Pictorial History of ALA Island: 2007-08

ALA Island History | 01/15/2012

ALA Island is now closed, but not so easily forgotten. A digital portfolio should reflect my part in the creation and maintenance of the island, illustrating what kind of activities the American Library Association facilitated its virtual members. (Note that I will use avatar names with first life name in parens.) Therefore, let's start at the beginning:

 In 2006, the Alliance Library System, a library cooperative in Peoria, Illinois, under the direction of Lorelei Junot (Lori Bell) began exploring Second Life as an environment for practicing librarianship skills. In 2007, they offered ALA a parcel on a sim and put up a mansion and a tower for occupation by ALA staff. The ALA Washington Office already had a presence in the sim next door. If you look closely, you can see the seventh floor of the tower has signage and lights on: I established the offices of ASCLA and RUSA on that floor.

It was a challenge every time to fly over the balcony rails but miss the balcony above to gain access to our office. I had an RSS Sensor counting visitors and sending the information to a Website (see right) that let me know that quite a lot of avatars succeeded in the challenge and that my effort was not in vain.

Through the spring and summer, we held National Library Week (NLW) and Banned Books Week (BBW) on this parcel. Volunteer librarians were constantly building according to the themes of the events, the most elaborate of which was a Pirate's Cove for BBW. The success and growing enthusiasm for ALA's presence in SL led to a decision to take over the full sim and build a facility that reflected the organization.

In the fall of 2007, I was given the leadership role for ALA's part in designing our presence on a full sim. We needed to provide a way to give out information on all of the offices and divisions of ALA, provide meeting areas of various size and capacity, and ways to attract people to visit and return to the island. Graduate students from San Jose State University Graduate School of Library and Information Science under the leadership of Jeremy Kabumpo (Jeremy Kemp, at right wearing the blue cap in photo to the left) were paid by the school to terraform the island and construct facilities.

When it came time to re-engineer the island there was one thing very clear to the few of us who regularly "worked" there: No buildings! Avatars fly and teleport, but do not, to this day, handle walking through narrow doorways very well. We opted for a multi-level design to afford privacy from the chat of other groups in the vicinity. We used Epcot Center (it's the leftmost of the three maps in the photo with the builders above) as our blueprint, with a lake in the center. A boat race game and a slide into the water were part of a strategy to attract return visits. Games like MahJong were also strategically placed through the sim. (As these features lost their luster, we built a labyrinth, see photo below, and a cross-country ski run in later years.) On each end of the lake were stages with arches that appear inspired by those of Chicago's Millenium Park's Pritzker Pavilion. (Jeremy claimed that wasn't so, but you have to wonder about such coincidences).

The builder group provided us variations on a kiosk design that could be used to display logos and posters and from which information notecards could be delivered. Using gadgets created by librarian Bucky Barkley, we could place little laptops at these stations that would provide a drop-down menu of URLs provided by each ALA unit. While a number of clever librarians were creating scripted gadgets for use in SL, I thought it was important to integrate into the larger universe of SL. Therefore, I sought out products sold by resident vendors: Fnordian Teleporter systems, MechanizedLIFE Stats Collectors, CogCalendar kiosks and boards, and Twitter Feed. Products were offered by people living in Alaska, Australia and Canada, showcasing the global reach of SL.

Streaming media in SL was often challenging as tech updates by the hosting service (Linden Lab) often broke. Our AL Focus Mountain, dedicated to streaming ALA videos, was not always reliable but we did our best to keep up to date with the changes. I submitted monthly reports on visits and transactions to the Deputy Executive Director of ALA, aided by these "commercial" gadgets. The CogCalendars were particularly clever, utilizing Google calendars to feed data to kiosks, personal HUDs (heads up displays worn by avatars that extended the viewer screen with information), and event boards. Instead of needing to be inworld to update event announcements, all that was needed was to update a Google calendar.
An early teleportation system involved using a screencap map of the island and placing these green orbs into the map. I spent a lot of time working with that system until the Fnordian TPs came along. These teleporter bases were aware of their own locations and would scan for locations of similarly identified bases to create a menu-driven network. Right-clicking on a base would call up a menu of all the bases located through the sim--remember we are talking about locations above and below the ground as well as horizontally distant. They worked much better than the one shown above which took hours of careful, detailed coding.

But I digress! The builders from SJSU were instructed not to use any book cliches in their construction and disobeyed brazenly with their delightful Skyplatform that not only used a large book-shaped construction for a seating space but recreated the ALA logo when looked at from directly above (see lower center portion of the pic of the Loerlei Junot Gallery photo, below). They had fun with their design and that translated into a sim very different from anything seen on the growing number of sims that made up the InfoIsland Archipelago. Higher still above the island than the Skyplatform was our gallery for major displays. In honor of the person who almost single-handedly put a majority of the librarians who worked in SL there, we named it the Lorelei Junot Gallery.

National Library Week 2008 was the formal dedication of ALA Island and none other than the President of ALA, Loriene Roy, in her own avatar, appeared on the Main Stage to kick off the week-long celebration of 50 years of such events. (A photo of this appears in my editorial on the closing of ALA Island.) Later in the year, we hosted another BBW with programs, a Midsummer Night's gala, and the first Readoff in voice (next to last photo).

Continue to 2009

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