Topics: Emerging Media, University Libraries

August 24, 2007

Ball State University Libraries plans to utilize the online environment Second Life to make library and archival resources such as text, photographs, audio and videos available to users of the virtual world.

Arthur Hafner, dean of University Libraries, formed a working group in June to study the possibility of creating a library presence on Second Life. It is exploring library services that can be provided in Second Life, a product of Linden Labs, a San Francisco-based company. Second Life users, known as residents, create online personalities called avatars. Residents can interact with each other and buy virtual items and property using virtual currency.

"It's an attempt to explore current and new ways to present and offer services to an expanded user population," said John Straw, director of the archives and special collections at Bracken Library. "It's another means of presenting information that libraries and archives have traditionally made available in paper format or on the Web."

University Libraries already is working with the Center for Middletown Studies to create a virtual archives and library that will include archival materials relating to the Middletown project, a series of sociological studies begun in the 1920s that use Muncie as a representative American community.

"If you were interested in studying that time period or that demographic, the resources we plan to make available would be of high interest and use," said Phil Deloria, a member of the working group and an assistant archivist for digital projects and university archives.

Jason Fields, information services librarian and another member of the working group, suggested that Second Life even could be used to re-create a period movie theater in which users could view old video footage. Ball State faculty in several departments, including history and English, already use the environment as a teaching tool.

"Just as we currently support teaching and learning in real life, the University Libraries wants to support those activities in Second Life," Deloria said.

University Libraries is seeking students and faculty who wish to collaborate with the project. For more information, contact Deloria at (765) 285-5078 or

By Alaric DeArment