Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 1 Running Head: MYSPACE, FACEBOOK AND SECOND LIFE Myspace, Facebook and Second Life: Considerations for the Library Profession Lisa Brien LI839 History of Libraries and the Information Profession Emporia State University December 7, 2007 Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 2 Abstract Web 2.0 tools such as MySpace and Facebook as well as the new digital frontier of Second Life have influenced how the library profession provides service and communicates with its patrons in an online environment. The profession is still examining ways to best utilize these new opportunities. It must balance the use of these tools as well as address concerns about adult predator’s use of these sites. Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 3 Myspace and Facebook’s Influence on the Library Profession The continuing development of the Internet has provided many new avenues to seek and utilize information. The onset of Web 2.0 allows users to communicate with others, and customize their online experience. There are several different tools available to the end user, which are of interest to the library profession. Two popular networking sites, Myspace and Facebook, offer ways to access information that appeal to their subscribers. In addition to their networking capabilities, they also allow users to search for information. Myspace and Facebook along with the incarnations that follow them will continue to change the way libraries interact with the patrons. Second Life is a virtual world in which people take the form of avatars to explore the digital space. This world allows for avenues of communication and information retrieval that might not be available otherwise. The library profession has thus far approached these tools with a dichotomous attitude. While some libraries advertise and provide service on these sites, others have blocked them from their computers. Many professionals recognize the benefits of using such tools, but are also weary of the predatory issues that such tools bring with them. What are MySpace and Facebook Myspace and Facebook are, at the core, social networking sites. They allow subscribers to set up a web page with their profile and pictures. The profile can have as little or as much detail as desired. The user can then ‘add’ or link a friends’ page with their own. In this way, the site creates a web of networks that enable the user to connect and communicate. These two networking sites have a distinct appeal to a younger Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 4 audience. “More than one-third of Facebook visitors are 18 to 24, as expected for a college-oriented site.”(Walsh, 2006) In the past these sites were dominated by users in a younger age bracket, however they are now finding influence in an older demographic. More than half the visitors to the popular social network site are now 35 or over--up from less than 40 percent last year. The proportion of MySpace's audience between the ages of 12 and 24, meanwhile, has dropped to 30 percent from 44.3 percent over the last year. (Walsh, 2006) The aging trend of this site suggests that it is gaining mainstream acceptance as a way to communicate with friends and search for information. Concerns with Social Networking Sites The nature of these websites creates some concern for the library profession. A major worry for libraries is the “fear of adults using MySpace to prey on young people.”(Aiken, 2006) Recently MySpace has been involved in cases of younger users being subjected to adult sexual predators. As a result, some libraries have banned prominent social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook from their library computers. Julian Aiken, a Librarian at the New Haven Free Public Library, argues against banning these sites. “We build displays and encourage patrons to read censored books during Banned Books Week; and then we turn around and ban the very same patrons from accessing certain websites from our public computers.”(Aiken, 2006) Fears of online predators spurred Congress to introduce an act called the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2007. This act, which is a revised version of a previous act, states that schools and libraries will prohibit sites in which minors are easily approached in a sexual nature. The Act specifically targets social networking sites as well as chat rooms. Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 5 However, the wording of the Act is such that it could be used for many sites, some of which were expressly created for education. The implications could be serious for libraries that could no longer provide access to sites such as Wikipedia. Benefits of Social Networking Sites Contrary to banning the site, some library professionals see MySpace and Facebook as potential tools. For example, “The Sunnyside Regional Library in Fresno, CA, has a MySpace page that hosts a 10-minute documentary explaining why parents shouldn't fear the social networking site” (Oleck, 2007). A search for the term “Library” on Myspace, brought up over 50 different libraries organizations across the country including the America Library Association, which currently has over 4000 friends listed. The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) also have a page on MySpace. The TSCPL page highlights upcoming events, as well as library hours, and links that allow a user to request information. One prominent feature on Myspace is the ability to upload video and music and have it play on your page. The TSCPL has popular songs playing on their page that can be requested from the library. They also have a search box on their Myspace page that allows the user to type in a book, music, and DVD title and receive results. The library has also recently added a Meebo widget to their page, encouraging online reference. In this way, libraries have created another avenue that the public can access them. Libraries are still looking for ways to utilize these sites in the most effective manner. There are several library applications that be added to a Facebook page. Ellyssa Kroski, a reference librarian at Columbia University, has assembled some of the applications on her blog. She suggests Books iRead, which “lets you share a virtual Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 6 bookshelf of titles you are currently reading, those you want to read, those you have read in the past, and books you won’t read” (Kroski, 2007). She also suggests Librarian, which “provides links to books, scholarly sources, and reference resources which the community can add to and vote on” (Kroski, 2007). These tools will continue to become more sophisticated, customizable and user friendly. Library professionals and library patrons alike will be able to use these tools to express needs, allow for communication, and ultimately provide service. What is Second Life? Although Second Life is quite different from the social networking sites, it does have the capability to provide many of the same tools, as well as worries for the library profession. While MySpace and Facebook take the virtual form of web pages, Second Life takes the form of an alternative virtual world. In this world, avatars can walk, skate, or fly through the digital land. They can enter stores and purchase digital goods for digital money, go to events, and chat with others. Apart from other online worlds, the residents in Second Life retain the rights to their property. In this way, the virtual world remains financially tied to the real world. Not only does the US dollar have exchange rates with other countries, it also has exchange rates into virtual cash. As with Myspace and Facebook, libraries are searching for ways to use these tools most effectively. Out of these endeavors, Information Archipelago was created. “As of March 2007, the Second Life Library, now called the Info Archipelago, has 17 islands (large amounts of space), 10 of which are library islands” (Bell 2007). This project has further branched into libraries supporting specific genres, and research. These libraries are striving for similar goals as real libraries. They wish to provide accurate, efficient Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 7 quality service to their patrons. According to Bell, the patrons of Second Life Library “do want books. Libraries make books available in several formats, along with a few newspapers and magazines” (Bell, 2007). There are items can be downloaded as a .PDF file or in the form of an e-book. Some prominent publishers have also stepped into Second Life. Penguin press has begun exploring options within the digital world. They eventually intend to “sell books made by people within Second Life, and also to provide free e-books that people can sit and read” (Guardian, 2006). Second Life librarians also face similar challenges as with their real world counterparts. Issues with staffing have been a problem for the virtual library. Keeping the reference points staffed is difficult when using volunteer staffing. These volunteers often have to balance their duties as a virtual librarian with their non-virtual job and life. It is hard to justify paid positions in something so experimental. Many times Second Life has an empty feel to it. Commitment to staffing reflects this. “A regular complaint is that the library is often empty with no staff to help out. It simply isn’t possible to man something 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the off-chance that someone will stop by” (Tebbutt, 2007). However, the librarians have noted, “that our visitors really like a friendly face and greeting, even if the person is not an information professional and cannot answer a question” (Bell, 2007). Referencing service for the residents of Second Life continue to be analyzed. They must consider the differing needs of the online community. “About 30 percent of questions were about Second Life, 30 percent were about Info Island, and 30 percent were traditional library informational-type questions” (Bell, 2007). Along with referencing services, libraries in Second Life provide appearances from Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 8 authors, events that highlight a specific genre and live performances. Libraries are using Second Life for “book clubs, education events, lectures, classes, and simulations of library services” (Tenopir, 2007). As well as providing public services, libraries are using Second Life for private events tied to their own library. Like many universities and businesses, libraries are offering learning opportunities within Second Life. TSCPL has purchased an island in Second Life for their teen programs. It is a regulated program “which restricts access to only teens ages 13 to 17. Anyone older must complete a background check to gain access” (Atkins, 2007). Within this private area, called Oz Island, the library offers teenagers learning experiences focused on “social skills, spelling, writing, economics using Linden dollars, the world's currency, and several other subjects while using the program” (Atkins, 2007). Libraries are also struggling with the darker side of this digital world. Not only does the fear of sexual predators plague the virtual world, but adult themes and content are widespread throughout areas of Second Life. “There is an area called Wonderland where young children can be seen in a virtual playground where they offer sex”(Times, 2007). Although Info Island is in another area of the virtual geography, there is still concern with the content. This is one reason that some libraries do not want to explore this outreach opportunity. Many consider the risk does not outweigh the benefits. Others view Second Life as a waste of time and resources. Considering the Impact The Internet has long been an issue for the Library profession. There have been claims by some outside the profession that the advent of the Internet heralds the fall of libraries. They maintain that with information so readily available on the Internet, library Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 9 patronage will be reduced, and eventually libraries will not be needed at all. In response to these claims, many libraries have looked for ways to stay relevant and to reach the next generation of library patrons. One way has been to explore the new tools of Web 2.0. Providing services to sites such as Facebook and MySpace has helped with this outreach. “Two-thirds of Facebook members log on at least once every twenty-four hours” (Cassidy, 2006). With these numbers, the potential to reach these subscribers is large. However, it is frightening that the choice to continue using these sites as well as being able to provide access to them may be taken out of the hands of the Library. The Deleting Online Predators Act may dictate that the library cannot make the choice for itself. The tools Web 2.0 provides will help libraries reach the online generation. Banning the use of these tools is equal to banning the card catalog. Mayra Morales, a regular library and Myspace user stated, “One of the main reasons I go to the library is to use MySpace and now they’ve banned it. I won’t be coming here as much” (Morales, personal communication Dec 1, 2007). This is opposite of the Library Professional’s goals. Making information more accessible is key for libraries’ survival, and as such, outreaching into different mediums is forward thinking. The fear of sexual predators is valid, but in trying to “ban our patrons from using major electronic resources we are failing our communities and our profession as surely as if we were burning books on the town green.”(Aiken, 2006) Conclusion The use of Web 2.0 tools to keep people informed, interested, and aware of their library can prove to be powerful. Offering services on social networking sites and Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 10 experimenting with Second Life is a step towards becoming an integrated in a way that brings people to the library. Attempting to ban these sites from the libraries is only counterproductive. With some adaptation, the library will be an active physical space in concurrence with the digital space. Currently libraries are sending mixed messages to their patrons. They seem to be both embracing this new trend and treating it as something that should be shunned. However, these tools are a positive way to introduce the library to a demographic that might not yet realize its vast value. Although the issues of privacy, pornography and sexual predation are valid concerns, it is important to remember these are tools. A librarian no more can control how a web space is used, than it can control how a book is interpreted. Libraries are there to offer access to services and information, not to adjudicate them. Myspace, Facebook and Second Life 11 References Aiken, J. (2006). Hands off MySpace. American libraries, 37(7). 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