For those unfamiliar with Second Life, it is a 3D virtual world where people can connect, learn, and just have general fun. Contrary to popular belief it is not a game. When you log into Second Life, you are not given any kind of objectives and there is nothing to direct where you should go. Instead, the world is yours to explore and do with whatever you can imagine.
It's hard to explain to people how Second Life can change their First Life or "Real Life." Since this is a blog about librarianship, I'm going to focus on how Second Life can change your life, professionally. For starters, Second Life is a great free way to attend conferences. Imagine attending a conference from the comfort of your own home while wearing your PJ's, for free, while still connecting with experts in the field. Also imagine being able to instantaneously network with other librarians, from around the world, even if they don't speak your language.
And better yet, you never have to worry about doing your hair, makeup, or going shopping for clothing, because in Second Life, you always look fabulous.
But seriously, I can't stress enough how much Second Life has changes my First Life. Let me tell you my story, and maybe that will give you an idea.
I first gave Second Life a try in 2006. It was still pretty green and there weren't nearly the amount of people involved with it as there are today. I logged in, expecting a game-style experience. I expected to be given some kind of goal, but instead, nothing happened. I was just an avatar in the middle of a large world, with absolutely no idea what to do next. I lasted a little while and then logged out, forgetting it entirely.
This is a very common experience. I heard a statistic somewhere that most people's first experience in Second Life lasts only an hour, after which they never return, because they weren't given any direction. Again, this is because Second Life isn't a game. It's an experience which you craft to your needs.
In 2008, while in the midst of attaining my MLIS degree, I received an email that there was going to be a job fair in Second Life. I couldn't imagine how this would be useful for me, but I was curious enough to give it a try. I dug up my old avatar from 2006, did my best to make it look professional, and attended the conference.
By the end of a few hours I had made several friends, even more mentors, and landed a "job" with an online magazine called Rez Libris. The word job isn't in quotes to imply that it is unimportant. It is in quotes merely because the position was unpaid. Rez Libris is a magazine by librarians for librarians which you can read here: http://www.rezlibris.com/ . I started logging into Second Life more and more often, thirsty for the knowledge the librarians I had met were eager to offer. I met academic librarians, corporate librarians, school librarians, federal librarians, public librarians, and types of librarians I'd never even heard of! I met librarians in other states, in other countries, and who spoke other languages. I learned tricks and tips about applying for jobs and heard detailed stories about how other librarians stumbled upon the jobs they have. I even met other library students from around the world. I have formed friendships and professional networks that will last a lifetime.
I became more and more enchanted with what Second Life could offer librarians. I completed several assignments in Second Life, including operating a blog for the in-world organization, the Educators Coop. You can read the articles I wrote for the Educators Coop here: http://educatorscoop.org/blog/ . I even fulfilled my reference requirement virtually in Second Life.
Today, I man the reference desk at the Community Virtual Library in Second Life once a week. I help real people with real problems in multiple languages from around the world. That's just not the kind of experience you can get from interning at a local library. To any of my friends and colleagues in Second Life, I would like to say, Thank You. Thank you for taking me under your wings; for trusting me with your patrons; and for making me a believer. The librarians of Second Life will always be a part of my professional network, no matter when or where in the world I end up landing a job.
If you have just read this post and are interested in checking out Second Life, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with librarianship, please don't hesitate to contact me! I absolutely love bringing people in and showing them the ropes. You can search for me in-world under the name of Carina Gonzales. I like to joke that the S at the end is for Second Life.