Virtual Volunteering

I must admit that when I first saw that we would be volunteering in Second Life I was confused and sceptical. How, and more importantly, why would we need to volunteer in a virtual world? How would this work? Do people actually use libraries in a virtual world? Who provides the information? These questions were arisen by my visit to the Map Library where tons of extremely detailed maps were available to users for free. Why would someone spend their time creating such information and places for complete strangers?

Hopefully, these questions will all be answered as I begin my volunteer experience in Second Life. I am eager to learn how information sharing works in a virtual world, and how the volunteer is influenced by their experience.

I still haven’t actually found a place to volunteer, I am waiting to hear back from someone on Info Island, but I discovered a bit about virtual volunteering while reading chapter 5 of Virtual Worlds : Real Libraries.

There are real librarians working in Second Life. Most of these individuals are volunteers, but some are representing real institutions. I found this fascinating as I have never heard of any companies or libraries using Second Life to connect with clients. It is an innovative idea and a cool way to provide reference from a distance while still having that “in-person” converstation between avatars. I wonder if in the future, all libraries will operate in virtual worlds, and all materials will be availabe electronically. I don’t think it is something we will see in our lifetimes, but maybe in a hundred years, who knows?

As to why people volunteer in Second Life; according to Rhonda Trueman, it is for much the same reason that people volunteer in the actual world, that is, they enjoy it. SL volunteers love being innovative, creative and working in areas that interest them. They get to do something they like, that perhpaps they could never do in their actual lives.  I think it is absolutelty amazing that so many volunteers are willing to give up their time to allow documents, maps and other information to be accessed by SL users for free when real librarians get paid to do it! According to Trueman, more than 500 librarians volunteered for the Alliance Virtual Library (p. 47). 

I think that volunteering in Second Life libraries is a really innovative way to gain experience and connect with real-world professionals. I just wonder if people use their Second Life volunteer experiences on their resumes.

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