|Foster Building hosts election exhibit|
We can only hope that by the time you are reading this, the U.S. national elections are behind us. And certainly many will be sighing with relief. For U.S. citizens, the campaigns were long and sometimes confusing. At least for those in Second Life, Info Island offered an oasis of electoral education in the guise of an exhibit.
The exhibit in the Foster building is part of a series of rotating exhibits devoted to seasonal or topical themes. Earlier in the summer, visitors had a chance to learn all they could ever want to know about baseball. Ka Castaignede took the lead in developing the election exhibit. Castaignede, Karen McEwen in real life, is an MLIS student at Indiana University. She is returning to school after working in fields of business, law, and customer service. “I’m from just outside of Washington D. C. When the real estate market crashed, so did my job,” she said. After examining her options, her love of books and libraries prompted to her to get a library degree. “I decided to focus on doing something that would pay the bills but would also be something I truly enjoyed.”
However, that journey has held some surprises. “I never thought I would be designing virtual displays,” she said with a laugh. It was an episode of the television show Law and Order that lured her into Second Life. The plot touched on SL. “It fascinated me. So I went to look and see if such a thing actually existed, and found Second Life.” Ka explored for several months. “And then suddenly I realized there were libraries. I did an article for school and interviewed one of the librarians here and decided it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Her interests led her to Rocky Vallejo, head of collections for Info Island. “When I started volunteering, I was interviewed by Marimar (Berchot). She asked what I wanted to do, whether I was more interested in reference or collection development. When I graduate in December, I hope to find a job in collection development, so I was thrilled at the opportunity.” Castaignede started out assisting Cindy Elkhart in development of the Second Life Resource Center on Info Island. “Eventually I started doing designs on my own, as well. I am fascinated with finding ways to express information through visualization. A lot of times, I refer to our displays as visual pathfinders,” she said. She began working with Rocky to develop displays for the libraries on Info Island.
“Rocky and I had discussed some ideas for displays. The election was a natural topic. A lot of displays are like that. We brainstorm ideas, share resources and kind of run with it from there.” Castaignede said the goals for the election exhibit were to provide information on as many different political groups as possible, provide interactive materials such as freebies and a voting board, and, to a lesser extent, demonstrate how people find and absorb political information. For a topic that can be so emotionally charged, Ka acknowledged it was sometimes tough to stay objective. “One of the issues that comes up with displays in general is that a large number of avatars are from countries all over the world….and trying to find materials that will be of interest to lots of groups. Part of the problem is also finding materials to imbed with the information that reflect international interest.”
Unlike what can sometimes happen in real life, Ka wasn’t faced with any campaigners trying to sway her emphasis. “I know Rocky ran into someone who was unhappy about the display reflecting only American politics. He showed them on the wall that we included some international political results. Other than that, the feedback has been positive.
"Much of the credit for this display goes to Ka,” Vallejo said. “She did a terrific job providing resources, graphics and interactive objects. We were also greatly appreciative of HollyJean Allen who created a collage containing many of the symbols of the 2008 political process.”
Vallejo invites all to stop by the library for an election night party. Results will be posted as they come in.