"13th Annual International Mars Society Convention," by Shannon Bohle, BA, MLIS, CDS (Cantab), FRAS, AHIP
Send Your Avatar’s Name to Mars
By Shannon Bohle, MLIS
What is science education without the library? Libraries are strategically positioned at the geographic center of college campuses for good reason. They represent the primary access point for students to access materials to meet their information needs and serve as social meeting places and centers for informal learning. During the Information Age, the library is migrating from the 'bricks and mortar' model of the 19th and 20th centuries to a borderless, networked, digital nexus. The wired campus provides students access to specialized online databases, scanned archival documents, and digitized books and uses social media to reach students. To some degree, the library has now gone virtual as well.
Perhaps the best example of the virtual library is my library project, the Neil A. Armstrong Library and Archives in Second Life. It is the first and only library or archive in a synthetic virtual environment recognized by the Library of Congress and is a “Top 10” finalist for the 2010 Linden Prize. The Library was mentioned at two federal conference locations this year, including DTIC and NDU.
At the Library, patrons can learn about and participate with NASA in Mars-related activities. Thousands of avatars have already participated in the Library’s activity to “Send Your Avatar’s Name to Mars” aboard NASA JPL’s Curiosity rover—the same rover that James Cameron (Avatar film maker) is currently collaborating with NASA on a 3D camera to film the surface of Mars. They can also read full-text NASA books about Mars. NASA JPL also has another location in Second Life simulating the Martian environment complete with dust storm particle and wind sounds and a 3D rover model NASA used to learn more about Mars. Avatars can create virtual world objects and training scenarios about traveling to and living on Mars. Mars-themed films have also been created.