Thursday, June 30, 2011

Case Study: Chilbo

I have made an earlier visit to Chilbo, as I mentioned in my previous post. However, after seeing the community's exhibit at SL8B, which was very well done (albeit lacking any mention of its public library), I was intrigued enough to return for a more in-depth visit.

My first stop was the Town Hall, easily accessed by simply clicking any of the many "Chilbo" banners around the sim. The founders and directors of Chilbo can be credited with one thing for sure: they are very proud of their community, and are willing and eager to share information about it. One can easily find several notecards explaining different aspects of life in Chilbo, Chilbo's philosophy (to create "a real sense of community in a virtual neighborhood"), etc.

(A directory outside the Town Hall offers teleports to landmarks around Chilbo [shown: Resources & Education])

Community seems to be the key word in Chilbo, and while  I did not encounter an enormous amount of people wandering the streets, I did get the sense that there is a still-active group of people working behind the scenes to keep Chilbo vibrant and alive. One way this is conveyed is through the wall in the Town Hall, showing the images of the avatars in charge of Chilbo, and if they are on or off-line. When I IM-ed Director of Operations Kristine Kristan, she IM-ed me back right away and was helpful and forthcoming with information.

                                  (Board of Directors in Chilbo Town Hall)

The story behind the Chilbo Public Library remains a bit of mystery. I talked to two Chilbo community members, both on the board of directors, and received slightly different reports on the library's status.

(The entrance to the Chilbo Public Library)

Kristan, mentioned above, informed me that the library has had no one to maintain it in a long time and that is has been under-utilized. This explains the informative notecard that has not been updated since 2008. In fact, she even mentioned that they has been considering clearing the library altogether, but in the past couple weeks interest has been up so they are reconsidering.

Director of Public Safety and Prim Managment Rachel Corleone, who also owns a Renaissance art gallery in town, never mentioned to me the possibility of the library shutting down, though she echoed Kristan's sentiment that library desperately needed new management. However, she added that there has been a search for a new librarian, and they even have somebody specific in mind already. Under a new librarian, ideally, the library would be able to host events such as a book club.

Already the library has a system in place through which visitors can suggest books to add to the collection, although without management I wonder who is processing these requests.

The same goes for an Interlibrary Loan system (though I have to wonder about the need for ILL within SL, as one can easily teleport over to another library).

The neglect is most visible in the library's "Fiction" section:

This seems very odd. In no other libraries have so many empty shelves (though to be fair most SL libraries also have a lot less shelves in general). Were there plans to fill up this section when the previous librarian left? The SL section showed a bit more life, pehaps due to elevated interest:

Overall, I have to say that the Chilbo Public Library is in pretty bad shape, though there is hope for it. I really hope that they can find somebody to turn it around, because Chilbo, with its focus on community and education and culture (while touring town I encountered a historical society for an RL city in New York, an HIV/AIDS education center, a resource center for SL educators, many art galleries, and much, much more!) seems like somewhere a library could really be successful. I, for one, am excited to what they do!

(The Levittown Historical Society in downtown Chilbo)

Until next time!


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Friday, June 24, 2011

SL8B: Dazzle. Pizzazz. Substance?

As I mentioned in my previous post, Second Life is celebrating its eighth birthday! And in honor of this, Linden Labs have created a massive build entitled "SL8B," a series of SIMs (with names such as Dazzle and Pizzaz, seen above) that primarily house exhibits created by people from all across the Grid.

I took some time to wander around SL8B, explore some exhibits, talk to whoever would talk to me, and just see what there was to see. And there was a lot. It was so ovewhelming in fact, that I didn't know where to start. Luckily, just as I was pondering where to go, an SL8B Tour Pod whizzed past me. I clicked "sit," and before I knew it was getting a personal tour of the entire build!

I was on the lookout in particular for libraries, and while I didn't manage to find any of those, there was quite a range of more academic sites. Among these were exhibits by University of Texas Austin and NASA, as well as exhibits where one could sit in on a mock virtual classroom, calculate global time zones, and get educational materials on Cystic Fibrosis. Immersive, roleplay-type displays, which housed both academic and non-academic activities included London, where I discovered many London-based SL blogs, 3-D Germany (call me crazy, but isn't Germany already 3-D?), and A Japanese village, where I was able to meditate in an authentic Buddhist-style hut.

                                                  (3-D Germany)

 The only pitfall I found in the Pod Tours was that, because SL8B is so big, if during the tour I passed a place I wanted to return to, I found it to be nearly impossible to find it again.

Perhaps the most significant thing I noticed about SL8B was the rather high concentration of people roaming around, higher than any other place I had previously visited in SL. True, there were a lot of freebies to be had (the attractive SL8B t-shirt I'm wearing in the first picture being one of them). And yes, the most people seemed to be congregated at dances But still, I ran into a lot of people touring the exhibits, just like I was.

                                               (An SL8B dance party)
This is why I was disappointed not to see any libraries taking advantage. I do know that Linden Labs had to approve all exhibits, so this may have been a factor. The closest I saw was an exhibit sponsored by the community of Chilbo, which as I know has an established, SL-only library (which I have visited and will report on in the future). While the site doesn't link explicitly to Chilbo's library, there are places to teleport to the town, from where the library would be very easy to come upon. Additionally, this display takes advantage of some of techniques popular amongst SL libraries, such as virtual of books that, when touched, link to URLs or full text notecards.

                                       (Chilbo community exhibit)
Why aren't any libraries at SL8B? Are they giving up? More to come!


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Introduction: Artemisia Sockington

                Hello everyone! This my first post on our new blog about our experiences on Second Life. We’re hoping that (beyond recording what we find and do) that we may also extend our presence beyond SL as well. I’ve been on SL for roughly 3 years now so I’m excited about the possibilities this may bring!
                One event that is quickly approaching is the release of a book I’ve been working on for several months for the Al Qantara library. The primary focus is on trade economy of al Andalus during the Medieval Age and its importance in the larger Eurasian trade sphere that few know about. I discuss some of the particulars of their trade system and the possible reasons for its success. I had a great time researching this topic which I knew very little about. While it isn’t a widely discussed topic, I was faced with a lot of information, all of which I desperately wanted to refer to in my book. Unfortunately, synthesizing all of those ideas, facts and anecdotes into a comprehensive work was more than I could handle and I ended-up having to cut a lot of sections out (maybe we’ll see them again in another book one day!).
                If you are interested in getting a signed copy of my book please join me and other Al Qantara residents in discussing trade during that time, please join us on July 7th, location to be announced.

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Introduction: JoCupcake Resident

It feels strange to be writing my first blog post about Second Life simultaneous to SL's celebration of its eighth birthday. It could appear that we're a little late coming to this party. Some people are saying that this particular virtual world has run its course, that its numbers are down, and that it's becoming harder and harder to find people to interact with, even at some of the more social places where larger crowds have always tended to congregate. This is especially true of libraries and other academic SL areas, where I have often found myself the only person on an entire island (more on these library adventures to come!). Yet I think all this actually gives us a unique perspective. 

As far as I've seen, new SL blogs are cropping us less and less frequently, and out of the huge number of SL blogs already in existence, many haven't posted in a year or more. In short, SL's (supposed) decline is hardly being documented. What we have now is the opportunity to see what people (primarily libraries and librarians, in this case) are doing to attract interest from users and their avatars, and to find out if these strategies are working.

In addition, I will blogging entirely from the point of view of a user active after the SL heyday, having only had an account for one week. With this clean slate of an outlook, my observations will be potentially helpful to the libraries I visit and the librarians I hope to speak with, in particular when it comes to bringing in other newbies like myself.
Let the adventure begin! 
                             (Me at my desk in the Al-Qantara Library)

--JoCupcake Resident

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