Edited Transcripts

Libraries! with JJ Drinkwater and Kghia Gherardi

Jedburgh Dagger: *clears throat* Hello everyone!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Viv, Serafina, Jasper and I are pleased to welcome you to the June edition of the Aether Salon – Libraries!. I would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us today.

As many of you know, the Aether Salon meets to discuss steam and Victorian topics on the third Sunday of each month, in Palisades and Academy, New Babbage. We have been doing so since October 2008, when a Brit, an urchin, and a newish to town redhead took the stage. This is our 27th salon and I hope you are all as excited about being here today as I am.

Just a few matters of housekeeping before we get started. If you are standing in the back, please move forward onto the maze so that you can be assured of hearing the speaker. Please hold your questions until the end, and as a courtesy to all, please turn off everything that feeds the lag: all HUDs, scripts, AOs and so on. For the consideration of your neighbors, please refrain from using or deploying any mystical weapons, alien rings, or ambrotypes of elected representatives in their undergarments. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Edited and unedited transcripts will be posted this week on aethersalon.blogspot.com so you can revisit today’s merriment, read transcripts of past salons, and for a laugh, peruse “overheard at the salon.” Please join the Aether Salon group and receive notifications of future salon events, click the lower right hand corner of the large brown sign by the entrance. We sincerely appreciate the support we receive from everyone in the community and we humbly thank you all.

Many fine people have contributed to today’s salon: We are grateful to Miss Canolli Capalini of Capalini Fine Furnishings for the wonderful salon chairs and to our own Mr. Jasper Kiergarten for his expertise in creating today’s craft. We appreciate all of you who have contributed to salon. As a reminder, all speakers’ fund jar donations go directly to the speaker.

Now I will turn the stage over to my cohort in crime Miss Sera for the introduction of today’s speakers.

Serafina Puchkina: Thank you, Miss Jed.

“If we may have your attention please, we have a very special and important announcement. For three incredible years, the Aether Salon has celebrated the talents and ingenuity of the steampunk and victorian communities in SL, all from the heart of New Babbage, our treasured home.

We are so very proud of the quality, wit, and imagination of our 44* brilliant speakers, and our innumerable, very funny, always attentive, somewhat explosive audience members.

After three years, the founders of the Salon have concluded that it is time for new adventures. Therefore, it is with much sadness, and even more gratitude that Jed, Serafina, Jasper and I wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support.” (This is Miss Viv’s speech I am reading for her)

*We hope you will join us for one final Hurrah! in August, when Dame Ordinal Malaprop returns to the stage.

And we hope that you will give the next season of Salonistas, or however they determine to be called, the same support and attention that you have so generously shared with us and our speakers. More information on that topic will be forthcoming from Baron Wulfenbach and his Vice Consul.

Words cannot express how much we will miss you all. On a personal note, my co-hosts are dear friends, and I cannot envision every third Sunday without them. You have all worked so hard. Thank you, sincerely and with every inch of my being.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce Sir JJ Drinkwater and Dame Kghia Gherardi.

Sir JJ is the director of the Caledon Library system, and founder of the Alexandrian Free Library, a consortium of libraries serving themed communities such as Caledon, Steelhead, and and Winterfell.

JJ’s “physical avatar”, JJ Jacobson (MSI 2005, University of Michigan School of Information) is a librarian with longstanding interests in narrative, intentional community, and the history of everyday life. Professional interests include digitization, metadata, teaching virtual world librarianship, and the uses of Food Studies materials to serve scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities.

Dame Kghia is an Aquarius, but her typist is a Gemini. One is a water sign, the other air, so the result is a lot of steam. Kghia is co-founder of Bookstacks, the in-world community for readers; co-host of the Off the Shelf podcast, which airs on Radio Riel; and a volunteer at the Caledon Library, where she leads book discussions and builds towers from card catalogue discards when Mr Drinkwater isn’t looking.

Her typist has a master’s degree in English, with a fondness for the British and American Romantics, and she is an avid reader of urban fantasy.

Please give your utmost attention to Dame Kghia and Sir JJ. We will take questions at the end.

Serafina Puchkina looks up from her notes and applauds

Kghia Gherardi: Thank you for this opportunity, Viv, Jed, Jasper, & Sera. It is an honor to be here today. And it is an honor to talk about Libraries with one of my oldest and dearest friends in Second Life, and someone whom I greatly admire.

Mr. Drinkwater, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I know the audience is as interested in the history of libraries and of the Alexandrian Free Library System as I am. Let’s start with setting some context. Your library is, I believe, a public library? Public libraries are relatively recent institutions, are they not?

JJ Drinkwater: I have delighted to be here to chat with you, Dame Kghia, and with our guests.

Well, ever since there have been collections of texts, those texts have been made available to some group of people, so the idea of a public library grew out of various kinds of private libraries.

Two important precursors were the subscription library (which had both a buy-in price and a yearly fee — an early US example is the Library Company of Philadelphia, incorporated in 1742 ) …. and the circulating library (originally created, it is believed, by booksellers, to make money by essentially renting out books). A public library, funded by the community, to which anyone in the community can have access, is a creation of the 19th century…

Kghia Gherardi: It is a bit of a surprise to see so many libraries in a virtual world, but they seem very popular. How did they get their start?

JJ Drinkwater: …but found its flourishing in the first half of the 20th century. My impression is that there were small libraries in SL pretty early on. When I started investigating libraries here (in 2006) I ran across several that had clearly been around for some time. They typically had anywhere from a dozen to a hundred books, and had been set up by residents who usually made simple notecard books, and made them available either to read on the spot. or to take copies. The Librarium over on Abitibi was the largest of these that I found.

It seems to have been a common impulse: “Hey, we should have a library here!” The basic technology is simple, so I’m sure the idea arose independently in different places. The first substantial library I saw here was over on Info Island, originally sponsored by a library consortium in Illinois, now run by the Community Virtual Library. I came to SL originally to get involved with the project there – it was a good way to get started here.

Kghia Gherardi: It says something about our culture when we have the impulse to create libraries wherever we go. 🙂

JJ Drinkwater: It does…and it says something about what libraries mean to people

Kghia Gherardi: So, the Caledon Library evolved from your early visit to Second LIfe?

JJ Drinkwater: Exactly. The Caledon Library was originally a branch of the Info Island library. A few months after Caledon started, an early Caledonian, CoyoteAngel Dimsum, offered to provide land and a building, if some Info Island volunteer would create a library. I had already explored Caledon, and was excited by what I saw, so I was thrilled to be that volunteer. Later, the Caledon Library became an independent organization, and CoyoteAngel and I became partners in making it happen. She did the building and designing, and I took care of the collections, events, and exhibits. It wasn’t just me, I hasten to say! Over the years, we’ve had a changing group of volunteers and supporters, who have built it out into what it is today.

Kghia Gherardi: Do you remember what your first exhibit was? (Kghia goes off script)

JJ Drinkwater: It was an exhibit on “Silas Marner” which was our first or second book discussion

Kghia Gherardi: When did the Caledon Library official open its doors? (aka – how long has it been around?)

JJ Drinkwater: I don’t remember exactly, but it was late summer 2006. August, I think.

Kghia Gherardi: In what ways do virtual libraries resemble their physical counterparts? It isn’t like you can check out the latest bestselling novel. (returning to her list of questions)

JJ Drinkwater: Well, rather than what a library *is*…. I find it most useful to talk about what la library *does*, which is to provide access to information assembled for the benefit of the community it serves. (I’m using a broad idea of “information” here, that takes in the research and recreational materials libraries make available, and the events they create). That’s the common thread between RL & SL libraries, as I see it. As for that latest bestselling novel…because there’s no “fair use” for electronic materials, the way there is for hard copy… The kind of virtual libraries you find in SL can’t (with a few exceptions) offer materials that are protected by copyright. So, what we do is guide patrons to materials in the public domain, Fortunately, there’s a lot of great stuff in the public domain.

Kghia Gherardi: Fortunately a library in Caledon can take full advantage of those 19th century materials.

JJ Drinkwater points in the direction of the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg. Well…..libraries and link to anything on the web, so a work that’s copyrighted, but up on the web somewhere can be part of our “collection”

Kghia Gherardi: What else is distinctive about a library here?

JJ Drinkwater: The best thing any library can do is to make information available where it’s needed. .. So, one of the things that distinctive about a SL library is that, when it’s doing its job, it makes available the information you need for your SL life. That doesn’t sound like much until you consider how remarkable the life we live here is. One thing that’s always struck me is the diversity of sources we draw on to construct our lives here. Look around you, anywhere in the steamlands, and what you see is drawn from RL history and technology, from literature, from cheesy science fiction movies, from the visual arts….and all made to work together.

Working on the library has taught me that the way libraries tend to organize sources, with non-fiction over here, and fiction over these, and blogs in a completely different category, isn’t perhaps the best way to serve a patron community. Gathering material together by subject, or by broad area of interest, has worked well for us.

Kghia Gherardi: I’ve always felt the Caledon Library was one of the cornerstone of the community, and I know this is something you’ve explored. How do you feel the Library helps shape Caledon? And what role has the librarian played?

JJ Drinkwater: Big question! It was a surprise to me, about a year into the project, that the library had become a significant feature of Caledon. I think several things account for that… First of all, books are of great iconic importance to a lot of people …
they have a complicated symbolism that takes in a number of important values. Books mean leisure, learning, literacy, the quest for knowledge, education, inquiry…things like that. I brought up this topic at an impromptu party, yesterday, and got these responses: Garnet Psaltery: A book is a door to the future.

Solace Fairlady: and a window on the past

Dream Wrexan: A book is a way to communicate with the souls of people long gone and at far distances

Savannah Blindside: Some of my best friends are books. 🙂

Linus Lacombe expects they also provide a familar link with reality

JJ Drinkwater: This is the patron community speaking. Second, I see SL as being an extended conversation – A conversation that takes place with images as well as words, but a conversation all the same. What the library does for Caledon is give it material to extend the conversation. which is our life here

Finally I think the library reinforced the community’s identity, by mirroring its interests back to it. … Any library does that to some extent, but when the community is a community of interest, rather than, say, a geographic community, the library can really give the community a chance to reflect on itself. I asked Miss Serra (Seneschelf of Winterfell, for those who don’t know her) why her realm liked having a library… and she reminded me that it had started out with a different backstory than, say, the Steelhead Public Library. The backstory was that it was the Seneschelf’s private library, in the Winterfell Castle, which she had graciously opened up to the community. She also had this to say.. Serra Anansi: I think having a library lends some kind of legitimacy to a community …that it values many layers of immersion, not just the superficial ones. The fact that there are people who are willing to put in the work to create a library, find staff, host events…. it all adds up and proves that there is a lasting quality to the nation.

So a library is an institution that helps legitimize the community, perhaps. That’s a thought that’s very flattering to a librarian!

Kghia Gherardi: The model of the Caledon Library has expanded beyond the community, and it has become The Alexandrian Free Library System. How does the System differ the Caledon Library?

JJ Drinkwater: Well, the Caledon Library was an experiment that worked. After it had been in existence for about a year and a half, Riven Homewood was inspired to create a similar library in Steelhead – that was when we organized the AFL. It’s a consortium of libraries, and the members support each other with expertise, and by sharing materials. Our first few libraries were in the steamlands: Steelhead, Winterfell, and of course Babbage (and subsequently New Toulouse and Steeltopia) but we welcome any community library that’s willing to share its materials freely. Each library is a little different in approach, and each fits into its community is a different way.

Charlemagne Allen: how many communities so far?

JJ Drinkwater: I think 8 or so member libraries, plus all the unaffiliated libraries who use the scripts we give away for making books and book givers….one of the things I’m proudest of. The AFL goes along pretty quietly, now that it’s established, but we still hear from libraries that want to join.

Kghia Gherardi: Here’s the question I really want to know the answer to: What have you learned from your role as the Librarian of Caledon?

JJ Drinkwater: In a word, that libraries still matter. I was fresh out of library school when I started the library, and I had been taught to think not of books, but of corpora of texts, of information sources…. so one of the first things I learned was how much books mean to people, even in a virtual world. I still marvel at that. Another thing I learned was how grateful a community of readers is to have someone to whom they can talk about their reading. I think that’s a role I play for Caledon…the village reading nerd, in a village full of readers.

Professionally, I’ve learned that there’s a place for librarians in virtual communities, even though most of their members are quite savvy about finding information on their own.

Kghia Gherardi: To step away from the personal, how do you see virtual libraries evolving in the future?

JJ Drinkwater: Well, if we mean libraries without physical books, I think we’ll see a lot more of them in the future…. drawing on the great digital text collections like Internet Archive and Hathi Trust for texts, and on other sources like YouTube for audio, video, and other formats. This opens up the possibility of each library user having, in effect, their *own* virtual library, with sources they select and arrange for their own interests. We’re not too far from being able to do that now.

FynnFirehawk Resident: I am very new so apologies if my question seems out of place, but I am trying to understand. Do you actuall give out copies of real life books? and if so, could you perhaps expand on that? WOuldn’t people just go to the real world source, like Project Gutenbeg?

JJ Drinkwater: We give out full perms copies of books…and, sure, our patrons could go to the sources themselves, but somehow, what we do, which is find materials of interest to the community, has made the libraries popular

Kghia Gherardi grins at Finn. That is one of the things that surprised me about virtual worlds. People like to have copies in-world, though most will read the material else where.

Kghia Gherardi: sometimes it is the collection that has value over the individual objects within it.

JJ Drinkwater: Exactly…a targeted collection

DM Afarensis: Do you see a 3D virtual world like SL potentially replacing the Web and if so then are you efforts here directed at helping to make that come about?

Kghia Gherardi: the interest of an individual will often motivate her to create a collection. Before we open it to the floor, I do have one last question

JJ Drinkwater: I think that’s a question we won’t answer for the next five, or maybe 10 years, DM

Kghia Gherardi: This is the chance to plug the Library. What do you have going on at the Library this summer?

JJ Drinkwater: We’ve just finished up a year-long discussion series on 19th century poetry, and we’re taking a break for a couple of months… but in August we have a new series starting. It’ll be called “Voices from the Civil War” … which will look at primary sources from the American Civil War, in honor of its sesquicentennial, which began this year. Each month we’ll discuss a different first-person account from the war. The Civil War is still capable of making people quite passionate, so I’m looking forward to some very lively discussions.

Kghia Gherardi: The first person narratives – they are moving, whichever side of the War the person sided with.

JJ Drinkwater: Also, through the end of this month, we have a wonderful exhibit on social dance

Kghia Gherardi: So, that is the last formal question, but I believe there are some question from the audience?

Jedburgh Dagger: If we’re ready for the floor, just raise your hand so we can do this in order

Linus Lacombe has a question:

DM Afarensis raises hand

Jedburgh Dagger: Mr Henly has been waiting patiently

Holocluck Henly: That’s all right 🙂 it was answered.

Jedburgh Dagger: DM, then Linus

DM Afarensis: ok this is a kind of long one… do you see your work with the libraries here as more theoretical or applied… that is, is there a question you are trying to answer through your library work or is it about how best to provide information to the community?

JJ Drinkwater: The latter….the experiment has been “What does a library do in a virtual world?” In this virtual world, the Caledon Library os one answer…there are many others

Jedburgh Dagger: Linus?

Linus Lacombe: Thank you

JJ Drinkwater: There’s been a lot of making it up as we go along, indeed

Linus Lacombe: What kinds of regular programs do the libraries have? You mentioned a couple of specific events of past and future, but what about regular events?

JJ Drinkwater: Well, our regular events right now are the book discussions and the exhibit openings. And our yearly Bookbinders Ball. We welcome anyone who wants to create other events, and can go the distance to make them happen

Jedburgh Dagger: Miss Fairlady?

Solace Fairlady: Thank you. A follow up of sorts to Mr Lacombe’s questions. Given the news at the start of this salon – and without wishing to put your or the libraries on the spot – but as a way of preserving the Independence of the salons we have come to love, would the Library consider becoming their next host?

JJ Drinkwater: Alas, we don’t have the staff time to take on such a commitment.

JJ Drinkwater suspects that this series has taken a lot of time and energy to create!

Jedburgh Dagger: Any more questions?

Leslie Weston raises hand. Sir Drinkwater, now that your rl commitments have limited the time you once spent in sl, what challenges to you find yourself missing most, about your previous work?

Kghia Gherardi: Mr Drinkwater is passionate about virtual libraries and their role within a community, which makes for a great conversation.

Leslie Weston: were there particular series you loved

JJ Drinkwater: Hmmm….good question, Miss Weston

Leslie Weston: particular library building challenges?

JJ Drinkwater: What I think I miss most is doing the “Book of the Month” exhibits…

JJ Drinkwater: They were useful to the discussions, but they also allowed visitors to get inside the book, whatever it was…and I always learned a tremendous amount doing them

Serafina Puchkina: As a reminder, all tips go to the speakers.

Jedburgh Dagger: The donations for the Salon itself is on the sign at the entrance

Serafina Puchkina: Today’s craft was made by Jasper Kiergarten. Please take a copy.

I will post transcripts of today’s talk at http://aethersalon.blogspot.com. Thank you all, gentle patrons. Dame Kghia and Sir JJ, thank you both so very much. Good evening and thanks again

Kghia Gherardi: thank you all

Jedburgh Dagger: Thanks for coming everyone

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