Friday, September 9, 2011

Serafina Puchkina and the New Babbage Library

Ever dreamed about being locked inside a library for the night? Nobody about. Just you and a lot of books. Well here I am, not exactly "locked in" (cuz this Second Life), but feeling the magic of a moonlit and quiet night, all alone in a library. I'm sitting on a red satin settee, drinking a cup of the R.F. Burton Public Library's special cinnabar tea. The fire still flickering in the fireplace (the fact that it was left unattended making me a little nervous, what with all these books) offers the only other light in the room. Behind me tall bookcases cluster together in the dark, filled with books like, All Around the Moon, by Jules Verne, A Journey to Other Worlds, by John Jacob Astor and Electricity: its Nature and Forms, by C. W. Boyce. A foucault pendulum swings silently back and forth in the center of the room.

I was here a number of Saturday's ago for a meeting with the librarian, Serafina Puchkina. She was kind enough to give me a wonderful tour of the library, including a trip to the roof of the building and peeks at surprises the builder, Canolli Capalini, made a part of the library (You'll have to find them yourself. I'm not tellin').

Serafina has been the librarian here for about three years. The library had already been built but Serafina added the books, using Caledon Library bookcases, books and scripts, as many of us with libraries in SL have done. Thank you JJ Drinkwater.

The Library's bookcases all give book objects which hold links to ebooks. The books can be opened (rezzed) and read in the library, something I don't usually encounter in SL libraries but liked very much. Serafina selects books that fit with the theme and interests of the Babbage community.

And what are the interests of this community? Well ... New Babbage is a 19th century Steampunk city (founded in 2007) full of all types of fanciful inventions and mechanical devices. There are airships and submersibles and clocks (very important). Its population seems to be made up largely of builders and scripters. Serafina referred to them as "math and science people." Roleplay is optional but apparently very common.

In addition to supplying New Babbage residents with ebooks, the library also hosts exhibitions and talks. There was an Egyptian exhibit about a year ago and more recently an exhibit called, "Gypsy in Society." There was a talk on Bohemianism in conjunction with the Gypsy exhibition. These types of talks usually bring in 15-20 avatars to the library.

The Library has also co-hosted the Aether Salon, which tends to draw a much larger crowd than the exhibition talks. When I spoke with Serafina in August she and Miss Viv were just about to co-host their last Aether Salon. Dame Ordinal Malaprop was to be their final speaker (For a very interesting Aether Salon talk by JJ Drinkwater see: ).

Serafina is not worried about lack of readership or attendance as some SL libraries are. Most of the Library's collection building and sponsored events have been role-play based or linked to the manufacturing and inventing interests of this very active Second Life community. As to what happens next at the R.F. Burton Public Library... it will just depend on what role-play the New Babbage community plans for the fall. We'll have to wait and see.

Fern Leissa

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