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"A Sad Day: Mourning the Death of DU MOO" by Isabel Danforth

MARCH 2006

A Publication of the Connecticut Library Association
Volume 48, Number 3
Page 8


A Sad Day

Mourning the
Death of D⁠U MOO

Isabel Danforth
Technology Columnist

A MOO is a
virtual space
that not only
allows people
to communicate
in real time,
but also
provides a
language so that
its inhabitants
can create
objects and
modify their

On February 5, after not being able to connect to D⁠U MOO for a couple of days, I emailed the member of the community whose campus hosted the MOO. In return, I received this sad news:

  “Yes, D⁠U was attacked a little over a week ago seriously compromising the university network. In talking with the system folks at Marshall [University], Tom and I have determined that perhaps our best move at this point— particularly in light of the fact that we do not have the technical support necessary to keep the system updated and secure, is to put D⁠U to rest."

  A MOO is a virtual space that not only allows people to communicate in real time, but also provides a programming language so that its inhabitants can create objects and modify their spaces. D⁠U (Diversity University) MOO was created in 1992, before there was a graphical interface associated with the Internet, to provide an educational virtual space. It consists of a database that contains all the objects and a server that allows the database to run.

  I entered the MOO world in early 1994. In Novermber of that year, Cathy Bennett and I, library science students at the time, were talking about the demands that the Internet placed on librarians; suddenly, with minimal training, they were expected to become net experts. And the idea of the Librarians Online Support Team (L.O.S.T.) was born.

  One of the continuing projects undertaken by L.O.S.T. was the sponsorship of free, on-line professional development workshops and seminars available to library personnel with Internet telnet capability. Librarians did not need to leave their homes or worksites to take part in these sessions. Participants logged onto D⁠U’s live virtual campus environment from their home or work computer.

  Our first workshop took place on April 3, 1995. The topic was “Using Gopher and the Internet in Reference Work,” led by Linda Warden, reference and interlibrary loan librarian at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Library in Washington, D.C. Looking at the list of workshops on the L.O.S.T. web page (, you can trace the progression of information technology. Does anyone still use gopher as a reference tool today?

  A year later, in April 1996, we had a session with Betty Turlock, then president of A⁠L⁠A. She had this to say about the Communications Decency Act:

  “A⁠L⁠A is the lead plaintiff in a suit challenging the constitutionality of the CDA. It makes it a crime punishable by imprisonment and fines up to $100,000 for transmitting even inadvertently information to minors that is considered indecent. The problem is that indecent is a vague term." Is this a new discussion?

  A number of Connecticut librarians participated in L.O.S.T. sessions. Arlene Bielefield offered “Let’s Talk About Copyright:

  A Librarian’s Guide to Current Issues and Concerns” at the Novbember 1995 workshop. Our last session occurred in March 1999, when the topic was “Library Services and Instruction for Distance Learners.” One of the presenters was Emily Chasse of Central Connecticut State University. What was amazing was the fact that the other two presenters were from Florida. But we all gathered in one virtual room.

  Currently, the logs from those sessions are not available. I hope to have them recovered and posted to the L.O.S.T. web site. I wonder if the concerns that related to distance learning in 1999 will have changed in 2006.

  At the C⁠L⁠A conference in April 1998, we presented a workshop entitled, “Librarian: Train Thyself! Follow L.O.S.T. into Cyberspace!” Using an Internet connection and projector, we met several librarians from around the US who demonstrated how D⁠U MOO could be used as a platform for training. Among them were Diane Kovacs, Internet consultant and web trainer; Rick Gates, who founded the Internet Hunt, for those of you who remember those days of Gopher, Veronica, and Archie; and several other folks.

  During the winter of 1995, while planning our L.O.S.T. workshops, we saw a notice for a mini-conference at Syracuse University entitled, “Beyond the Hype.” I was listed as the presenter and another member of our team also attended. Part of our point was to demonstrate the role of teamwork across distances that could be obtained by using the MOO.

  While working in the library on D⁠U, I was approached by someone who needed help with a brand new IPL (Internet Public Library) MOO. As IPL MOO was developed, there was a link between thetwo moos; someone in either one could communicate via the “reference desk” with someone in the other. Although the MOO is gone from IPL, it was one of the first online reference services. Today we have more sophisticated 24/7 services.

  D⁠U MOO provided exposure to brand new technology and ideas. As the Internet became graphical, a graphical interface for D⁠U was developed called Cup-O Mud. Although D⁠U is now gone, this interface is still in use elsewhere.

  Besides sponsoring workshops, L.O.S.T. attempted to build an online community of librarians williing to share their expertise and experience with others. This theme of community, as well as the tools that enable people to share and teach, runs through my work in the MOO world. Many of the contacts from around the world that I made at D⁠U MOO still exist. We communicate via email, other MOOs, and have some great memories. The death of D⁠U has made us more aware than ever of the changes in information technology over the past 12 years. Just think of where we are headed!

  Isabel Danforth is director of library services, International College of Hospitality Management, Suffield.

Article "A Sad Day: Mourning the Death of DU MOO" Copyright 2006 Connecticut Library Association.

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