25 Mar 08 Serving Virtual Members

Over the years, so much has been said, written, blogged, twittered, ad nauseum about virtual members of committees, discussion groups, etc. With our participation in Second Life, ALA is making good on all the lip service by creating a virtual campus that can provide a multitude of the kinds of information and interaction that can serve a wider range of our membership who do not go to conferences and partake of the continuing education opportunities offered.
Julie Andrews NLW video set up by Kay Tairov on the ALA Island Main Stage
Since November, ALA has owned an island on Second Life, a virtual world where a wide variety of Web resources can be shared and explored as well as facilitating social interaction. With the assistance of San Jose State University graduate students, we have created an open-air space where we can have meetings of various size and technical sophistication as well as instruments for providing information about all of our operational units. As the Island Manager, I have been informally charged with making the island work and what I hope we will develop over the next six months as a venue for virtual membership in ALA events and conferences. Christina Coleman, Member Specialist for the Membership Office, has a similar charge and has really taken charge of organizing staff to plan our first event: National Library Week on SL.

The advantage of using SL as a platform for virtual membership is that the same electronic resources that other virtual conference applications provide are available along with the actual presence of other virtual members. Just as at a conference, people can talk in the hallways and network, virtual members in SL can talk with each and network. In fact, the way people can create profiles for their avatars, you know much more about someone than you ever would in a first-time face-to-face situation.

ALA Bookstage, with Large Stage in background

A core group of staff, including Valerie Hawkins from ALA Library, will be available in the sixth floor training room on a weekly basis on Thursdays from noon to one. (Members, of course, can log in from wherever they are and join us inworld: IM Oberon Octagon, Kay Tairov, or ALALibraryVal Miles .) We hope people will take advantage of these training/orientation opportunities to improve SL skills and then practice them in the way the rest of us learned how: by exploring the variety of “worlds” that exist in SL as well as by working on ALA Island.

When I presented what we are doing in Second Life at the Association Forum’s Holiday Showcase, many attendees commented that ALA always seems to be at the cutting edge of technology. Please help us continue to push the envelope.

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