Friday, December 30, 2011

A Library in Al Andalus

Al Andalus, governed by its Second Life citizens, is a recreation of thirteenth century Granda Spain under the rule of a Muslim caliphate. Historically, this was time of enormous advancements in Islamic science, math, medicine, technology, philosophy, religion and literature. In Al Andalus it was also a time that marked the peaceful coexistence between the religious followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, known as the Convivencia.

Granada's streets were lit by oil lamps. There was running water. And there were libraries; enormous libraries unrivaled by any other European libraries of this same period. These libraries had impressive collections of books written by Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars as well as Arabic language translations of ancient Greek and Roman classics, including the works of Aristotle.

And so, Al Andalus sl has its own library, one of the most beautiful libraries in Second Life. Housed in the Caliph's Palace, the Al Qantara Library (Bridge Library) has been supported by the Al Andalus sl community and by the non-profit organization, Virtual Democracy Inc (VDI) for over two and a half years. Board members of the VDI are Rose Springvale, Micael Khandr and Delia Lake.

As librarians for the Al Qantara Library, Imotali Antiesse and I provided books with links to some of the Arabic language classics from this period as well as links to public domain publications and databases on the history and scholarship of Al Andalus. Most of these books are housed in bookcases on the second floors of both the East and West wings of the library, though information on travel and exploration are in a first floor room across the the community's tier boxes.

During the two and 1/2 years we have been open, the Al Qantara Library has offered readings, talks, book discussions, exhibitions and a summer film festival. We also hosted a Library Resident Scholar Program. This program provided an opportunity for interested Second Life residents to learn more about the historic Al Andalus. Artemisia Sockington, JoCupcake Resident and Zoe Foodiboo have all been Resident Scholars. See our library for publications of Artemisia's research on libraries and on the paper making industry in Al Andalus as well as her work on Trade of Al Andalus.

When the Al Qantara Library opened in September 2009 we sometimes had so many people stopping by to visit the library that it was hard to get the books on our shelves and the exhibition posters up on the wall. There were questions about the historic Al Andalus, medieval Islamic cultural achievements and about Al Andalus sl. Many visitors provided very helpful suggestions about links and offered welcome encouragement for our library project. But, by the last quarter of 2010, library traffic began to slow down. Now, like many libraries in Second Life the Al Qantara Library is quiet and largely empty.



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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Steel City

                Initially for this post I had wanted to discuss McMaster University’s library, amongst several others, on Cybrary City I. Unfortunately, Cybrary City I hasn’t been accessible to me for the past week or so. I’m not sure whether it’s just me or everyone else is experiencing this as well. Anyhow, I decided that I would visit instead the McMaster University Libraries’ very own island, Steel City.
                There’s a lot of content on this island, both in objects and information. The island is set up almost entirely as an example of how Second Life should be utilized as a teaching tool. All the buildings and areas have information boxes that you can click on to receive more information about its purpose. There is one structure, shaped like a tree, that you can climb to the top of. As you progress there are little stations that pose important questions about SL; for instance, why is SL useful, what are the problems with SL, how to use SL for education, etc. This blatant and straightforward attitude towards what is being attempted is something I find refreshing and progressive. 

You quickly find out as you explore the island, that almost everything there serves a dual purpose both as an educational assignment for students or faculty, as well as an example to everyone on SL of how McMaster believes SL should be used for education. For instance, there is a sculpture garden of video game characters that their game design class created. There are other projects all over the island like a dance club, a winter-Christmas time maze, and a playground to name a few.

                On top of these projects there are many other structures devoted to class time. There are many places designed to accommodate lectures and discussion. The nice part about these are that they are both functional as well as a product of being creative. It was clear that McMaster’s developers were interested in more than just making a presence in SL by merely placing a building here and there. Everything on the island is intended to promote further development and creativity. There are several advertisements of open space and areas McMaster students and faculty can rent (i.e. the student center) where you can start your own projects.

                Overall I think that Steel City is one of the dynamic forces I’ve seen for libraries on SL. They try to address what works and what doesn’t work and how they believe the pros outweigh the cons. Their emphasis on using the SL best qualities to educate rather than to attempt to recreate RL is worded and demonstrated quite well. However, this may have been a busier place when they first started and when SL had more users logged on, but it was still empty and seemed to be deserted (except for a poster I found that referred a recent date). While basing much of the island on how SL should be used and giving examples, without actual activity the island serves as just that. Once, again, I may be visiting during off-peak hours, but I believe that it is overall come to a standstill.
                Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cybrary City Part 5

                I’m going to start off today’s post with my visit to the Wine Library at Cybrary City II. The library is small and very nicely decorated (as is expected of a wine library). There are many places to sit and read but there are no real books or content available. There is one book that is one that you can click on to flip through which has small related pieces such as “what to buy for a wine lover.” However, the library seems to be a place that is more directed to events and discussion about wine than anything else.

                The next place I went to was the College of New Rochelle – Gill Library Annex on Cybrary City II. In the front yard of the building is a “maze” of books covers of books pertaining to Ecofeminism. When you click on them you’re given basically 2 options: you can view some of them online (through google books) or you can go to the CNR library site about their Ecofeminism collection.

                When inside their building you can find many places to sit and read. Most of the objects you can click on lead you to the library’s website. On the upper floor there is currently an art exhibit that utilizes the powerpoint type of presentation display. I’m not sure of how often they cycle exhibits.

                That’s all for this post! See you soon!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Cybrary City Part 4

            Hey guys! I thought I would get back to my adventures in Cybrary Cities I and II. The first on my list was the University of Zagreb, Dept of Info Sciences Library. 

The first floor is where most of the content is. There are objects on the floor that are basically open books with pictures that give you note cards with information when you click on them. Other objects throughout the room give you information about Croatia, it’s people, achievements and attractions. There’s even an object that gives you information on the faculty.

            The top two floors are basically just areas with seats for conversation and meetings.

            The next library I visited was the Washington County Community College Library. The first floor has a reference desk where you can click on computers that take you to WCC web pages in a different viewer. There are some books, many of which are borrowed from Caledon’s Steampunk collection (something they cite very clearly, which I find to be a great addition). You can click on their shelves and receive note cards with the book content. There’s also a nice screen to watch presentations on (they even give you directions on how to view it if you can’t).

            On the second floor is their gallery where currently they have an exhibit called Photos from Beyond: A Collection from the Hubble Telescope. I think that his library is well put together and is a good combination of books, information about the actual library and a gallery that be change periodically.

            The Maryland Library (Sponsored by Harford County Public Library) was the last library on my list for the day. It’s a very simple set-up, with lots of places to sit and a computer terminal you can click on that gives you some information about Hartford County in particular. 

            The second floor doesn’t really have anything besides a desk, but I’m sure it was meant for events and presentations.

            That’s all for today! See you next time!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kuhrang Public Library

            For a change of pace I decided to take a look at a library that’s not in Cybrary City. I stopped by Kuhrang Public Library, a library I confess I had a hard time locating. I finally found this library in the sky and took sometime to check out what they had to offer.

The library covers not only many different kinds of topics but also has several different kinds of ways to provide the books. There are science fiction, picture books, classics (public domain books that are common on Second Life), poems, writing guides, cooking, subscription to magazines etc. Some are written for Second Life publication others are RL published books.

Many are objects that you can click through, page by page or wear but there are also many that are contained entirely in note cards. What I liked seeing, in particular, was that they had links to other prominent SL libraries that I think is a really good way at least attempt at a more unified SL library community.

            It’s hard to reach some of the books that are placed very high up. I’m still kind of a newbie on SL so I couldn’t figure out how to access those. 

But otherwise there are many places to sit and lots of content to go through in this library. Unfortunately, as is often true, I did not come across any other visitors during my time here.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Cybrary City Part 3

Continuing right on with my adventures through Cybrary City, I visited the University of Florida's library. The university's area is marked by images of buildings and streets. When you walk in you see a set of a bus with some people in it, though there's no real indication about it's purpose. Further within is the library with consists mainly of a collage of images that are probably parts of presentations. To read or see them though you probably need to stand lose and go through first person mode.

The next place I looked at was on Cybrary City II and is called Droppin' Science. Minor research conducted through google indicates that this area is run by Ohio State University and is devoted to Hip-Hop culture. You wouldn't really get that idea just looking around the site until you read some of the information that is offered when most objects are selected.  I first went into the Jook Joint building and looked in side. There are some biographies you receive when you click on a musicians picture and a brief understanding of how they have influenced Hip-Hop.

I then travelled over to the Native American exhibit they had up where, again, you can click on the objects to get a description of the objects but it also samples or suggestions of Native American Hip-Hop artists and rappers.

There's also a model bus tucked away in the corner that represents the segregation laws that plagued our country and arguably has had long-term effects on Hip-Hop culture that is predominately rooted in the experiences of African Americans.

There is also a small building dedicated to the celebration of Latin American month. Inside are some small objects you can click and receive more information. There is a particular focus on Frida Kahlo and her life.

Droppin Science is certainly not what you'd think a library would look like. However, they do provide lots of information (more so than most) and update more frequently than most of the places I have come across.


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