UPDATED: The Community Virtual Library Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary in Second Life Today with the Grand Opening of Their New Library Building!

The Community Virtual Library in Second Life is throwing a party to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, and as part of the celebration, they are unveiling a new library building!

On their blog I found the following announcement:

Community Virtual Library is celebrating 15 years in the virtual world of Second Life, sharing resources as a “real library in a virtual world”. Librarians are exploring virtual environments both on desktop and in VR headset worlds as we expand library services beyond our physical walls. Come join us to share our memories of the past and exciting plans for the future.

WHEN:  SUN April 18th Noon-2pm Pacific Time.

I paid an early morning visit to take the following photographs to share with you. Located just outside the main entrance is a “walk of fame” with the names of those library workers who played an noteworthy role in the provision of library service in Second Life over the past 15 years:

Here are a few more shots of the interior of the library:

Clicking on any of the books brings up a menu to take you to the electronic full-text of that book (usually served via Project Gutenberg or OpenLibrary.org):

An outside stairway takes you up to the second floor of the library, with a lovely patio and a spacious reading room:

Here’s the SLURL which will take you to the new library! The celebration runs from noon to 2:00 p.m. Second Life Time/Pacific Time. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE 2:23 p.m.: Here are a few more pictures of Valibrarian Gregg leading a tour group through the new library and its surrounding gardens (please click on each thumbnail for a larger version). I’m the tall one in the green suit!

Pandemic Diary, April 5th, 2021: So Close, So Close and Yet So Far

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I will be going back on my self-imposed break from blogging.

My eyes adored you
Though I never laid a hand on you,
My eyes adored you
Like a million miles away from me you couldn’t see
How I adored you…
So close, so close and yet so far

My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Today is officially Day 386 since I began working in self-isolation from my apartment for my university library system. Since my last Pandemic Diary post, two significant things have occurred:

  1. On March 18th I received my first vaccine shot, and
  2. On March 22nd, I returned to my office at the University of Manitoba Libraries for the first time in over a year.

As someone who is older (age 57), and with several underlying health conditions which put me at risk of a severe, possibly even fatal, response to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (I am severely overweight, plus I have asthma, hypertension, and type II diabetes), I was among the first Manitobans under the age of 60 to get vaccinated at my local pharmacy. I received the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with a follow-up shot sometime in July.

I have been following the news reports of possible blood clots in a few people who have received the vaccine, and I am not worried; I know that the chance of me getting a blood clot from the AstraZenca vaccine is much lower than the chance of me getting a blood clot from COVID-19! As a science librarian, I trust the science behind the vaccines, and I am eagerly looking forward to getting my second dose.

Canadians are watching the U.S. roll out an aggressive vaccination campaign with envy. Canada is far, FAR behind the U.S., the U.K., and other countries in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Up here in Canada, we already have had serious outbreaks of variants of concern from the U.K. and Brazil in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, and it seems all but certain the we will experience a third wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths here in Manitoba soon, with a third lockdown (and we never really opened back up from the second lockdown imposed in early November!). We are, indeed, so close and yet so far. It is frustrating beyond belief!

As for my return to the office, I was sitting on the fence about taking an extended sick leave for treatment of depression, when my supervisor told me that the buildings on campus could now be staffed at 40% of regular occupancy (up from 25%). I leapt at the opportunity to be able to work outside my home, after over a year of working from my home, being stuck within the same four walls day after day! I am starting off with just one day a week in the office, but I do have the option of coming in more frequently than that (at least, until the third lockdown happens, and it will).

In fact, the mood improved immediately after spending just one day back in my office, chatting with the few coworkers who are here (masked and socially distanced chats, but still, actual face-to-face conversations!). I even wandered around the library, taking a few snaphots. My office looks much the same as when I left it over a year ago, in near-pristine condition which will not last very long:

My library is still closed to non-librarian faculty, non-Libraries staff, and all students. The library, usually a quiet place even when it was full of students, is now eerily silent:

And I finally brought my work Oculus Rift VR headset back into the office from my apartment, where I had taken it when the pandemic started in March 2020, and spent part of my day today setting it up again. I popped into AltspaceVR and Nature Treks VR, and of course Sansar, just to test that everything was working okay. Instead of having to install countless updates to my Sansar client which had occurred during my yearlong absence from the office, I simply deleted the program and reinstalled it from scratch from the Sansar website, and then I paid a visit to my world, Ryan’s Garden, and its animated carousel, still one of my most cherished virtual possessions!

Yes, I do still have an Oculus Rift headset, which I had originally purchased for my suspended research project. I have an Oculus account for it, and I have absolutely ZERO plans to set up an account on the Facebook social network for it! Good thing that I don’t need to make any account decisions for at least another two years, during which time I will probably spend some of my accumulated Travel & Expense funds to upgrade the Rift to a Valve Index, like I now have at home. This Rift is my final link to Facebook, and I am itching to get rid of it! (I have yet to come up with a new, replacement research project involving virtual reality and libraries, but I have a few ideas.)

Stay safe and stay healthy!

San José State University School of Information’s Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration Is Holding a Research Symposium in Second Life on October 24th, 2020

While I have written in the past about the use of Second Life by librarians who have set up virtual public and academic libraries, it should be noted that SL has also been home to not just libraries, but also museums and archives of various kinds throughout its 17-year history.

The School of Information (iSchool) at San José State University (SJSU) in California, which offers a Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) degree program, runs the Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration (VCARA) in Second Life, which describes itself as follows:

An iSchool student group, VCARA is a MARA-created space and community based in the virtual world Second Life (SL). We offer many resources both in SL and online including annual conferences, events, exhibits, trainings, and webcasts. VCARA is open to all students, alumni, educators, and other professionals interested in virtual worlds and any aspect of information science including archives, education, and libraries.

The SJSU School of Library and Information Sciences in Second Life

On October 24th, 2020, VCARA will be hosting an event titled XR: Bridging the Gap Research Symposium:

Plan now to attend the XR: Bridging the Gap Research Symposium on October 24, 2020, from 9 a.m. to noon SLT (Pacific Time).

Venue: VCARA’s XR Research Center in SL on the SJSU SLIS sim (SLURL)

The goal of this symposium is to provide a venue for members of Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality communities to share accomplishments and challenges and to learn from one another.

9 a.m. – 10 a.m. – Keynote Address

10 – 10:45 a.m. – Birds of a Feather 

– Accessibility
– Networking/Communities of Practice
– Content Creation/Building

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Lightning Poster Session followed by a trip to Mozilla Hubs (with our without your headsets)

I have accepted an invitation to be a co-host of one of the Birds of a Feather discussion sessions taking place, on the topic of Networking and Professional Development in Virtual Worlds and Virtual Reality (along with Bethany Winslow, an Instructional Designer at San José State University). The BoaF sessions will be approximately 45 minutes in a breakout room, after which we will join up again in the main room to give a 5 minute recap of the important aspects of each BoaF.

The event is free, and everyone who is interested in the topic of virtual worlds and virtual reality in archives, education, and libraries is welcome to attend! To find out how you can become involved, please contact Dr. Patricia Franks, at the SJSU iSchool.

Pandemic Diary: September 30th, 2020

Today is officially Day 199 of my working from home in self-isolation for my university library system, holding staff meetings in Microsoft Teams and conducting Libraries training sessions via Cisco Webex or Zoom, depending on the professor.

My work email routinely gets spam like the following (yes, we get librarian spam from publishers ALL THE TIME, but the pandemic has added a new wrinkle):

And, no, our university library system will not invest in a STERI-Book machine; our staff just handles all returned items wearing gloves and masks, and let them sit and air out until any potential coronavirus on the surface of the materials dies off, before they are reshelved or recirculate.

(You might be interested to know that REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) is a research partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Battelle research laboratories to create and distribute science-based information and recommended practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services.) 

Our physical collections are still off-limits to faculty, staff, and students (although they can search our online catalogue and request a book be sent to a hold locker for pick-up; most of our collections are online now, anyways), and all of our libraries are still closed. Two libraries have opened up only to provide study space for students, but only solitary studying (with proper social distancing) is allowed. Students cannot book the group study rooms, browse the stacks, or even ask a reference question in person!

All user queries are referred to our online chat reference system, which is staffed by Libraries employees throughout the day, into the evening, and on weekends, to get answers to their questions. I usually work one two-hour shift a week, safely ensconced at home, answering reference questions.

Our university president has already announced that, similar to our current Fall term, the upcoming Winter term (January-April 2021) at my university will be conducted online and remotely, with rare exceptions. What this means is that I will, once again, be working from home, much the same as I do now. I fully expect to reach Day 365 in my work-from-home odyssey! I remain grateful that I have the option to work at home; I know many people who don’t have the opportunity.

Even if we do discover viable COVID-19 vaccine candidates by the end of this year (which seems likely), there still remain the significant logistical hurdles of manufacturing sufficient quantities of any successful vaccine(s), and distributing them.

Additional, there will the fiendishly difficult process of determining policies and procedures for who gets the vaccine first, and who has to wait—which I fully expect will be politicized in some countries, with social-media-driven misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories adding fuel to the fire. Throw in all the anti-vaxxer nonsense that was circulating even before the pandemic, and you’ve got a very disturbing situation. (I read somewhere recently that fully one-third of Americans will not get their children vaccinated for the flu this year, which is a basic, sensible precaution experts are recommending for everybody this year.)

I am very happy—nay, make that ecstatic!—to report that my new strategy of avoiding social media and the news media has been largely successful! For example, I have heard, only in the briefest of brief passing, that there was even a presidential debate taking place, and I remain blessedly ignorant of what happened, and all the resulting social media fallout. (Don’t tell me; I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. I will be staying away from social media and the news media from now until after the U.S. federal election. I’d currently rather be ignorant than mired in anxiety, despair, and depression, triggered by whatever new low Donald Trump has managed to reach, thankyouverymuch kthxbai!)

The only exception to this rule are the Canadian and global coronavirus subReddits, where I can just pop in to get the latest headlines and then leave again, without getting tainted or infected by any other kind of news stories. So I will remain vigilant (as I have since this whole mess started in January) as to the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic. (By the way, there’s also an excellent, science-based COVID-19 subReddit, which I can recommend to help you sift through all the latest scientific research articles.)

I will not lie; I am still struggling. With my underlying health conditions, I am still at a high risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if I should become infected. I worry about my brother’s family (all of whom work with the public), and my elderly mother and stepfather. I worry about my best friend John, who is in his sixties and still recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

But tomorrow, on Day 200 of my self-imposed exile in my apartment, I will wake up, and get out of bed. I will shave, shower and get dressed, I will brew a vat of black coffee (a 10-cup pot nowadays instead of 8!), and I will log in to my university email system and Microsoft Teams, ready to face whatever the day brings. I am choosing to focus on my work projects, which I have some degree of control over, and my blog, which I have complete control over, rather than continue to obsess about what is going on in the wider world that I have zero control over.

Stay healthy and stay sane! This will be a marathon.