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"The digital revolution is changing the hierarchy of information," said Dr. Valerie Hill in her recent visit to the Nonprofit Commons.
"We're moving from a 'top down' model where high quality resources were once published through peer review and traditional authority-based publishing modes to a different model," she explained.
"Today, information is published from the 'bottom up' or from user-generated sources. YouTube and Wikipedia are usually first choices for information seekers. Anyone can publish through blogs, wikis, and websites. ... This new hierarchy model is the basis for my exploration of virtual media as a delivery mode."
Dr. Valerie Hill is an adjunct instructor at Texas Woman's University School of Library and Information Science and is also a librarian herself.
She came to the Nonprofit Commons to share her areas of expertise in media literacy, human-computer interaction, and the impact of the digital revolution on education and libraries.
She is using the virtual media capabilities in Second Life, among others, to navigate her continued research.
Virtual libraries aren't a new phenomenon. The terms "virtual library" and "digital library" have been increasingly picking up steam since the 1990s.
Today, many libraries have adopted a hybrid approach in providing access to information in which the physical institution anchors a complementary digital collection. These virtual libraries are meant to support different aspects of student learning, making the aggregate and perhaps distributed content of a physical library more accessible.
In fact, accessibility is the biggest pull for the digitization of anything these days, right? It's infinitely more convenient for a student to be granted access to literature or documents whenever they want online, rather than keeping libraries staffed and open 24 hours a day to cater to students' study habits.
Librarians like Dr. Hill have come together from all around the world to contribute resources toward creating a system to maintain that accessibility; provide references, virtual collections, and virtual displays; and to provide access to educational programming in spaces like Second Life.
"Second Life libraries are examples of immersive learning environments," explained Dr. Hill.
"Libraries in Second Life often put on digital exhibitions as part of their services. For example, it's not out of the ordinary to see an exhibit displaying virtual representations of Van Gogh paintings, including Starry Night.
"The aim of virtual library services is to attract new users to traditional libraries as well as ... [establish] links with librarians from all over the world. Users can interact with the services in practical ways, such as the simple act of walking around a virtual space.
"There have been numerous initiatives to create educational spaces within Second Life."
Dr. Hill shared some of those educational spaces in Second Life. They include, "Victorian areas in which residents dress in period clothes, an Egyptian tomb, and a Renaissance Island created by the Alliance Second Life Libraries."
In the spring of 2011, there was exhibit called "Virtual Texas" that featured historical replicas – such as The Alamo, and the Texas Capitol building, circa 1830.
As the nonprofit community considers the future of virtual media in education, particularly in libraries and museums, it must not forget the role Second Life plays in pushing information sharing and experiencing to new heights and levels.
"Research on virtual worlds used for education, libraries, and museums continues to expand. I am honored to work with a global community of learners who bravely embrace new media while striving to maintain the high standards of traditional librarianship and academic credibility," said Dr. Hill.
For more interesting uses of technology, please check out the TechSoup for Libraries blog, where you can find the most recent article in this month's series, "Interesting Uses of Technology: Social Media."
Image: Library at City College of New York (Paul Lowry)
Alexandra BezdikianInteractive Events and Video ProducerTechSoup Global@alebez
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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