My name is Valerie Hawkins and I work in the Library of the American Library Association (ALA), where my title is Library Reference Specialist. Chiefly I respond to questions about ALA and about libraries and librarianship from ALA staff, members, and nonmembers, by phone, fax, mail, e-mail, and, most recently, by chat/instant messaging.
But an even newer development in my reference duties has been appearing in and responding to questions while in the Second Life virtual world, specifically on ALA Island, in the Member Lounge, as the avatar, ALALIbraryVal Miles. My virtual self has already conducted an in-world book talk, discussing the various books available that teach and instruct about living and thriving in Second Life, and also created an in-world scavenger hunt, for the specific purpose of directing both new and long-existing avatars to some of the more interesting locations and destinations in Second Life, from its virtual space and sea museums to its islands devoted to television shows and cable channels to the incredible original creation of the Alliance Library System in Illinois, Info Island and its Second Life Library.
The scavenger hunt was meant to function much like ALA’s initial “50+ Great Web Sites for Kids & Adults” and its sequel, “700+ Amazing, Spectacular, Mysterious, Wonderful Web Sites for Kids and the Adults Who Care About Them,” in which the goal was to spotlight the many educational and cultural destinations available in this new online virtual space, as opposed to the adults-only destinations that receive a disproportionate amount of media attention, creating the impression that all there is to offer in this new space are such decidedly mature, even prurient entertainments. Nothing could be further from the truth. Second Life provides a brand new, one-of-a-kind opportunity to teach, learn, and communicate about any and all subjects in visually creative ways.
The Second Life virtual world is a valuable, special addition to the services that libraries can provide and to the knowledge that ALA can pass on to its members.