Gaming in Libraries?? Does that mean gambling? Or is it playing video games? When I saw the title of Mark Puterbaugh’s talk (he’s Information Services Librarian at Eastern University, St. Davids, PA), I got really curious. Does Eastern University have a casino in its library? No, it doesn’t, but it’s using some really cool video game technology from ActiveWorlds, a virtual reality platform provider, to develop library services. Eastern has used the ActiveWorlds service to build not only a virtual library tour, but also a Virtual Bibliographic Instruction (VBI) module in its “VBI World”. For example, you can click on a virtual bookcase and get a link to online resources. VBI World is still in active development; future features will incorporate “bots” to give directions, links to subject guides, and perhaps even virtual reference. Multimedia will be used to provide real-time virtual reference and chat services.
Developing a virtual world takes a significant amount of time; although you can build a building in an hour, you must then decide what content to place in it and how you want users to navigate through your world.
Students love VBI World. They see it as a game and a place where they can come and socialize, and it creates a sense of community. They can also remain anonymous, so they are freer to ask “dumb” questions or those on sensitive subjects.
The use of game technology is definitely something to watch because it has significant implications for libraries. I was extremely fascinated and impressed with the implementation that Eastern University has created. (Click here for further information.)
Columnist, Information Today