Virtual Book Discussion: Beyond the Blogosphere

After reading Beyond the Blogosphere: information and its Children by Aaron Barlow and Robert Leston, which I filled with post-it notes commenting on the digital revolution and how it has changed libraries, educations, and our lives, I thought it would be cool to ask the authors to discuss the book —virtually. Both authors quickly replied to my email agreeing to attend a virtual world discussion in Second Life, which would be sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group (which I am leading for 2012-2013).

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Beyond the Blogosphere: a Virtual World Book Discussion

Name of Event: Book Discussion with Aaron Barlow & Robert Leston- “Beyond the Blogsphere: Information and Its Children

Community Virtual Library Auditorium on Info Island in Second Life

Sunday, July 22@ 11am SLT (Pacific Time)

For anyone interested in the impact of the Internet on education, society, journalism, and our lives, this book sheds light on today’s digital culture. For information professionals, the concepts presented are important and timely. The authors compare the Internet to a “book of sand”.

Page 51 “…[the book of sand] is the Internet, but without the possibility of organization, is information but with no system (or no discernible system), the centuries old-nightmare of the librarian and, today, of every serious researcher working through the web.”

Feel free to pass this invitation along to anyone interested. The book is a fascinating read, but it isn’t necessary to have read it to participate in the book discussion.

I Can’t Keep Up (a poem)

I can’t keep up

with who to follow on twitter
with tech trends and Web 2.0 tools (a new one every time I turn around)
with reading literature in my research area
with art- to observe or to create (reading is inhalation- writing is exhalation)…music, multi-media, poetry, literature

I can’t keep up with all I want to learn- augmented reality is next-
the best practices of education
with digital citizenship, digital footprints, hackers and new media after the hierarchy of information came tumbling down

I can’t keep up with the past, the present, or the future
and all the apps that just came out
and the upgrades and the software

with all the blog posts I want to write
(Blog post Idea #52: research is poetry- the restraint of required formats and the incredible condensation of words into the essence of meaning)
with all the hyperlinks from the intelligent people I follow, the conversations I want to join and contribute to

I can’t keep up with what to have for dinner tonight…a minor yet important thing

But I take a deep breath

and say OK

because all I need to do is take a step forward

just one step forward

in awareness

in appreciation

breathe, drink, eat, learn, smile, share

Virtual Media, Virtual Graduation, and Virtuality

I love the old traditional libraries- full of stacks and shelves and wooden chairs with reading lamps. I took this photo of the beautiful reading room at the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library.

Realizing that the digital revolution is changing libraries (not replacing them let’s hope), I am fascinated with virtual media and our quest for information in innovative formats.

Merging my passion for libraries, innovation, and the beautiful UW campus, I was led to the Certificate in Virtual Worlds (where I graduated in 2010). That exciting experience introduced me to a global network of extremely creative colleagues. After my class graduation, the group continued to collaborate across the world.
Watching the newest graduating class this past week brought back memories of the intense challenges we faced as a group and reminded me of how fascinating it is to meet and form deep relationships in a virtual space.

There are advantages to attending a virtual world graduation. Participants are mentally engaged, immersed, interacting with media instead of simply sitting and waiting. My machinima from the University of Washington Certificate in Virtual Worlds Graduation of the Class of 2012 takes you through the ceremony and into the unbelievably creative final project they built: The Museum of Virtual Media.

The course instructor, Randy Hinrichs (pictured as his avatar Ran in the machinima) recently spoke at the Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds Conference in Washington D.C., with a focus on the term virtuality. Yes, the digital revolution has already created an upheaval in media communication and the balance between physicality and virtuality may be a bumpy tightrope walk for some people. Whether or not you have entered a virtual world (such as Second Life) is not the issue. We all lead both physical and virtual lives.

Grand Opening of Summer in Berlin

Having never played many videogames, I don’t consider myself a gamer; however, I have seen a generation of learners come through my library who have grown up with videogames.  A recent library article shared the idea of including videogames as a literary genre alongside other media formats, such as films because they now embed stories that evoke real emotions in a similar way.  Current videogames feature cinematic scenes and are often set in historical periods, just like historical fiction novels. Some may be considered too violent for young players (example Call of Duty), but often the historical details are researched in the same way writers and filmmakers seek authenticity.


So, it may seem perfectly natural for the “gaming generation” to enter virtual spaces set in eras from the past.  Resources may include reading a novel, viewing a film, or actually entering a virtual simulation set in a particular time and place, such as Berlin, Germany in the 1920’s. Working in collaboration with colleagues in the virtual world of Second Life, I shot machinima of the Grand Opening of the Summer in Berlin Exhibit on display through August 2012 at  All are welcome to attend individually or for the live tours on July 14th or August 5th at 1pm Pacific Time.




At the upcoming American Library Association Convention in Anaheim, California, I will be leading the ACRL Virtual World Interest Group meeting for librarians interested in immersive learning and information delivery through virtual worlds.  I will also be leading a session on Virtual Media in Libraries and Museums, sharing the Summer of Berlin Exhibit and other virtual media examples.

We Are Not Gadgets

I first heard of the book, You Are Not a Gadget, from a fellow librarian colleague in  my professional learning network (thanks Lane).  I don’t know where to begin to consolidate the ideas I encountered in this book into a quick blog post.  You can see the plethora of post-its sticking out the pages which are also bookmarked, underlined and highlighted.

by Jarom Lanier










Jaron Lanier eloquently- or should I say bluntly- points out that the digital revolution has glorified the “wisdom of the crowd” to the extent of making us believe the digital fragments we post about ourselves are top priority in the hierarchy of information.  As individuals, we are becoming fragments of information bits. See page 21 for tips on “things you can do to be a person instead of a source of fragments to be exploited by others”.


The “wiki” trend of glorifying the crowd’s knowledge is propelling us toward becoming a “society with a single book” (p. 46). On the web, we jump from link to link, many of which are copied and pasted without any credit to the original source, as we cruise the net with a gluttonous appetite to intake what appeals to us and then spew it out to others, as though these stolen fragments can somehow define our individuality.


Participatory culture is a term that has become almost synonymous with democracy and who doesn’t love democracy? Personally, I work very well in groups and believe, as Vygotsky did, that we learn best in collaboration not in isolation.  I admire my co-workers and colleagues. In fact, I am often humbled by their talents, abilities and the genuine human kindness I witness from those around me.  What I admire, however, is the uniqueness of the individual and what each brings to the group.  Once again, I come face to face with opposites- which is more important- the group or the individual?  I believe it is both.


Lanier has challenged me to contemplate the balance between the “hive mind” of interconnectivity and the quest to actually think for myself. We are NOT our devices, although many people now feel vulnerable without them. (Come on, admit it- we all do!) The digital revolution has changed us more than we yet can understand.  (Isn’t the Apple store the busiest place you will see at the mall, even in hard economic times?) Perhaps people are afraid they will be left behind and will not be able to survive in the technological future without the latest gadget.  Lanier makes a great point by saying that the gadgets are “only useful because people have the magical ability to communicate meaning through them”.  Unfortunately, that personal meaning is often lost in the clutter of a million clamoring voices, all repeating each other or repeating what has been repeated and retweeted and reposted and repinned and mashed up into the one giant book we call the web.

Summer in Berlin- Travel Back in Time

For the past two years, I have been working with fellow librarians on virtual library projects that allow participants to “enter” a virtual exhibit or simulation.  The first exhibit we developed was Virtual Texas, which featured the Alamo.  Next, we worked with a virtual world builder who designed a rescue simulation called Virtual Tornado.  The third virtual library project was created in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual World, which built Maya Island.

Now, in the summer of 2012, we present Summer in Berlin!







Summer in Berlin will be on display at the Community Virtual Library Exhibition Area in the virtual world of Second Life. This virtual experience will give participants the opportunity to enter an historical simulation of Berlin, Germany in the 1920’s- complete with music, art, literature, and historical attire (which will be provided).  The Berlin project was created by a woman in the Netherlands who is an historical consultant specializing in the era.

What’s the purpose of these virtual exhibits?  The Horizon Report, and current research on best practices in education, show potential and predicted growth in serious gaming for education. Librarians realize the importance of not only embracing emerging technology trends, but helping users prioritize them through teaching critical evaluation of content.  Several librarian colleagues have worked together to acquire virtual world resources in the same way librarians acquire the best physical resources available for community libraries.  In the future, it may be possible not only to “read” the book, but to “enter” the book through an immersive virtual experience in 3D.


The Value of Your Full Attention – read this between tweets

On the other side of the digital revolution, as we clean up the rubble left from the toppled hierarchy of information, we stand and gaze in awe at where we now live- survivors of some kind of information disaster that we haven’t quite yet realized.  Are we in denial?  Is it similar to awakening after a natural disaster?

The old rules no longer apply.  Interconnectivity was once a quest that we never could achieve.  Now, Joe Grobelny suggests it may be quite the opposite.


Reading his post made me think about how rare it is to give someone my undivided attention.  We message, tweet, post, and cruise our devices simultaneously while communicating with each other.  As physical things become less important than virtuality, I have an idea that giving someone our true focus- completely- may soon be as valuable as gold.


Golden Traits of 21st Century Learning

21st Century Learning

That’s one of the phrases I keep hearing – along with “user-generated content” and “participatory culture”.  Yes- the old hierarchy ( I know you are tired of hearing me say this!) has toppled.  We can’t trust “the media” because information comes from the bottom up now, instead of from trusted published and peer-reviewed authority.


So,  my top priority as a teacher librarian today is teaching responsibility for critical evaluation of media and teaching what the ALA standards call “a disposition in action”.  This includes curiosity, a personal quest for meaning, ethics (they are not dead!) and an appreciation for all genres- surprise! literature is alive and well.

This makes us ask, what  is the difference between these new 21st century standards and the traditional standards for learning throughout the past centuries?

Well….the old standards valued the linear timeline of acquired knowledge and skills. The new GOLDEN traits for the future are adaptability and flexibility.  After over 20 years experience in education, I can attest to the importance of these traits today because every time I get a new skill down pat- version 6.7 comes along and I have to start all over. 

Listen to this tip (I repeat),  if you want to succeed as a learner in the future:


The golden traits of 21st century learning are adaptability and flexibility (assuming you actually want to learn).

New position in librarianship: Infoculturist

A well-respected colleague recently requested help writing a job decription for a new librarian role: Publisher of Community.  I couldn’t help but think about content creation and user-generated content.  I have been creating content for my school library for 20 years, through producing a weekly edited news show called “EETV” for Ethridge Elementary TV.  The show has evolved from old VHS format to DVD and mp4 (among other file types). So, content creation has been a part of librarianship for decades.  However, user-generated content shared online has been growing like crazy since Youtube launched.

The core values of librarianship promote acquisition of the best content available and much of the user-generated content we find online today hardly qualifies as even watchable.

Our culture is becoming, we all know, a participatory one.  The library stacks are no longer perceived as top dog in information.  What Melvil Dewey called “man’s heroic deeds” in the literature of the 800 section has been pushed back behind Pinterest and Instagram.

I enjoyed the blogpost from Michael Stephens contemplating new roles for librarians. The online name I chose for myself, Valibrarian, is out-dated but (I hope) remains quaint.  We do need new titles that emphasize services we provide with better nomenclature!  One of my favorite metaphors for a library is that of a garden. One of Ranganathan’s 5 laws for library science stated that “a library is a growing organism”. I am remindeed of how the gardener plants and weeds.  So, I thought about the word horticulturist or agriculturist.

Here’s a nomination for a librarian job title:  infoculturist.  Whaddaya think?  Any more ideas?