Online is Fine

My gaming obsessions pretty much started with Zork and ended with Tetris. So I’m not sure why this Second Life Library 2.0 project is so interesting to me (especially since my not up-to-par video card won’t let me participate til I get around to installing a new one).

I think it’s partially because the online environment has been an integral part of my life for just over 20 years now, something I was reminded of recently when Boing Boing posted a link to an archive of ASCII BBS splash banners from the late 80s/early 90s. BBS’s were my first introduction to online community (although that’s not what I would have called it as a socially awkward teenager in the mid-80s!). I miss them dearly — so it’s fascinating now to watch various efforts to create community using the new tools now at our disposal.

And, having grown up with online community (and slightly past the socially awkward teenage stage), I do believe that these communities we create online are just as “real” as those we create face-to-face. Which means there is a place here for both libraries and librarians. If we’re going to be “at the heart of the community” or involved in “creating community,” we need to be where people are forming community.

I’m also thinking about these things as I’m sitting here in Missoula at the Montana Library Association conference. Librarians and library workers in Montana are about as spread out as you can be, and this underscores the importance of online community to us in the library field as well. A lot of us don’t get funding to attend conferences, are unlikely to be able to make the in-person commitment to run for ALA office, and need to look beyond the walls of our own institutions for kindred spirits and community. I treasure the relationships I’ve built online with librarians across the country, relationships that would not have been possible — or would be exceedingly unlikely — otherwise.

So any effort to build or extend community online should be applauded, and efforts like Second Life Library 2.0 that aim to make online more “real” bear careful examination. I hope to visit with all of you there, once I drag my PC into the 21st Century!


  1. Bob Watson:

    I’ve wondered about Second Life. I’ve got an arts background (commercial art) that’s long unused, but even so I do not find it a compelling community.

    Words lend themselves to higher abstraction and seem much more useful … they have greater “bandwidth.” A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the composition may take 100 times as long. ;-)

    That said … of course we librarians need to be involved with online communities. Unless you’re on a very large campus where else can you talk about the issues of the day … and get a reasoned response?

  2. Dennie:

    Hi Rachel,

    good to see you are looking into games now – there are quite a number of good games that not only help you develop skills, but also have communities.

    Related to your retro-gaming – if you were ever a fan of Railroad Tycoon or Transport Tycoon, check out OpenTTD (OpenTransPortTycoondeluxe). An open-source superb replica of the original with much enhancements. The game is not just strategy, but will help you develop skills realted to economy, urban planning, maths, budgetting etc.

    And yes, it has a multiplayer option.



  3. Lori:

    YEY Rachel. I can’t wait to see you at the Second Life Library.

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