The Distance Learning Library Services Team brainstormed ideas to make this a more
meaningful and effective assignment. During Spring Semester 2009, the authors presented the
revised assignment. An Information Gardens scavenger hunt was included as the first step.
The goals of the scavenger hunt were to: 1) orient students to the location of library resources
within the Information Gardens, 2) inform them about services for off-campus students, and 3)
provide experience finding material in the online catalog and library databases. Students
enjoyed this exercise and found it helpful in learning how the Gardens were organized. One
student reflected, “I think that doing the scavenger hunt exercise really helped me prepare for
the online reference interview. I didn’t realize that I would be a bit nervous. Although I was not
physically talking in person, I still felt pressure to find the correct resources in the Zone to
answer the questions asked by the patron.”
Additionally, the students were required to read the RUSA Guidelines for Implementing
and Maintaining a Virtual Reference Service (MARS Committee 2004). The Guidelines were
reviewed in class and the differences in providing traditional virtual reference service and 3D-
world virtual reference service were discussed. These differences are evident in presence,
staffing, location, provision of service.
Presence: According to the RUSA Guidelines, “Virtual reference is reference service initiated
electronically, often in real-time, where patrons employ computers or other Internet technology
to communicate with reference staff, without being physically present.” Traditional virtual
reference takes place in an isolated environment while the 3D virtual reality setting promotes a
strong sense of community and co-presence not found in a traditional virtual reference setting.
Although citizens are not physically present in the AETZone, their avatars are virtually present.
This virtual presence enables librarians to offer research support in a more active manner, as
they are able to move throughout the world, initiating conversations with a gesture, via text chat,
or verbally using web-conferencing software.