Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Aether Salon - Libraries!

The Aether Salon had two guests this month to discuss the subject of libraries in Second Life: Dame Kghia Gherardi and Sir JJ Drinkwater.

First, however, were the introductions, first of the Salon by Miss Jed Dagger...
...and then Miss Sera's introduction of the speakers. However, Miss Sera added an unexpected announcement: the next Salon - in August - would be the last! All good things must end, and the Salon is no exception, I suppose. Miss Sera suggested that Baron Klaus Wulfenbach might have some thoughts about what will be coming next, though the Baron seemed as perplexed as anyone.

Dame Kghia started by asking Sir JJ - whose typist is a librarian in that other life - about how his participation in Second Life libraries came about. He noted that SL libraries were already in existence when he arrived in 2006; this perhaps spoke of the innate usefulness of libraries. After working with the library on Info Island for a time, he started the Caledon Library when Miss CoyoteAngel Dimsum proposed a library and offered to donate the land and building.

Mr. Drinkwater noted that virtual libraries were generally limited to non-copyrighted materials, which was somewhat limiting. However, in the Steamlands, where interests ran toward older material, this tended to be less limiting than it would be elsewhere.

When asked what he learned about libraries in SL versus RL, Sir JJ responded:
Working on the library has taught me that the way libraries tend to organize sources, with non-fiction over here, and fiction over these, and blogs in a completely different category, isn’t perhaps the best way to serve a patron community. Gathering material together by subject, or by broad area of interest, has worked well for us.

Asked how he felt the Library has shaped Caledon, Sir JJ took a deep breath and said:
Big question! It was a surprise to me, about a year into the project, that the library had become a significant feature of Caledon. I think several things account for that...First of all, books are of great iconic importance to a lot of people...they have a complicated symbolism that takes in a number of important values. Books mean leisure, learning, literacy, the quest for knowledge, education, inquiry...things like that. Second, I see SL as being an extended conversation - A conversation that takes place with images as well as words, but a conversation all the same. What the library does for Caledon is give it material to extend the conversation. which is our life here. Finally I think the library reinforced the community’s identity, by mirroring its interests back to it. Any library does that to some extent, but when the community is a community of interest, rather than, say, a geographic community, the library can really give the community a chance to reflect on itself.

At some point, the Library expanded within Caledon, and then other libraries - particularly in the Steamlands, arose. Eventually they formed the current Alexandrian Free Library system. To again quote Sir JJ:
Well, the Caledon Library was an experiment that worked. After it had been in existence for about a year and a half, Riven Homewood was inspired to create a similar library in Steelhead - that was when we organized the AFL. It’s a consortium of libraries, and the members support each other with expertise, and by sharing materials. Our first few libraries were in the steamlands: Steelhead, Winterfell, and of course Babbage (and subsequently New Toulouse and Steeltopia) but we welcome any community library that’s willing to share its materials freely.

Above, from L to R: Front: Miss Sera, Miss Leslie Watson, Duchess Savannah Blindside. Back: Mr. Finn Firchank, Mr. MelKrupinski, Miss Herndon Bluebird.

Above, L to R: Mr. Aldus Faulkes. Sitting: Frau Annechen Lowey, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Miss Riven Homewood. Standing: Miss Saffia Widdershins, Miss Bookworm Hienrichs, Miss Serra Anansi.

Miss Stereo Nacht and me.

Miss Solace Fairlady and Miss Darlingmonster Ember.

The large crowd - at least 32 people were present to listen to the speakers.

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