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.

Pictures from Yesterday’s Libraries in XR Meetup in AltspaceVR

Yesterday evening, over a dozen people gathered at the second weekly Libraries in CR meetup in AltspaceVR, which I first wrote about here.

The presentation was by Australian brothers Scott and Steven Mundell, who paid a 30-day visit to libraries in California and who have set up a website, https://augmentedlibraries.com/, which serves as a searchable, curated collection of VR/AR/MR hardware, software, and experiences for libraries. Users can filter the collection by technology, theme or cost.

Here are a few pictures of last night’s meeting:

The Libraries in XR group has members from all around the world, who are interested in applications of VR and AR to public and academic libraries. The group plans to hold regular meetings in AltspaceVR, so check the Events Calendar for the next meetup! You can also join their Discord server (here’s an invitation). See you at the next meeting!

XR in Libraries Meetups Taking Place in AltspaceVR

Did you know that there is now a group of librarians and other library workers who are meeting weekly on the AltspaceVR social VR platform?

The XR in Libraries meetup brings librarians and library allies together to discuss the role that libraries can play at making XR technologies (VR/AR/MR) available to the communities we serve. Meeting in virtual reality provides us a practical way for us to test the affordances of various virtual meeting spaces, and to explore the associated technologies.

You are invited to our second meeting to discuss VR/AR/MR in libraries, share your experiences and get ideas for new ones. This meetup will take place on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM Central Standard Time (or Thursday, March 19th, 2020, 02:00-03:00 UTC). Everyone is welcome!

Here is the event listing from the AltspaceVR Events Calendar. See you there!