CIL2007 – Alliance & Charlotte Libraries Get a Second Life: Library services in a virtual world

Tom Peters, Lori Bell, Matt Gullett, Kelly Czarnecki. Celebrating its first year of existence.

  • Second Life is a virtual world, not a game
  • Alliance Library System and PLCMC were the first libraries established in it
  • 2 main projects, adult Second Life and Teen Second Life (13-17 yrs)
  • Over 5.5 million registered avatars
  • Complete online community – cultural programs, business, recreation, buildings, property and services
  • 5,000 visitors per day to the AL Archipelago
  • 2-3,000 teen visitors a day to the Eye4You Alliance Island
  • used for meetings, workshops and education (ie. ALA)


  • digital representation that represents you in-world
  • they can walk, talk, fly, swim, teleport, anything you want them to do
  • each participant creates an avatar in any physical description you want


  • SL has its own currency – lindens ($US=$350L)
  • purchase clothing, hair, housing etc
  • growing business

InfoIsland: Main Library and Welcome Center has 40 hours a week or reference service, using Question Point. They have a science-fiction and fantasy portal, with books, podcasts, authors etc. Pantheon Performance Center – live concerts. Open air auditoriums, medical library, Imagination Island (donated by grieving parents) – Rachelville (for their daughter) and Vendorville (just starting), Renaissance Island – with Henry VIII who is the apartment manager – period space.

Eye4You Isle – adults involved who want to work with the teens have to have extensive background checks before being allowed to do so. Teens in E4Y come from all over the world, don’t always use their local library, but they are there in SL. Working with a developer and the teens to develop the island.

Ideal for E4Y was to create a space where the teens could explore what they want from a library. Its a space for interactive programming and building relationships, mentoring. Only 2 out of 90 Teen Second Life island are available to all teens – E4Y is one, the other islands are closed school spaces etc.

Services provided:

  • Reference
  • Programs
  • Exhibits – World War II posters, Alzheimers, author Vachel Lindsay, Sept 11 remembrance
  • Collections – web resources, Second Life formatted e-books and audio books
  • Book and gentre discussions
  • Training

Most visits to Info Islands are for exhibits and events. Librarians from around the world volunteer their time to provide library service on Second Life. People like having the avatar to avatar interaction.

Why are Librarians in SL?

  • Its a new professional frontier – need to be trying it out
  • Where many library users and non-users are – be where your users area
  • To attract new users to the traditional library through referral – back to physical libraries
  • To investigate library service in virtual worlds – trying out new options
  • To provide library services 24/7
  • To meet and work with librarians worldwide – collaboration
  • To learn and use the 3D Web, the emerging web interaction interface

How it all started

  • April 2006 first rental building
  • May 2006 – first island odnated
  • October 2006 – Grand opening of Info Island I
  • December 2006 – grant for Health Info Island – one of the busiest spots
  • December 2006 – Cybrary City for librarians donated by Talis
  • January 2007 – Sirsi-Dynix sponsors InfoIsland I and Eye4You Alliance
  • February 2007 – Rachelville, Vendorville, new ALS building, opera building, ALA building and coming soon the Renaissance building.

Weather is always great, but you can force the sun to stay out. Can fly, walk, teleport and get around really easily.


  • funding and sustainability – got lots of donors giving time and talent, how to cover things like the monthly maintenance fee
  • volunteer burnout – people get enthused, spend too much time then something has to give
  • parternships are the key – not being paralleled in the real world – ie. with museums etc
  • steep learning curve
  • what library services do virtual world users want?
  • What, you’re working in SL? Right…..
  • Robust hardware & Internet connection are essential
  • No integrated audio and web yet – trying to get real life resources integrated into it
  • Highly addictive and time intensive

What have we learned

  • virtual world residents do want a library – they come in droves
  • collaboration is the key and partnerships are essential
  • exhibits – very popular, events attract crowds
  • SL is fun – fun factor as catalyst for amazing growth
  • Speed with which this is unfolding is unbelievable – lost an island this morning, had to spend time finding it and putting it back in its proper place
  • People still ask for books in a virtual world
  • ALS & PLCMC have received huge national and international attention – recognized as key innovators

What’s next

  • Permanent virtual ALS staff working out of the ALS world headquarters, same for PLCMC
  • More traditional info resources available – eg. audiobooks
  • Pioneer meeting technologies to facilitate virtual meetings eg. adding audio to meeting protocols
  • Integrate Info Island and Eye4You into ALS & PLCMC dilay operations so all staff are SL functional
  • Actively promote the Alliance Information Archipelago
  • Improve transportation around the islands – eg. people mover, better teleporting
  • Create an Info Island for kids

Why is it good for libraries

  • Be seen as leaders in the library community
  • Provides national profile and recognition as innovative library systems
  • Easier to recruit excellent board members and staff
  • Easier to land big grants to provide better service for our members
  • As requested by members, testing new technologies and services ie. virtual library services

Info Island –
YouthTech Eye4You Alliance blog –


    • genevieve on April 19, 2007 at 1:38 am

    Fabulous report, Michelle, and much to think about there. Thanks very much, I am going to blog this on Reeling and Writhing rather than the library blog, it bears further examination by readers and writers as well as librarians. Trippy:)

    • Michelle McLean on April 19, 2007 at 10:45 am


    Thanks for that. Nice to know that you’re watching and that you’re getting something from it too, its an interesting tale.

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