Thursday, July 14, 2011

Interview with Rolig Loon (of Info Island's Community Virtual Library)

I've been spending the past week or so touring around Info Island, preparing to write a blog post detailing my findings (coming soon). While a pretty good feel for the space, what I really wanted was to talk to someone. I had so many questions building up. For example, I didn't even really know what a reference desk in SL aims to do. What kinds of questions do people have? And I was still curious about that whole Inter Library Loan thing I mentioned before. But the problem that I encountered was that, well, I wasn't encountering anybody who could answer my questions.

Finally, I was lucky enough to come across Rolig Loon, a Reference Librarian at the Community Virtual Library. She was very kind and helpful. She answered all my many questions patiently and seemed to be very informed about all of the SL goings-on. She had data and figures at her fingertips. Most importantly, she is passionate about SL, and she appears to really believe in it.

                                         (Reference Librarian Rolig Loon)

I do not have a transcript of our talk, but I did take notes, which I have used to reconstruct our conversation below. The only direct quotes appear inside quotation marks, everything else is a reconstruction. Loon did agree to be quoted and photographed for this use of this blog.

JoCupcake Resident: Since the reference desk is run by volunteers is there a set schedule, or do people just come in when they have free time?
Rolig Loon: There is a schedule. Because most people work during the day in RL, everyone is expected to put in only two hours each week. Because I am retired I am often here 10-15 hours per week. I have a lot of fun!


JR: Were you a librarian in RL?
RL: No, I was a senior university administrator. However, most SL librarians are also librarians in RL.

JR: What is the traffic like at this library?
RL: We see about 375 visitors each week, around 50 of which are new.

JR: What kinds of questions do people have?
RL: I do see many LIS students who are asking professional questions. However, most of the questions I get are about SL itself, such as asking for directions or help doing things. For most of those questions they are able to find the answers on the posters and links we have here on the walls.

JR: So in that sense, you don't as much need to be a professional librarian as you need to just be an expert in SL, wouldn't you say?
RL: In a sense, yes. Although sometimes if you don't know the answer you need to be able to help the person locate it.

JR: In other libraries I've visited I've seen links for InterLibrary Loan. This seems like one aspect of libraries that does not seem suited for SL because the content is virtual and therefore public, and also because, since one is able to teleport, it would be easier for the actual avatar to go to the information, rather than having it sent to them. Does that make sense? What are your thoughts on that?
RL: Yes, that makes sense..."I think the best answer to that is that even though the information is there many people don't know how to find it." That is really the purpose of libraries and librarians in general.

JR: I've heard rumblings about decreased participation in SL, not just in libraries but across the grid. Have you felt that? What do you know about that?
RL: Yes, because of increased land fees in SL approximately 20% of non-profits, educational institutions and libraries have had to move out or set up in parallel worlds. Overall resident traffic, however, has stayed steady or even increased. We (Info Island, Cybrary City, and Imagination Island) are payed for the next year and a half, so we will be staying around that long.

JR: And after that?
RL: It's hard to say. Everything in SL changes so fast it's impossible to predict two years from now.

JR: Do you see SL as a viable way for RL libraries to remain relevant in a technology-driven world?
RL: Absolutely. What we're really working on is seeing what we can do BETTER than RL libraries.

JR: What are some things that SL can do better?
RL: We are able to gather people from around the world, create virtual resources together in real time, create and modify displays of information in 3D quickly, and communicate to an extent around language barriers (though with Google pulling the plug on dynamic instant translation that will become more difficult).

Thank you very much to Rolig Loon for agreeing to talk to me!

My thoughts on this interview and Info Island (and associated SIMs) to come tomorrow,


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