Because of a Mancos Library tech, more than 9 million avatars from around the world can now visit the Sustainable Living Library when they're online in Second Life.
Victoria Petersen, the Mancos Library technology manger, applied for a grant from the American Library Association to create a library in the online community with another librarian from Aurora who had a similar proposal.
Petersen started by designing her avatar, Plautie Corvale, to explore Second Life, a site she heard about from a library listserv e-mail.
In the online world, avatars are computer-generated people created by their human counterparts to exist in virtual worlds such as Second Life.
"I joined because it sounded interesting," she said. "I'm the tech person here and trying new things, so I can be more knowledgeable and help more patrons."
She added that she quickly learned to find areas that interested her on the site.
Petersen based the online library on the green plans for the new Leed Certified Green Mancos Library expected to open in May.
The new library will be about 7,000 square feet, a-bout three times larger than the current library, with double the number of computers.
"The purpose of our library in Second Life is to educate about sustainability and the environment," she said. "This is more fun than the Internet. It's completely mimicking life, but on a much larger scale."
For instance, she's discovered people who are interested in an Abraham Lincoln book club in Second Life and the avatars recently held their first virtual presentation in their library on how to have a green holiday.
The world of avatars has even crept into Petersen's personal life. After she caught her husband using her avatar to "steal" a car, she set rules.
"I made him finally get his own avatar, and we have even gone on dates," she said. "Last Valentines Day that's what we did. We put the kids to bed, and there's this couple we know who live in Arizona, so we made arrangements to go on a double date and went out dancing."
Petersen said the virtual library's resources should be completed by the library's opening this summer.
She added that Gartner Research group has predicted by 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users will have some type of virtual world avatar.
"It's good to be where your customers are going to go," she said, adding that virtual reference desks are active in Second Life currently, just like a real library.
"What we're hoping is to do outreach in a new way. We can help people in Australia and increase our customer base," she said. "It's another beauty of Second Life. For people in remote areas especially. I do so much networking. I talk to librarians across the globe."