Digital World

Second Life, Third Life, Fourth Life…

For my daughter’s 9th birthday party, we decided to celebrate it at Sega GameWorks in Seattle.  Everyone got unlimited access to the videogames for 2 hours so naturally, I plopped myself down on a game I haven’t played in over a decade.  It was a game I used to cherish with my husband before we got married–Virtual Fighter.  Now in its 5th incarnation, the graphics is an amazing work of art! The gameplay however is the same.  I didn’t know I was playing against the kid seated on the opposite side as the challenger until I had defeated him for the 3rd time and heard him utter “umphh…she’s killing me…she’s good.”  His friend peeked over at me and that was when I realized I was playing against a 12 year old and actually winning! I got a strange satisfaction out of the whole experience as he slumped away, with his tail between his legs, realizing that a mom had defeated him. 

It really brought something to light.  Is it our psychological barriers that older means less technically savvy that prevents us from accepting technology in our lives? We all know of fellow librarians who harbor internal prejudices against technology, often setting up a false dichotomy of technology vs. education.  And how many times have we heard of people saying they have a hard enough time with their first lives to get a second one? I admit that I was one of these people until I got onto Second Life recently.

I discovered that having a Second Life isn’t all that different from real life.  Some of us already lead this kind of existence with our roles as moms and librarians.  In fact, I suspect that it won’t be long until we lead a third life, a fourth life, on other virtual planets etc. etc. the same way we own multiple email accounts with different sign-in names.  More accurately, it would be like having multiple browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera to view the World Wide Web. The brain after all can simultaneously keep 4 thoughts going at the same time.  Why not try four virtual planets just because you can?

My point is, don’t buy into the backlash against 2nd Life.  It’s all terminology and circumstance.  It’s ridiculous to suggest that when you serve someone on Second Life, you are neglecting a patron on First Life.  Second Life isn’t really “life” but a platform, and the next evolutionary step of internet.  Are we doing a disservice to first life patrons when we do email reference, Ask-a-Librarian chat and phone calls to serve patrons? The answer is an unequivocal no. 

Many of us are in denial that we are in the age of digital natives.  How many times have we walked by people whom we thought were crazy, only to find out that they have an earpiece attached to their cellphone? Watching someone using the Wii controller to jog around Second Life is even odder only because we’ve never exercised that way.  Second Life is just another information place we can meet these people and serve them.  It doesn’t have to be one world or another.  We can straddle as many worlds as we want and be all the more information richer.  We can even defeat a 12-year-old at a video game.  It’s the same game, different skin.  Second Life is the internet, in a different form.  If we only set our minds to it we can free ourselves of our psychological barriers.  If I can do it, you can do it too!    


  1. Teresa Walls

    You have really made me stop and think. I am curious about how easily libraries can handle the hardware/download requirements for such a visually rich setting with chat and IM options. Chat alone is often feared; another ALSC member and school media specialist couldn’t participate in our committee chat meetings using the ALA Communities ( because her school’s policy would not allow access to the chat feature.

    After reading your post, I was inspired to read a bit more. The three posts about Second Life on Infoblog ( were interesting. To find them on Infoblog, visit their site and click on the Second Life category.

    I am part of Second Life, as TeresaMarie Wobbit. When I first visited, I wasn’t there more than 10 minutes when someone came up and asked me a question about how to get to a specific area. I plan to explore some more. And, it would be more fun with other people, so if anyone is interested, we could set up a field trip, so to speak.

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  3. dfoote

    Tell us what you think, ALSC! Should we have a presence in Second Life?

  4. acrewdson Post author

    Hi everybody!

    I was mostly trying to get the ALSC Membership to try Second Life and get their feet wet. The idea of ALSC having a presence in Second Life has merit though, Diane. Perhaps the ALSC membership would like to know a little background before they decide. Like who the heck is this woman blogging about Second Life? 🙂 And would ALSC’s presence on Second Life serve a purpose?

    Sorry I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Ann Crewdson. I’m the current Chair of the ALSC Great Interactive Software for Kids Committee and the successor of the great Diana Berry. Last year we were known as the ALSC Notable Computer Software for Children Committee. After presenting our case during Midwinter, the ALSC Board shed its grace on us and we were allowed to revamp our committee.

    With a fresh new perspective this year, our committee has been exploring various digital forms and platforms. One of them is Second Life. In particular, we have been helping the Federation of American Scientists with their initiative called “Discover Babylon” on FAS Island which seeks to recreate Mesopotamian cities with authentic blueprints and digital objects scanned in from Museums all over the world. I credit the scientists with the survival of our committee as well. For it was from their ” 2005 Summit on Education Games” that I was able to draw the philosophical foundation of our committee–to play a role in encouraging the production of edutainment games by uniting vendors with education. I will cover FAS in the future. They deserve a whole ‘nother blog entry. I went on to Second Life just to help them and they convinced me that it’s a wonderful tool for creativity, expression and education.

    I think before the ALSC Membership takes the leap of faith into Second Life, we have to consider the purpose. If we are looking at serving children, strictly speaking, there wouldn’t be a reason for ALSC to be on Second Life. We wouldn’t be able to tell which avatars are children because there wouldn’t be any legitimate markers. At best we’d be a halfway house for children in the guise of adult avatars, seeking a safe environment.

    We’d have to understand that Second Life, as we know it right now, is meant for adults 18 and over. Many things in Second Life, however, are enticing and beneficial to children. I’m certain that there are renegade children running around in that world. The fact that there are 190 museums and galleries and 58 libraries in Second Life indicates that service for children exists. I have actually emailed Linden Labs pleading them to consider letting children into the virtual world, with consent from their parents, because there is a wealth of information that would benefit elementary school students. Teen Second Life wouldn’t be sufficient because they leave out the tweeners and have an age-cap of 13-17. I have yet to hear from them. But you can bet I’ll keep pushing my agenda until they address it! I’ll knock on CEO Philip Rosedale’s door if I have to.

    Until we have public acknowledgement from Linden Labs that they will grant minors access to Second Life, we won’t really have a case for ALSC to have a presence unless it’s strictly business. If the purpose of ALSC being on Second Life is to use the features of a powerful platform to represent our work and mission, and render our current website in 3D, it would be advantageous. Committee work could be easier with the features of podcasting, IMing, streaming audio and webinars wrapped into one. We could let Linden Labs deal with the technical issues while we concentrate on our initiatives and Strategy Plan. We could certainly conduct meetings online in a virtual lecture hall and show streaming video on a virtual screen to the public like the Newbery/Caldecott Awards Banquet or the ALSC Awards Program.

    Our presence on Second Life, may remind Linden Labs that service to children is important and may push them to lower the age limit for Second Life. I tend to be optimistic in my view. Whatever we do, we’ll need to consider all angles and think carefully before we act.

  5. dfoote

    Thanks, Ann, I’m VERY glad you introduced yourself, because your ALSC cred goes beyond being able to win in Sega-land over 12-year-olds, although you DO get serious cred for doing so (is it possible my Ms. PacMan and Missle Command experience is worth something?!)

    Anyway, yes, for those just now tuning in, Ann is a bona fide 2.0-oer in ALSCland, and she’s also involved in the traditional stuff; she’s on the 2008 ballot for the 2010 Caldecott Committee.

    Second Life is NOT a game. Let’s not confuse it, tempting as it is, with my only-partially-facetious references to circa-1982 gaming.

    Second Life is a PLATFORM, albeit one hosted by a for-profit, nothing necessarily wrong with that; would love to hear from ALSC-ers if there’s merit in us meeting there, even if it’s not open to the kiddos. Is there a 2.0 space in which adult children’s librarians should wish to meet via avatar rather than in-person at an ALA conference or via this blog, the wiki, or ALSC-L?

    Ann’s right though, is there a kid-friendly space on line in which 8-year-old can engage with us? Clearly Second Life doesn’t (yet) offer that. A fascinating concept!
    –Diane Foote

  6. acrewdson Post author

    Diane, I really appreciate the acknowledgement and kind comments.

    I really owe alot of my early literacy skills to Linda Ernst. She’s amazing! I can’t thank her enough for all she’s done for me as a mentor. She’s done so much for my kids as well, just by performing dynamic story times. Her books, Lapsit Services for the Very Young I and II, are essential to getting started in Mother Goose Story Times. And she’s working on a new book–another valuable addition to the children’s reference collection. She is an asset in our library system and a tremendously wonderful person!

    As for Second Life and the lack of response from the membership on this blog about it. I know the learning curve might be steep. I propose that any ALSC member who is interested in getting their feet wet, can contact me at to be added to the FAS scientist’s focus group. There is room for more people to give them important feedback from a children’s librarian’s perspective.

    And come November, the FAS is inviting ALSC members to test out their in-world collaboration infrastructure. It’s slated for November but who knows if there will be delays. I will keep you posted as things develop.

    Give it some thought and send me an email if you’re interested.

    Many thanks to all you do! -Ann

  7. Kate

    Ann~ I am a digital immigrant (picture THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan), but Second Life is on my radar because of three things:
    1. I read that someone had given (I believe) half an island to ALA in Second Life… which made me look it up.
    2. I read a YA science fiction novel called EPIC by Conor Kostick
    3 Simultaneously I read a September 9 New York Times article on the Second Life:
    I must say that this digital immigrant is not especially sanguine after reading either the novel nor the NYT article. However, I am open and curious. And I thank you for trying to give us digital immigrants some vocabulary.
    Does anyone know whether there has been an ALSC program on Second Life at conference? I think it would be a good idea.
    And Ann, don’t mistake lack of comment for lack of members’ interest. First, this is a very NEW blog. Second, I find that the only blogs that seem to excite huge amounts of comments are the political blogs.
    Keep talking to us.

  8. acrewdson Post author

    Thank you so much for your reply Kate. I am a huge fan of THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan too. And being Chinese-American and an immigrant to the United States, I am especially sensitive to those issues that have to do with difficulties associated with acculturation in a foreign land. I’m sorry you’re feeling not especially sanguine after reading the novel and the NYT article. I have to say that I haven’t read the book but I just read the NYT article and I was dismayed. I think that the media loves to emphasize the negative. Let me assure you that there are positive articles about virtual worlds in the limelight as well. This is actually much bigger than Second Life. Please refer to these articles. Like all things, there are two sides to a debate.

    Sure there are those in Second Life who choose to make it their second “lives” but I am one who likes to see it for what it is–a platform, the internet in another dimension. I don’t care for the clothing, glamour and gestures you can buy. Other people might and that’s okay. Everything in moderation is what I say. But it always ends up that the cyberaddicts get the coverage. With or without Second Life, there will be cyberaddicts, in the chat rooms, using email or just surfing the internet. It doesn’t take Second Life to do that. And if it follows that Second Life is the next stage of the internet, then those pathologies associated with the internet, will transfer over, unfortunately. An addict in real-life is an addict in cyberspace.

    It’s worth investigating an ALSC presence in Second Life because let me put it this way–what if one day all the internet browsers went away? What if all decided that the way to go was to browse information with Virtual Worlds instead of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera? It’s happened before. Think about when the card catalog went away and was replaced with a computer catalog. We were all left struggling with the new technology. At least, I remember it very well in the late 80s when I worked for the library system as a Page. And Dr. Joe Janes once put it, what would it have been like if librarians were among the first to explore and develop internet’s capabilities? Would we be as rich as Google right now? And if it’s not the money that we care about, would search engines be far more powerful today if only librarians were there in the beginning?

    I know that the Second Life platform is not perfect and I still experience motion sickness and lag at times because Linden Lab can only support so many simultaneously users on at once. And the platform’s information navigation and search queues could use a librarian’s touch. Should ALSC have a presence in Second Life? Maybe the real question we should be asking is–“do we want to be among the leaders or the last to learn this new technology?” I say that we should be leaders and be among the brave pioneers. But I’m only one opinion among many.

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