Librarianship has stereotypically been about books, communities, and the connection between the two. With the emergence of new media and technology, the concept of books has expanded to include information of all types and in multiple formats: eBooks, DVDs, videogames, electronic databases, et cetera. Meanwhile, the idea of community has stayed the same. For example, public libraries primarily serve communities defined by geographic lines; academic libraries serve their campus communities. In non-profit, medical or corporate libraries, communities are defined by their organization’s particular mission. However, now that virtual worlds are becoming mainstream, librarians are redefining community, just as they redefined books. With the emergence of virtual worlds, librarians are encountering virtual patrons, and communities defined by virtual lines that defy physical boundaries. This chapter discusses the librarians and organizations that are moving librarianship into virtual communities, as well as the first library initiatives in online worlds.
Part I: Background
Although the”shushing” librarian stamping books is iconical in the United States, the reality is multi-pronged career path, one that rarely involves a stamp pad. Librarian titles range from having everything to do with the community: outreach, public services, etc, to having everything to do with managing collections: cataloger, metadata specialist, archivist, serials librarian, to name a few. And of course, library managers might spend more time on budget or human resource issues than on traditional librarianship. Many libraries are divided into circulation, reference, media services and administrative areas. Public libraries often have separate rooms for adults, young adults and children. Over the recent few years that librarians have been exploring virtual worlds, they have initiated projects that reflect this diversity in career paths. Reference and information services, children's programs, collection development, archival work, virtual world preservation and myriad other librarianship-related projects can all be found in virtual worlds.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information Literacy: the tools and behaviors that are necessary for one to successfully find and utilize relevant information.
Virtual Librarianship: for the purposes of this article, we are defining a virtual librarian as a person representing any type of library, public, academic, etc., accredited or non-accredited, and serving as a steward to the resources and social networks of a virtual world, usually via some sort of formal structure such as a virtual reference desk or online gallery.
Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP): a misnomer that has arisen to apply the concept of COPs to MUVEs.
Linchpin: from Seth Godin's book, Linchpin , the one person that a community cannot function without, or the one thing that holds an organization together.
Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs): online communities that serve as virtual gathering spaces, Second Life is a frequently-referenced example in this article.
Communities of Practice (CoPs): a term coined by cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, frequently referenced by academic librarians, to describe a group of people with shared interests and learning styles.