Lorri MomijiLorri Momiji came into Second Life in 2006 – the same year that the Alliance Virtual Library started practicing librarianship in grid.  Lorri is a library and information systems (LIS) educator and former librarian in RL, and so her initial interest in SL was both in terms of how she could use the environment to teach her LIS graduate students, and to understand what libraries and universities were doing in Second Life.

Since her introduction into Second Life, Lorri has brought three classes of LIS graduate students (in the 2007, 2008, and 2009 fall semesters) as part of a class called Virtual Reference Environments.  In her class, students work within Second Life learning to build, or attend lectures such as the one held by the head of reference at Second Life Libraries.  Another guest speaker the students had the pleasure of meeting manages Imagination Island, Rachelville, and the Kansas State Library in Second Life.

Some of the students created projects in Second Life, such as building collections or working in the reference service.  Others chose projects in different environments outside of SL, such as running social media sites, working in SMS texting services, or other types of reference services.

Lorri was one of the original members of the Educators Coop.  She saw a notice about the organization in Second Life, came to the open house, and there met North Lamar and Bluewave Ogee.  Lorri already had a cottage at Imagination Island/Mythica, but she wanted a place with more prims for her students, so she opted into renting parcels from the Educators Coop.

Lorri BuildWhile not a self-proclaimed builder, Lorri does dabble and recognizes the importance of building skills in Second Life.  She learns enough to teach others the basics.  While on her four parcels at the Educators Coop, Lorri shared a gadget for creating sculpties that one of her student assistants is using.  The gadget can, for example, take a photo and create a sculpty based on it.

In addition to bringing college students into SL, Lorri also teaches fellow members of the Educators Coop on occasion through workshops.   In one such workshop, Lorri shared her research on librarians in Second Life.  In another session, she demonstrated the use of another gadget that makes shaped prims automatically.  With this device, instead of having to shape every prim by hand, you can instead just click a button to get the basic shape going.  The item not only saves time, but is useful for showing students how to build.

Making any point of the learning curve easier to traverse is crucial to succeeding as an educator in Second Life.  As other educators have mentioned, the learning curve to enter Second Life is fairly steep.  Lorri shared the same experience with her students and felt that the learning curve never really ends.  Every short-cut or trick-of-the-trade one can use can make the difference.  For example, she now presents all of her Second Life lectures in both text and audio.  She is also learning about incorporating gestures and animations into her lectures.  In addition, she makes the Second Life component of her classes optional, to ensure that the students involved really want to take part in the virtual world experience.

Lorri PosterThe experience the students have is broken into two live class sessions.  The first day is about learning the basics of Second Life, such as how to move the avatar around and how to navigate the grid.  The second day is about scripting, building, and more advanced skills.  When it comes time for presentations, Lorri encourages participation and assessment from all of the students.  This allows the students to share and reflect on what they have learned by reviewing each others work.

In addition to being an educator in and out of Second Life, Lorri sat on two panels at the ALA Virtual Libraries and Museums Conference:  Lis Educators and The Future of Libraries.  She’s also written two articles about Second Life, librarians, and teaching.  The first article, published by the Journal of Virtual World Research, is about how librarians answer questions in Second Life.  The second article is about teaching in Second Life and will soon be published by the International Journal of Virtual World Personal Learning Environments.  Lorri is currently writing a paper on the professional librarian identity in Second Life.

Lorri Momiji is involved in both the librarian and education SL community and was also part of the team that worked on her university’s Second Life island.  She works and teaches in these spaces.  As part of her research to build these spaces, she looked at fifty different libraries in Second Life, how they operate, and how they were built.  Some libraries are immersed or “embedded” libraries.  These facilities fit right into the roleplaying culture surrounding that particular community.  The librarians assume avatars that match the roles and appearance of the sim.  They serve their communities in a way that is most familiar to that community.  This goes a long way to improving the trust between the librarian and the patron.

Lorri EditIn RL, people automatically trust other people that are similar to them in some way.  Children trust children, adults, prefer adults, and people of the same language will tend to go to each other for help and information.  It is no different in Second Life.  Information providers that Lorri interviewed talked about trust and how they realized their appearance could impact trust.  How they looked or how they dressed increased or decreased their approachability to the patrons in their particular community.  For example, an avatar that wears glasses is assumed to be intelligent, even though no avatar ever has any need to wear them.  The librarians make sure they look approachable yet professional to ensure they are taken seriously.

The world of reference in Second Life is certainly different than in the RL.  Primarily because most reference questions in SL are about Second Life.  Even the most practiced librarian can find themselves struggling to answer reference questions because they are suddenly faced with an entire new field of information.  Unlike the real world however, universal translators have completely removed the language barrier from the field of librarianship in Second Life.  And a librarian can get help from another librarian instantaneously by just sending an instant message (IM) or TPing (teleporting) that librarian in.

In her Research, Lorri also stumbled across the natural tendency in Second Life for the creation of circles.  in the RL, a perfect circle isn’t easy to make.  We tend to build our structures in squares and rectangles, especially since we have to abide by the rules of gravity.  In a world where gravity is adjustable, and the creation of a perfect circle is simple, so much of Second Life creation revolves around circles.  Even our speech in Second Life is circular.  In RL, the laws of physics teach that sound is emitted conically from the source, losing projection depending on a variety of factors.  In Second Life, sounds emits in a perfect circle from the speaker, lending perfectly to the circular coliseum-like seating we so often see in Second Life presentations.  The librarians in Second Life have taken the laws of SL physics into account, making their reference desks and areas circular as a better fit for their virtual world.

In “real life,” Lorri Momiji is Dr. Lorri Mon,  an Assistant Professor teaching librarians at Florida State University’s College of Communication and Information.  She holds a PhD and a Masters in Library Information Science.