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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