ALA Island

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ALA Island: A Community Information Center for Second Life from the American Library Association

The ALA Island is the Second Life virtual world presence of the American Library Association. Like ALA's Library, which I work for as a Library Reference Specialist, the ALA Island doesn't have traditional library resources on a variety of topics as a public library would have (and which the Alliance Virtual Library does have set up on Info Island), but is more of a special library focused on dispensing information about ALA, along with being a kind of community information center, helping people become more familiar with navigating the Second Life virtual world and demonstrating its capabilities to bring together people from all over the country (and all over the world) to inform them in a variety of ways, including through audiovisual media, about various aspects of librarianship, including literacy and reading, and censorship and intellectual freedom, thereby expanding and extending what libraries are and what libraries can do.

My avatar in Second Life, ALALibraryVal Miles, can often be found at the desk in the Member Lounge on ALA Island. From there I greet other Second Life avatars who fly or teleport to ALA Island, and ask if I can help them -- just like what would happen at a real life library! Sometimes it will be someone who is new to Second Life and they'd appreciate some help trying to figure out… well, everything about Second Life! What is it? What are they supposed to do? How do they get anywhere? Where can they get better clothes -- better hair!! Second Life can be somewhat overwhelming at first, but to answer some of their questions, I usually offer them a notecard which I first put together last year, adapted from a booktalk I gave during National Library Week 2008, and have updated this year. The notecard lists books that are available about Second Life -- but better, there are links to the web sites of the books' publishers, where nearly all of the books have a chapter freely available as an Adobe PDF file. Along with the Second Life Quickstart Guide released by Second Life creator Linden Lab earlier this year, the Getting Started chapter from the first edition of Second Life: The Official Guide gives a fully detailed introduction to the Second Life onscreen interface and points you toward other helpful web sites and online resources.

Beside the Member Lounge is the ALA Island Main Stage, its main teleportation point. The stage holds several kiosks with information on ALA's most well-known events and current projects, and is the place where we hold our largest meetings, presentations, and author visits. Earlier this year, it was the place to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards announcement video in-world, to find out who won the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, the Coretta Scott King awards, and many, many more. The covers of the books winning the several illustrator youth media awards are the current exhibit at ALA Island's Lorelei Junot Gallery. And a ski range in the back of ALA Island features tall posts decorated with the various award logos, which offer notecards explaining each of the awards.

One side of the ALA Island Main Stage has a store with ALA-branded and celebrity READ t-shirts that your avatar can buy for zero Linden dollars (L$0), the Second Life currency (in other words, free), as well as web links to ALA's online periodicals and e-newsletters and the ALA Online Store of real life books and t-shirts. The other side of the stage includes a dance floor and a tall slideshow screen of ALA's latest posters, along with an area where you can get a book and then pose your avatar in front of a READ poster frame and take a picture, creating your very own personal READ poster starring your Second Life avatar!

The rest of ALA Island is a semi-circle, leading back to the main stage, with sections of kiosks on ALA's various other units along the way -- a section of kiosks for ALA's round tables, a section for ALA's offices, and a section for ALA's divisions.

ALA Island has proved to be a showcase for the various audiovisual pieces now regularly produced by ALA, as well as those from other sources. Recently, the Member Lounge has become a destination where ALA's podcasts can be heard in-world, including the recent one with ALA staffer Linda Mays talking about April 30, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día), also known as Children's Day/Book Day, as well as the May 2009 Games in Libraries podcast by Scott Nicholson.

The AL Focus Video Village has available all of the news videos produced by AL Focus, the video home for ALA's member magazine, American Libraries.

The Sky Book Platform has usually hosted audio dramas, but most recently, a screen was erected in order to show the Libraries and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Overview Screencast put together by ALA's Washington (DC) Office.

A screen was also recently installed within ALA Island's 3-D standing exhibit on books threatened with removal from libraries, its Banned Books Week Town Square, in order to show past appearances on the PBS television program, Open Mind, by Mrs. Judith Krug, founding director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, who passed away earlier this year.

Our main video screen is at the Galen Noltenius Sky Platform, which recently hosted a simultaneous Second Life-real life meeting at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, but usually hosts such longer video productions as the one-hour talk presently showing, the episode of the "Meet an Author" series from the Second Life television channel, SLCN (now called Treet.TV), of avatars Lorelei Junot and Abbey Zenith talking about their book, "Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries: Librarians and Educators in Second Life and Other Multi-User Virtual Environments," which in real life is by Lori Bell and Rhonda Trueman, respectively.

One corner of ALA Island holds Salon Huron, a more informal gathering place than the Member Lounge, which has hosted discussions on various library subjects, including about ALA's National Gaming Day last year, but most recently hosted a discussion on the British science fiction TV show, Doctor Who, and so still has a cutout of its current lead actor, David Tennant, laying about, along with another video courtesy of SLCN, an in-world interview with author Terrance Dicks, writer of countless Doctor Who episodes and novels throughout the 40-year history of the series.

The opposing corner of ALA Island holds Story Hour Garden, an extensive fantasy garden area created by Second Life's Jedda Zenovka and named by contest winner Bookie Balogh, which hosts our most enduring ALA Island media feature, the archived radio broadcasts from the StoryLine America book discussion series from ALA's Public Programs Office.

ALA Island has lots to offer its audiences of both librarians and their patrons. You can find out much more about ALA Island, including its original build and design by graduate students of the School of Library and Information Science of San Jose State University, on ALA's web site, at:
Presently, ALA Senior Associate Executive Director Mary Ghikas oversees ALA Island, with day-to-day management handled by ALA Web Developer Donavan Vicha, known as Island Manager Oberon Octagon <> in Second Life. ALA Member Specialist Christina Coleman, known as Kay Tairov in Second Life, was responsible for many of the new ALA Island features installed in the 2008 redesign of ALA Island and answers questions from ALA member libraries and librarians about ALA's activities in Second Life, including serving as staff liaison to the ALA Virtual Communities and Libraries Member Initiative Group, which can be found on ALA Connect at Announcements on programs and events happening on ALA Island are always posted to the Second Life Users Group on ALA Connect at, which anyone, ALA member or not, can freely join.
For more information, you can write to me, Valerie Hawkins of the ALA Library, at, or you can send an in-world IM in Second Life to ALALibraryVal Miles, to Kay Tairov, or to Oberon Octagon.


Valerie Hawkins
Library Reference Specialist
ALA Library
American Library Association
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL  60611-2795
Phone: (800) 545-2433, ext. 2154
Find the answers @ your library®
Second Life Avatar:  ALALibraryVal Miles

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