, in the early days of ALS establishing a virtual library in Second Life, a surprising number of Residents visited the building, with some even asking reference questions.[13]

According to successful examples, more and more libraries have realised that Second Life is a new and good means to interact with their customers, helping traditional libraries to accommodate new demands and challenges.

5. Issues for Real Life Librarians

Some "real life" librarians may find it difficult to balance their duties in their online and offline capacities. Librarians are passionate about their commitments to virtual world libraries to the extent that most librarians completed virtual library work at home and are not compensated by their libraries for this work[20] . This could potentially cause problems with stress and fatigue.[20]

Librarians also indicated that adequate computing equipment and faster broadband access is important for increasing the productivity and performance of Second Life libraries, and these requirements limit the involvement of numerous librarians.[20] Additional issues of computing supports include network security programs that help Second Life libraries to solve problems such as appropriate permissions, authentications, limitations of functionality based on security restrictions and service attacks.[20]

Additionally, there are some technology challenges. For example, the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) – common in most libraries – has become one of the challenges for Second Life libraries. Second Life is sometimes unable to get all the information normally stored on RFID devices such as the means keeping track of library books, people or policies.[21]

6. Criticism

Some professionals have acknowledged that Second Life offers unique opportunities to expand the horizons of traditional library services.[1] In addition, some university librarians believe that Second Life libraries can be a valuable part of University services, becoming involved in activities such as delivering a downloading service for lecture notes.[1]

Some studies have found that some librarians did not pay enough attention to pre-planning their Second Life libraries, despite librarianship having a culture of planning and management.[5] Most Second Life librarians have no time to manage a Second Life Library during their working time because there is not any official timeline that designed by departments.[5] As a result, Second Life libraries are misunderstood by many people who view Second Life libraries as just games without any educational value. Although the Second Life library is easier to navigate and provides many useful and good materials, it has few users. The reason is that the Second Life branch has not been well promoted in real life so library users do not know its existence.[5]


  1. "Library Joins Second Life". UCD News. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  2. "Cybrary City - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki". 
  3. Greenhill, Kathryn. "Flying Librarians of Oz: What's all the fuss about Second Life and what's it got to do with libraries?". Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  4. Hill, Valerie; Lee, Hyuk-Jin (2009). "Libraries and immersive learning environments unite in Second Life". Library Hi Tec 27 (3): 338–356. 
  5. Chappell; Rachlin, Palmer; Vinson, Zamarripa (2009). When Real and Virtual World Collide: A Second Life Library. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. 
  6. Bell, L.; Lindbloom, M.; Peters, T.; Pope, K. (2008). "Virtual Libraries and Education in Virtual Worlds: Twenty-first century library services". Policy Futures in Education 6 (1). 
  7. "Virtual Harlem". 
  8. Bell, Lori. "Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education and Museums Conference". LIS News. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  9. "Reaching Across Illinois Library System". 
  10. "Multicounty Multitype Library Cooperation Systems". Minnesota Department of Education. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  11. "Welcome to OPAL: Online Programs for All". Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL). Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  12. "Second Library". The Shifted Librarian. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  13. Barack, Lauren. "Library Gets Second Life". School Library Journal. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  14. Kanter, Beth. "Alliance Library System and Second Life Library/Info Island Official Opening". Beth's Blog: How Nonprofit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  15. Wicklund, Deni. "See the Stanford Libraries' Island in Second Life". Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  16. McMauley, Cathal. "The Library in Second Life". JIBS. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  17. "Independent State of Caledon". Steampunk Wiki. Archived from the original on 8 May 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  18. "Caledon Library". Community Virtual Library. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  19. "UCLA DIS 250 "Techniques and Issues in Information Access: IS in Second Life," Winter 2008, Dr. John V. Richardson Jr.". 
  20. Blankenship, Emily; Holingsworth, Yolanda (2009). "Balancing both lives: issues facing librarians working in Second Life and real life worlds". New Library World 110 (9/10): 430–440. doi:10.1108/03074800910997445. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  21. "3D Library Visit: Using Second Life To Research Everyday Problems". Science Daily. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
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