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School utilizes ‘Second Life’

By Joe Cermak U-Wire

MUNCIE, Ind. – Ball State University’s Bracken Library is embarking on an experimental and futuristic experience offering students access to information online.

The library will utilize a program called Second Life, which allows students to navigate a virtual world by creating a computer character called an “avatar.”

Arthur Hafner, dean of University Libraries, said the avatar will represent the user so the person can travel the world and interact with objects.

“The avatars can fly and walk,” Hafner said. “It’s kind of like Star Trek. It’s something that’s enchanting a lot of people interested in virtual space.”

Junior architecture major Corey Brown said Second Life was a great meeting place for students.

“Second Life is kind of like being on Facebook, but in a 3-D sense,” Brown said.

John Straw, director of archives and special collections, said the library wanted to provide a place for students interested in learning.

“We’re looking to build a library presence in Second Life to offer some of the same services we offer in the real world in this virtual world,” Straw said.

In order to create a presence, he said, the library must acquire “land” where they will build a place to put their resources.

“The center for media has land in Second Life and the land is called Middletown Island,” Straw said. “We’re looking to partner with them possibly and construct our library there.”

The library would create an online teaching archive about Middletown that would offer exhibits, photographs, videos and reference services for students and faculty, he said.

The library envisions providing PowerPoint presentations and interacting with information kiosks in an immersive environment, Hafner said.

Straw said Second Life is new territory for the library.

“This is very new and experimental,” he said. “We don’t know all that can be done, so we want to explore those possibilities.”

Hafner said he started a group in late June that would work toward progressing the libraries.

“A group of our librarians approached me and said we need a working group to explore a presence and a virtual environment based on that social networking,” Hafner said.

Information Services librarian Sam Fields said Second Life is a step toward a larger goal for the library in connecting students with the resources available.

“Second Life is our main focus right now, our broad focus is social networking and this is one aspect of that,” Fields said.

Straw said Second Life will enable the library to be proactive in its service to students not only at Ball State but also globally.

“Well, it’s just another means of reaching students and others where they live these days,” he said.

Second Life’s potential as an education medium is exciting and re-enforces the library’s mission statement, Fields said.

Brown said he looks forward to seeing real world situations on Second Life.

“I think Second Life would be a very good program for them to use,” said Brown. “That sounds like a good idea and I look forward to seeing it.”

The library is looking into the cost of the venture and possible funding.

“It depends if we are able to get land,” Straw said. “It looks like a semester-long project to build the resources.”

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