What’s In It for Me?: Professional Development in Virtual Worlds

What’s In It for Me?: Professional Development in Virtual Worlds

Esther Grassian (University of California, Los Angeles, USA) and Rhonda Trueman (Northwest Florida State College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3688-0.ch006
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Virtual worlds offer synchronous (simultaneous) real life participation through virtual reality, combining the two to provide convenient and low-cost options for librarians’ professional development. This chapter explores the use of virtual worlds for meetings, training, conferences, discussions, mentoring, networking, and peer-to-peer information sharing, with a focus on the 3D virtual world of Second Life. Definitions of “professional development” and “virtual worlds” precede discussion of the issues surrounding the use of this type of environment for a variety of training events and activities to support and encourage ongoing expansion of knowledge, innovation, and creativity among librarians. This chapter also includes information about planning and implementing professional development sessions in this arena, along with information on effective methods for publicizing these activities for parties interested in using virtual worlds for professional development. For those interested in attending professional development opportunities in virtual worlds, the chapter provides information on how to discover and choose useful activities and events in virtual worlds.
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Librarians live in a pop-up world of information tools, socially networked environments and technology-based resources that appear, grow, expand, and sometimes die a quick death. This hyper-speeded up world requires constant exposure to and learning new technologies, both those developed specifically for libraries and those created for users with many different levels of experience and expertise. Professional development plays a significant role here as a means of helping librarians learn new technologies and experiment with them to see if and how these technologies can support and further the mission and goals of their institutions or organizations. Librarians may also get ideas or learn new techniques and research approaches through professional development activities. This can be particularly useful to academic librarians, who often need to conduct research and publish the results in order to advance professionally (Pan & Hovde, 2010).

Attending and participating in professional development events offers many supportive options for learning, creativity and networking for librarians in all types of libraries and information centers, including:

  • Any librarian who does not have funding or time to attend conferences, workshops or other programs in-person

  • Librarians in isolated areas who do not have a large staff as backup

  • Library school students interested in a variety of librarian positions

  • Job-seeking librarians

  • Librarians with specialized library or information center jobs and no local peers

  • Librarians who have shared interests in particular subjects and issues, and seek a community, for networking, creative problem-solving and feedback on current issues and projects

How do librarians manage to try out, learn, apply and teach synchronously (simultaneously) or asynchronously (any time, any place) in this madly gyrating information environment? Librarians who jump on new technologies and resources are scouting out the possibilities, trying new tools and environments, such as virtual worlds, in the ways they were meant to be used, and inventing both new uses and new tools. Many are generously sharing what they learn through professional development offerings, and encouraging and engaging other librarians to jump in as well.

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