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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