Library Cards

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I tend to pride myself on the fact that there is very little in Caledon that I do not know, or have photos of. However, there seem to be many fascinating areas that I have been woefully uninformed about. First and foremost of these areas about which I require education is the Caledon Library.

In conversation with a dear friend I made allusion to the fact that the Library was a very clever role playing conceit, and was then informed in no uncertain terms that I was quite mistaken. The Caledon Library, according to this friend, is a vital, complex and essential working library serving us all in ways most do not understand. To call it a role playing conceit betrayed my ignorance.

Feeling at a loss, I set out in a quest to find out more about this mysterious library.

Thanks to position and repute, I was able to quickly find the right address for my questions, that being the Director General of the Caledon Library, Miss Scandaroon Beck.

The esteemed and quite busy Director agreed to meet me thanks to certain strings I knew to pull, and I finally arranged to meet her at 3 AM one night at the Falling Anvil.

By that hour, the usual suspects have either been moved along by Mr. Stern or are sleeping off the Uisge Beatha under the bar…however, this night a candle still burned at a corner window as a light Tamrannoch mist rose.

I let myself into the pub using a key Mr. Stern does not know I have and closed the door behind me against the November chill and whatever curiosities may have wandered over in the darkness from Winterfell. At a corner table, lit by a single taper with a crock of beer and an open flask of Uisge Beatha at her elbow sat a striking woman, surrounded by old books and open ledgers. Her coal black hair was pulled back in a tight braid, laying down the back of the severe black and green uniform tunic of the Library Militant.

As I stepped forward, she half turned without looking up from the paper she was bent over, quill pen still in motion. Her free hand however, held a cocked pistol and pointed rather unerringly in my general direction. “BardHaven?” she asked.

I froze, just in case. “Well…I certainly hope so. You could check my birthmark, but that would require me to lower my trousers….”

She made a noise that seemed to be a short laugh, then put the pistol back under her uniform tunic. “You MUST be BardHaven. Drink?”

I sat in the chair she had kicked out, and poured for myself. I sampled the amber fire and nodded, not the “Special Malt” that the Duchess Loch Avie keeps for her court, but still not the watered down retrovirus that Stern usually served.

She put down her quill and looked at me, her eyes burned with a curiosity tempered by intelligent pessimism. “I am told you have some questions about the library, and that it won’t hurt to answer them…and that I am to ignore your lack of manners, your arrogant swagger or the fact you are dressed like a Gothic peacock suffering from mange…so go ahead.”

And thus, the interview began…

BardHaven: What exactly is the Caledon Library, and what does it do?

Director Beck: The Caledon Library serves the Independent State of Caledon. We maintain a collection of materials for the use of residents and other interested parties. We also host exhibits, book talks, lectures, and the occasional donnybrook.

BardHaven: Materials?

Director Beck: Books, Sir, Books…among other types of information. What did you think I meant, plywood boxes? The collecting policies of the Caledon Library have two main foci: the 19th century and Caledon’s defining literary genres which are Steampunk and Alternate History.

Within these areas, we collect, first of all, primary source material. 19th-century novels, nonfiction works, and periodicals, along with materials from earlier eras considered important in the 19th century. Also defining Steampunk works and its parent genres.

Secondly, we collect research materials concerning the world of the 19th century and its imagination along with secondary materials useful for studying Caledon’s important genres.

BardHaven: Only the 19th Century then? Not to sound critical as you are still armed, but isn’t that a bit limiting?

Director Beck: In truth we work in what we call “the long 19th century.” We begin with the Pre-industrial revolution for technology and economics, with the Napoleonic wars for military and international/political history, and with he-who-became-George-IV for fashion/style/consumption
/manners/economics etc.

I don’t have a clear fix on where we start with literature…Austen perhaps? Our resident expert on Fiction and Literature and I have been unable to settle it closer than the mid-1700’s, depending on the genre of course.

We end with the year 1900 for most things, but trends that continued up to the beginning of the First World War are fair game if they’re really germane. Beyond that, given a good argument in a specific case, we can certainly push the dates a little bit.

BardHaven: It must be about more than just time. Beyond a simple matter of year, what are your criteria for adding something to the Library?

Director Beck: If it would have been found in a 19th century library, public or private, there’s no reason for us not to have it if it’s of interest.

We collect Primary sources that are from the 19th century or were important to the scholars/thinkers/writers/artists of 19th century

We collect Secondary sources which are about the 19th century & the 19th century imagination or are about whatever the 19th c was interested in

So, for instance, an author such as Kenelm Digby…

BardHaven: Who?

Director Beck: Exactly.

An author such as Kenelm Digby is relevant because he was still widely read in the 19th century even though no one now has even heard of him. Material about the middle ages that would have fed the neo-gothic pre-Raphaelite fetish the Victorians had is fine…but in the case of less clear cut categories we are choosier and only take materials that are really really rich, or have an easily perceived connection to the 19th century and its preoccupations.

BardHaven: And how are these “materials” made available to your average Caledonian?

Director Beck: The staff carefully prepares and arranges these books and materials into collections. Some of the texts are available in world as notecards, while others are provided as Aetheric links. Each text can take a great deal of time to prepare individually, and collections can take weeks of painstaking research and effort. All of our librarians donate this labor out of love of the art, and of knowledge.

The current collections are as follows:

  • 19th Century Novels – In collections by author (Aetheric)
  • Fiction – Single novels and collections of short stories (Notecard & Aetheric)
  • Etiquette – Etiquette and deportment of the period (Aetheric)
  • Domestic Arts – Gastronomy, household management, needlework. (Aetheric)
  • Poetry & Drama – Creative works and classics of the period (Notecard & Aetheric)
  • Caledon Library Essential Works of 19th Century Poets – A special series created by Dame Kghia Gherardi (Notecard & Aetheric)
  • General Nonfiction – Natural history, political economy, technology (Notecard & Aetheric)
  • Reference Collection – Vetted links to research materials about the 19th Century are currently up in the Reading Room in Victoria City.

In addition, there are many collections currently being prepared or planned or intended specifically for one of our branches, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Precursors of Steampunk – Wells, Verne, & their less memorable fellows (Mayfair)
  • Science & technology – Pre-industrial revolution & Steam (Mayfair)
  • “Special Collections” – 19th Century and Caledon created erotica.
  • Health and Medical Sciences – Period research texts and accounts.
  • 19th Century Literature of the Fantastic & Children’s Literature – The fey and fantastical, including 19th century fairy fetishism (Tinyville)
  • Winterfell Collection – Medieval and Gothic fantastica/myth/legend.

BardHaven: …And these Collections, books that dispense notecards containing the relevant text, are for sale to residents?

Director Beck: For sale? Absolutely not, you cad. Mr. Drinkwater’s credo, and the motto of the Caledon Library and all it’s staff, is “We are in the business of giving things away”. The world is going through convulsions about access to content, and if libraries are about intellectual freedom (as I certainly hope they are) then it behooves a library to use a “share and give access” model, rather than a commercial model, when we think about what we do.

After discussions with the staff, we have set formal policy that the library gives away fully permissioned objects as it’s collections, except in cases where the form necessitates no-mod (THiNC books are the main reason for this caveat).

BardHaven: Very generous, if a bit naive when there could be money made. That is neither here nor there, however. So beyond the collections, what does the Library do with all those buildings they own around Caledon.

Director Beck: The Caledon Library supports and hosts numerous events, making use of our standing in the community as an institution and a resource. For example. Grand Exhibits are held on the 1st & 2nd floor of the Whitehorn in Victoria City. These have to do with Caledon culture, both local and global, and general topics of interest to Caledonians and students of the 19th Century. Also of note are Book of the Month Exhibits, Book Discussions and other Literary events.

BardHaven: It appears that, thanks to the wonders of the Metaverse, the Caledon Library is as good a research library on the 19th Century as you would find in the real world…

Director Beck: Indeed. Better then many I would expect. It is a resource that helps define what Caledon is and will be in the future, available to all residents free of charge.

BardHaven: And all these thousands of books and events are created and managed by….

Director Beck: A staff of dedicated Librarians and volunteers. In fact, to be a Librarian in Caledon (or the Metaverse at large) you need more then just interest, you need academic training and a position in Library Arts in the real world. This is not just some Roleplay scenario, the Caledon Library is real and functional.

Beyond the staff, the real reason that the Caledon Library functions, in my opinion, is Mr. JJ Drinkwater, and he does not get the credit for that he deserves. Mr. Drinkwater built this establishment literally from the virtual ground up. It’s a good library because he had a vision and followed it, at the cost of no small personal sacrifice.

Every excellence you see in the Caledon Library is there, at root, because JJ has been dedicated, and hands-on. It’s an institution with a recognizable personality, not a random pile of texts, because his discernment and standards for good content and a good collection have guided it.

The staff are all very talented, and the volunteers from the community are lovely and generous, but it’s Drinkwater and the example he sets that gets the right kind of work out of them, and makes all the contributions work together.

The Caledon Library is what it is today due solely to the fact that JJ Drinkwater is passionate about librarianship and about information provision generally.

Now Sir, I have work to do and you have consumed more then enough of my liquor…so if you will excuse me….

And with that, my interview was over…I haven’t been summarily dismissed by a Librarian since my days at Miskatonic Preparatory.

Still, I did learn what I had wished to, and gained a profound respect for the work of the Caledon Library at the same time. I shall never dog-ear a note card in quite the same way again.

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you, Lord Bardhaven, for providing such an enlightening interview to the reading public. A true service!

  2. […] The result is an entertaining and informative report, Library Cards. […]

  3. Lord Zealot, thankyeh for sharing this with us; our libraries are some of Caledon’s greatest national treasures, to be sure. Our dear librarians, particularly Miss Beck and Mister Drinkwater, deserve all the praise we can voice.

    May I suggest that you provide a list of the different branches, with linking slurls? I can assist with this, if you do not possess all the addresses.

  4. I’d second Lady Darkling’s suggestions, though I admit, I’m happiest wandering my local branch (though their assigning Marx to Science Fiction amuses me to no end).

    Sir JJ takes his librarian duties seriously; has, in fact, taught at least one course that I know of (in library science in the metaverse) as an accredited course of college study.

  5. Well Lord BardHaven, I am pleased to see that you ventured out to the Caledon Library, instead of remaning holed up at home, immersed in the pages of the works of the Marquis de Sade.

    Thank you for providing a wonderful summary for your readers – I think most will be pleasantly surprised to see how much is *really* going on at our Library. Thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Drinkwater and Miss Beck…as well as others.

    I would like to point out in particular the contributions of Dame Kghia Gherardi in the creation of the Mayfair branch and hosting several Book of the Month discussions – as well as Mr. Turing Weyland for his impressive exhibit on the Battle of Fredericksburg.

    Radio Riel has now entered into a very fruitful (get your mind out of the gutter, Sir!) collaboration with the Library with our “From the Library” series developed by Mr. Elrik Merlin with input from Lady Diamanda Gustafson. We are thrilled to contribute to the immersive learning environment that the Caledon Library provides.

    ~ The Nightingale

  6. Your Lordship is very good, to take such notice of us, and to brave an interview with Miss Beck in order to do so. I have taken the liberty of posting a reply, in order to supplement in some small wat what my esteemed colleague has said, at the following locale in the Aether: http://www.thelibrarymilitant.net/from-the-directors-desk/2007/11/it-takes-a-village.html


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